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Sam Goku makes a return with “Things We See When We Look Closer”


Text by Trevor James McNeil

It has been two years since Robin Wang, better known as Sam Goku, graced the world with his eclectic blend of Chinese Traditional and Euro-Dace beats. This month sees the release of his sophomore effort, Things We See When We Look Closer, out February 17th.  

“Yellow River Drone” opens slow, basically doing what it says on the tin, with a low, droning opening accentuated by audio of a rushing river, later augmented by traditional Chinese instruments after the first minute or so. Following “Yellow River” the second track “Cycles” opens with drones and theremin wails like sound effects from an old Sci-Fi movie, accompanied by a driving hand-drum beat later on, keeping up the energy throughout. 

“Lotus Drive” boasts a hand-drum opening, pulling a thread over from “Cycles” underplayed by a thundering tom-tom beat with occasional blasts from the theremin laser gun. Using his first German title of the project, Goku based in Munich, “Libellenflug” boasts a relentless beat with a wavering celestial soul. Soon joined by synths set to mimic everything from a hi-hat to a whistle.

The title track “Things We See When We Look Closer” washes over with ethereal waves, brief but bold blasts of percussion beats, and theremin squawks keeping the listener from falling asleep. 

“Mangrove Railways” gets right out of the gate with a thundering beat, punctuated by subtle melodies to keep things from getting too monotonous. Added elements like acoustic cymbals and a drum machine make for a fascinating collage of disparate sounds. 

More accurately titled “Aphids” the next track “Orchids” has an uber-annoying insect-buzzing sound throughout. The additions of traditional drums and ethereal synth make it halfway listenable. 

“Zoom Out” opens with a steady beat, with ethereal tweets, dropping away to a wider sonic landscape. Adding recordings of people speaking, most likely in a form of Chinese, with nature sounds added near the end. 

With a similar collage approach, “Sky and Sand” features nature sounds, particularly bugs, and breeze, underlaid by exoplanet experimentations organized in their randomness. Spoken audio on various aspects of nature, including the titular ‘sky’ and ‘sand’, then adding others like ‘soil’ and ‘sun’ are added, rendered with a resonate voice-of-god echo. 

“Silver Rushing Steams” continues with the nature theme, blending driving percussion with mellower melodies, giving the impression of a rushing stream on a summer’s day. The only sounds are those of the water, bugs, and frogs. All are present and accounted for in the deft audio collage.

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