In my brief commentary on Le Quyen’s Giac Mo Co That, I wrote, “The young Le Quyen has a captivating timbre —powerful and perspicuous—with no breathe or pitch issues. While her technical skill is promising, her music selection is disappointing.” I doubt that she read my criticism, but still give myself the credit for helping her stepping up her game. On Mat Biec, her new release with Tung Duong and Tuan Hiep, the dark, gruff sensuousness in her voice is a wonderful complement to the nocturnal mood in Pham Dinh Chuong’s “Xom Dem,” Nguyen Van Thuong’s “Dem Dong,” and Tuan Khanh’s “Chiec La Cuoi Cung.” Even though she still needs to work on her delivery, the soul is there.
Speaking of soul, Tung Duong is the soulster, and he’s always switching up his style. Although it doesn’t always work, he has not been shied away from experiencing with his voice. To give Ngo Thuy Mien’s “Mua Thu Cho Em” a soft and gentle vibe, he holds back his vocals, which ends up sounding like he tries too hard to be effortless. As a result, his voice works against his flow, and the heavy breathing makes him sound huskier than calm. Fortunately, he brings back the ferocity and intensity on Doan Chuan and Tu Linh’s “Gui Gio Cho May Ngan Bay” and “La Do Muon Chieu.”
As for Tuan Hiep, he just got a free ride. With such a mundane voice, he has no business being on the album. Ngo Thuy Mien’s “Ban Tinh Cuoi” should have been a duet between Le Quyen and Tung Duong, not Tuan Hiep. Another disappointment of Mat Biec is the musical arrangement. Except for the little jazziness in “Xom Dem,” the rest are pretty colorless and liveliless.