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Sui Zhen

Sui Zhen combines electronic pop, performance art, and the ethical and emotional challenges of the digital age into poignant, thought-provoking music. On 2016's Secretly Susan, she set her examinations of the personas people create on social media to a deceptively breezy blend of sounds -- Shibuya-kei, dub, bossa nova -- that evoked the illusory nature of the online world. This light touch was crucial to the success of 2019's Losing, Linda, a meditation on how technology affects identity, mortality, and loss inspired by the death of her own mother. Based in Melbourne, Australia, Rebecca Sui Zhen Freeman began making music as Sui Zhen in 2003. She debuted with 2007's self-released EP Sui Zhen, which she recorded with producer Steeve Body at his Sydney studio. The following year, she won a Golden Eye Award for Best Sound Composition for the score to Imogen Heath's film 37 Scenes in the Company of a Rabbit, a collaboration with producer Jamie Lloyd. After participating in the Red Bull Music Academy in 2010, she self-released her first full-length, 2012's Two Seas, which won praise for its delicate, confessional folk-pop. That year, she also collaborated with electronic producer Andreas Fox, whom she met at the Red Bull Music Academy, as Fox & Sui on the EP Taboo. In 2014 -- the same year she became a member of the punk-funk collective NO ZU -- Zhen released two Japanese EPs, Body Reset and Female Basic, that found her incorporating electronic elements into her own music for the first time. This influence, along with bossa nova, dub, and lounge, also informed her second album, 2016's Secretly Susan. Produced by Zhen, the album's explorations of online relationships and identities proved to be her artistic breakthrough. In the wake of Secretly Susan's acclaim, Zhen scheduled two artistic residencies in Japan, but as she was preparing to leave, her mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She continued with her plans, using her time in Sapporo to process her feelings and write songs about the overlap of death and digital technology. Later, Zhen's bandmates Ashley Bundang and Alec Marshall met her in Matsudo, Japan, where they recorded more fleshed-out versions of those songs. When Zhen returned to Australia, she continued working on what was to be her third album as she cared for her mother, who died in February 2018. That year, Zhen also provided a live score for Chris Marker's 1983 documentary Sans Soleil 2018. Arriving in September 2019, Losing, Linda incorporated spoken-word monologues and the cool serenity of Air's music into its reflections on loss and memories in the online realm.
© Heather Phares /TiVo


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