Mong Tong 夢東 are Taiwanese brothers Hom Yu and Jiun Chi, who carry their moniker through from a childhood nickname. Fittingly, its meaning is mutable from language to language: their hypnotic psych takes inspiration from anywhere and everywhere to build something constantly shifting and completely unique.
At their best, early in Tao Fire’s tracklist, the brothers throw everything at the wall in a hyperactive display of technical prowess. ‘Tropic Sub’ channels Thee Oh Sees at their synthiest, Khruangbin’s guitar lines and ’80s Nintendo soundtracks, while ‘Areca’ blends industrial, sci-fi drones with vibrant riffs until eventually mutating into sampled drumming. The overwhelming creativity is spectacular.
‘Thung Beat’ takes an aggressive turn, and is all the better for it. Shrugging off the album’s initial dreamscape whimsy, the brothers dive headfirst into a punchier live setup. Originally combining crunchy percussion, upright bass and steel drum, and eventually ending somewhere completely unrecognisable and closer to footwork, it exemplifies the album’s heights. Its multiple pivots both within and between the songs lend an air of the best DJ sets. The tracklist seamlessly becomes a free-flowing and gloriously disorientating whole. In lesser hands it could be exhausting – Mong Tong 夢東 just about hold it together.
The album eventually starts to drag, seemingly empty of the invention that makes the earlier tracks such a thrill. Lacking urgency or innovation, the tracks edge into videogame pastiche, relying more heavily on straightforward synths and plodding rhythms. On the whole though, Mong Tong 夢東’s vitality is a treat to witness.
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