Since 2007, Liang — who records as the Shanghai Restoration Project — has released nine albums and produced many more through Europe and Asia.In January, he and a Shanghai jazz singer named Zhang Le released , a collection of 1930s and ’40s Shanghai jazz standards re-imagined in the polished vernacular of electronic music.In a way, it was a process of learning how to hear again.“The beats I would make when I first started — they just weren’t good. It was weird to me that your ears could actually get trained to see what could pop.” Liang sold a track to the R&B singer Carl Thomas early on (2004′s “That’s What You Are”), and it seemed that his path had come into focus. He left Leslie’s team and began working independently, taking a part-time job in Warner Music’s business division to keep afloat.Shanghai Restoration Project’s chill, cosmopolitan sound is a little more straightforward than these specimens of what we might call sonic orientalism.
“As much as people like to romanticize Shanghai in the 1930s,” Liang explains, “there’s a real dark side to it. If you look at the photos of the ballroom dances or the racehorse tracks, the Chinese people were all servants.
“If you grew up with a classical background, that stuff is completely foreign.
All of a sudden, I’m going through puberty, I’m hit with this sound, it was like….” He began branching out, essentially teaching himself how this new musical language worked.
He spends about a fifth of the year on the road, whether it’s producing for Japanese singers or collaborating with Chinese electronic artists.
In many ways, is the album Liang has been trying to make his entire career.
“I never listened to any contemporary music past the ’50s,” he jokes, adding that that his musical exploration was like his own private Cultural Revolution, where time essentially stood still.