THEY call their particular thang hypno-tropicalia, and it certainly is that; and whoah! so much more. Much more.
They paint their irresistible, off-the-wall, deliciously weird groove styles in the brightest colours, and it’s kinda, hmmm, hypno-Afro-tropicalia-jazz-funk-disco, strongly declamatory, punk-funk-jazz, all the compounds and inversions of that. It’s out there on an underlit dancefloor in the cosmos. It will so much a brighter place, and a tinge more deliciously absurd, too.
They’re poised to unleash the odd and groovy spill of their second album, DTx2, on the world next month – the follow-up to 2018’s Fear & Celebration.
Based in Hong Kong, the core intelligence behind Blood Wine or Honey is the duo of James Banbury, on synths, bass, percussion, and cello; and Joseph von Hess, who brings the vocals, clarinet, sax, and percussion; calling on collaborators, such as ZTT and Art of Noise conceptual prankster Paul Morley, and KT Tunstall.
Their explorations of a retro-futurist dance music somewhere in orbit take in post-punk, tropical polyrhythms, Afrobeat, electronica, chanting, no wave, funk …. jeez, so much. And they really make it these influences sing the song they want. And their wont is often itchily, compelling oddball. And if you part the fronds, there’s a fair dose of political manifesto, the band looking to dance their way out of the privations of our times.
Witness, m’lud, new single “Testing Time”, a deep groove of Afrobeat, chunky bass, ever shifting rhythmically, guest vocalist Zoë Brewster leading a chant of “Why can’t you be / Happy for me, happy for me?”, all wrapped round in Seventies’ funk synth, cool jazz chords, trippier electronica; and it packs a personal-political punch, as she launches a soulful tirade: “We did not foresee / The petite bourgeoisie / Would be so deadly / In their polity / Their ambiguity”.
It’s a trip, an odyssey of hot movement, drawing together the strands of so many musics. If they were cutting that record for the Voyager satellite now, what better illustration of so many musics of Planet Earth could you find?
The accompanying video was created and directed by young Hong Kong animator Wyatt Lau Tsun Wai and reveals Zoë, Joseph and James as plastinated deep fakes, avatars of themselves in the control of the song.
They issued this statement about this period in their work, lockdown, DTx2 the record, making Dionysian play as the virus sweeps: “’During These Difficult Times’. A clause so commonplace it’s a sardonic refrain. The hard times become the norm; the sentiment is redundant.
“This album is a mode of expression in a tight space – Hong Kong. The city is a limited but not limiting zone, a small world encompassing an infinite Mandelbrot set of Ballardian high-rise and hidden activity.
“It’s not a ‘lockdown’ album. In Hong Kong we’ve never been truly locked down, but shut in; isolated in a wider sense, provoking us to look outside the two-person bubble and enlist some unexpected collaborators.
“We discovered, fittingly, that DTx2 encodes all sorts of things: it’s a human enzyme, a protein coding gene; a make of Yamaha electronic drums from 1996; a model of underwater drone.
It feels like everything has already been said, but in the small spaces between all the monumental tropes there is, perhaps, room for some interstitial fauna; some remaining species of idea worth talking about.
“There’s a tone of agoraphobia, rather than fear of small spaces. It’s dancing inside a wardrobe, a furtive, prohibited kind of fun.
“No one is supposed to be really having a good time. Things are very serious but there is life in small stories, stories in our small lives, our intricate journeys, reflections, interjections, modes of travel, heavy hold-baggage and carry-ons.”
Blood Wine or Honey’s DTx2 will be released digitally and on vinyl by Bastard Jazz on June 25th and is available to pre-order now at their Bandcamp page.