Album Reviews

Album Review: Wukong the Monkey King - 21st Century Time Travelling (Independent)

Sam Smith

Creativity is at a premium in New Zealand music at the moment. Rules don’t matter, genres are arguably on the way out, and styles are being mixed with such vigour that makes it a great time be following the local scene. One of the bands who capture the mood of the current scene in Auckland perfectly is Wukong the Monkey King 悟空, who after supposedly breaking up are back with their second album 21st Century Time Travelling.

Combining styles ranging from funk to jazz to psychedelia, Wukong the Monkey King 悟空 is a five-piece band made up of Jordan Neal, Kyle Ranudo, Bryan Arriola, James Smith, and Wade Wu, with the experimental nature of their work and lack of boundaries making their music an intriguing listen.

After a short intro, 21st Century Time Travelling kicks off with the spacey and atmospheric Battlefield with its flourishes of sax, post-punk guitar, and Wade’s unique vocals combining English and Chinese hooking the listener in from the get-go. This is followed instantly by Decay, an industrial trippy affair that continues the energy of the previous track with good results.

Who is an all-out stomper of a track that brings in more rock influences with distorted heavy guitar, psych sax, and heavy chanting, while Wu’s vocals continue to retain the intensity of the first few tracks in what can only be described as an excellent performance. When the band lock-in behind Wu and start jamming there is nothing better and the evidence is clear on this particular track.

Next up is Solar Power, a track with more of a funky rhythm, although it does retain the spacey feel of some of the previous songs, something which seemed to be a common thread across the record. The album then wound down with the prog-sounding Dharma Lama, a track choker full of tempo changes, before the closer 2008 takes on Chinese politics in what stylistically was probably the most experimental track on the record.

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Word on the street was that Wukong the Monkey King 悟空 had ended and I had no idea they were releasing any new music despite having seen them play live recently. Thankfully, though, they have returned and returned with a bang and a stylistically diverse record that captures strongly the essence of what this band is all about.

Experimentation and the fusing of styles and cultures is the name of Wukong the Monkey King 悟空's game and they have managed to achieve that with strong results on 21st Century Time Travelling, an album that is a welcome addition to their discography and proof there is plenty left in the tank of one of the most exciting bands going around Auckland.

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On 27 July 2019 at 4:30 China Time and 8:30 New Zealand Time, two portals in Auckland and Chengdu will attempt to break into the fabric of time. This is a coordinated live experiment that seeks to collapse online and offline worlds, remixing audio-visual frequencies with communication media and reimagining them into a journey through "real time".

Celebrate the new album release with Wukong the Monkey King 悟空 at Audio Foundation on 27 July 2019. Free Entry! 

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Released: 12 Jul 2019

Written By: Sam Smith When he is not writing for Radio 13 Sam works in media and journalism at 95bFM radio and the University of Auckland. He also has is own personal music blog Nowhere Bros.