Published Nov 03, 2014Alex Zhang Hungtai's nomadic lifestyle has long been at the heart of his work as Dirty Beaches. After spending time living in numerous cities, his 2011 album Badlands examined themes of exile, while 2013's double LP Drifters/Love Is the Devil explored the hedonism and heartbreak of a touring musician.
Stateless once again mines the songwriter's favourite subject, and it's his boldest and most conceptual work yet. Here, Hungtai sets himself adrift amidst a haze of wilfully aimless drones, as saxophone, strings and synthesizers ebb and flow and melodies appear only in faint, ephemeral traces. Song titles like "Displaced" and "Time Washes Away Everything" reinforce the rudderless, alien tone of the music.
This is challenging work, uncompromising in its defiantly placid tone; there isn't even a clearly defined emotion for listeners to cling onto, since these washes of sound are neither soothing nor overly melancholic. Rather, Stateless resembles the hum of a foreign city as heard through the open window of a hotel room.
Stateless isn't Hungtai's best work — it doesn't have the punch of Badlands or the pathos of Love Is the Devil — but with the artist having announced the end of Dirty Beaches, this serves as the project's logical finale, and his most daring statement on homelessness. (Zoo)