The New York-based Shanghai Restoration Project has built its distinct sound by integrating Chinese instruments into Western electronic music, just as Shanghai jazz musicians once paired western harmonies with Chinese scales to build a distinct form of jazz in the 1920s and '30s. Now, for its latest album, What's Up With That?, the group is collaborating with Chinese visual artist Lei Lei. Together they've produced a stunning animation for the song "Out The Door," using cutouts from A Collection of Western Book Covers.
The animation appears to be a random series of disconnected, colorful images, but when tied together, the video abstractly visualizes Liang's and Lei Lei's notions about how modern society stifles creativity and imagination.
"Lei Lei's father was a graphic designer who encouraged Lei Lei's imagination from birth, encouraging him to draw and make up his own stories," producer Dave Liang wrote to NPR via email. "My parents also encouraged my curiosity from the outset, sending me to acting class and jazz lessons. As we grew older, went to school and entered the working world, we noticed there was more pressure to conform and not question the ways of the world. I myself even worked in the corporate world for a few years, selling my soul and suppressing the instinct to make music."
What's Up With That? by the Shanghai Restoration Project + Lei Lei is out now on Undercover Culture Music. The collaboration will carry over to the concert setting, which will feature live animation by Lei Lei paired with Liang's music.