New Chance Weaves Existential Meditations into Dancefloor Hits on 'Real Time'
Published Jul 14, 2021Victoria Cheong continues to mature as a producer, lyricist and vocalist. As New Chance, she continues to draw inspiration from '80s and '90s electronic and dancehall sounds, but has recently widened her net to include motifs common across experimental electronic composition. This isn't to say that her music has become clinical — quite the opposite. With Real Time, Cheong playfully incorporates outré tones, field recordings and evocative syncopations within her sensual blend of time-dilating dance music.
Thematically, Real Time draws inspiration from Cheong's grandfather, a bonsai enthusiast and photographer. His photos of a nocturnally flowering cactus grace the album's cover, and the lyrics hint at the cycles inherent in both the natural and human worlds. Her grandfather immigrated from China when he was thirteen, so the opening track "Eye of the Storm," which contemplates what it means to belong, surely echoes the thoughts of a young teen experiencing a new country and culture for the first time. The track's loping beat and multi-tracked synths are the perfect backdrop for Cheong's soft sung-spoken vocal delivery.
The more forceful "Earth House (Turning)," with its house-inspired piano stabs and deep bass throb, is a hymn to Mother Earth, describing how our bodies will eventually become one with the soil and reminding us that this cycle will continue endlessly. Life begets death begets life ad infinitum. This existential introspection couched in a dancefloor-ready rhythm showcases just how much Cheong has grown as a songwriter over the course of her career. Not many artists situate their beats within a philosophical underpinning, and she has a knack for doing it with grace.
On "Fallen," Cheong strips the musical elements back to a barely-there synth melody. The cacophony of daily life takes over: birds chirp, a rooster crows, people call out, and a dog howls. Over the thick din of existence, she sweetly sings of having been in both placid and exciting environments, before repeating, "Don't you cry for me / just because I'm fallen." She's yearning for a past that she's moved on from, or maybe she's just happily reminiscing. Cheong leaves it up to the listener to come to their own conclusion.
Throughout Real Time, Cheong moves between being ready to hit the club and wanting to stay home and meditate on what it means to be alive. Somehow, she makes these two modes interchangeable, such that the tracks flow into each other almost seamlessly. Her utterly gorgeous-sounding voice is the encapsulating element that elevates the experience into something beautiful to behold. The music is slick, the lyrics are deep, but that voice: it's pure bliss. (We Are Time)