EDWARD YANG DOESN’T FUCK WITH THE PROSAIC.
“My thing is I always want to be consistently inconsistent,” he says from his Pilsen-based studio. “That’s my goal. That’s my art. With music or videos, I want it to be a breath of fresh air.”
Listening to his music, that much is obvious. Performing under the moniker Bengfang, the Chicago-based producer mixes beats that are nuanced and textured, punctuated by a bass-heavy style and a cacophony of computerized sounds as reminiscent of a science fiction film as it is an electronics album—an influence carried over from his background as a filmmaker, no doubt.
Yang is a part of a movement in Chicago shaped by people who push against the boundaries of what’s considered typical. We might give them labels like innovators and radicals, but at the end of the day, they’re just men and women who are tired of the banal and want to stir shit up just to see what happens.
Yang’s particular journey as an artist didn’t begin in the Windy City, however. Growing up in St. Paul, Minnesota, he began mixing beats at a young age, utilizing it as the ultimate channel for expression.
“The first time I got my hands on a computer, I was making music and I was really digging in,” he describes.
It’s a story that should be familiar to anyone who pushes boundaries. You begin focused on developing yourself in one particular craft but find yourself drawn towards other avenues of creativity. It’s risky, yes, but the alternative is becoming stagnant. And that is a terrible outcome indeed.
For Yang, that meant exploring filmmaking, and so he found himself settling in Chicago after a stint at Columbia to study film. While in school, the goal was to eventually combine his two passions in order to create scores for movies or shows, but even with that, Yang found himself confined by the often strict formalities of academia.
“I was actually going to study music abroad for a semester in school,” he explains, “but I didn’t like it because there were so many technical rules in music making that I just didn’t think were necessary. It also wasn’t the type of music I wanted to make and it was more focused on composing and technicalities.”
The desire to combine his two interests into one cohesive passion still burned strong, despite his trepidations with the formalities of music. This resulted in the experimental and audacious work he produces today.
Case in point: Bengfang’s most recent album Imperial City, a nine track record notable for its release on a 512MB SD card and within an electronic static bag. The packaging itself is as much of an experience as the music within it, borne out of that innate desire of Yang’s to break from the consistency he sees in how music is made and delivered.
“It came about when I realized that everyone kind of has an obsession with packaging,” he explains. “When I buy something, the packaging should always ben super dope. It adds so much more to the experience.”
The music within is an adventure sonically, varying from hypnotic bass to exquisitely well-layered rhythms. It’s also noteworthy for the fact that it is, at least in part, created with virtual reality (VR) in mind.
“It all just keeps going with my theme of always trying to branch out,” Yang explains. “I wanted to make videos where I’m shooting with my music. And that leads to VR, which is the newest thing that’s the future of entertainment. It’s the next step so why not take a stab at it?”
To facilitate this, Yang collaborated with a Australian graphic designer Trent Holbrook who helped him supplement the album with VR music videos, providing listeners and viewers alike the opportunity to experience the album in three dimensions.
It’s likely unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before. The video for “Never Ends” (track nine on Imperial Grade) is reminiscent of an acid trip or a good hit of salvia. That isn’t to say, it isn’t completely awesome though, because it sure as hell is. The nice thing is, though, you’re as much in the driver’s seat as Bengfang is with the experience, able to look around in a 360 degree world brought to you by Yang’s bold vision.
But you don’t have to take my word for it. Chicagoans have the opportunity to check out Bengfang’s musically and graphically driven glory in person at Sub Chroma on Saturday November 19th. Coupled VR headsets as well as strategically placed projectors, you’ll be able to more fully experience Yang’s vision, a product developed from that special drive to take the conventional by the throat and not let go.