YIAN (燕) means ‘swallow’, the bird. Flight, migration, nesting, and community come to mind. And the lightness and elegance of the small, hollow-boned animals. The debut record by Lucinda Chua is named after the Mandarin Chinese word for the bird – YIAN. While the minimalistic music bears lightness, the topics of her lyrics are touching meditations on place, identity, and belonging.

Lucinda Chua looks into the camera. Captured from the side, she turns her head. The image is dark and has a blue overtone. Lucinda is wearing her hair in a braid that falls over her shoulder.

Photo by Milo Van Giap

Cellist, producer, singer, and songwriter, Lucinda Chua is a multifaceted artist. After touring with many other musicians like FKA Twigs, YIAN is her first solo endeavor. The self-produced album has a glow and a resonating tenderness to it. On Echo, the piano and the atmospheric electronic elements are contrasted by the urgency of the lyrics. “I won’t be your echo”. Lucinda Chua sings of breaking free from transgenerational trauma. Growing up with a Malaysian-Chinese father and an English mother, the artist has been navigating a complex intersection of cultural identity and lacked representation in the media for realities like hers.

“I’m Golden, You’ll See”

Connecting with her roots, Lucinda Chua took up traditional and contemporary Chinese dancing. The attention to detail and delicate hand movements of the dance that requires bodily tension, coordination, and lightness at the same time are reflected in the musical imprint of the record. YIAN is a dance. At times a euphoric orchestrated pirouette like on Meditations On A Place at times a shy tip-toed stretch like An Ocean. Lucinda Chua closes the album with the collaborative Something Other Than Years. Featuring Yeule, a singer of Singaporean descent based in the UK, the two voices move in unison and create the ethereal-voiced antithesis to the lone representation of Golden. Lucinda Chua finally sings in community, finding commonality in the uprooted experience of diaspora identities.

Who do I turn to?
I don’t look like you
When the sunlight hits me
I’m golden, you’ll see
I’m golden
– Golden

YIAN is out now via 4AD records. 

Every Monday, the NBHAP staff brings an exciting new artist to your attention alongside a 30-track-strong Introducing Playlist on Spotify. Feel invited to follow the playlist and give these talents a spin. Sign up for our Newsletter to receive monthly updates about new music.

This time, we curated the playlist featuring Lucinda Chua. Along with tracks from her new album, this week’s update includes mui zyu, Holly Herndon, Novaa, and more. Tune in below.