At the intersection of art rock, Alice in Wonderland, and classic video game dings! is mui zyu’s debut album Rotten Bun for an Eggless Century, released February 24, 2023, under Father/Daughter records. Born and raised in the UK, but originating from Hong Kong, singer-songwrtier Eva Liu performs her psychedelic, alternative songs under miu zyu, her childhood nickname meaning “little sister pig.” In the all uninspirational time of the COVID-19 pandemic, zyu turned to her Chinese roots to create an undeniably ambitious album: a twelve track collection that brings together her talent for synth soundscapes, her heritage, and modern day rock.
“Rotten Bun,” the opening song, sets the album’s fantastical, imaginative feel. Referencing sorcerers and witches to a composition of synth and strings, zyu wastes no time establishing her skills in the hallucinogenic, a musical theme throughout the debut. Still, the piece is beautifully innocent despite its darker notes, especially with the chorus, “Rotten bun, scarred by everyone/ Just hold my hand, let’s break away from them.” The next track “Ghost with a Peach Skin” amplifies the previous songs’ synth beat with more of a melancholy, trap-based echo, sublimely keeping the unique feel of the album going.
“Mother Tongue,” the fourth song, is the most brilliantly separate track on a collection already filled with the elusive. The track’s cinematic trippy vibe is filled with whoosh-ing sound effects and electric notes, transports listeners to a kaleidoscope of musical rainbows. And yet, the song still holds a deeper meaning than something audibly wonderful; Zyu uses the time to explain her choice to embrace her Chinese ancestry, ultimately ending the entire song with a voicemail spoken in her native language.
This notion of accepting where you come from illustrates itself on the “Ho Bao Daan (Interlude),” the sixth track. For just over a minute, to ethereal dream pop sounds, Zyu’s father explains how to make the classic dish, bringing listeners a sense of nostalgic somber. The following song “Demon 01” displays the artist’s wide range within the rock genre, the fact that she can change her pace from the almost video-game like electric beat to a full-on rock ensemble with an electric guitar riff.
The ninth song “Talk to Death” is a hauntingly gorgeous composition, on par with the boat ride to the underworld the Greeks fantacised about. Zyu echos “Evil eats the holy” throughout the chorus, her Lucy Dacus-like rich voice transcending to every corner of the music world. Her voice takes center stage during the verses though, her iconic static-y harmony quieting down as she sings, “Tell me if you like hell/ Said you didn’t want to grow/ Scared you couldn’t keep your head up.”
The penultimate song “Eggless Century” gives intense a new definition. With striking electro buildups that bleed together into a mind-bending instrumental palace, it is unlike any form of art-rock available. The final song “Sore Bear” takes a couple steps back, ending the powerful album on a simpler note. At the height of her vulnerabilities, looking back at what makes her who she is, zyu sings, “Excuse me/ I dismember words/ You won’t believe/ How much they can hurt/ Fallen angels/ Trying to fly from-”
Rotten Bun for an Eggless Century is as perplexing as it sounds. But rather than making listeners feel confused, it invokes a sense of deep wistfulness, carrying people worldwide to their own places of complicated thoughts where nothing more than twelve tracks can sort through the madness.