Until now, Flora Yin-Wong’s work fed primarily on the metropolis. Her debut mixtape, City God, was a club take on urban Chinese folk religion. In 2020, Holy Palm careened between samples of Tokyo and Crete and Paris; its companion book, Liturgy, traced a journey across the world to sites of urban curiosity and ancient myth—a gas fire in the Karakum Desert that has burned for half a century, a Malaysian palace of a thousand gilded horses, the faceless ghosts of Japan. On The Sacrifice, Yin-Wong retreats into isolation in the North Wales wilderness. She’s still preoccupied with the intersection of modernity and mysticism, but in the stillness of her solitude, she finds a single locus and approaches with meditative intent.
Inspired by the folklore of the Mabinogion—a collection of some of the earliest Welsh prose stories—Yin-Wong captures a resonant, primal picture of the terrain. The title of dissonant opener “Hanging a Thief” recalls the fable of Lord Manawydan’s attempt to hang a shapeshifted field mouse for eating his grain. Ambient DJ and musician Rachel Lyn’s sonorous narration carries across “Willow Bends,” The Sacrifice’s sole vocal piece, as she describes a nameless myth that’s as intrinsic to the land as its waters. When an ominous rush undercuts the words, “It was as if you could see me across the lake,” it imbues them with secrecy and dread; as Lyn meditates on “these ancient and contemporary currents, carrying their secrets from upstream,” the water she describes is heard in discordant, hostile echoes. Occasionally, its circulation is subtly broken by static, like white foam on waves.
The field recordings of The Sacrifice are reverent towards the totality of their mother environment. From whipping wind to the silence of abandoned mines, Yin-Wong’s samples are visually situated in the landscape, highlighting contrasts between the remains of industry and the pristine wilderness. Atonal piano keys mix with ghostly vocalizations on “Unhappy Disclosures,” suggesting humans in discordance with their environment; “Hanging a Thief” wars between violent, fluctuating screeches of white noise and the wide, unbroken synth tone beneath them. Battered by metallic clanks and otherworldly growls, closer “The Sacrifice” captures an intense, glacial loneliness so broad and chasm-like that it becomes claustrophobic.
The Sacrifice feels like something of a pause for Yin-Wong, a sub-chapter in her endless, restless journey. The EP is less composed than the delicacy of Holy Palm, but more exhaustive in the exploration of its subject. Though Yin-Wong is stationary, her subject is transitional, like the EP’s namesake; originally The Four Branches of the Mabinogi, a medieval misprint led to the commonly accepted collective name The Mabinogion, while The Sacrifice represents a further modernized adaptation of the title. Yin-Wong’s choice of the latest branch in the stories’ evolution reflects something increasingly lost to human words over time, yet still alive and ever-shifting.
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