Door knocking, broken glass, and static noise accompany Quyech’s delicate voice in the beautiful 6-minute video “Doc Thoai”.
The current music scene in Vietnam does not lack promising talents but it is hard to find an act that will not remind you of another one from the past decade. This is not a criticism on the state of music because a song still can be excellent without much originality. But if an artist can pull off both the familiar aspects and simultaneously bring a unique vision to the table, there is nothing more rewarding.
In “Doc Thoai (Monologue)”, Quyech pulled off said combo to perfection. Duc’s composition is already a terrific affair in place; the melody is sophisticated, as well as the confident restraint. If the song only includes the sparkling bluesy guitar playing and Linh’s emotive vocal performance, it would still be an excellent tune nevertheless.
But Quyech did not stop there; they pulled off manipulating different field recordings into the percussion element. Collecting the everyday sound such as the door knocking, broken glass and even the static noise from an encephalogram, Quyech molded these clinical and soulless sounds into the song’s backbone, diversifying the sonic palette and at the same time emphasizing the isolated nature of the source material.
With such tricky and unpredictable samples, how “Doc Thoai (Monologue)” manages to not sound like a pretentious mess is an achievement in itself and this further proves how sharp they are as a collective whole.
As for the lyric and vocal style, “Doc Thoai (Monologue)” hardly follows any tired motif. It does not tell the story with a distinct opening, middle and ending. Instead Linh conjures plenty of strong images (“the ember simmering half-way”, “with a roof and without a door frame” or “humming in the foreign land where thousand trees refuse to listen”) and she leaves them to the listener’s imagination to paint their respective story.
In a traditional singing perspective, Linh would not necessarily impress any vocal coach but in the context of the song, her raw vocals, coupled with a general disregard for the rules and the surprising addition of some traditional folk singing, made her the necessary vessel for the tune. Truly, “Doc Thoai” is a journey of someone constantly looking inward, painted through some bold musical choices that Thắng has never attempted with his band Ngot.
Such an innovative work is needed to encourage more critical discussions about the quality of independent music in Vietnam and if we are lucky, such movement can become the catalyst and the inspiration for the next crop of talents as well.