Synths and traditional Chinese instruments combine on an expressive full-length inspired by an ancient text.
Fortune's first album was preceded by her inclusion on Optimo Music's Fourth World music survey, Miracle Steps: Music From The Fourth World 1983-2017. As a Glaswegian based in Zürich using predominantly Chinese instruments, her music encapsulates the form's placeless quality. But Fortune's work defies easy categorisation, forgoing Fourth World music's futurism for an enquiry into the I Ching's distant past. On the composer's second entry in her Tao Of I series, she adds to her array of traditional Chinese instruments the erhu, yangqin, zhong and the flute-like bawu. The album is more lush than its predecessor, but the sense of mystery remains.
Tao Of I Volume 2 opens with a heartbeat shuffle, blooming synthesiser and bright reverberating chimes, elements that sustain an unwaveringly hypnotic groove. The next two tracks chart a noticeably different course. "Lǚ 履" pairs cavernous synths with graceful, plucked strings while "Tài 泰," which features a lilting erhu, a violin-like instrument, is more pastoral and romantic. Fortune masterfully balances each musical element in these tracks, which not only embody an eerie beauty but also a newfound spaciousness compared with Tao Of I.
Appropriately for a record inspired by a millenia-old divination text, little of Tao Of I Volume 2 feels left to chance. It sounds as though every detail was pored over with a precision comparable to peers like Caterina Barbieri and Kali Malone. "Tóng Rén 同人" might be the record's most meticulous track. A flickering metal-sounding instrument (either the kim or yangqin) scrawls over wheezing, flattened synthesiser. It sounds unwieldy at first. But an elegance emerges from the contrasting tones, like watching two dancers slip in and out of sync.
"Dà Yǒu 大有" and "Yù 豫" highlight Fortune's fondness for trance-inducing repetition. The former foregrounds a gently fluttering electronic melody against pinging bells without the Chinese instruments heard elsewhere. "Yù 豫" is a minimalist composition of oscillating flutes where short breaths collapse into longer exhales, backed by monumental sub-bass. Despite their instrumental form, these tracks are deeply lyrical—rich with shimmering harmonies—even as their deeper meaning feels tantalisingly out of reach. Without an intimate knowledge of the I Ching, it's difficult to know how Fortune's music interprets the text. Even so, the music is charged with a bewitching, enigmatic quality befitting its arcane source material.