ALBUM REVIEW: mui zyu - Rotten Bun for an Eggless Century
A challenging, strange, deeply personal and absorbing debut record
Strange and beguiling, mui zyu transports you to her distinctive world for the duration of Rotten Bun for an Eggless Century – the debut solo effort from Hong Kong-British artist, Eva Liu. Previously heading the indie-rock band, Dama Scout, here, as mui zyu, Liu leans into her heritage and crafts a sound uniquely her own, which is a rare achievement for a debut album, which Liu and co-producer, Luciano Rossi (also from Dama Scout) deserve credit for.
Like all good dream-pop albums, Rotten Bun for an Eggless Century takes you elsewhere, with a heavily synth-influenced electronic sound which is never far from foreboding. Happier, more energetic snippets are present but the mainly dark atmosphere is fitting for an album touching upon the death of Liu’s grandmother, the concept of death itself and a struggle to grasp identity.
Liu’s vocals are reminiscent of Mitski and lowkey indie-pop singer, Anna Burch, while musical touchstones include Jockstrap, Poliça, Blue Hours-era Bears Den and Kanye West’s 808s & Heartbreak. Each song has complexity which reveals itself upon further listens.
Opener ‘Rotten Bun’ is the standout track, leading with a sumptuous piano arrangement, while Liu sings hopefully about breaking free from a bad experience through the prism of a videogame-like warrior character. ‘Ghost with a Peach Skin’ takes proceedings into a more electronic-focused place, where most of the album remains, and mines from the Chinese understanding of peaches representing longevity and immortality, with lyrics yearning for a new identity while acknowledging the role of the past (or the bruises on a peach skin).
‘Mother’s Tongue’ is perhaps the most expansive and accessible of the 12 songs; an ode to her mother, Liu includes a recording of her mother saying ‘I’m so proud of you’ for the song’s outro, and she brings in her father for an interlude called ‘Ho Bao Daan’ with him reading out the recipe for the dish of the same name. Sandwiched in the middle of this parental double-header is ‘Dusty’, a loving ode to someone Liu holds dear with the lyrics: ‘you’ll know what you mean to me’. This trio of songs demonstrate the heartfelt inspiration behind the album, as oblique as the lyrics can often read.
Salad Fingers – the nightmarish cartoon series by British animator, David Firth, is brought to mind at the start of ‘Demon 01’, its brooding atmospherics cut through by the energetic electronic drum beat which lightens the mood of a song appearing to share the joy of a gaming session between friends.
Towards the end of the album, there is ‘Talk to Death’, which ponders existence itself and includes a Crystal Castles-like keyboard tune for the chorus, and ‘Paw Paw’, which mimics Mitski’s ‘Pink in the Night’ for an atmospheric tribute to Liu’s maternal grandmother.
Closer, ‘Sore Bear’ features prominent piano which allows Liu to let her vocals take more of a centre stage than most of the album allows. Like ‘Rotten Bun’, this more stripped-back version of mui zyu stands out and perhaps points to a future direction for the artist, with the electronic atmospherics elsewhere occasionally getting in the way of the tunefulness of the songs.
Liu’s singing veers into the monotonous at points and the abstract arrangements make Rotten Bun for an Eggless Century far from accessible. If you’re looking for a collection of songs to grow on you on each listen and take you to another world, however, Rotten Bun for an Eggless Century could be for you, with mui zyu creating a challenging, deeply personal and absorbing debut record.
Rotten Bun for an Eggless Century comes out this Friday (24 February) via Father/Daughter Records