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Triad God - Triad Music Album Reviews

On his second album with producer Palmistry, the elusive London vocalist delivers a surreal blend of singing, rapping, and voiceover narration.

In the seven years since the release of his debut mixtape NXB, the London-based vocalist Triad God has hardly been seen or heard. While NXB developed something of a cult following and eventually received a proper rollout from now-defunct label Hippos in Tanks, its creator remained cloaked in mystery. Triad God may have made perfect sense alongside a roster that included Dean Blunt, James Ferraro, and Yung Lean, but he's avoided those artists’ paths to wider recognition.


Second album Triad, released on Lorenzo Senni's Presto!? label, is the first sign of life from Triad God in almost four years. We know about as much about him in 2019 as we did in 2012. There are no in-depth interviews with Triad God, and no video except a FACT Magazine freestyle filmed in London’s Chinatown and some brief camcorder footage posted to his official YouTube channel. We know, from a fleeting conversation with Dazed, that his given name is Vinh Ngan, that he’s from New Cross, London, that he’s of Chinese and Vietnamese heritage, and that he enjoys “Chinese love songs” and Tupac.

Though NXB was loosely described as “rap,” Triad God's vocals, delivered in both Cantonese and English, are a surreal blend of singing, rapping, and voiceover narration. He mutters, mumbles, coos, croaks, whispers; if he’s rapping, it’s less of a flow and more of a trickle. Whatever you call it, it’s a deeply intimate and confessional mode of delivery, somewhere between the monologue in a Terrence Malick movie and Lil B’s spoken-word album Rain in England.

The songs here are sketches that crumble at a touch. “I Luv U Freestyle” isn’t the improvised rap its title implies, but a recording of a lightly sung melody couched in room tone. Two different tracks, “BDG” and “Babe Don’t Go,” are built around repetition of the phrase “baby, don’t go,” as if each loop could intensify the melancholy. On "Gway Lo," Triad God chants, "Rapping is a lifestyle/Do you know what the fuck I'm saying?," a lyric that could have been lifted from any number of American rap songs. He repeats it again and again until the words are ground into dust. When musicians rhetorically ask if we know what they’re saying, the answer is usually a resounding amen. Here, the response is more uncertain.

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The foundation over which these words unfold is assembled by producer Palmistry, who previously collaborated with Triad God on NXB. Palmistry carves his instrumentals out of ghostly chants, ethereal vocal samples, and other sonic shards that elude easy identification. The final product is a little like listening to a melodramatic Cantopop ballad muffled by a wall. The beats on NXB, which often sounded something like those of label-mates Nguzunguzu, were more expansive than the sparse designs here, but Triad God’s own voice is richer than on his previous album. The vocals on NXB were akin to voice memos; here they are more present and fully shaped, though still swaddled in echo and reverb.

As the weird music at the fringes of the internet—particularly the kind of innovative esoterica in which Hippos in Tanks specialized—comes under threat of extinction, Triad feels like the last transmission from a dying planet. For listeners with limited knowledge of Cantonese, Triad God’s music is a blindfolded voyage into a particle collider where disparate cultures smash together at the speed of light. Every word Triad God spits and every sample Palmistry flips sounds like it’s disappearing before it can be heard. Listen now, before the next MySpace presses delete.



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