Mondo Diggage: Bei Bei & Shawn Lee, “Into the Wind”

Bei Bei & Shawn Lee
Into the Wind
Release date: Jan. 26, 2010

File under: Spaghetti Eastern, if only for its expansive terrain and mandible-mangling iridescence. What Bei Bei accomplishes with the guzheng — a large stringed and ancient beast that must be played in the seated position — and the places she takes it with prolific multi-instrumentalist Shawn Lee, whisking it through urban jungles on breathless tours of melting-pot grit, casts thick shadows on astounding.

She’s backed by a sturdy wall of sumptuous funk throughout, but the groove really locks ‘n’ cooks on “Hot Thursday,” an intergalactic nod-bobber that drop-kicks tingles down your earholes. Ubiquity label mate Georgia Anne Muldrow (her own Kings Ballad drops Feb. 9) gives voice to this sublime East/West throwdown, soaking “Make Me Stronger” and “Willingness” in a sultry soul that soothes Bei Bei’s restless plucks, edges complimented by vibes on “The Master Room,” a slow climber that jacks the temperature on a thrilling night of promise. Similarly, “Blue Grotto” finds Bei Bei dancing with her instrumental partners in an intimate promenade.

“East” finds the Bei Bei regime charting the chewed-up sprockets of kung-fu drive-in grind — specifically those scenes where Our Hero scales the enemy’s fortress under cover of night, silently dispatching scores of henchmen en route to the top floor. A bass hangs back, hands in pockets, waiting for shit to go down. Thank God it does, with a goosebump exoticism. Flutes whistle at the shimmy as it tiptoes past. Meanwhile, Bei Bei shreds with a near-possessed fury (she’s such a blur she evokes a pizzeria mandolin on “Whiskey Waltz”); girl’s got chops to sculpt your trench into a lifelong “O.” “I’m goin’ East!” someone cries. Pack your bags and get gone, brother; I’m right behind you on this here trip.


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