The E.P. Violently Silently is available at:
Slow Poison– 9.7
Since When– 9.7
Intro; Once; Since When
4th December, 2015
FEW modern artists arrive on the scene with such a…
unique and unexpected sound. When you get new artists coming through, there is always a sense of trepidation and slow-build. Maybe some magic will be created through the music (eventually) or their personality will start to emerge down the line. There are too many musicians that just fade into the background and never really stand out in the mind. That lack of inspiration and spark is what is lacking from the music industry. When I look at new music- and the artists coming through this year- there are few that have truly stuck in the mind. Maybe the music is good/great but something else is missing- whether it is the personality, artwork or social media pages. If you want to forge a career and remain in the consciousness you need to separate yourself and come in bold I am not saying you need to fake a personality or style; simply accentuate what you have or be a little more daring. These steps can be small (but effective) to ensure that interested is peaked early on. My featured artists in the perfect example of someone coming in strong and distinctive. Her colourful and stunning artwork is matched with terrifically inventive songs and as aesthetics that is startling and memorable. Even if you take trouble to work on your music’s artwork- an E.P. or album cover- that makes a big difference. Too many artists just lazily sling together a self-portrait or boring design. With that in mind, how many people are going to be compelled to listen to the music? There seems to be a laziness and severe lack of imagination that is hemorrhaging new music. Fifi Rong’s E.P. (Violently Silently) spikes the imagination with its bold and effective cover art. The music within is as wonderful and exceptional; she has gone to great lengths to ensure effort and passion are put into every asset of her music. I cannot remember the last time an artist came along that made sure every box was ticked; eyes and ears would be seduced thoroughly. It may seem like a minor point- surely the music itself is the most important thing? – but I worry the digitalization of music is casing many to take their foot off the pedal. I long for the days artists took care to create a wonderful album cover. Those bands and acts with a quirkiness and loveable personality that would make the listener come back for more. Thankfully there are a small number of musicians that are ensuring that curiosity and wonder is left in music. Not someone to do things by halves; let me introduce you to my featured artist:
“Originating from Beijing, Fifi Rong is a unique artist and producer based in London.
Eccentric, deep and honest, Fifi brings pure emotional intimacy into her songs with a mesmerizing voice, nuanced with the flair of her Chinese heritage. Fifi incorporates a wide range of genres such as Electronica, Jazz, Dub, Hip Hop, UKG, Soundscape into her production, resulting in a singularly unexpected musical hybrid that draws its beauty from its one-of-a-kind unearthliness.
Fifi has been collaborating with many exciting artists including Tricky, Phaeleh, Skepta and Yello to name a few, and receiving vast support from a stream of blogs and radios including The 405, Clash, Fader Magazine, Hype Magazine, Pigeon and Planes, BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 1 Extra, BBC Radio 6 Music and so on. She was also nominated as the best Electronic Music Artist and publicly voted into China’s Top 10 of most popular new artists of 2014.
Having already established herself internationally as a stand-out live performer, with headline shows throughout the UK, Europe and China/Hong Kong, she released her much-anticipated new EP ‘Violently Silently’ in December 2015 with a special EP launch show at The Garage in London. Additional shows and releases are in the pipeline over the coming months. Watch this space!”
Rong fascinates me because of her looks and make-up. When you look at her, your eyes and mind are instantly captivated and drawn. Like a U.K.-based version of Bjork there is that beguiling and beautiful projection that is hard to forget. One of the best Asian artists working in U.K. music; Rong brings sights and sensations of China/Hong-Kong into something British/U.S. It is this cross-pollination and range that has gained her such a loyal and huge following. You get so many young acts that try too hard to be cool or stand-out- without ever really succeeding- and it masks a desperate lack of musical ideas and ability. What Rong does is conquer every aspect of her career. Her looks and artwork is just the start of things. When you dig deep and investigate those wonderful songs; you have an artist that is hugely capable and consistent. London is showing how fertile and inventive its artists are; so many great acts are playing here at the moment. Whatever the reason behind this rise and transformation- there was a slip lack of quality a year or two back in London- it is pleasing to see the capital re-surging and showing how it should be done. If you hack away at the jungle of beige Alternative bands and generic Pop stars; you have a growing band of musicians that are putting colour, emotion and electricity back into music. Rong is an artist I have known for a while- having followed her career for a few months- and know what a huge weight of support she has. On social media she freely engages with her followers; happy to chat and connect, here is a young woman that has a mutual respect for her fans. A lot of musicians negate the importance of regular contact with followers- choosing to post updates only when a new song is out- and this means interest will wane and dissipate. The attention spans and concentration levels are pretty low when it comes to the general public; if you do not remain engaging and persistent then you fear losing your flock. At the end of things it is the music that will win the day and keep people hooked; so long as it is original and unexpected. Rong is a musician that mixes Electronica bases into a blend of Jazz, Hip-Hop and Dub. Her variegated and unforgettable sounds evoke such emotions and drama; there is tenderness and romance to be found too. Few contemporaries are as ambitious and spectacular when it comes to their sounds and projection. There are a lot of Electronica artists working around London; few are as assured and confident as our heroine. This ambition and spellbinding songwriting is reflected in Violently Silently. You are hooked and intrigued by the title alone- that horror-show rhyme provokes a wealth of rather vivid images- and the amazing cover artwork. When you dig into the five-track E.P. you become aware of a young artist that is blazing ahead of her peers. Every moment and song shows so many layers and nuance.
When it comes to the present endeavours of FiFi Rong; it is pertinent to look back and see where she has come from. Two years ago the track Only If I Knew arrived. Building off a contract of pulsating beats and drifting electronics; our heroine (and his man) were only in love “for a second”. That unique accent and sound radiates in a vocal full of heart and dreaminess. Riding that spell of hand-clap beats and swelling electronics; you get a song full of heartache and regret. A goodbye kiss has been elicited; it is causing strain and sadness in our heroine. Our girl is being “broken for no reason” and messed around by her man. Throughout the song you get vivid and candid images of the unfolding drama. One of the most urgent and immediate songs you could imagine; you are find yourself drifting into the song and speculating images and possibilities.
The track Over You was unveiled last year and shows intimacy and delicacy. Choppy beats and cutting electronics unite around a vocal with pin-sharp clarity and breathlessness. Seductive and impassioned; it is a performance that can buckle the knees. Quite Jazz-influenced and romantic; it is a more tender and calm track (compared to some of her earlier work). Showing a different side to her music; those lyrics of heartache and romantic disentanglement come back into the mix. This time there seems to be less accusation and anger; just more regret and what-ifs.
Cold in You was another track from last year and one that showed a new direction for Rong. Its acoustic-led introduction beckons a vocal that is among her most haunted and affecting. Less emphasis is on compositional backing; the focus is on that voice and the plight of the lyrics. Her man is so far and so close; there is “so much I don’t know”. There is a lullaby-like sway to the words and it has q child-like appeal to it. The man in question seems to be a stranger; that cold and off-putting core has caused the heroine to reassess things. Our girl is troubled and floating outside her soul- affected and damaged by the rift of the romance. Not able to live with the hero; there is that need to escape and cut her losses. Painstaking and tormented; the emotions are raw yet the song has a calm and reflectiveness that ensures it is never too heavy-handed or draining.
Big City Grill is one of the most recent tracks from Rong (released earlier this year). From the get-go you have a track that is more fizzling, crackling and explosive. The introduction starts with an electronic hornet’s nest and a leaning towards Electronica and Dub. It is an urgent and racing coda that takes you by surprise. Our heroine’s voice seems echoed and distant; creating a stunning mood and weightlessness, she is riding that composition with confidence and authority. The vocal and has a sexiness and seductiveness to it that really gets inside the mind. Whispered and cooing; it is a performance that seems perfect against the dizzying and pulsating electronics. That composition boasts quite a catchy and head-nodding slam that compels the feet to move in tandem. A track that could be a club floor-filler- or score a tense chase scene in a film- it is another accomplished and wonderful track from Rong.
There has been little need to change her sound and improve since those early days. What Violently Silently does- that perhaps her earliest work didn’t- is to pull her multiple themes and threads into one place. Not just sticking with one sound and theme; the E.P. is the most assured and complete summation of her personality and musicianship. The collection switches course and conjecture; there is so much passion and vivid colour- all tied together by that entranced and dreamy voice.
The E.P. gets underway with the track Intro. From the off there is an intensity and vibrancy that takes you unaware. Spectacular and howling; the electronics are a dangerous and ghostly cry that ensure few listeners will be uninterested or bored. Our heroine portrays a wordless vocal over a composition that mutates and develops into something animal-like and threatening. You imagine a late-night London scene that sees a heroine running from an unnamed threat. Racing through the darkness and rain; you have that panic and need to escape. You can feel that palpable tension and race as the composition sucks you into its vortex. The drama and danger starts to build as our heroine seems lost in the machine. Emphasising that E.P.-titled violence and pain; you start to get images and scenes tumbling into one another. On the one hand you think of something quite personal and introspective. Maybe our heroine’s mind is tormented and wracked by an event or breakdown. Perhaps a love has hit the rocks and this is the fall-out and execration. This may be her way of unveiling her true pains and feelings; that anxiety and horror that is filling her bloodstream. On the other hand you get ideas of high drama and something fictional. Few songs are as instant and gripping as Intro. It is a number that forces the senses awake; it gets the soul inflamed and anxious- provoking the listener to engage with the music and submit to its immense force. Most E.P.s begin with something calm and accessible; our heroine ensures there is an instancy and potency that you will not forget. I was getting ideas of that chase and need to escape a capture. As the beats start to echo and swell; there is a machine-like clatter underneath, you picture the streets, neon lights and loneliness. Those wordless vocals seem desperate and suffocated; it highlights that idea of loss and panic- something you cannot get away from. Maybe Rong is racing across alleyways with a blood-stained dress. Perhaps embroiled in something beyond her control; she is fleeing the night’s air to find a safe haven and solace. The shadows keep drawing in and that uncertainty is heavy on her shoulders. Before long a slight lightness comes into the fore. That clawing and snarling beat subsides to something more teasing and calm. What is highlighted is the vocal which becomes layered and multi-tracked. Our heroine weaves inside her own voice to create a tortured choral effect that adds to the lingering dread and emotion. If you are brave enough to stay with the song you get fresh revelations and possibilities. In terms of the ‘storyline’ and progression, things become more submissive and resigned towards the end. That emphatic weight and sound demurs to a coda that is fading and weakening. Maybe representing the true fate of our heroine- perhaps succumbing to the violence she has seen or in a safer place- it is an intriguing and compelling development. Maybe Rong has made it to morning and managed to hide away? Perhaps it was all a bad dream; this is the awakening and the transition back into reality? Whatever the true origin it is a perfect beginning to an E.P. that promises much fascination and spectacular moments.
After that vivid and dramatic opening you could be forgiven for requiring something calmer and more seductive. Once starts with a more romantic and accessible introduction that sees some echoed electronics create a bubbling and excitable sound. It is hard to put into words what the sound elicits- and how it makes one feel- yet it is a sound that instantly fascinated me. There is a sultry beauty to the composition which mixes dark beats and some near-orgasmic electronic threads. Rong is a mistress when it comes to the introduction: making sure her songs get off to a flying start, she builds the mood and creates a mesmeric contrast of sounds and emotions. Once is a song that differs from Intro; it has a restraint and romanticism to it- whilst still packing huge punch and evocation. When our heroine comes to the microphone, her voice is enticing and dreamy. With that distinct whisper and breathlessness to it, you are instantly drawn in and hooked. There is byzantine obliqueness to the opening words which see an “emotion runs ahead of how I feel”. When the summer ended our heroine “had to be cruel”. These sentiments and expressions create speculation and curiosity. Perhaps a relationship has ended or is coming to its end. There are those feeling of personal dislocation and loss; the need to move on and find something safer and more secure. If we are speaking of love and romance perhaps the hero has been playing around or cheating; maybe he is not good enough- there is a certain kindness to our heroine’s intentions. With the possibility that “I could lose” it causes renewed speculation and interpretation. That fight and conflict theme comes back into the music. Perhaps a metaphorical fight, no less you start to wonder who is being described and what is unfolding. When the next verse comes along- “fooling myself suddenly I’m hot and cold”- there is a young woman of contrast and contradictions. She has to pretend that her heart is “made of steel” and there is a real emotion that pours out. Whether she is ending a relationship or having to change who she is; those oblique and distinct words get inside the brain. It is clear our heroine is going through some tough times; you always wonder just what is being documented in the song. A clattering and propulsive beat backs the vocal which swims and glides from line-to-line. When the next verse arrives we get more insight and clarity. A man is being described and the dying of a once-good bond. It seems “maybe we made it so good years ago”; there is that fear of intimacy and getting close now. It appears the lovers had a great connection in the past yet things have changed and there seems to be a fading. There seems to be an motionlessness and sense of loss inside the heroine. That idea she is unable to feel and connect keep coming back; once upon a time she was compassionate and loving- maybe it is just the nature of this relationship. Throughout the track you get seduced by that underlying beat- that evokes so much emotion and story- whilst the backing vocal swoons and sways with abandon. There is a cheeriness and resoluteness to the chorus. Although it is conveying strained emotions it has an uplifting and catchy sound that stops it from becoming too suffocated and affected. These contrasts create a song that ranks among the E.P.’s best.
Slow Poison has a dramatic and immediate blast that fuses parping and celebratory horn sounds; mutating into a bouncing electronic beat. Our heroine lets her voice skip and bounce like a child in the playground; there is a coquettishness and playfulness that is infectious and unique. The opening lines paint some vivid ideas and oblique possibilities. Sadness and emotional upheaval is that slow poison that gets into the veins and causes toxicity. The slow-poison-invaded-space parable reaches into our heroine’s world; a hero is being assessed. As the man’s neck “turns into a bridge that brings you into my soul” you have some fascinating and quirky lyrical ideas. Those images come flowing and it is a wonderfully strange and strong idea process. It seems like romance and connections are afoot yet you wonder where our duo is meeting. After the first verse- you get a punctuation of uplift and reflection- before our heroine races back into the song. Once again the lyrics captivate with their unique feel and possibilities. It seems “we have walked miles to find peace”; the duo have played game and things have ended in tears. Maybe there has been a rough history and a lot of friction; it appears they want to make things work and find happiness- that battle for peace continues. Whilst our lovers step back to an “instant sin” you are impressed by the presentation and delineation of the vocals. Rong presents sentences that substitute grammatical accuracy for emotional and theatrical resonance. Her voice skips and weaves within the heavy beats and colorful electronics. Delirious and pained; promising and hopeful there is a contrast of emotions and feelings being confessed. Whilst you try to dig to the truth of the lyrics there are all sorts of possibilities and avenues. Seduced and magical; Rong lets her voice cascade over the waterfall of beats and electronics. It is a busy and unpredictable track that develops, shifts and changes dynamic. Raw and heartfelt the next; open and dreamy the next- few listeners will be able to forget the song in a hurry. Mixing Pop sensibilities into her songs and you have an E.P. that is happy to mingle genres to create variation and depth. Tumbling piano lines and fizzing beats combine to summon a spellbound and delirious smoke. Psychotropic and pained; hopeful and passionate; Slow Poison is a stunning number.
Since When is one of the most popular and pre-approved tracks from FiFi Rong. Having built up a wave of respect and love across the media, it is one of the obvious highlights from the E.P. That yearning and aching string work that opens the track sets the mood. Here is one of the most straight-forward and understandable tracks. Looking at a broken relationship and a dismemberment of love; it is heart-rending and tear-stained. Lush and gorgeous; tender and sweeping, you are powerless to refute the potency of the track. Classical strings marry a dark and heavy electrical undercurrent that creates high emotions and a real sense of occasion. The heroine comes to the microphone with a heavy soul and a real weight on her shoulder. Our heroine’s boy used to wake up (“kissed me and smile”) but that routine has changed. Now it seems his eyes are cold and the passion has disappeared- for reasons that are unknown. The vocal is emphasised here- the composition is mixed a little lower- as our heroine lets her voice entrance and work. It seems “out of the blue” things changed and it appears like there was no explanation behind the decision. Maybe the man has taken advantage and expected too much from our heroine. Not pulling his weight and lacking emotional connection; perhaps things were always going to end this way- she needs someone better in her life. It seems “violently, silently” our girl wished for no harm; the boy has changed his mind and caused a huge rift. Throughout the song the vocals are accessible and sweet- never too angered or bitter- whilst the composition is rich and deep. As the story develops the man’s beauty has “been a drug to my mind”; the slightest facial change could “set me on fire”. These are words that attest a deep love and an intoxicating bond. Before that chorus comes back in you delve into the emotion of the vocal which reaches the heavens and really takes the breath. Such a raw and honest outpouring; you can’t escape that feeling of loss and disappointment from our heroine. Whoever the man is he has screwed things up and done a lot of damage. As the wall goes up and the lovers are balkanised; the heroine is forced to look inside herself- see if she is culpable or lacking. A worrying turn of events- casting blame where it is not warranted or deserved- you get some introspection and self-reflection. The closing lines build some violent images a real inner-anger that disturbs and haunts. Our heroine’s “swinging solitude” provokes her to kill and harm. Having wasted her summer clothes- no longer the muse it seems- there is that desperation and conclusion- there is no more accusation or room to move. One of the most startling and memorable songs Rong has ever produced it is a dazzling number that shows her at the peak. Mixing genres and sounds with expertise and authority you have a number that could well be a radio staple very soon. Such an entrancing and personal song; it is a delirious and layered track that begs for multiple spins and investigations. That unique accent and delivery means the words come to life; the listener will imagine the scene and have their own conclusions- making Since When a true standout.
Violently Silently comes to a close with Outro– a bookend to the introduction number. Given what has come before- those relationship perils and inner-turmoil- there is a familiar rush and urgency to proceedings. Once more (like Intro) you get a track that starts off with passion and vibrancy. Mixing Dub and Electronica together and you have a sweltering and electric beginning. A heavy Dub beat swells and swaggers with confidence. Backed by scuffed beats and a constant hiss you have a myriad of sounds that creates heavy and atmospheric moods. Evoking so much emotion and possibility; it is a packed composition that takes in so much and says so much with it. Soon a constant electronic parable gives way to eccentric notes and something quite intoxicated. Perhaps this is the evocation and excoriation of the inner-pain we saw before. Whereas the E.P.’s open track set the scene and had no backstory; here we know what came first and how things will end. Our heroine has investigated her mind and had to face heartbreak and sadness. The composition seems like the mix of pain and anxiety coming to the surface into something mysterious and magical. Few listeners will be able to get on top of things the first time around; it needs a few listens to really take it all in and understand what is being assessed. Soon enough that entranced and spectral electronic tightens into something more urgent and machine-like. Vibrating and pressing with intention, you get new emotions and thoughts- slipping into a drunken and self-destructive haze- that cannot be ignored. A hard and heavy slam, the music becomes more claustrophobic and intense. Powerless to resist its weight and force; notes and electronics built into something dizzying and delirious. The wordless vocals hover and scream like a pained heroine; the ghost-like sound leaves its marks for sure- by the end of the track you are exhausted to say the least. Outro is stunning way to end the E.P. and bring a wonderful collection to a close.
What Violently Silently shows is a young artist who is among the most bold, brave and innovative on the scene. The five-track is expertly mixed by Lee Slater. His input allows all the varied threads and sounds to come together naturally- without crowding the sound. Rong employs so many different beats, electronics and instruments; they are weaved into the music with authority and institution. What you get are tracks that pack the most emotional punch and sense of occasion. Rong’s vocals are never pitched too low- meaning you get a clarity and understanding of the lyrics- whilst the instruments are given a chance to shine throughout. So much light, drama and passion are instilled into the E.P.: it has a nuanced sound that makes it one of the most addictive and staggering accomplishments from the year. The songs all have their own personality and perspective- covering unique ground and agendas- and there are no weak moments at all. Every track stuns upon first listen and gets better with each new listen. The quality and magic is defined by Rong’s commitment and huge talents throughout. As a songwriter she ranks alongside Bjork when it comes to uniqueness and quirkiness. The lyrics have a very distinct voice; the wording is fantastic and you get so much emotion and scenery from a few lines. The way Rong delivers the lyrics is impressive too. Most singers do not put too much consideration into delivery; you get too many songs that are one-dimensional and stolid. Rong ensures every song has its own skin and vocal sound; lines develop and mutate to augment the emotional impact and potential. When it comes to the compositions- and similar to the Icelandic legend- you get a mixture of genres and sounds. The inventiveness and huge ambitions are fully realised in an E.P. that effortlessly places Dub rawness alongside swelling and romantic strings. Pop, Rock; Jazz, Alternative are all integrated to create an E.P. that has so much going on- it will appeal to a huge range of listeners and music-listeners. Our heroine’s voice is perhaps the most stunning weapon in her arsenal. With lyrics as special and vivid- not to mention those daring and spectacular choruses- you need a voice to carry that off. Seemingly unconfined or limited; you have a vocalist that lets her unique accent create something truly special. An exceptional and prodigious talent, you can only guess how far she could go- and just how startling the next release will be. Violently Silently is a contrasting and variegated work that showcases one of London’s finest artists at the height of her powers. The Beijing heroine is someone you need to check out and submit yourself to- you will not regret it!
One of the great pleasures of reviewing new music is the unexpected treats and treasures you encounter. What I have discovered is a young artist with a spectacular future ahead of her. FiFi Rong has a phenomenal live reputation; creating shows that are full of memorable scenes and stunning renditions. Fans and followers have attested what a proposition she is in the live arena. A musician that is endlessly compelling, talented and assured; Violently Silently is an E.P. that captures five moments from the Beijing-born heroine. Not someone you would ever miss in a crowd; those immaculate and mystical sights are just the start of the magic. When you really immerse yourself in the music you are witness to something truly staggering. Songs can switch from exasperatingly anxious to deliriously relaxed within a few moments; they evoke high-drama and electricity- able to dip down low and reflect. Artists that melt genres together in their music are some of the most daring there are. It is easy to get things wrong and sounds pretty clueless- I have heard enough acts that just throw stuff together hoping for the best- yet Rong is doing everything right. She has such mastery and passion for multiple genres- I can tell Jazz and Hip-Hop are equally important when it comes to her influences- and she funnels this into her own inimitable and distinct palettes. With her voice mixing feather-light beauty and a wonderfully raw passion; you have one of the U.K.’s finest emerging artists. Her social media numbers are rising by the day and it is small wonder. An artist that engages and chats with her followers; reaches out and ensures she is active and consistent. Her music has gained airplay across mainstream and underground radio stations; getting some prestigious plays and paen- it all bodes well for 2016. With that said, there are limitless options for FiFi Rong. She has a huge support base that are sharing her music, so there is no telling where she can go for now. I can see her music being well-received across the globe; from the U.S. to Australia I know there is a market and will be a demand there. She could conquer Asia quite effectively- from China and Japan through to Thailand- and colonise a lot of Europe. It is no exaggeration to say she has created some of the most memorable music in new music. It has no border and limits; it will appeal to all and few will fail to fall under its spell. Before concluding it is worth recalling those early points- personality in the music industry; innovation and ambition- and relating them to Violently Silently. This E.P. is brimming with a unique voice that is all-embracing, mysterious and beautiful. One looks at Rong in full attire- that Asian fusion of make-up and dress- and you have someone that captivates with free will. It is not just looks and aesthetics with Rong. The young artist has a warm and personable relatability that has resulted in impassioned fan interactions and a great respect for what she does. Not cloistering herself from her followers; you get an artist that wants to get out there and touch the people. With such an accomplished E.P. in the ether, I know the heroine will be planning her next moves and scheduling the next year. There are not enough musicians that go the extra mile when it comes to the sounds they are putting forward. Few actually mix genres and step outside their comfort zone. This causes a lack of fascination and potential; it is quite depressing when you see such a lack of imagination and strength- your mind instinctively will look elsewhere. FiFi Rong has ensured her music is impossible to forget and overlook. Make sure you capture Violently Silently and dive into its sea of colour and beauty. One of the most agile and spectacular artists coming through new music, it will be amazing to see…
WHERE she goes next.
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