‘The [recording] is not good quality. You can hear a lot of noise when you are recording, but that is a special effect for me, I like that way. I’ve been using that machine for years, it’s getting crappy now and kind of old but I really like the sound.’
If this is how the album started life, it was to be a significant journey before ChaCha would let it see the light of day. She started work on the album in 2014, scrapped a planned 2015 release, and then again in December 2016 after news of The Shelter’s closure. 'Then at Chinese New Year I was listening to the album and I felt like it still needed something so I told Gaz (Williams, boss of SVBKVLT) to delay it for a few months,' ChaCha says. 'Whilst I was at home for three weeks I re-made the whole album again. So what you’re listening to has been worked on three times already.’
Since attending the Red Bull Music Academy in 2011, ChaCha has been one of the city's musicians to watch. And now with several years of making music under her belt, she says producing a concept album, rather than just releasing collections of songs, was a challenge she was looking for.
‘The original idea behind the album was to make a horror movie soundtrack for a movie which does not exist,’ she says. ‘I wanted the audience to listen and then picture the film in their head. That was the original idea from the first draft. In the end I really wanted to make something linked with my experiences with people, so it’s not about a horror movie anymore, it’s about life experiences and connections. The aim was never to make people dance, the aim is to make people enter the world that I create, to open their imaginations.'
And if it doesn't compel people to dance, it certainly does compel people to listen. ‘Jawa Meditation’, the album’s opening track is a haunting mix of murky bass noise and space-echo vocals in the style of a Muslim prayer call. ‘Full Moon Ceremony’ is one of the few tracks where she lets rip with a high-energy club-ready beat. But for the most part it’s a dark, abstract record that sounds like it was made for, and possibly in, The Shelter. And it turns out this is partly true.
‘There are a couple of songs on the new album where I use sounds that were originally sampled in The Shelter with the natural Shelter reverb,' ChaCha says. 'Everything on the album is a memory for me, it’s a storybook.’
Whilst the album title Moon Mad does give away the running theme of the record, namely the effect the moon has on human beings, it seems ChaCha is trying to say something a little deeper about our relationship with the natural world.
‘Many years ago I went travelling to Muslim areas,' she says. 'In the evening, when the sun set and the moon started rising, is when I heard their prayer, the last prayer of the day over the speakers. During that moment I started to feel like, as human beings, we have been losing contact with natural things. In the beginning of the world we didn’t know many things about the world. We had fear, and because of that fear, there was respect for nature, the things you don’t know. When human beings got to the top of the chain, they stopped believing other creatures or other things have souls too, because we’re on the top.
‘The moon is something to represent natural things linking to our lives. It’s so close to us, and every day this affects our daily lives. At least once a month it changes people’s moods and feelings, blood pressure and other things. But we never really think about it any more. I wanted to make something to link these things together – religion, the connection between us and nature. I never saw myself as a sunny person, I always saw myself as the daughter of the moon. For many years my real life was when the moon was out.’
ChaCha has sought to realise her creative vision on all aspects of the album, designing the Faded Ghost image, hand-making outfits and self-shooting portraits. And with CDs near-obsolete but still wanting to do a physical release, she drafted in frequent collaborator Nini Sum of IdleBeats to create a limited number of risograph-printed Moon Mad zines featuring 11 artworks to accompany the 11 tracks. Each purchase of the zine comes with a download code for the album.
‘I haven’t told Nini what to do, it’s all artwork inspired by the music,' ChaCha says. 'This is the way I really like to work with people, seeing other people’s imaginations. We inspire each other all the time.’
Faded Ghost is debuting Moon Mad at Beijing’s Wetware Festival on Sunday 21 May, part of a seriously impressive line-up of genre-spanning music over the four-day event (which SVBKVLT boss Gaz Williams is curating). For those in Shanghai who aren't making the trip up for Wetware, the Moon Mad release party will be at Williams' new club ALL (whereabouts of which are still unknown) on June 11. The zine will be on sale at the Shanghai release party and at the GIF shop from June 11 in the basement next to Uptown Records on Pingwu Lu and online.