Album Review: Greentea Peng – GREENZONE 108

[EMI; 2022]

Greentea Peng has a voice that sticks to you. Her music sticks with you, sure, but it goes beyond that. She possesses a voice that feels nearly dewy, sticking to your skin and mind long after one of her records stops playing. Having released the sublime, ambitious, and cruelly underrated debut album MAN MADE just last year, she’s already back, this time operating in the mixtape format with GREENZONE 108. While it certainly features a looser, more casual vibe than her prior release, she hasn’t lost a step, still reaching ever further into the cosmos for something resembling the sublime.

“Feint” opens things up with a muddy mindstate, finding Peng protecting her “energy” as her “psyche is under attack.” It’s a loaded track, calling out essentially anyone not living their truest life, anyone “full of hate”. She sees an out, but she refuses to take it, instead opting to stand in opposition to the masses dragging our world ever further into the dregs. While GREENZONE 108 maintains the musical warmth Peng is known for, it often deals with her perceived “battle” against negativity and the darkness shrouding our globe.

“Look to Him” mines similar territory – “don’t speak, if it’s gonna be lies” – but also finds her reflecting on the music she makes, both the countless number of artists she’s been influenced by as well as the younger artists she’s surely impacting. “Imitation ain’t flattery – but inspiration that’s a different ‘ting,” she intones.

“Lose My Mind” boasts a more mysterious soundscape, with guiding guitar layering intermittent background sounds, in moments it sounds like something The Alchemist might have cooked up for Prodigy. The mixtape isn’t without other hip hop-leaning moments, with “Our Father” sliding along with the feeling of a classic Dungeon Family cut, somewhere between Organized Noize and Frank Ocean at his most boisterous.

“Three Eyes Open” is undeniably a stand out, with its island-infused groove and Peng, once more, at her most pointed (“beware the fuckery”). “Stand what you stand for, or fall onto your knees: come with your heart or don’t come at all,” she sings, the words feeling equally like an invitation and a concerned warning. Elsewhere, she deals with the state of things more directly (see “the world is burning” on “My Love”).

Despite its presentation as a mixtape, GREENZONE 108 doesn’t find Greentea Peng sacrificing one ounce of her ambition, with sounds that range across the board. “Stuck in the Middle” feels like a classic soul groove, while “Your Mind” drifts between gently jagged rock and sweeping strings, the sort of funk Isaac Hayes would be proud of. In short, GREENZONE 108 finds Peng as essential an artist as ever, delving deeper into her deeply idiosyncratic world. To miss it is to more or less make you (as she may put it) a nonbeliever.