As mui zyu, Hong Kong British artist Eva Liu navigates the tricky territory of ever-changing identity, merging fantasy and folklore to create a stage for self-acceptance and deliverance. On her debut full-length Rotten Bun for an Eggless Century, Liu utilizes chopped-up soundscapes, delicate industrial ambience and sweet pop melodies to introduce a character––a guide––who can be stretched across worlds to offer the catharsis of patience, perseverance and understanding. This isn’t a character formed from a desire to escape or flee the real world, but rather a way to submerge even deeper into ourselves. Rotten Bun for an Eggless Century is a reflection of everyone, and everything, that made us who we are.
On her 2021 solo EP a wonderful thing vomits (Father/Daughter), Liu was praised for her seamless integration of darkened, often ominous instrumentation and pillowy-soft vocals. As the front person of UK indie-rock trio Dama Scout, Liu effortlessly navigates a disorientating genre-bending sonic landscape with a playful, gentle dexterity. Now, with the help of Dama Scout bandmate Luciano Rossi as co-producer, Liu’s first solo full-length builds upon these previous worlds to form a blossoming, more upbeat patchwork of lo-fi percussion, poignant lyricism and oddly alluring arrangements. “There’s a meandering between two worlds,” she says. “A kitchen sink reality versus a more fantastical place.”
The writing process of Rotten Bun for an Eggless Century prompted Liu to explore more of her Hong Kong heritage, allowing a space for acceptance and celebration. As a child, she would often shy away from traditions and urge herself into the blur of a crowd. “I am Chinese and I am owning it,” she explains. “Before, I would resent it. I tried doing things that would make me like less Chinese somehow.” As the album began to take shape, Liu read the traditional Chinese folklore writings of Pu Songling and joined local East and Southeast Asian groups, which allowed her to bond with people who had had similar experiences growing up. It opened a portal into a new self, where Liu could blend her love of video games and film scores with traditional Chinese instruments.
This sonic landscape is felt most prominently on the single “Ghost with a Peach Skin,” as Liu describes leaving a former self for a new skin. Despite overcoming certain relationships and experiences, there’s still bruises left on this new skin: a pattern of the past. “Even though a peach is a delicate fruit that bruises easily, in Chinese culture it represents longevity and immortality,” she says. To mimic this bruising, Liu collaborated with a traditional guzheng player (Yijia Tu), cutting apart its recording to “bruise” the performance of it, offering a captivating, electro-pop banger. Elsewhere, piano-led opener “Rotten Bun” introduces the idea of a heart made rotten from the past, and how the album’s character–like a video game protagonist–must navigate the world as a lonesome warrior. Electronic percussion and warped vocals swell to urge our guide to take those tentative first steps, as Liu announces “Rotten bun, scarred by everyone / Just hold my hand, let's break away from them.”
Later, this upbeat urgency permeates on “Talk to Death,” where an acceptance of the decay of life abounds. Liu personifies death and strikes up a conversation with it through propulsive synths. A dedication to those we’ve lost floats through “Paw Paw,” as Liu welcomes a moving erhu performance by Charlie Wardle. “It was inspired by my maternal grandmother, who I called Paw Paw and is also dedicated to the grandparents we've lost,” she says. “My granddad also used to play the erhu and he's a man of not many words.” This familial connection pours over into the album’s exhale, “Ho Bao Daan (Interlude),” as Liu’s father, a former restaurant owner, describes how to make the classic Hong Kong dish. Through a light, rhythmic amble, the track serves as a sweet reminder in investing in the connections we may have previously steered away from.
This sweetness teamed with Liu's hauntingly beautiful arrangements marks Rotten Bun for an Eggless Century as an album that embraces both sides of the story. It asks us to accept the dark, but to also seek out the brighter moments along the way. By combining modern instrumentation with the more traditional, and extending melodies to broader landscapes, Liu doesn’t just honor the past but embraces and transforms it to harness the power in healing, and creating a path that’s entirely your own.
All songs written & produced by mui zyu and Luciano Rossi
Mixed by Luciano Rossi
Mastered by Alex Wharton at Abbey Road (https://www.abbeyroad.com/engineer/alex-wharton)
Artwork by Clio Isadora (https://www.clioisadora.com)
Guzheng by Yija Tu on tracks 1, 2, 4 & 11
Erhu by Charlie Wardle on tracks 1, 7, 9 & 10
Additional vocals by Zoë Mead on track 2
Spoken word by Konrad & Cyanna Liu on tracks 4 & 6