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“Electric Road 電器道” is the fourth album from Hong Kong collective, Celestial 天上, in which they dive deeper into the underwater world of dub electronica. Although Electric Road is the name of a real street in Hong Kong, the album is not really about that street, but rather the name serves as a descriptor for an imagined sound-scape, or subterranean mind-space, somewhere nearer the bottom of Hong Kong’s harbour. Ten years after the Handover, and ten years on from the first Celestial album, Electric Road celebrates the vibrancy of 21st Century Hong Kong, as exemplified by the life on the streets. But the album also reflects on the emptiness of modern day life, and the way in which culture and heritage in Hong Kong are often swept aside in the name of ‘progress’, and profit:

“Some of this album might seem dark” says producer Pete Millward, “but I’ve been disappointed this past year; disappointed and confused the Hong Kong government’s complete disregard for heritage, as evidenced by by the tearing down of the Central Star Ferry Pier and its replacement with a Stalinist Mausoleum, the fated demise of Queen’s Pier, the inexorable filling in of the harbour, the seemingly inevitable trashing of the Soco Islands for an LPG terminal, and this administration’s indifference to the environment in general – in short, the Hong Kong that we live in. Amongst other things…”

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The artwork (a photo-montage created from scratch by Pete – hence the schoolboy errors) shows a surreal Hong Kong street – but don’t bother looking for it in Hong Kong – it doesn’t really exist, perhaps like the false memory of a perfect chimerical past that is reflected in the fluid ripples of the dubscape.

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Several of the tracks started life as instrumentals that Pete wrote for The Bass Cadets, the live dub band that he performed with at Rockit (the Hong Kong music festival) a few years back. Musically, “Electric Road” pushes the envelope already stretched in the previous three Celestial CDs, that of deep textural dub-electronica, flavoured with Asian instrumentalists, occasional vocals and other-worldly samples. The album once again features Asia’s guitar giant, Eugene Pao (包以正), HK’s number one Erhu player Hsin Hsiao Hung (辛小紅), and Shakuhachi master Sunny Yeung (陽光). Newcomers are Koto virtuoso Fukuhara Sawako (福原 左和子), plus vocalists May Chan, well known in Hong Kong for her session work as “細 May”, Adrian Da Silva, leader of Hong Kong’s AudioTraffic (winner of the Hong Kong leg of Battle Of The Bands), and visiting from New York, Mariella Gonzalez. There is also a reunion of Mandarin and Welsh Rappers, Antonius Chen and John Griffiths, who both first contributed to the second Celestial album, “Happy Valley”. And Pete supplies all the other guitar, bass, melodica, keyboards, production, programming and mixing.

 

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“The first song on the album and only cover version, “Kowloon, Hongkong” (a sixties hit for Barbara Pan, but also performed by Irene Ryder, amongst others), started life as an extended 12 minute Ambient Bossa Nova opus for the art exhibition curated by Hong Kong artist anothermountainman (a.k.a. Stanley Wong), entitled “Red, White & Blue”, featuring artworks made from the ubiquious Asian plastic fabric. For this album it was slowed down some more, and given the Celestial ambient dub treatment (of course).”

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Download the sleeve here – or the full panorama version here.

Full Track Listing and Credits:
1. Kowloon, Hong Kong 九龍, 香港
(Alfons S. Garcia)
Published by Emi Music Publishing Hong Kong

Vocals: May Chan
Lead Guitar: Eugene Pao

The first song on the album and only cover version, “Kowloon, Hongkong” (a sixties hit for Barbara Pan, but also performed by Irene Ryder, amongst others), started life as an extended 12 minute Ambient Bossa Nova opus for the art exhibition curated by Hong Kong artist anothermountainman (a.k.a. Stanley Wong), entitled “Red, White & Blue”, featuring artworks made from the ubiquious Asian plastic fabric. For this album it was slowed down some more, and given the Celestial ambient dub treatment (of course). Like waking from a dream, and trying to hold on to the feeling…

2. Ghost Town 鬼域
(Peter Millward)
Published by Drum Music Limited

Erhu: Hsin Hsiao Hung
Trombone: Nigel Wightman

Possibly inspired by The Specials “Ghost Town” though the bassline owes more to ”The Selector”, b-side to the first Specials 45. It could be about the concreting of Hong Kong…

3. Another Planet 黑暗行星
(Peter Millward, Antonius Chen, John Griffiths)
Published by Drum Music Limited

Mandarin Rap: Antonius Chen
Rap Cymraeg: John Griffiths
Chorus Vocals: May Chan
Erhu: Hsin Hsiao Hung

What are the words of this piece about? Disappearance. People disappear from sight, right in front of our eyes every day, and of course no-one notices. Perhaps…

4. Electric Road 電器道
(Peter Millward)
Published by Drum Music Limited

We are all robots…

5. Dead Ahead 一路向前
(Peter Millward)
Published by Drum Music Limited

Vocals: Adrian Da Silva
Guitar: Eugene Pao

Not about driving down a desert highway – that would be far too obvious now, wouldn’t it? What do the words mean to you?

6. Blue Pool 藍塘
(Sunny Yeung, Eugene Pao, Peter Millward)
Published by Drum Music Limited

Shakuhachi: Sunny Yeung
Guitar: Eugene Pao

An improvisational collision of Shakuhachi, and Guitar, in a deep, blue pool…

7. The Deep Blue Sea 藍海深處
(Peter Millward)
Published by Drum Music Limited

Vocals: Mariella Gonzalez
Koto: Fukuhara Sawako

Again, not actually about being at the bottom of the sea – so find your own subaqueous world in the words…

8. Lhasa Express 直達拉撒
(Peter Millward)
Published by Drum Music Limited

There is a train that goes from Beijing to Lhasa now. Is it a good thing?

9. The Crossing 奈何橋
(Peter Millward)
Published by Drum Music Limited

Koto: Fukuhara Sawako 琴: 福原 左和子

A confluence of ’80s house, Philip Glass and Japanese Koto.

10. Green Island 綠島
(Peter Millward)
Published by Drum Music Limited

Shakuhachi: Sunny Yeung
Erhu: Hsin Hsiao Hung

Can you imagine what this island must have looked like?

11. ThreeValleys 三谷
(Trad. Arr. Sunny Yeung, Peter Millward)
Published by Drum Music Limited

Shakuhachi: Sunny Yeung

A traditional Japanese Shakuhachi piece.

12. Mika’s Song 海香の歌
(Trad. Arr. Peter Millward)
Published by Drum Music Limited

Sampled from a music box, given to Mika (Pete’s daughter) shortly after her birth, to celebrate her first Doll Festival (おひなまつり)in March 2007.

All other instruments, arrangement, production, mixing and sleeve design by Peter Millward, at Drum Music, Hong Kong. Chinese song titles thanks to Antonius Chen.