When I walked by Judy Xiong and Ye Yunchuan and their Rhymoi Music booth at the marketplace in T.H.E. Show 2019, I had a distinct feeling of deja vu. I browsed through all of the beautiful LPs and CDs on the table and thought of my own love for audiophile pressings from the Far East that featured traditional music, and I told myself that I need to really explore these recordings. A few years ago I went on a First Impression Music (FIM) kick, but I mostly stuck to the jazz remasters from labels that were already marketed to audiophiles, but I never indulged in titles that featured recordings from Japan and China. I regret that, since those titles are now fairly difficult to find.
That’s when I was handed a Rhymoi Music sampler CD and I realized hey, I’ve already planned on covering this label before. At one of the high-end audio shows last year, maybe RMAF or the Capital Audiofest, I had the same exact conversation with Judy and Mr. Ye and was handed a sampler CD back then. I took it home, fell in love with both the music and the recording quality, and planned to go to the Enmusic website and order a few LPs. “I think I already have this, ” I told Ms. Xiong,” but I’ll take it.” The two then told me I could grab any two LPs to review, and I told them to pick the two that would really knock my socks off. Mr. Ye chose The Crescent Moon Illuminates the World and Dreams of a Chinese Opera II.
When I got home, I realized that the CD sampler had a different color than the one I picked up last year, and indeed it had a new batch of music on it.
The Crescent Moon Illuminates the World doesn’t feature the exotic folk instruments I crave, with their unique timbres and stripped-down harmonic structures. This Rhymoi Music LP is billed as “an encounter between folk songs China and music of the West,” played by guitar and orchestra. Ye Yunchuan, acting as executive producer, traveled to Germany to enlist the help of German composers and classical guitarists to “fuse the essence of Chinese music with the spirit of Western music.” This is a lush, gorgeous-sounding record and an ultra-quiet 180 gram pressing, and it’s everything I expected it to be–mostly, a sonic delicacy that carefully laid out the differences between the two worlds and the rare land where everything intersects with poise and elegance.
Dreams of a Chinese Opera II has a more traditional palette–it’s not opera music per se but rather the accompanying instrumental compositions, a “Chinese opera without words.” Building on the idea that China is, along with Ancient Greece and Indian Sanskrit, one of the three ancient origins of drama, this 180 gram pressing from Rhymoi Music is closer to what I envisioned from this type of label, a chance to dig deep into the mystery by learning the ten distinct regional traditions of China opera–Ji, Qin, Huagu, Lu Chao, Peking, Kun, Cantonese, Huangmei and Zhejiang Yue.
These albums are beautifully presented with detailed booklets, luxuriant cover art and pressings that are, in Ye Yunchuan’s own words, “without peer.” I’m convinced that I must buy more of these LPs as soon as possible since they are so exquisite and so delicate in their execution. If you’re wandering in a marketplace at one of the high-end audio shows and you see the Rhymoi Music booth, at least grab one of the samplers. Take it home, listen carefully and prepare to choose several of these LPs at your earliest convenience.
And yes, I know it’s not deja vu if it actually happened before. Let’s just call it a very happy coincidence that I ran into these two.