Back in May, I got a message from my friend Yixiao about coming to play in Chengdu and Chongqing with XI’ER, the predecessor punk band to electronic witch-synth trio South Acid MiMi.
When I first met Yixiao, Shishi and Weilin in 2015, I’d already been indoctrinated into the cult of South Acid Mimi, having experienced their intoxicated psychedelic dance masquerade at Kunming dive bar earlier that year. As one of the weirdest shows I’d seen so far in China, I was ecstatic when they agreed to play support for the mothership of acid freakery, Orchestra of Spheres during their China Tour.
我在2015年认识一笑、施施和魏琳，那年1月在昆明如痴如醉地体验了一次她们的迷幻化妆舞会，可以说已经成为了南方酸性咪咪的狂热追捧分子。那是我在中国看过最怪异的演出之一，当她们表示乐意为星迹乐团(Orchestra of Spheres)的中国巡演昆明站做嘉宾的时候，我简直欣喜若狂。
Upon meeting them in Kunming, it was immediately clear they were super badass. Arms covered with tattoos, they led us to their hangout in downtown Kunming – a bright yellow studio full of retro furniture, glitter, toy figurines and kooky decorations. Bowie and Sonic Youth adorned the walls. Paper umbrellas hung upside down from the ceiling. A MicroBrute synth sat next to a vintage telephone.
Meizijiu, cigarettes and conversation flowed freely. Incredibly lovely, generous and talented, everything about them was so different to the world outside – a bizarre amalgam of kitsch and kawaii, hard-edge and soft core, addiction and adolescence, juxtaposition and excess…
XI’ER is where it all started. Flashback ten years ago to an open mic night in Kunming: 16-year-old guitarist Shishi met Weilin, a girl who could sink liquor and scream like Karen O and Yang Yang, a long haired hottie who played the drums in high heels. They rented a practice space and kitted it out with pink lights, plastic beads, plush toys and homemade microphone racks, soon scoring gigs at local bars and music festivals. Shishi and Yixiao eventually dropped out of high school, Yang Yang moved to Dali, Weilin went back to Nujiang, and Xi’er was disbanded.
Later, they went on to form South Acid Mimi, a psychedelic electronic dance trio who have since been covered by VICE and i-D. Using a reverb soaked vocal harmonies, a laptop and keyboards, the band uploaded a bunch of tracks to Douban and have since performed in most major cities across the country, including large music festivals and underground parties. South Acid Mimi are in the mixing stage of releasing their highly anticipated debut record with Beijing based label Ruby Eyes.
Back in 2015, with nothing else better to do, they reformed the band XI’ER. With the original bassist in Shanghai, Xiaohei has joined as the only male band member, despite not knowing how to play bass. Since Weilin moved to Beijing, Yixiao took up lead vocals.
XI’ER aren’t interested in punk clichés or traditional understandings of the genre. Their music sounds as likely to take queues from The Stooges as it is from rockabilly or synth pop. Much like South Acid Mimi, XI’ER experiment by fusing influences from punk and electronica – synth noise emerges alongside oddball guitar riffs and pounding drum lines, while the vocals are full of grit and attitude, equal parts aggression and sensuality.
Always moving to their own beat, XI’ER tear down conventions and mix them into a highly potent cocktail – the kind your friend makes for you that has waaaay too much rum in it. Always down to party, XI’ER have been busy touring the southern provinces and are set to bring the ruckus to Chengdu and Chongqing this weekend.
Not usually one to broadcast the weather, but the torrential storm that struck Chengdu this afternoon is one for the record books.
The rain came down with an intensity I’ve never experienced in Chengdu. The force of it was so incredible I could only gape and shriek. The city transformed into a swimming pool in a blender. The entire sky went grey – thunder, lightning, the whole bit. There was so much water you could hardly keep your eyes open. Waves formed across the street and the rain was lashed up in huge gusts of wind. Waterfalls cascaded from the rooftops. The city flooded.
As I was riding home through the storm, I had this kind of joyful feeling wash over me that everybody was having this collective experience. Rich or poor, young or old, local or laowai, the force of nature strikes you just the same. All completely shocked and soaked – people were all smiling, shrieking, grimacing and swearing. Traffic wardens, people at the bus stop, delivery guys, all of us caught in the rain and totally drenched, everyone in it together.
And like the rain, the WeChat posts came flooding in. No app does sharing of unsubstantiated video content faster than WeChat. I’ve compiled some of the most impressive ones here for you to see how nuts it really was.
When the rain subsided, a huge rainbow appeared in the sky and everybody went back to what they were doing before. There will be a huge clean up for some, days even. But for that brief period, as the skies opened and let loose, everybody from the shops to the streets put down their phones, looked around to catch someone’s eye and say, “哇靠.”
Back in April, Lady Lazer Light and her mind-melting projections found their way back to Chengdu on the back of her second residency at Red Gate in Beijing, so Kiwese and friends put on a show at Jah Bar, one of the most legendary dive bars in town – as irie as the name suggests.
百鬼夜行 100 Spirits was a show for the ages. And in case you weren’t there, or only have hazy impressions of the night, here is a recap video to get the memory glands pumping. We managed to squash over 100 people into Jah Bar, a sweltering pit of ghoulish bands, frenzied fans, broken air conditioning and awesomeness.
Huge thanks to all the friends who came and helped out, and to our stellar line up of Chengdu’s finest: Hiperson, The Hormones, Su and Splortch Selector, it was a pleasure to play alongside you all as Kaishandao, and I look forward to the next.
100 SPIRITS draws near. In the dark night of Tuesday 4 April, this beastly display of souls will be unleashed!! For one night only, the ancient tomb of Jah Bar will mutate into a crazed crypt crawling with ghosts, as the stage alter is graced by five of Chengdu’s most forward-thinking and innovative live acts.
Behold, the princely masters of SPLORTCH SELECTOR will kick the night into gear with a psychedelic mash-up of robot synthcore and chunky prog basslines, enslaving you into either your greatest dream or worst nightmare.
I dare you to Google the word ‘splortch.’ I double dare you to see what that word means when it is turned into a electro-prog-rock-synth-fused musical project.
I first met Michael, the band’s mastermind at Aus-atmen last year. He was one of the last people to leave and partied right through till the soggy rain drenched mud fest of Sunday afternoon, just before the cops came. From then on, I knew he was one of the good ones. He also played guitar and was making beats on his laptop. Since those humble beginnings and a killer set at Blah Blah #003, this bedroom music project has evolved into the three-piece live monstrosity SPLORTCH SELECTOR, which will explode on Jah Bar this Tuesday. What can we expect from this band? Word on the street is their singer is going to throw up on the audience. Get in.
After a long hiatus from performance, the celestial sisters of cellular synthesis THE HORMONES are back for their highly anticipated return to the mortal world! Blasting their infectious brand of electro dance rock, prepare to have these synthesized hormones secreted directly into your blood.
It must’ve been September of 2015. This super badass chick walked into the old Morning Bar 早上好 with a bunch of fliers. “这是我的乐队，” she said, handing me a flier and sitting down to light a cigarette. THE HORMONES – CHINA TOUR 2015. This is how I met Ming Ming – and I immediately liked her.
The Hormones are a collective of likewise badass chicks who rock seriously uplifting dance music and quite simply do not give a fuck what you think. Wisps of Karen O, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Foals, delivered with pure power and precision. They are such an important band and I am so excited to see them play on Tuesday night, their first Chengdu show in over a year!
KAISHANDAO will take us deeper into the night with bass heavy drum machine smashing and techno-flavoured frequency modulations, wielding an electric guitar and a mystic mixture of brain-warping effects pedals.
Kaishandao got it’s name from a 成语 that Xiaoxin a.k.a LittleNew, the illustrator behind the 百鬼夜行 100 Spirits poster, messaged to me several months ago. She’s fond of a good 成语，but I often have to look them up in Pleco. A not-so-long story short, I came across the word 开山刀 and it just clicked. I love it’s simplicity paired with brutality, the symmetry within the characters and the unified first tone throughout.
“Do you think Kaishandao would be a good name for my music?” I asked.
“Yeah it’s cool! But you’re music will have to be really cutting edge to use it,” she replied.
I’ve been organising shows in China for two years now, but I’ve played guitar since I was 10. I’m not sure Kaishandao is anywhere near as cutting edge as the friends I will perform with on Tuesday night, but for the first time in many years, I am now proud to perform my own original music for an audience, and in what better place than right here in this crazy city that has brought us together from all corners of the world – Chengdu. Bringing together my dual loves of rock and techno, this is Kaishandao.
As the clock nears midnight, the patron saints of post-punk HIPERSON will materialize for a rare and glorious performance. Known for their fierce vocals, ear-thrashing guitar assaults and thundering rhythmic prowess, Hiperson’s presence will ensure the spirits are well and truly awakened!
When I was a student living in Beijing, I came across a band from Chengdu who had put some demos on Douban. Just several seconds into 《他打定主意做一个游客》and I was completely hooked, put the demos on my iPod and biked around the city listening to them on repeat at full volume for what seemed like days.
That band? HIPERSON. And they are basically the reason I moved to Chengdu.
It was outside the little Little Bar after The Hormones EP release show when I first met Chen Sijiang.
“Uhh ni hao, ni shi Hiperson de Chen Sijiang ma?!”
OH MY GOD.
Since then, they have signed to a big indie label, released their first record, toured the country in a van and even toured Europe. Sijiang shaved off all her hair along the way. Through it all, they have remained 100% humble and dedicated to their music, with a DIY attitude that their heroes Fugazi would admire.
I am honoured to call them my friends, and I am in disbelief that I will play on the same bill as them at Jah Bar this Tuesday. They are the greatest and I can’t believe this is even happening.
Finally, elevating us to the spiritual homeland of techno, SU will provide a digital nerve massage of hard-hitting, Berlin-inspired beats, taking the DJ decks for a rhythmic full body cleanse right through till the early hours.
I can’t remember the first time I met Gogo, but I am almost certain it was over a doob at the old Morning Bar 早上好 several years ago. She asked what star sign I was.
“Sagitarrius,” I said.
“Cool, what date”
We are bound in an inexplicable bond by the astrological power of the number 12. Techno is what she lives and breathes, and each time she returns from Germany, she brings with her a wave of new energy that washes over those who hear her play.
The first time I collaborated with her was for the NUART Festival after party at 早上好 in 2015, where I brought Orchestra of Spheres and Lady Lazer Light for a renegade show and trippy visual installation. She’d just formed atmen with Xiang and had returned from a long trip to Germany. The night culminated with Riki Gooch (Cave Circles) jamming the drum kit to Su’s DJ set with a bunch of greasy shaokao sticks. It was beautiful. Since then, along with Xiang, we’ve played together at clubs and festivals in an improvised manner.
In a way, this Tuesday night is a coming of things full circle with the return of Lady Lazer Light to Chengdu and Su taking the decks for the closing set of the night. She is the spirit that floats the dance floor, let the frequencies set you free.
Overseeing this ghostly procession is the high priestess of visual overstimulation Lady Lazer Light, who has been summoned all the way from New Zealand. Known for hypnotising her audiences in China with Orchestra of Spheres in 2015, she will be floating through Jah Bar and spraying her kaleidoscopic rays throughout the night!
The first time I experienced a Lady Lazer Light show, I can say with utmost certainty that everyone was tripping on acid. It was the closing set of Camp A Low Hum 2012 and Thought Creature were playing on a stage that had materialized out of nowhere. Hypnotic mirroring of hot pink gorillas and dancing Indian women scattered across the screen, amplifying the psychedelic drone of guitars and synths, and sending the remaining punters into that special state of mutual derangement which is so often reserved for the last night of music festivals.
“Woahhh, this is buzzy,” I uttered to no one in particular.
The first time I actually met her was on the Orchestra of Spheres China tour, while she was on an art residency in Beijing. This month she returns to Chengdu, on the back of her second residency at Red Gate in Feijiacun, Beijing, and we are so excited!! Sklenars is our distinguished guest, a total party animal, the queen of buzzy visuals, and we are beyond privileged to have her grace Jah Bar on Tuesday for an all out audio-visual assault of the senses.
Kindred spirits, the time is nigh to sweep the tomb of your wardrobe and unearth your most GHOULISH garb for an unforgettable night of genre-bending audio-visual madness not seen before in these lands. Abide by the ghosty dress-code and be part of the movement! We beseech you, this is a night not to be missed.
This show is possible due to a culmination of great friends, an incredible local music scene and the desire to create an unforgettable moment in Chengdu music history – a night of barely contained mayhem in one of the most legendary and long-standing venues in town. It exists beyond the confines of genre, background, label, or any of the noise that can get in the way of what is truly important – the music.
Though the word “expat” kind of makes me cringe. It brings to mind rich white people who live in private compounds, send their children to expensive international schools and only socialise with other “expats,” doing the “expat” stuff they read about in their “expat” magazines. People my colour are usually called immigrants. Lol. Anyway.
Here’s the photo with Jung Chang, author of Wild Swans at Writers Week in Wellington.
Owing to the wondrous power of the innernette, I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Ricky Maymi for a few years now. Known to many as guitarist of the notoriously volatile Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Imajinary Friends, Maymi is also synonymous with the promotion of Chinese indie rock abroad, specifically the Beijing bands that emerged in the late-2000s and have since taken off in a cloud of cigarette smoke on Maybe Mars.
I first came across him when I was living as a student in Beijing, astray in the #wednesdayfreeshotsforladies, all you can drink KTV, shopping mall wasteland of Wudaokou, which post-D22 had become a cultural black hole. Beyond the Katy Perry club remixes, I was ecstatic to discover some of the city’s most cherished acts such as Hedgehog, P.K.14 and Carsick Cars on websites such as Josh Feola’s pangbianr, Tenzenmen, and of course Ricky’s blog Far Out Distant Sounds. Even better, all these bands were just hanging out downtown. Salvation.
Years on, in collaboration with Genjing Records all round GC Nevin Domer (who I met at Carb on Carb and God Bows to Math’s Beijing show in 2013), Far Out Distant Sounds has developed into a distribution, promotion and touring agency for some of Beijing’s finest acts.
We’re comrades as such, music nerds that geek out about Chinese indie rock on the internet all day. As such, it was only a matter of time he was featured here on Kiwese. There just had to be something… remotely… relevant… to New Zeal… oh, yes, here it is!!
Birdstrikingfrom Beijing are in New Zealand this week playing two shows in Auckland on Friday 17 February and Wellington on Saturday 18 February.
The jewel of the Maybe Mars crown, this triple guitar, noise-punk five-piece have gone from strength to strength over the past few years, releasing their banned in China album Birdstriking (2012) on Anton Newcombe’s label A Recordings and heading abroad to tour the U.S. and UK alongside the Brian Jonestown Massacre.
As remote as you can get, New Zealand seems to be the optimal next stop for Far Out Distant Sounds, meaning things finally seem to be heading south for Chinese indie rock – and I mean that in a purely geographic sense.
We caught up with Ricky to find out more about Birdstriking’s Australian / NZ tour, how he got involved with the Chinese music scene and whether he likes pies or not.
Spoiler: Ricky Maymi loves pies. Thank god.
KIWESE: Where are you right now?
RICKY MAYMI: I’m in South Fremantle, Western Australia. Visiting with my son, Otis and producing an album for a guy named Michael Savage. I’m pretty sure if he was from NZ, Flying Nun would be all over him! He’s got elements of Shayne Carter and Andrew Brough (Straitjacket Fits), David Pine and Matthew Bannister (Sneaky Feelings), James Milne (Lawrence Arabia) and a touch of maybe Alasdair Maclean (The Clientele)… This is our second time making an album of his together. The first one is called Used To Write. Look it up!
Maymi is an interesting surname, where is it from, can you talk a bit about your heritage?
It’s a Corsican name, though my Father was from Nicaragua. He was the kind of guy that shouldn’t be talked about too much, if you know what I mean…?
They made a movie about one of his old business partners, George Jung, entitled Blow. The one with Johnny Depp. Anyhow… I’ve heard there are also Maymi’s in Russia.
You are from San Fran. What was it like growing up there, how did you first “get into music”?
It was always a diverse environment, in every way, in the 20th century. I was raised to be an open minded, accepting person and in SF it would completely work against you to be any other way.
My uncle, Vince Welnick was in a legendary SF band called The Tubes (famous for “White Punks On Dope” and “Don’t Touch Me There.”) He would always be coming back from places like Japan or Europe after touring with someone like David Bowie or The Stranglers and him and my aunt Laurie would always have exotic toys and gifts and cassettes like Hunky Dory (Bowie) or Country Life (Roxy Music) for me and the family – and this obviously made a lasting impression. Vince later joined Todd Rundgren’s band, and The Grateful Dead after that.
My other uncle, Ed Dorn was also a working musician who had played in some fantastic bands like Zolar X and The Aurora Pushups (later The Pushups) and he went on to work on studio projects for bands like True West and many other Bay Area greats. Ed had me listening to things like Bill Nelson and The Human League back in the very early 80’s.
“I consider myself very fortunate to have grown up in SF through the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s
I believe I caught the tail end of a great cultural renaissance of the 20th century.”
My mother was a huge Beatles fan so there was also no avoiding the British Invasion bands for me as a young child. Her partner after my father is a real folk music lover and exposed me to Bob Dylan, Tom Rush, Paul Simon and all the rest. He also has a huge appreciation for classical music, so I had a fairly well rounded musical upbringing.
I also played Clarinet, Saxophone and Double Bass in school from an early age.
Prior to getting hooked on Chinese indie music, what kind of awareness and exposure to Chinese culture did you have? I know there is a deep-rooted Chinese community in San Fran and a huge Chinatown.
Looking back, I had very little knowledge before getting involved with the music scene in China and visiting there, which I have now done several times. All of my life in SF I’d always been drawn to Chinatown – for the food, the art, the people and the culture. Some of the most beautiful people on Earth. A glimpse in to another, older world.
In college in SF I was exposed to more of the history of Chinese American culture through either my theatre classes or my writing classes.
How did Far Out Distant Sounds come about and what was your inspiration for starting it? Does it basically operate as a booking agency/distro for Maybe Mars?
It started as a scrapbook style blog (www.faroutdistantsounds.com), with links to hear the music – just somewhere one could go online and get a sense of what was happening. Not a comprehensive list of Chinese indie bands but a good selection of the stuff that interested me enough to investigate further… Like a gateway drug.
I had hoped the blog would inspire people to do the same, and to some degree, it appears to have done that.
What do you look for as a US-based promoter of Chinese talent and how do you go searching for it, with the firewall and all, and various language barriers?
I am not exactly US-based. I’m Earth-based. Also, there is no real scouting going on from my end. I work closely with Maybe Mars in Beijing and when they have a new release to promote and a band they want to tour outside of China, I become involved through a more organic process as this is all done out of love, admiration and respect.
“Everyone involved understands that this movement is distinctly, extraordinarily significant.”
How often do you come to China? Had you visited China prior to being exposed to bands like Skip Skip Ben Ben, Birdstriking and P.K.14 in 2012?
I had never been to China before 2015. I have been there four times now. Can’t wait to go back! I would absolutely live there if I could – I am in love with Beijing!
Beijing is political centre of China and the undisputed mecca for indie music. How do you view this relationship between politics and alternative music?
It definitely plays a hand in informing the artist’s way forward. Gives them something to rail against, but they don’t do that in obvious, trite ways. They are more clever than that…
What’s your personal connection with NZ?
My first trip to NZ was in February, 2008. I was visiting Shayne Carter, who I had become good friends with after his band Dimmer toured with my band in the US. He arranged for us to go to Dunedin as he knew how much the music from there had meant to me. I got to see Martin Phillipps play a solo set in the park at midday by surprise. I got to know Robbie Yeats and stayed with Graeme Downes for a few days. Caught up with some folks I had already come to know in America, David Kilgour and Bob Scott. I got to see Bachelorette, Die! Die! Die! and Ned Collette all for the first time. Also heard Lawrence Arabia for the first time. It was an epic visit! I had an amazing time and every moment was like walking through a dream.
I’ve been back several times since, mostly to tour with BJM, but once with Steve Kilbey from The Church. Him and I went to Napier as well as Dunedin to perform in addition to Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland.
I’ve had the odd relationship with women from NZ as well. Unfortunately, it’s always been just that… Odd! Small country… 😉
Do you like pies?
I, of course, love pies!
In an interview with Slinkrat in 2013, you said “Unlike the rest of the world, [Chinese indie rock] isn’t preoccupied with fitting in to something pre-existing in the entertainment world, which is why it reminds me of Flying Nun in the 80’s.” How do you respond when critics say Chinese indie bands are just imitating Western rock standards, something that could never be directed at Flying Nun bands?
Well, they clearly aren’t listening closely enough and they are judging through the context/filter of Western standards which simply do not apply here.
It’s a bit of passive-aggressive, xenophobic elitism playing in to that perspective as well. Alan McGee said himself that there is no such thing as Chinese rock. So did the NOFX dude. They clearly do not know what the hell they are talking about, but you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. They see it the way they want/need to see it to suit whatever agenda they have – that’s fine because enough people know otherwise.
“Even The Beatles had to start somewhere, the most innovative pop band on Earth were covering Chet Atkins and Motown hits of the day when they started.”
The bands from China I work with have obvious Western influences such as Sonic Youth, Velvet Underground, modern composers and experimental music.
None of these kids had the luxury of “growing up” with the Beatles or Bowie the way I did, for example. Or the critics, for that matter and that’s what they need to understand when critiquing this stuff.
Context. It’s from another world. You could hand the same influences to a Western band and they will never come up with the melodies Chui Wan or Birdstriking come up with.
Or have the sonic, aesthetic sensibility of Zhang Shouwang (Carsick Cars, White+), because they are a product of a different world who’s culture is largely unknown to the Western masses.
They aren’t really thinking about it enough or taking these prime factors in to consideration, so I believe their criticisms are lazy and uninformed.
I guess an extension of the above question, and I may be projecting here, but in the past, Chinese acts that get chosen to play internationally are ones that possess some kind of quintessential Chinese characteristics recognizable by international audiences or purveyors of “world” music. Those who do not fill this oriental role are labelled imitators of Western music. Comment.
Again, lazy journalism. The safer stuff that is a truer representation of pure, traditional Chinese culture is always going to be prioritized and given the green light for grants funding or government approval. There is nothing subversive about it. Overtly, if at all. It will be more easily accepted in the West because it doesn’t compete with Western art in any way. Its it’s own thing.
Again, the views of these so-called critiques on Chinese rock stem from a Western Capitalist (capitalism=racism) perspective. The white man lives in fear of China, period. Think about it…. That is one reason I love doing this. Challenge what it is people believe they know about an entire culture that they actually are too afraid and pre-programmed to ever learn anything about. Everyone is mad at China for buying everything up but no one is getting mad at the people pushing the product.
God forbid those evil Chinese would take a Western folk-art (rock music) and serve it back in a fresh, not jaded, more intriguing way. It’s just impossible, right? Wrong! 😉
Tell us about your relationship with Birdstriking. Do you remember the first time you heard them, or saw them live?
I first heard them in Melbourne in August 2012 with my friends Julian Wu and Shayne Carter. Julian is a Chinese Australian and he had just returned from China with a suitcase full of CDs of all these great Chinese bands. Shayne and I happened to be both staying at Julian’s at the time. It really struck us how much Birdstriking had this 3D’s/Die! Die! Die! thing going on!
I first started to communicate with Wang Xinjiu from Birdstriking around this time. He was on Facebook and was studying in Cardiff, so no firewall. After being in touch with Maybe Mars and helping them to sell a bit of stock in SF, they asked me to help set up shows for Carsick Cars, White+ and The Gar in SF and LA. We did this and it went over pretty well.
At the time, Birdstriking’s vocalist, He Fan was also playing bass for Carsick Cars. He was the first one I met in person. In 2014, Carsick Cars were booked to open for Brian Jonestown Massacre in the UK. Shouwang was ill at the time and couldn’t make it, so we had Birdstriking take their place. This was advantageous as Birdstriking’s album, which was banned from release in China for it’s lyrical content was licensed by BJM’s label and his since been properly released worldwide (excluding China) on A Recordings on CD and vinyl.
Since then, I’ve booked and tour managed an extensive North American tour for Birdstriking in 2015. I went back to Beijing in ’15 and ’16 and produced Birdstriking’s new, upcoming album to be released this year.
It is very exciting, a Chinese band playing in NZ without representing the Embassy or playing at a Chinese cultural festival covered in bank branding! How did this Australia/NZ tour come about? Can we consider it a recon mission for future tours?
Talk to Andrew from Die! Die! Die! – they’ve just recently toured in China with Birdstriking. When I was in Auckland in December having lunch with him and Mikey telling them about the AU dates, they offered to help with NZ. Now it’s all happening. Bless ’em! They are solid guys and kindred spirits. BJM were lucky enough to play some gigs with them in Europe in mid 2008.
Hoping to send Chui Wan, Gate To Otherside, Bedstars, Hiperson, Future Orients and Dream Can to the Southern Hemisphere over the next 18 months or so.
What advice would you give to bands (Chinese or otherwise) wanting to look outward, and/or tour internationally in future?
Create a demand for, and culture around your music and make friends with people in the places you want to play in ahead of time. People who can actually help you set up worthwhile shows. Your hometown is bottom priority.
Thanks and happy new year!
Same to you!
BIRDSTRIKING were one of the most important bands to emerge from the Chinese DIY scene based around the legendary D22 venue. The Noise Punk band have been likened to a Chinese Surf City, highlighted by their unflinching obsession with Sonic Youth and the Brian Jonestown Massacre.
Birdstriking will play only two shows in New Zealand before their Australian tour with label mates Carsick Cars.
2.17 BIRDSTRIKING W/ CARB ON CARB, DAILY KENO @ GOLDEN DAWN, AUCKLAND
The other day, while sunbathing on the lawn of a Melrose flat, my friend and I began thinking about the diminishing human element involved in post-internet music consumption.
When I was at high school, I basically lived at Slow Boat Records and Real Groovy – music havens where I’d browse for hours, listen to CD posts, purchase records, get recommendations from staff, find out about new releases from posters in the window, pick up gig guides and buy tickets to upcoming shows.
I remember getting up at dawn to bus into town and be amongst the first to hear Stadium Arcadium the day it was released in New Zealand. I remember staying overnight outside the ticket booth, flanked by fans draped in sleeping bags, eagerly waiting for sales to open for their first Auckland show. This was about ten years ago now.
Nowadays, you can be a fan without ever leaving your front door. With the exception of buying The All Seeing Hand’s Sand to Glass on vinyl at the door of their album release show, I bought all this year’s featured albums online, without even talking to a single person.
The internet means accessibility has grown but human contact has reduced. But the creation, sharing and consumption of music is still an immensely personal thing. These albums create the soundtrack to so many aspects of our lives, they speak to our own experiences or the experiences of others and make us feel things more deeply. Let’s continue to feel, express ourselves and connect with others.
I’m so thankful to all these artists for producing these works and sharing them into the world, where they can be shared and distributed in an instant across the globe.
In no particular order, here are Kiwese’s favourite releases from New Zealand and China in the Year of the Monkey 2016.
The All Seeing Hand finally gave birth to Sand to Glass in December and oh yesyesyes, it has been worth the wait.
In their first album to feature predominantly English lyrics, Sand to Glass showcases Marks’ politically pertinent wordsmithing, encased in industrial metal clanking by drummer Ben Knight (Rogernomix, Unsanitary Napkin) and those trademark, turbo charged electronic power ups from scratch master Alphabethead.
It is perhaps their most ‘pop’ record to date, if The All Seeing Hand could ever be considered so, with tracks like Lizard Brain and Swarm standing out aspreviouslyreleased singles and indicating a shift away from the more abstract compositions of Mechatronics (2013) and Fog and Debris (2014) and towards a tighter sense of songwriting.
Listened to this on repeat while biking through the smog of Chengdu, the soundtrack to this environmental apocalypse.
Favourite track: Dog Eat Dog
Hu Yang // Xu Huai Ruo Gu
(Be Sure) Beijing, CN
My friend Liu Xing introduced me to Xu Huai Ruo Gu earlier this year and I was immediately hooked. Released digitally on the Berlin/Shanghai techno label Be Sure, which is home to brilliant offerings of mixtapes from artists such as Art’s Difficult (ELVIS.T) and Shanghai techno queen MIIIA.
Formerly known as NiChiFanLeMei, this Mt. Emei born Beijing-based producer creates a kind of brutalist, no nonsense techno – all muscle, no fat.
Possibly my most listened album of the year, suitable for furiously bike riding to a destination or scrubbing the kitchen and getting that shit clean as hell.
Favourite track: Restricted
Orchestra of Spheres // Brothers and Sisters of the Black Lagoon
(Fire Records) Wellington, NZ
Brothers and Sisters of the Black Lagoon is a psychedelic serving of tunes, many which have been part of the Spheres mind-melting live set for the past few years.
Their knack for combining the everyday with the otherworldly is evident throughout the album: Let Us Not Forget, an eerie prayer of reminders before leaving the house, the intensely danceable South East Asian inspired jam Anklung Song and their fast-paced Zombie Zombie cover Rocket #9.
Bubbling with sounds both organic and electronic, voices both chanted and spoken, influences both local and extraterrestrial, Brothers and Sisters of the Black Lagoon is a tasty, special brew from my favourite band of Wellington weirdos.
Favourite track: Anklung Song
Duck Fight Goose // CLVB ZVKVNFT 押打饿《未来俱乐部》
(D-Force Records 大福唱) Shanghai, CN
Duck Fight Goose have teamed up with producer Lv for this smashing record on D-Force, their first release in four years, the soundtrack to interplanetary cyborg dancefloors.
CLVB ZVKVNFT is bursting with imagination and inspiration, combining elements of breakbeat, acid house, synth pop and techno into a cohesive string of 12-tracks. Busy yet uncluttered, frantic yet disciplined. A triumph.
Favourite track: 《马》
Unsanitary Napkin // Patriotic Grooves
(Zero Style, Always Never Fun, Limbless Records) Wellington, NZ
FASCIST VOLCANO SPEWING MOLTEN SHIT
Patriotic Grooves is a fast and furious fuck you from Wellington punk trio Unsanitary Napkin, formed in 2015 and fronted by guitarist/vocalist Hannah Salmon a.k.a. artist Daily Secretion, who is well known for her zines, gig posters and album art in collaboration with other Wellington-based bands.
The 12-tracks of the album are punctuated with broadcast radio beeps and sound grabs from white, male New Zealand politicians and media identities. Incredible, machine-gun-like drumming from Ben, who forms a blistering rhythm section with Rupert on bass.
As the album’s defining image of Donald Trump being annihilated by a rainbow beam from a winged vagina (the sticker version shaped like a sanitary pad) would suggest, Patriotic Grooves is comprised of vaginal blasts of anarcho feminist anger directed towards the chauvinistic and conservative peaks of society.
Brief and intense.
Favourite track: Feminine Odour
iimmune // Abnormal
(D-Force Records 大福唱片) Beijing, CN
Melodic, dramatic and emotional. Thoughtful compositions reminiscent of Four Tet and Aphex Twin, Abnormal is the beginning of Bobo’s metamorphosis from film scores to dancefloor ready techno.
Keep an eye on his electronic label Prajnasonic and stay tuned for next year, when the bass will drop.
Favourite track: 鲸鱼-
So Laid Back Country China // Sin Cristales
(Self-released) Wellington, NZ
“I’m too busy drinking / all of the time”
In September, I found myself sitting in the bath tub of a five star hotel in Auckland, up to my tits in hot water and drowning in anxiety. Like my mind was smashing itself into the ground, stuck in a violent wash cycle of negativity, trapped underwater in a swimming pool covered by an immovable tarpaulin. I felt like I was going to rip my own face off.
Sin Cristales brought me back to earth, having articulated such emotions to great effect. Grateful. xx
Favourite Track: Ballad of Calm Arms
Yue Xuan // Entrance & Exports 岳璇《Entrance & Exports》
(Mo Records) Beijing, CN
Entrance & Exports is a remix of Yue Xuan’s beautiful piano album In & Outfrom 2015. Bringing together producers from around China such as MHP, Broken Thoughts, Hong Qile, iimmune and Cvalda onto one impeccably well-crafted compilation (which was initially available as a free download on Douban), the remixes span Minimalist, Post-Rock, Drum & Bass, Techno, Glitch, Drone, Hiphop, Experimental, Ambient and IDM, bringing a whole new electronic take on the original.
Entrance & Exports and accompanying national Remix Tour is a fine example of how this young composer is utilising the resources and connections around her to produce something new and exciting.
Favourite Track: Nine of Swords (Cvalda Remix)
Mermaidens // Undergrowth
(Flying Out) Wellington, NZ
Mermaidens have come a long way since those first acoustic demos four or five years ago, with Undergrowth released in March establishing them as a staple of the Wellington indie scene.
Enchanting mermaids conjuring “dark witch rock” from the dense scrubland is as psychedelic as it sounds – lurking with hidden dangers, the title-track Undergrowth gradually flows from a slow and dreamy creek into a thrashing, rocky river, a structure many of the songs take on the album. There’s certainly something of the occult about these mermaids, whose reverb drenched vocals often take form in first or second person: “I’m a corpse on the beach / I’m a thing / send me out to sea,” pulling the listener deeper into their imagined natural world.
The undergrowth is a mysterious place barbed with the grit and sharpness of gorse, as well as the strength and unruliness of deep roots. Look forward to new material in 2017.
Favourite track: Under the Mountain II
DOC (Dalian Obscure Club) // Northern Electric Shadow DOC 《北方电影》
(D-Force Records 大福唱片) Dalian, CN
There’s something in the water up in Dalian…
I hadn’t even heard of the Dalian Obscure Club until copies of Northern Electric Shadow turned up on CD and vinyl at NU SPACE.
The power of crashing waves, the fluidity of rising tides, the delicacy of swirling rockpools – this is understated, beautiful ocean-inspired math-rock. A fresh breeze of sea air!
Favourite track: 加百利布吉 Gabey’s Boogie
Males // None the Wiser
(Fishrider Records) Dunedin, NZ
A burst of sunny South Island power-pop. The long-anticipated follow up to their debut MalesMalesMales in 2012, None the Wiser is full of so many bright, catchy riffs and uplifting falsetto parts that wearing sunglasses should be listed as a prerequisite for listening. A set of wonderfully crafted guitar songs.
Favourite track: Chartreuse
The Fuzz // The Root of Innocence 法兹乐队《童心之源》
(Maybe Mars 兵马司) Xi’an, CN
This upbeat, chorus-soaked indie rock record is possibly the most Maybe Mars-y Maybe Mars release to date – you just know Yang Haisong has been here.
The audience were quietly bopping along when The Fuzz came to Chengdu on their enormous album release tour in early 2016. Then when Sijiang from Hiperson came out to help them sing《控制》, the crowd exploded with cheers and turned into a sea of moshing bodies, it was beautiful.
Favourite Track: 《控制》
Peach Milk // Finally EP
(Self-released) Auckland, NZ
Peaches and cream are my favourite kind of lollies. So perhaps it is inevitable that I would be into this new young Auckland producer, who dropped her first EP earlier this year. Peach Milk’s music sounds like her name would suggest – sweet and smooth.
Look forward to her sound evolving in the new year.
Six-tracks of candy-coated indie-pop from our Cantonese speaking friends yourboyfriendsucks! Opening with a tribute to Just Like Honey by the Jesus and Mary Chain, how can I not love this? Surprisingly clean production for QiiiSnacks Records (formerly Full Label), known for their DIY lo-fi recordings.
Perhaps the biggest travesty of 2016 is the dissolution of ybfs!, as the lead singer Zoey has moved to Europe to study. Episode 1 is in fact the final episode. Boo!
Perhaps I’ve included Higher Brothers Mixtape here more for their impact rather than my own personal taste, but their skyrocket to fame and influence on the local scene this year is certainly noteworthy. If Fat Shady put Chengdu hip-hop on the map, Higher Brothers CDC rappers Masiwei (马思唯), Dz, Psy.P and Melo, have dabbed themselves to the top and become one of Chengdu’s, if not China’s most iconic hip-hop acts.
This 19-track offering is a searing blast of arrogance and attitude delivered in a mix of lightening fast Chengduhua and American slang. Whether or not elongated trap beats are your thing, or that each track repeats the chorus about five times, tracks like 《野猪儿》 and 《尴尬》 have attained anthem-like status and established hip-hop as the biggest sound in Chengdu.
Now managed by Asian hip-hop agency 88 Rising, Higher Brothers have taken Chengdu hip-hop to an international level of “worldwide shit.” As collaborations with international artists such as Harikiri, Charlie Heat, Bohan Phoenix and J.Mag roll in, I look forward to their sound maturing more in future.
Debut record from Chengdu indie babes The Hormones, the sophomore album from South Island songstress Nadia Reid, something trippy from Beijing no-wave masters Chui Wan, minimal techno stylings from atmen, the debut record from Kunming electro-punk wastrels South Acid MiMi Dance Team, potentially music from new Maybe Mars signees Lonely Leary and Dream Can perhaps even something from those mysterious Dunedin-based creatures Elan Vital and Kolya…
Construction and redevelopment has seen Chengdu’s cultural landscape (read: the places we go to drink alcohol and listen to music) change dramatically. But as old places close and new ones emerge, great shows from bands, performers, DJs and collectives continue to entertain and inspire.
Along with the loss of Bowie, Prince and George Michael, we lost many of our local stars this year. Morning Bar 早上好 on Minzhu Lu was demolished and construction of the new Music Conservatory concert hall began, Machu Picchu I closed after over a decade of business in the backstreets of Yulin and Soul Kitchen shut up shop just as renovations were completed. But it’s not all doom and gloom, laobans have gone on to open 2.0 versions of their former bars.
Not ones to be phased by forced demolition, the Zaoshanghao crew came back in style with the incredibly epic Morning House in Flower Town, taking over the old Xiwo swimming pool bar and fitting it out with an outdoor-stage, hot pot and rehearsal spaces. The Dojo crew took over Soul Kitchen in the Soho Building and established Berlin Haus, bringing much needed day vibes, strong coffee and workspaces to the inner city. Yulin also saw the opening of Yabany 牙半厘, a smoky little bar fit out with retro neons, cult film screenings and despite lack of any backline, the occasional jam night.
Perhaps the venue making the biggest waves this year has got to be NU SPACE. Freshly renovated at the back of Mintown, NU SPACE is kitted out with a minimalist, concrete design, banging sound system and some of the most diverse billing in the city.
When I first came to Chengdu as a backpacking language student in 2013, I was greeted with jungle fireworks and Drum N Bass and Rammstein blasting from a shopping trolley in the magazine aisle of 7Eleven. Friends took me to Morning Bar, Lantown, Hemp House and Xiwo, vibrant venues tattooed with psychedelic murals and scented with herbal inspiration. Now, more than three years later, none of those venues exist anymore, but the shows certainly go on.
“…when the world outside is scary, boring, ugly, and hateful, what do you do? You either drown in it or you drown it out.”
Music is the gateway, it elevates us above the mundanity of everyday life. We choose to participate in it and represent who we are. Live music is the beating heart of a community, where the performer and audience meet like minded spirits, enter a space of their own creation, and be free.
Without further ado, here are my favourite shows of 2016 in chronological order.
Little Bar, Chengdu
8 January 2016
“NI HAI PAAAAAAA – WO HAI PAAAAA!!”
Man, how good are Chinese Football?! These Wuhan emo kids came through Chengdu on their album release tour way back in January, playing to a sea of woollen cardigans and thick framed glasses. No support act, didn’t need it. Super 爽 guitars, vocal melodies and FEELS. Chinese Football also probably have the strongest merch game in the country. Subsequently invited them to play NUART Festival in October which was also highly dope (see below).
It was a packed house for Berlin-based Canadian producer Mike Shannon and .TAG’s 2nd birthday. A six-hour long set of fresh, cutting house and techno, masterful hypnotism of the dance floor and the delivery of positive vibes. The excellent support slot was Beijing bro Yang Bing, who kept things popping till Sunday lunchtime. Much rave!
Morning House, Chengdu
22 April 2016
Chunyou is like Christmas for music fans. With the introduction of an electronic stage, rental tents courtesy of Steam Hostel and a new abundance of sofas, this year’s Chunyou at Morning House saw many punters stay on site for a memorable weekend of debauchery. Memorable moments include:
Hiperson on the main stage live with new bassist Ming Ming for the first time in Chengdu.
Someone setting off a fucking FLARE in the middle of the Stolen mosh pit.
CDC inviting all the white people up to dance on the stage and all the white people being really excited.
Playing guitar with atmen at the electronic stage on Day 1.
DIO was sick.
Pascal Pinon putting a spell over the main stage
HELEN TING IN THE DJ ROOM ON SUNDAY MORNING. Rolling out of my shitty tent after passing out for two hours and stumbling into the DJ hut with no pants on to find this insane Hong Kong lady with an afro, coloured shades and enormous Aladdin pants absolutely slaying the decks with a mix of afrobeat, soul and funk, a dedicated crowd of ravers grooving strong, mystically attaining sunglasses as the sun came up. Fuck how good was Helen Ting?!
Rain rain rain. More rain. Stage closures, mud, the gear getting soaked, the police shut down… As dysfunctional as Aus-atmen ended up being, it was a testament to DIY culture, a love of electronic music and thinking big. It was also completely unforgettable. Check out the review here.
Hiperson + Lonely Leary
NU SPACE, Chengdu
10 June 2016
This was the first show I put on at NU SPACE and is also my favourite poster of the year, a collage we made of clippings from an old flipbook featuring a flying decapitated head. We posted it around the city on cheap A4 print outs.
Lonely Leary have two speeds: fast or faster. Bass heavy rhythms drove the blitzing pace like a schizophrenic roller coaster. There was no looking back for Hiperson, who played a killer set of new material, confident and self-assured. May have shed a tear.
NU SPACE had just opened and we were working a lot of shit out… the lighting really wasn’t great, but these two bands together in concert for a home crowd was in my eyes a real triumph.
Yue Xuan: Entrance and Exports Remix Project
feat. Cvalda + VJ PLGRM
NU SPACE, Chengdu
24 June 2016
Beijing-based pianist Yue Xuan 岳璇 came to Chengdu as part of her Remix tour to perform with Cvalda, one of the producers who remixed a track from In & Out (2015) that formed the Entrance & Exports remix album. Comprised of three sections; contemporary piano, electronic collaboration and drum n bass, this was a unique and creatively curated live show from one of China’s biggest talents.
Also a composer for film, Yue Xuan’s concert was suitably accompanied by incredibly beautiful visual pieces by PLGRM on the big screen for us in this intimate performance. Oh, and we got to see Cvalda in “formal dress” as she laid down some serious bass.
Fairy Mountain, Wulong, Chongqing
8-9 July 2016
NUTS Livehouse and Morning 早上好 have done it again, Neverland 2016 was bigger, better and more well organised than ever – no deadly mud slide between stages, and a quarantining of the psy-trance stage to it’s own little hill commune in the forest. The addition of more food stalls was a welcome relief (shout out Baker Street for giving us the last pasta scrapings on Day 2), a big improvement from the food options available in 2015.
Wild animals, beautiful landscapes, hand built teepees and jamming instruments providing pleasing environments for those on acid and co., while the downside was an influx of loud, obnoxious tourists who killed the vibe from about 9pm – 2am both nights with yelling, beer showers and general fuckwittery at the Main Stage.
Metope and Yang Bing were highlights on Day 1, as Dusk Till Dawn proved their namesake. We were treated to the best of Shanghai, with MIIIA and MHP making appearances on the second night. Raving on a mountain in the early morning as the morning mist slowly glides in from the hills – YES. Go Neverland!
Punk Fest CDC
Morning House, Chengdu
6 August 2016
How many punk bands are there in Chengdu?
According to Punk Fest CDC, actually quite a few.
It was an absolute scorcher in Flower Town and hoards of people turned up for a good time, enticed by the free entry ticket price. A ferocious mosh pit fuelled by copious amounts of beer, Morning House was buzzing for a day and night of recurrent stage diving and comic pool throws. Stink Mouth threw a bunch of condoms into the crowd. Good times.
The Others Way Festival
2 September 2016
BOY am I happy about Cut Off Your Hands coming back this year. Their performance at The Others Way was a total throwback to 2008’s You & I and even Takes Slowly Over from their first EP, finishing up with Nick Johnson jumping on guitar for their new tune Hate Somebody. Brilliant band, incredibly energy and everyone was going ape shit like it was 2006.
The Others Way coordinated all the venues on K Road into a night packed full of back to back shows and it was impeccably well organized. I also caught great performances from Nadia Reid, Fazerdaze, Purple Pilgrims, Mermaidens, Shocking Pinks and the inimitably chaotic King Loser.
NU SPACE, Chengdu
17 September 2016
Powerful women rocking out, YEAH. Paula and Ali totally rock. French imports JC Satàn were an unexpected delight. Bathed in red light, the band jumped and lurched and grooved their way through an set of throttling, kerosine coated garage punk somewhere between The Ramones, Thee Oh Sees and Queens of the Stone Age. A two-metre tall keyboardist thrashed about like a barely caged giraffe while guitarist Arthur kicked and shook like an electrified rock and roll Bruce Lee.
The bassist and guitarist lost their guitars in transit (ouch), but took kindly to borrowed instruments which I was surprised to find intact after the show, not pummelled into a fine dust. A mighty gig that brought out all the head bangers, stoners and more than a few devils horns. Rock is not dead, thank god.
Three days of sunshine, four stages, hundreds of market stalls and thousands of punters – 2016 was the first year I’ve been on board at NUART Festival and man, what a trip. Chengdu community vibes and street culture combined with some of the most innovative alternative acts in the country. A cohesion of genres, with a smorgasbord on the Main Stage, experimental/electronic music in NU SPACE, a DJ stage and a vinyl record zone run by Marco Duits himself.
I feel this festival brings the community together, young and old, the livehouses and the clubs. Absolutely amazing and completely exhausting. Too many highlights to mention! Marco closing the festival with an Always on the Run 7″ by Lenny Kravitz was pretty amazing though.
This year’s line-up:
WHAI, Chinese Football, ChaCha + DJ Aivilox, Wednesday’s Trip, South Acid MiMi Dance Team, CDC, Sulumi, Biggaton + Blood Dunza (JA), Hu Yang, iimmune, Taiga, Charlie Tango (FR), Starcardigan (RU), Wanmei Daoli, Fake Swing, Jahwahzoo, Sound and Fury, Zhang Xiaobing and Friends, U M U / Microsoft Voices (NZ), Faded Ghost, 3000, Xiang, Su, Kaiser and May, Lao G, Just Charlie, Jovian and Marco Duits.
This year Kiwese was pleased to tour with mr sterile Assembly across Guangzhou, Guiyang, Chengdu, Chongqing, Wuhan and Beijing. While each show was unique, Guangzhou was my favourite.
Hauling gear up four flights of stairs paid off as Loft345 came alive with dancing and general limb flailing. Despite a bass amp meltdown, Chrissie ripped through a set of chest pummeling tunes through a tiny guitar amp with no overdrive, while mr sterile, having upgraded from the drum-less venue in Shanghai, happily smashed away on his melange of cymbals while yelling out pagefuls of lyrics to those bafflingly brilliant time signatures.
The night was a success thanks to our hosts QiiiSnacks Records and Die! Chiwawa!Die! – an inimitable Guangzhou hardcore noise/screamo/chiptune band which frontwoman Jinbo bouncing up and down like a possessed Pokémon while guitarist Howie and the other screamo vocalist thrashing across the ground as if it were being tilted and shaken by an omnipotent overlord.
Sabu Toyozumi + Li Jianhong
NU SPACE, Chengdu
26 October 2016
In a tour named 耳舍 (lit: ear tongue), acclaimed experimental guitarist Li Jianhong 李剣鴻 and legendary Japanese free jazz drummer Sabu Toyozumi treated us to a two hour display of skill, stamina and imagination.
Toyozumi, now in his seventies, was like a playful kid in a sandpit, pushing the house kit through its paces – smacking, dismantling and scraping it together, even whipping the snare with his sock at one point. Li Jianhong deftly cast out a palette of colours with his effects board, the scrape of his guitar and slamming of wah pedals sounded as if he were fishing for frequencies in an ocean of sound – calm, patient and free. A journey through tone and timbre that constantly reached into new territory, furthered by local multi-instrumentalist and improv king Kun jumping on violin for the last segment of the show.
Afterwards, the promoter said Sabu only played for 30 minutes in Chongqing, which made us feel even luckier to be treated to such an epic long set. Sabu was also super happy to chat with fans afterwards and sign CDs. Super swell guy! Stay tuned for his NZ tour with the Sound and Light Exploration Society next year.
Michael RotherSupport: Chui Wan
Little Bar Space, Chengdu
31 October 2016
VICE have brought quite a few touring acts to Chengdu this year (Ratatat, Tonstartssbandht) but Krautrock king Michael Rother from Neu!, Harmonia and Kraftwerk with Beijing psych/no-wave band Chui Wan took the cake. Little Bar Space is a cavernous monstrosity when half empty and even Rother himself politely commented on the small crowd in between songs.
Chui Wan is like LSD for the ears. Michael Rother and band were uplifting, melodic and joyful. Lovely, though with that number of people (100-150 ish), I couldn’t help but think how great and intimate it could have been at NU SPACE…
NU SPACE, Chengdu
18 November 2016
When Eagulls took the stage my heart stopped.
Was it our newly minted fog machine that cloaked them in a turquoise haze of gothic mystery? Was it frontman George Mitchell’s post-punk nonchalance and lyrical wordsmithing? Was it the bass line from Skipping that echoes the refrain from How Soon is Now? Was it that I’d witnessed their metamorphosis into an immensely professional, polished and powerful live act directly after Tsingdao cans, rollies and toilet banter?
Berlin Haus, Chengdu
22 November 2016
This was a really special show for me because:
a) we threw it together last minute
b) it was Sisu’s first time ever playing an acoustic show
c) it was the first ever Berlin Haus show.
Shout out to the chick huffing a qiqiu (balloon) at the back lol. Classic Tuesday night Soho.
Octopoulpe, Le Crabe, Digou, Klaus Legal
NU SPACE, Chengdu
13 December 2016
Two aliens slithered on stage and blasted into a set of garbled bass/vocals hardcore before Donald Trump emerged bearing hot dogs and hamburgers then was skinned alive and left for dead. The show went on until Trump was revived by the sound of Chinese pop and destroyed by a glowing orb where he and the aliens were forced to evacuate by dragging themselves along the floor out the door, leaving Earth forever.
The All Seeing Hand, Womb, Unsanitary Napkin
23 December 2016
Wellington disciples of the A.S.H order convened upon Meow to praise their latest auditory offering Sand to Glass with support from Unsanitary Napkin, Womb and artist Georgette Brown. A feast for the eyes and ears! The All Seeing Hand are in a class of their own, the shamans of sound, the Triptych of Trippy – stay tuned for their China wanderings in 2017.
Caspian @ Little Bar Space, Chengdu
Noise Temple @ .TAG
Audible Area:SunWei + 16ways @ NU SPACE, Chengdu
Dizzy Love + Wednesday’s Trip @ NU SPACE, Chengdu
DJ Sodeyama @ Here We Go, Chengdu
Street Party Rain Out: Marco Duits @ Hakka Bar, Chengdu
U Brown + Blood Dunza @ Jah Bar, Chengdu
Tobias @ Here We Go, Chengdu
All the Yang Bing raves @ .TAG in the first half of 2016
What will 2017 bring?
I’d like to see shows make there way out into the public, in found locations or reconverted spaces. DJ Marco Duits is someone who constantly leads the way with this in his ‘Street Party’ concept, though even these shows are becoming few and far between. No one wants to get in trouble, or worse, have their gear confiscated, but how can we branch out into different spaces and create something new for ourselves? I look forward to the new year of new shows and new adventures.
Full disclosure: I work at NU SPACE so saw a lot of shows there and missed those at other venues.
This year, Kiwese was lucky to be invited to Going Global Music Conference and The Others Way Festival in Auckland – many thanks to Dylan, Kath at the Independent New Zealand Music Commission for the opportunity!
Header image by John Yingling @theworldunderground
吴卓玲的⾳乐犹如⼀只变⾊⻰，舒适地在斑斓的⾊彩和栖息地间转换。作为⼀名歌⼿和作曲家，她常在烟雾弥漫的咖啡馆和酒吧演出。作为星期三旅⾏的主唱，她习惯把合成器和电⼦舞曲带到任何地⽅，如⾳乐节、livehouse、甚⾄保利中⼼的俱乐部。“⽐如我最初的梦想只是在⼀个摇滚乐队⾥做⿎⼿或者⻉斯⼿，”说到关于她⻓达15年的⾳乐⽣涯“结果被迫做了主唱。”在幕后， 她坚持⾃学直到27岁成为了成功的制作⼈和混⾳师，她制作的作品包括独⽴摇滚乐队荷尔蒙⼩姐的《象》和说唱歌⼿Kafe Hu的《27, The Code of Lucifer》。她现在也将和KUN以及视觉设计师⺩果⼀起组建⼀个“⼩计划”（Tiny Project），准备尝试⼀些跨界⾳乐和视觉⼀体的新艺术形式。卓玲将新的思路与之前较传统的⼈性化表达⽅式融合起来 ，她跨越电⼦和声学世界的创新能⼒源⾃多年的努⼒。
Wu Zhuoling is somewhat of a musical chameleon, comfortably shifting between a range of colours and habitats. As a singer-songwriter, she’s often found in smoky cafés and bars, performing original folk tunes on an acoustic guitar. As leader of trip-hop band Wednesday’s Trip, she’s used to storming festival stages, livehouses and even clubs in the Poly Centre with synthesizers and electric grooves.
“My initial dream was just to be in a rock band, as a drummer or bassist,” she says of her career that has spanned over 15 years, “then I ended up being kind of forced to the front.”
Behind the scenes, she is a self-taught producer with a staunch work ethnic and collaborations on local productions such as 27, The Code of Lucifer by rapper Kafe Hu, Elephant EP by indie-rockers The Hormones and ‘Tiny Project’ a live sound art group with violinist Kun and artist Wang Guo.
Daughter of a chemistry professor and an infrastructure engineer, Wu Zhuoling, also known as Julie, was born and raised in Pengzhou, north-west Chengdu. As a creative child who loved to draw, her parents thought she would grow up to be an artist, but music soon found it’s way to her heart.
“My earliest musical memories were around the mid-80s when I was in primary school. My brother brought home a Wham! cassette tape that had just come to China at the time. I remember feeling that disco music was so refreshing, so much more alive than the Chinese music on radio or TV. I’ll never forget first hearing those melodies, it was the first time I heard Western pop music.”
Like many music lovers of her generation, Wu Zhuoling’s gateway to musical discovery began in the late 90s with dakou cassette tapes, imported tapes that were cut to get through Chinese customs. “I’d randomly buy tapes by artists I’d never heard of or liked the album art of and gradually discovered bands I really liked – The Cranberries from Ireland, REM from the States…”
Between listening to tapes, obsessing over MTV and studying at Chengdu University of Electronic Science and Technology, Wu Zhuoling started her first rock band “Sunflower” and played occasionally at the old Little Bar on Yulin West Road, meeting other musicians in the circle and making a bit of a name for herself.
But Beijing was calling. “In early 2000s, the cultural centre of the whole country was in Beijing. All the indie artists wanted to go there to meet more people, see more gigs and have a better shot at a record deal.”
“The rest of the story sounds like something out of a rock and roll memoir: “My boyfriend at the time was also doing music. His band got signed to Modern Sky, I quit my amazing job and defected to his ‘forest commune’ without hesitation. It was known as the “rock utopia,” a huge group of rock-and-roll youths from all corners of the country living together, following the band to their shows, watching rehearsals and getting drunk on their bar tabs.”
Amidst this nest of music at the start of the millennium, Zhuoling was introduced to trip-hop. “Friends recommended bands like Portishead, Massive Attack and Tricky, perhaps because they thought I’d suit playing that style.” Wednesday’s Trip formed soon after.
But in 2003 with the outbreak of SARS, many people fled Beijing for good and the city entered a health lockdown and disarray. Wednesday’s Trip’s debut record Secret Mission was delayed for years as a result. “The SARS outbreak came as we were recording – some of the band left Beijing and the whole process stagnated. So when it came out in 2005 it was this sense of final accomplishment, if it did well or not, I didn’t care.” Despite a warm reception from critics, Zhuoling felt at a loss with her purpose in Beijing and left for Tibet. “I felt I had to experience the life I wanted, so I could live without regrets.”
Zhuoling stayed in Lhasa living a ‘reclusive life,’ working odd jobs like bar work, computer repairs and novel translation, only occasionally playing guitar with friends that came to her small courtyard. Two and a half years passed before doing music properly re-entered her life.
“Early on a friend installed Fruity Loops on my computer and I started playing with it out of curiosity,” she says “then around 2007, I wanted to make computer music but was too poor, so bought a cheap MIDI keyboard and an ESI Key Control 25.” Lured back into the music, Zhuoling moved back to Chengdu in the late 00s and Wednesday’s Trip was revived in 2011.
Electronic production is a key part of Wednesday’s Trip’s spacious, groovy sound and Zhuoling is hugely optimistic about it’s potential to create previously unimaginable sounds. “I think new technology has a huge influence on my music,” she says, “I use Logic Pro and Ableton Live, MIDI controllers, TC’s VoiceLive Touch, Micro Korg synthesizers, a Roland SP-404 SX sampler and a small mixer.”
“We made some big changes within the band this year,” she says of current Wednesday’s Trip line-up featuring guitarist Gong Heling a.k.a. Mao Mao and VJ Guo. Their sound retains the dark, moody grooves that Zhuoling has been crafting since the early 00s, eerie vocal harmonies, scratchy synthesizers and entrancing dub-filled bass lines reminiscent of Massive Attack. The band have made several festival appearances this year already, including Tenglong Midi Festival with Dizzy Trip and last month’s NUART Festival at Mintown but are not in a hurry to record a new album this year. “We hope we can live up to our patient fans’ expectations.”
“Everyone has their own path,” she says of her journey through the music industry, from record labels and boozy rock and roll communes to studios and dance clubs, “hard work and the loneliness that comes with it can eventually pay off.” With a tendency to do things by herself, Zhuoling is still adamant that good partners are the most essential elements of making music.
Anyone involved in the Chengdu music scene over the past decade will be familiar with Joshua C. Love (爱书华), the enigmatic frontman of prolific psychedelic rock group Proximity Butterfly and current electronic pop trio Dizzy Love, identified by his long brown dreadlocks, smoky eyeliner, armfuls of tattoos and free-spirited children. Known as much for his music as he is for his views on collaboration, inclusivity and spirituality, Love is a person who exudes a vitality and confidence paired with a quiet contemplation both on and off stage.
Joshua lives in Chengdu with his wife, bassist, vocalist and fellow teacher Heather Christine Love and their three Canadian-born children all of whom have grown up in China from infancy.
“My mother and father were both in the air force and my stepfather was in the army, so I spent a lot of time moving around down the East Coast and in El Paso, New Mexico,” he says of his own upbringing, “if I went back today I would feel a lot of culture shock with the way things are, things on TV, what people are talking about…” Like their parents, the Love children are all bilingual, with the twins only recently picking up on the difference between English and Chinese.
Josh and Heather, Zebra Festival, 2009.
Photo courtesy of Dan Sandoval.
Love first moved to Chengdu in 2002 and met Heather soon after. “It was like Apocalypse Now,” he says of the area around Ligong University at the time, “banana trees, rice paddy hats, ox pulling carts, old ladies washing their clothes in the river – to me it had an enormous spirituality to it.” This was the environment in which Proximity Butterfly was born. Starting from humble beginnings in the Love’s living room back in 2003, Proximity Butterfly set the bar for what was possible for a DIY rock band in Chengdu. “Our drummer Chen Duxi had never touched a drum set before, Heather had never played a bass in her life,” Josh reflects on the band’s first rehearsal, “we literally just wanted to tell stories.” The band performed ceaselessly around town, pouring what little money they made back into gear, touring and studio recordings.
Photo by Kristen Ng.
在2000年中后期成都经历很多变化，道路被建设得更加宽阔，有了二环和三环路。城市以惊人的速度开始发展，而当地音乐和艺术场景也变了。“我觉得从那时候起，成都有一种从根本上让人感到自豪的转变。”爱书华说，“人们开始结合资源把艺术和音乐的梦想变成现实。“ 开始有很多将音乐场景聚集在一起的合作活动，比如斑马节和Cookin’ Chengdu。When the roads were broken down, ring roads built and the city began to develop at breakneck speed around the mid-late 2000s, too came vast changes in the music and arts scene. “There was a shift in attitude that allowed you to be proud to be from Chengdu,” Josh reflects, “ideas to do festivals and art things became possible with the resources that became available.” Collaborative events that brought the music community together such as Zebra Festival and Cookin’ Chengdu came soon after.
Everybody that’s doing something today was at some point engaged with the Hemp House.”
麻糖 Hemp House, 2011.
Photo courtesy of Dan Sandoval.
“At that time the Hemp House was a beehive for creative people,” he says, “it didn’t matter if it was a hip-hop night, heavy metal or painting event, everybody would go there to hang out, everyone knew each others names, it was a golden period, it felt like an Atlantis.”
Over thirteen years, Proximity Butterfly released seven full-length records, toured both nationally and internationally and enjoyed a degree of success that many would aspire to, elevating themselves from café gigs to one of Chengdu’s most well-loved and iconic rock bands. But it certainly wasn’t easy.
“A lot people think being in a band is just about getting wasted and making new songs,” says Josh, the band’s manager and agent over the years. “You have to be that boring guys that wakes up at 5am and sorts the logistics, you have to be the crazy guy that keeps it real in the live shows – it just got too much.” Following the release of their latest album Medusae on Maybe Mars last year, Proximity Butterfly is now on hiatus.
“Love has now turned his musical focus towards a new project called Dizzy Love, a trio comprised of Beijing-based Danish producer Jelly Soendberg and Italian drummer Cecche. Despite just forming earlier this year, Dizzy Love have already been invited to play at festivals around the country including Hongyuan Grassland Music Festival, Kangding Love Music Festival and Chunyou at Morning 早上好. “Dizzy Love was a way to shake off the name,” he says, “would anybody even like it if wasn’t called Proximity Butterfly?”
Dizzy Love, Kangding Love Festival.
Photos by 满足视觉&明嘉影像
虽然爱书华还是担任作曲和主唱，Dizzy Love的声音有别于变色蝴蝶的重型摇滚 riff 和鼓。Soendberg丰满的键盘和数字制作，以及Cecche的电鼓节奏都围绕着他独特的人声展开。从《Medusae》的爱情歌开始，Dizzy Love 继续前行。新的组合品质宏伟而梦幻，一个成熟的新形电子流行民谣。“变色蝴蝶对我来说总是黑暗的，像不断投石的魔鬼… 而Dizzy Love如一个开放的阀门，通过各种不同的能量，让我谱写多彩的爱的篇章。
With Joshua still comfortably in the songwriting seat, Dizzy Love moves away from Proximity Butterfly’s heavy rock riffs and drum rolls as the fullness of Soendberg’s keys and digital production and Cecche’s electric drum beats encase themselves around his distinctive chorus-drenched lyrics. The musical direction picks up where love songs on Proximity Butterfly’s curtain call album Medusae left off, the new combination has a grandiose, dreamy quality to it, a mature new form of electronic pop balladry.
“Proximity Butterfly was always darker for me – throwing rocks at the devil and calling out the bullshit,” he says, “Dizzy Love is the opening of a valve that allows a different kind of energy to flow through – to write about love and colourful things.”
“这不是假象，这是最真实的 This is not a performance – this is the most real it could possibly be”
Listening to Dizzy Love, it is immediately apparent that Joshua has put the love back into his music with all the sincerity and conviction that made Proximity Butterfly so refreshing. “It is entirely okay to be as honest as you can be; and love helps us do that,” Joshua says of their latest track Bliss, an old song which has finally found its wings with Jelly’s production. “When you are in love with somebody, you put your guard down completely and are just willing to accept everything.”
Joshua has known Wu Zhuoling, frontwoman of Wednesday’s Trip for over ten years. “There’s always been a trust and respect between us,” he says of the singer, guitarist and electronic producer, “we always support each other and have a very positive relationship.” At the recent Midi Festival in Tenglong Caves, the pair decided to bring this long-running musical friendship into fruition. “Working together in good faith with positive energy will hopefully inspire people, let’s make it unforgettable.”
While Proximity fans may be disappointed with the band’s hiatus, be assured that Love is still present and making music as uplifting as ever. “Carl Jung was talking about how your life is an overlapped reflection of itself,” he contemplates as our coffee comes to an end, “something happened recently which was a return point, there’s no point to go further into the cosmos, but to loop back through and realize that everything is already as it was.”
2016年11月11日，Dizzy Love和老朋友们星期三旅行要给大家一场星际演出从NU SPACE起飞！On Friday 11th November, Dizzy Love will team up with old friends Wednesday’s Trip to present a show of intergalactic proportions at NU SPACE.