Hong Kong In The 60s, My Fantoms
Self-effacing, discreet pop songs that unfold in a sepia haze
The low-key London trio Hong Kong In The 60s say they're influenced by early electronic pop, Italian film soundtracks and, er, Chinese music from the 1960s — so it seems entirely fitting that they met while working as librarians at Oxford University. Using a motley array of vintage synthesizers and drum machines, they craft self-effacing, discreet pop songs that unfold in a sepia haze. At times, these songs are so halting they seem scarcely to exist: The Stereolab-like "Softly Sung" has a melody so slight that a summer breeze could waft it away. Singer Mei Yau Kun's breathy vocals evoke St. Etienne's Sarah Cracknell's creamy croon, or suggest the kind of ingenuous pop that Jane Birkin could have made had Serge never got his dirty hands on her. The trio are determinedly lo-fi: The bittersweet "Diaryland" unfolds around a click track and an ancient Casio organ seemingly still on its default factory settings, while "Les Petits Chasseurs Au Bord Du Lac Lunaire" could be an attempt to play a Vangelis opus with one finger. Yet when this keening cutie-pop gels, as on the compellingly fragile "When You Were Dreaming", Hong Kong in the 60s exude a tender and beguiling beauty.