Joe Wong transforms earth and reality in his September 2020 album Nite Creatures, creating a sprawling epic in 10 tracks. From your bedroom, he swirls you up into a dreamy odyssey, one part forest-fantasy and two parts concert-kaleidoscope. 

Wong comes from a performing and composing background, so it’s not a surprise that Nite Creature’s strength lies in the album’s ability to transport and allude to a larger, vaster universe. Wong has been a driving creative force on several TV shows. He was the film composer for “Midnight Gospel,” a psychedelic trip of a show. Nite Creatures feels similarly to the Netflix original. Other credits include “Russian Doll” and “Master of None.” 

Those credentials alone made me gravitate toward Wong’s new album. But they did not prepare me for how much I would enjoy listening to the album. This is the album to make solo grocery shopping bizarre and exciting. Wong breathes life into mundane moments, informing you of both the world’s vastness and your floating, temporary moor in it. 

“Relax your mind. The night creatures wander past you.”

— “Nite Creatures”

Wong invites you to re-envision the world as he sees dreams: simultaneously fantastical, limited and ultimately impersonal. Dissatisfaction is an existential given, the world disappoints but dually enchants. He’s kind with these realizations, using his incredible skill with multiple instruments to soften the blow. 

I never felt sleepy or bored listening to his music (as I often do with whole themed albums from a single artist). Wong continuously keeps his music smart, bringing a 16-piece string section into the fray with “Dreams Wash Away.” Likewise, his track “Sleeping” demonstrates the breadth of human imagination. He trots you out into the deep, dark night to see strange creatures and demons. In each song, trailing instruments and pillowy voices remind us that our present reality isn’t wholly satisfying. Everything ends and we don’t get what we want or need. The world has no obligation to us.

However, disatisfaction, while uncomfortable, helps accent and spice life. In his album, Joe Wong recognizes and gnaws on that. 

The dreamscapes Wong creates are not hyper individualistic power fantasies but instead passports to a functioning dream-world ecology, alien but not intentionally malicious. He meanders through the dark, brushing shoulders with terrifyingly real monsters native to our subconscious and present. And after those encounters, he proffers a joint and a foldable chair, inviting you to watch the parade. In “Day after Day” he comforts, commiserates and intrigues. “Minor” haunts with soft vocals and strategic reverberating guitar strums. 

Through his music, he provides safe passage into that dreamscape, numbing the extremes of human despair and disappointment. What remains is a fuzzier, kinder dose of the human condition.  

Hummus and pita chips. Maybe a side of carrots. That’s my solemn recommendation for anyone with the munchies (or anyone studying) listening to Nite Creatures. 

Daily Arts Columnist Elizabeth Yoon can be reached at elizyoon@michigandaily.com.

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown challenges at all of us — including The Michigan Daily — but that hasn’t stopped our staff. We’re committed to reporting on the issues that matter most to the community where we live, learn and work. Your donations keep our journalism free and independent. You can support our work here.

 

For a weekly roundup of the best stories from The Michigan Daily, sign up for our newsletter here.