On her latest album Khu Vuon Yen Tinh (The Quiet Garden), Hong Nhung continues to amaze listeners with new tunes. Her taste and understanding of simplicity may prove that she is the most intuitive vocalist of her generation. The freshness of her style allows Hong Nhung to reach her fans far beyond those who live in Viet Nam, not to mention her American audiences. On this album, Hong Nhung invites fans to explore her peaceful space by providing a pure appreciation for nature through a personal listening experience.
The album is simple in its complexity and complex in its simplicity. Distinguished songwriter Duong Thu, who pens six out of eight tracks on this album, recognizes the aesthetic beauty in minimalism. He believes that the simpler the writing, the stronger the expression, and “Giot Suong” (Dewdrop) demonstrates his unsophisticated lyricism. The song is divided into two short verses. Each verse has four lines. Each line contains four syllables. The words are simple, but the visual is accessible – “Giot suong trong vat / ngu trong canh hoa,” which suggests the crystal clear dewdrop sleeping inside the petal. Even though Duong Thu writes these songs for Hong Nhung, the lyrics also reflect his own personality. When the songwriter and singer are in accord with each other, together they bring out the best of both individuals merging into one. On his “Hon Da Trong Vuon Toi” (Stone in My Garden), her soothing flow is right inside the aesthetic of contemporary arrangements.
Beside Hong Nhung’s vocals and Duong Thu’s compositions, the strength of the album also comes from Quoc Trung’s luxurious arrangements. Listen to the way his drum taps on “Tieng Nuoc Roc Rach” (The Babbling Sound of Water) and how easy she is with it. Together they blend their talents to bring an exquisite sound to Duong Thu’s work. When the vocal and the instrumental components weave in and out of one another on Duong Thu’s “Tieng Mua De Lai” (The Sound of The Rain), as if completing one another’s feelings, the beauty of rhythm and harmony still depends on simplicity.
As for Quoc Trung’s own composition, “Con Chim Sau” (Woodpecker) is a breathtaking example of Hong Nhung’s innovative way with an avant-garde song, as she mixes the melody with her own phrases in a playful interaction. Near the end of the song, she goes out of context and sounds like a kid with her vocal manipulation.
The third songwriter contributing to this album is Huy Tuan, who also wrote “Mot Ngay Moi” (A New Day) exclusively for Hong Nhung on her previous album. His “Nang Som” (Early Sun) is a masterpiece that, once again, showcases Hong Nhung’s simplistic and elegant flow. Her perfection in phrasing enables the lyrics come to life.
Khu Vuon Yen Tinh proves once again that Hong Nhung’s stylistic variations are limitless. Duong Thu, Quoc Trung, and Hong Nhung offer a brand new definition of creative freedom, leading listeners to new ground. The album’s lyrical, simple beauty might attract an audience well beyond her dedicated fans. The spellbinding vocal delivery combined with the striking musical arrangement creates a quiet garden where anyone can take a break, breathe fresh air, absorb peaceful sound, and live a simple life. The album reminds us to “manifest plainness, embrace simplicity, reduce selfishness, have few desires.” – Lao-Tzu.