Virtually the last place on Earth you'd imagine this album coming from is China. But Liu is a composer who breaks bounds on the zhongruan, a short-necked lute with four strings with a sound very similar to the guitar. The tracks here all come from his etude collection Modern Techniques of the Zhongruan, which was published in 1999, and are here played by Shen Fui, Liu's student, who plays the instrument with the China Broadcast Chinese Orchestra in addition to moonlighting with Crown, a Shanghai heavy metal band. The compositions themselves owe a great deal to the centuries of Western classical music ("Fantastic Dreams" seems to hark back to Bach and Scarlatti for its inspiration), but with the focus on the modern. But classical isn't the only influence; "Folk Song," despite its name, sounds like some very inventive rock guitar played acoustically, as does "Linger On," Shen's composition. The music isn't easy by any means, demanding a lot of the performer in its runs, occasional jazz chordings, and elaborate picking techniques, but Shen handles it all masterfully. Time to change the perception of Chinese music, perhaps?
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AllMusic Review by Chris Nickson