THE ALL SEEING HAND
China Tour 2017
With Kaishandao & E/N/T
“这个音乐不是为小清新或者容易伤感的人准备的。” “This is not music for the light-hearted or easily distressed.” – Soundly Sounds
Kiwese is proud to present The All Seeing Hand x Kaishandao x E/N/T China Tour 2017. For fans of the heavy, strange and transcendental. For adventurous sonic explorers…
The first time I saw The All Seeing Hand was on a darkened high ropes course. It was the last night of Camp A Low Hum 2012 and the remaining punters were floating around in that special state of mutual derangement so often reserved for the last night of music festivals.
Whether it was the three silhouetted figures thrashing beneath an enormous eye, the breakneck, body-pummeling drum rolls, bass-heavy synth screams, or the likelihood that the entire crowd was tripping on acid, there was immediately a sense of the occult about this band.
“Oh my god, what is this?!” yelled someone in the crowd.
“This is mind control!” shouted another.
Was this mind expansion or mind control? Inspired performance art, or visions of the possessed? Whatever it was, that night in the forest, we looked into the eye of The All Seeing Hand and everything changed.
What kind of music is this?
“This isn’t head-bang metalcore, but more an inventive electro-prog which values minimalism as much as collision,” writes Elsewhere, “it’s as likely to come from the writings of Philip K. Dick as it is the music of Bauhaus,” writes Off the Tracks.
From the depths of the Wellington underground, I am ecstatic to present The All Seeing Hand to Chinese audiences for the first time in the most ambitious Kiwese tour yet, spanning over three weeks and ten cities from Inner Mongolia to Fujian.
New Zealand artist Nathan Taare will join the journey as E/N/T, while I will also play support with my new techno noise project Kaishandao. This far out journey will also be documented by none other than filmmaker Illojgali a.k.a Dan Harris!
We’ll see you there… tell your friends!!
THE ALL SEEING HAND are a 3-piece from Wellington, New Zealand. Their musical world touches many soundscapes, while being complete in its own language. It is a gateway, opening ears to the sonic environment of machine and emotion, a “menacing clash of electronics, smashing drums and throat-singing, a sound akin to Tibetan monks on speed.”
Throat singing, frenzied drumming and thundering turntable tones… a pulverizing amalgam of electronic doom, “industrial khoomei,” clash metal and mind-bending sensory sorcery.
Alphabethead is known around New Zealand from many festival and club shows. An innovative turntablist and producer who cut his teeth in the hip-hop battle scene, delving into a diversity of sounds like orchestral gamelan, Inuit folk music, post-punk and electronica. His bass heavy approach in The All Seeing Hand makes for a full body response to the music.
Ben Knight is a pulverising drummer with rhythmic dexterity steeped in relentless energy. Having emerged from the Dunedin DIY punk and hardcore scene in the late 1990s, Ben pushes himself to the verge of vomiting in his commitment to the beat.
Jonny Marks uses his voice as a vehicle to explore timbre and the parts of our brains that language does not inhabit. Having trekked to Inner Mongolia to study khoomei for years, he incorporates techniques of throat-singing with voice box stretching explorations to create an animal human other.
“各种混乱的怪事。” “Seven levels of fucked up weirdness.” – Sonic Masala
The All Seeing Hand are worshipped across Australasia for their intense, immersive ritual performances that leave observers in an ecstatic state of wonder and confusion. They are constantly collaborating with artists to create unforgettable displays of costume and projection mapping.
The All Seeing Hand have toured extensively around NZ & Australia, and been described by Flying Nun as “a highly vaunted live act.” They have inspired, conquered and pulverized audiences at festivals including Camp A Low Hum (Wellington), Lines of Flight (Dunedin), Newtown Festival, St Jerome’s Laneway Festival (Auckland) and Now Fest.
They have released the albums《The All Seeing Hand》(2011)，《Mechatronics》(2013)，《Fog and Debris》(2014) and《Sand to Glass》 (2016)。The All Seeing Hand are signed to UK-based label Muzai Records.
The All Seeing Hand recognises progress
The All Seeing Hand facilitates progress.
The All Seeing Hand is progress.
Extraction is progress.
Conversion is progress.
The All Seeing Hand converts.
You are already part of The All Seeing Hand.
Transplanted from New Zealand, Chengdu-based Kaishandao has been slashing the divide between the club and live music scenes in Chengdu, playing everywhere from darkened dancefloors to pool parties and dive bars. Coming from a background of garage rock and bedroom cassette recordings, Kaishandao uses an electric guitar, effects, synthesizers and radio noise to create a kind of “dystopian techno drone,” influenced by krautrock, experimental music, Beyoncé and the Poly Centre (R.I.P.)
Disorientating lo-hifi dance music for the lonely hearts and high-wired souls.
E/N/T (Otolaryngology) is the musical pseudonym of New Zealand born artist Nathan Taare. E/N/T is sonic art that takes ideas and motivations from noise-rock, post-punk and sound installation to create an intriguing and wonderful collage of moods and movements.
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
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.
“A dream of a shopping cart left in the street in a desolate wasteland is stuck on repeat,” sings Jonathan Zeitlin on Alpine Decline’s latest album Life’s a Gasp, a record that echoes the dystopian smog world of Beijing.
Alpine Decline is Beijing-via-Los Angeles husband and wife rockers Jonathan Zeitlin and Pauline Mu. Self-described as “psych, shoegaze, noise rock and ’90s indie, without sounding too much like any of those,” Alpine Decline are currently touring their seventh album Life’s a Gasp across China with long time confidante, producer and bassist Yang Haisong.
Kiwese caught up with Jonathan ahead of their gig in Chengdu to talk about touring and synthesisers in a WeChat conversation littered with baby smoking Hitler emojis.
KIWESE: Hey Alpine Decline! Where are you guys?
JONATHAN: We’re driving up from Nanning to Guiyang right now and it is fucking gorgeous. Pauline and I are essentially nature-oriented people living in a city that is the antithesis of natural, so this lush landscape really moves us.
Rad, how was the show in Nanning?
Nanning was great. I think in places that don’t get as many touring acts coming through, the thrills are a little bit more palpable. A strange room and a strange feeling, like someone might bar the doors and some shootout might happen, or evil spirits descend… this is the perfect vibe for us to play.
“Playing for ten people ready to freak the fuck out is often more fun than 200 people who are only listening with one ear.“
Can you tell us about your tour bus and crew? Sounds huge!
We’ve been on the US get-in-the-van trip quite a few times and will be doing it again in October with Carsick Cars and Chui Wan, but this is the first time we’ve had a van to tour in china, instead of riding the rails. It completely changes the nature of the expedition – in a way we are temperamentally well suited for.
We brought our baby and a babysitter, so that adds two bodies. There’s the three of us in the band, Xiao Bao running sound, our old friend (and veteran of the earliest P.K.14 van tours) 黄师傅 minding the details, and our very trusted driver. For awhile Nevin from Genjing Records/Maybe Mars came along. Little Monster rolled with us from Shanghai to Nantong and that was max capacity.
Logistics aside, I love ripping down the road. I like stepping out of the car in the middle of nowhere. I like the whole ‘Peter Pan leading a pack of gypsy children out into the wilderness’ vibe.
This is not the first tour Alpine Decline for little Roland, right? He must be almost ready to join the band as the fourth member haha
This is his fourth tour. He did Australia when he was six months old, then the China tour for our last album GO BIG SHADOW CITY and the subsequent US/Canada tour. He’s pretty natural at it. He gets on really well with everyone and can tolerate the dirty language and rough living pretty well.
With kids, I find you create reality for them… they don’t come into the world with a set of expectations of how things are gonna be. So taking him on tour at first was about us being brave, not about him understanding what’s up. We just felt like it was a bad narrative in the long term to say “we used to tour and make albums and then you were born so it all stopped.” We felt like he could have warmth and support and a reasonable measure of stability and safety while still coming into Pauline and my world, joining our lives and our family.
What’s the best thing about being on tour?
There is a lot of wildness on tour; wild thoughts, the crazy feeling of being cut loose, the daily encounter with my fight-or-flight instincts. You meet crazy people and seem to be endlessly celebrating something, I don’t know what. For us, we are very focused on the shows, because getting in a room with people and playing music every night, there is a possibility we will get somewhere interesting, and that’s really the only reason to tour.
Of course we get tired, nerves frayed and maybe lose perspective of reality a little bit. But I’m going to reach a place every night where the moment opens up and freezes and we are all intensely present for some fleeting interval. so 辛苦? 辛苦我可以收。(hardship, hardship I can take.)
Welcome to Chengdu, what’s your impression of this place?
Chengdu and these western parts always leave a very deep impression on us. Of course in Chengdu as everywhere you witness the crush of development, but there is a kind of frontier vibe that comes on this far from the eastern seaboard that strikes me as romantic.
Would be great to have an Alpine Decline synth set in Chengdu!
Aw, I would have loved to do a synth set in Chengdu! When we were planning the tour and figuring out where we could do the synth stuff, I just didn’t know if there was a community interested in that kinda thing…
I wouldn’t say there’s a ‘community’ but certainly individuals who have an interest.
Yeah, I find on tour there is pretty intense interest in the modular synths and people just trying to contextualize asymmetrical music in general, so that after the synth sets we are basically spending about a half an hour talking to the crowd, showing them the synths and explaining stuff.
We use the synths during the rock set too, so we also have gotten people who come out even though they aren’t interested in guitars or rock, but read somewhere about the synths.
If it’s not too mafan, are you able to tell us about your synths for all the synth nerds out there?
Ah, so basically we built two boxes and filled then with different modular synth components from a variety of sources. Eurorack is basically a format, a set of standards, so people can build synth components that will be compatible with other peoples modules. so we have basically a collection of oscillators, filters, VCAs, envelope generators, utilities, etc that we can patch together to create any sound we imagine.
We don’t have any presets or memory banks, it is nearly impossible to perfectly recreate a sound, so every night on tour the synths are slightly different, their ambience a little slippery and sorta every variable. plus they are a lot lighter than lugging around big vintage synths like the last tour haha.
I read in an interview that you recorded Life’s a Gasp in a makeshift studio in the mountains?
I think the place was originally going to be like a western style residential neighbourhood in the mountains past Badaling, northwest of Beijing, but the government moved some factories out to the adjacent valley and the place was more or less abandoned by the ten or twelve people that built houses there. Surreal, kind of ghostly, maybe some abandoned dogs, but with the ruins of unrestored Great Wall snaking along the ridgeline. We kinda had a sound design in mind and wanted to find a very big room where we could record drums, guitar and bass live together, and one of these houses became available to us. So we moved there for a week and were able to create a really different, closed-circuit kind of habitat for this part of the recording process.
So you guys are rolling in Guangxi right now, a far stretch from L.A. You’ve been in Beijing for a decent few years now, do you still align yourselves and your style with the L.A. scene at all?
No, we don’t align ourselves with the L.A. scene at all. Actually, I don’t have a clue what’s been going on in L.A. the last five years at all. Even before we moved here, we were feeling very disassociated with the music scene, pretty aware of the distance between what we were looking to do and the territory around us.
It might be a little different on a personal level for Pauline, because she grew up there, but especially for me just kinda drifting through from more remote parts, L.A. just seems like a fantasy to me, even when I lived there.
I’m originally from a small town in north-eastern Ohio, a sort of farmland about an hour outside of a big collapsing steel town.
There are brilliant musicians in L.A… I’m in disbelief I had the opportunity to call them my friends and whip up some music together… but we had a different plan when we started Alpine Decline and after about a year knew it wasn’t right in L.A.
L.A is known around the world as the mecca of music and film production, so no doubt full of people trying to make it big. Do you find any parallels between that and Beijing?
The scale is really different. People seeking to make art come to Beijing, but the leading industry in Beijing is politics, not art. In L.A., its almost exclusively entertainment, like a coal town with screening rooms instead of mineshafts. Truthfully, L.A. is really just film and TV, so playing music there is still a little outside… unlike New York or Berlin, perhaps.
I don’t know what “making it big” would look like in China. We didn’t think that was an option here, which was part of the appeal.
Alpine Decline play NU SPACE Chengdu this Saturday with support from the almighty Hiperson!
购票请长按下方二维码:Press & extract the QR code below for tickets on Zaomengshe:
Lonely Leary are a Beijing-based three-piece post-punk/noise rock band from Shandong. They incorporate fast drums, muddy baselines and rough guitar noise in a pursuit to create a relatively violent sound.
NU SPACE has invited them to Chengdu to play a show this Friday 10 June with local favourites Hiperson!
Kiwese caught up with the band members Qiu Chi 邱驰 (bass/vocals) Song Ang 宋昂 (guitar) and Li Baoning 李保宁 (drums) to find out more…
Back in 2012, three college students entrenched in boredom were practicing their instruments alone in the secluded district of Changqing, Jinan. Initially the band set about covering a few simple punk songs, as well as post-punk bands such as Joy Division. They adopted the name “Lonely Lili” while playing spontaneous rock shows on campus. Later due to job changes and academic activities, the band was suspended.
In 2014, all three members moved to Beijing and Lonely Leary was reborn, trading ‘Lili’ for ‘Leary,’ a tribute to Timothy Leary, the creator of LSD. With a new name in a new city, the band began rehearsing and writing songs in pursuit of their own punk-oriented style. During the summer of 2014, the band performed prolifically at School Bar, XP and other rock clubs, gradually gaining a small and loyal following within the grungy confines of the Beijing underground.
The Shocking Pinks show took place at the notorious hutong dive School Bar and was supported by two local acts – one of them was Lonely Leary, and they totally kicked ass. Scatty basslines, frantic drumming, possessed vocals, screeching guitar… A week later, I saw them play again at Temple Bar. Again, excellent.
Beijing has provided the Shandong-born trio the perfect environment in which to hone their songs and their live performance, with what seems like endless bars and livehouses to play at on a regular basis.
NU SPACE is proud to present LONELY LEARY, the post-punk/noise-rock trio tipped by critics as the most exciting new band out of Beijing this year.
KIWESE: You guys are from Shandong. Can you describe what Jinan is like for those of us who don’t know?
SONG: Changqing is basically a beautiful place. I think it’s more suitable for old people rather than youths to live there.
QIU: There was originally a village or wasteland. You know, the university and college downtown couldn’t take so many students after enrolment expansion over the years, so the government transformed the villages into campuses and sent a large number of students there. The campuses are isolated by mountains and we have to take illegal taxis to go to other places. There is also a commercial center with many low-cost shops, stalls, internet bars and small hotels for lovers.
Music hobbyists can learn to play guitar and drums in some instrument shops. They used to form bands and cover “Beyond”. There were over a hundred Beyond cover bands I think.
LI: The first time I met Song Ang he was playing guitar in a cover band in an instrument shop. He hated the songs they played, so we began to play together while learning our instruments. Qiu Chi joined us after graduating, then we became a trio and began to cover some punk bands. Our playing technique was poor then.
You started out covering punk bands. What were some of the first songs you covered?
Under Baby, Joyside and Ramones. Including some “punk songs” by Hedgehog.
What is up with the drummer situation?
We have some drummer adjustments recently. Wang Jianan played drums for the last half of the year. She is a student at Beijing Film Academy with a good sense of drum playing. She created many amazing drum riffs in new songs. The only problem she has is technique – it’s a little hard for her to play the fast songs perfectly live and in recording, after all, she hasn’t played for that long.
So she will study and practice the basic skills and techniques, and the original drummer Li will take the place of her at present. Li plays fiercely like a drum machine.
You moved to Beijing in 2014, how does the city influence your music?
QIU: I simply took playing in a band as pastime in Shandong. At that time, I didn’t know much about making music as an amateur. After graduating and being in Beijing in 2012, I separated from them because they were still in Jinan. I think Lonely Leary was about to dissolve then. However, I saw lots of lives in Beijing and was attracted by its dynamic rock’ n roll atmosphere. There are so many fresh bands who studied and vied with each other – they created the scene together. I was encouraged by them and got the enthusiasm to continue Lonely Leary. Then the other guys came to Beijing soon after, so I had no excuse to stop the band any more.
SONG: I think Beijing is a high-speed city with bad environment and people here are restless. I knew nothing about the city beside music before I came here. I didn’t know what to do then and always felt anxious and confused. In fact, three of us all get this feeling and deeply affected. The violent sound of our music has close connection with the situation. Sometimes the bad moods also get the band into trouble. That’s terrible.
LI: Beijing has more bands and lives than I had ever known in college. You know, most bands in Jinan are metal and pop, as well as some folk singers. However, in Beijing, there are many bands whose temperaments are quite same as us, especially in XP Club. I can learn from them at close range. At the time, I thought I would die without regrets if I could perform in XP, ha-ha!
Tell us about the new album, how is that coming along? Where are you planning to record it? Will you release it independently or with a label?
Qiu: Making an album has been our dream for a long time. We decided on it at the end of last year as we think we have enough songs now. In fact, we didn’t think too much on writing songs at first, no uniform style or concept was carried through. Many songs didn’t sound the same because they are written in a different period. It really troubled us then! So we tried to preset a theme for the album to keep our creation in a controllable range. It makes the new songs clearer. We also changed some old songs based on our preset concept. Some old songs have been abandoned.
SONG: Some of our songs have been in an indeterminate state for two years before we reached our preset concept. Fortunately, they finally morphed into the shape that we’ve described in our introduction.
LI: Our demo recordings are very simple. We used an iPad to record and mix to get the finished product that you hear on Douban. They have no details or good tones, just a standard of “clear enough to hear.”
Our ignorance towards “real recording” caused this undesirable lo-fi sound. Now we are learning and rehearsing a lot to be ready for the formal recording. Then we probably try to contact labels which are reliable and have interest in us.
You play fairly regularly in Beijing. What are your favourite venues to play?
SONG: We all love XP Club. We can often perform with the bands we like there. I prefer to Old What after XP closed. I feel comfort in its simple and rough environment.
QIU: I would like Old What better if the sound is improved. I like School Bar most now.
LI: We used to play XP a lot because it was close to where we lived. Now we go to School Bar most often.
Who are some other bands you really like in Beijing at the moment and why?
QIU: We all like P.K.14 and Snapline. Alpine Decline is my recently favorite.
SONG: I like Alpine Decline as well. I also recommend Death Narcissist and Bedstars.
LI: I like Re-TROS and Supermarket, also Dr. Liu and the Human Centipede and Soviet Pop.
Your music reminds me of Joy Division and The B52s, as well as more recent bands like Thee Oh Sees and Re-TROS. What bands have had the biggest influence on you?
QIU: David Bowie, The Velvet Underground, Joy Division, P.K.14 and Sun City Girls have a deep ideological influence on me. Savages, Mars, Disconcerts, Sleaford Mods, Mika Miko are my favourites recently. I love their basslines.
SONG: I recommend A Place to Bury Strangers for their destructive lives, firm basslines and manic guitar noise. Sonic Youth brings me inspiration on playing guitar, I’ve learned their tuning and tone a lot. I also like the teen spirit sound of Big Black and Spacemen 3’s psychedelic guitar.
LI: Old post-punk bands like Joy Division, Sort Sol, Talking Heads have influenced so many people for their tension of contradiction.
Have you come to Chengdu before? What impressions do you have of this place?
QIU: I went four years ago. I think People’s Park is a funny place and I love “LengGuo ChuanChuan”.
LI: I went last year. I didn’t go to too many places, but I think some temples here are very good.
SONG: I have never been to Chengdu. I think it may be a wet place.
Anything you want to say to people coming to the show in Chengdu?
QIU: All I want to say are painted on the poster. Really fantastic design ha-ha!
LI: Hi, Person!
SONG: We are three plain dealers from Shandong. Welcome to come and see us!
Lonely Leary’s alcohol of choice?
QIU & SONG: Jingjiu. Absolutely!
Li: I prefer pineapple beer.
Welcome to Chengdu, thanks guys!
We’ve never been out so far for a live show before. Thanks NU SPACE for inviting us!
In the first instalment of our five-part China tour series, Orchestra of Spheres reunite with Lady Lazer Light in Beijing and wreak havoc at School Bar, Temple Bar and Brother’s BBQ Tribe in Feijiacun.
Erica Sklenars a.k.a. Lady Lazer Light is in the capital this week for two talks about her art residency in Beijing and touring with Orchestra of Spheres around China.
Kiwese caught up with her ahead of tonight’s first talk!
The last Lady Lazer Light show I saw before moving back to China was in collaboration with long time pals Orchestra of Spheres.
It was a cheap $10 gig at Valhalla – a grungy, hole in the wall on Vivian Street downtown Wellington, which having survived several different eras of management had remained popular among the metal, bogan and experimental community for it’s diverse billing, excellent beer selection and outdoor area provisioned with old car tyres and miscellaneous lounge furniture.
It was mid-2014, a rough time for Wellington music punters with the closures of popular inner city venues Mighty Mighty and Puppies. San Francisco Bath House had been renovated into ‘San Fran’ – a yuppie, tapas-catering ghost of it’s former self that had halved it’s capacity due to safety concerns – the packed out balcony and wall-to-wall mosh pit had become a thing of the past. The city was thirsty for a good show.
The Valhalla line-up included some of Wellington’s favourite acts, who were not greatly affected by the venue closures as they were accustomed to playing in unconventional spaces around town. Throat-ripping turntable noise trio the All Seeing Hand had arrived home from their national tour and were supported by their good mates Orchestra of Spheres, experimental folk yodeller Seth Frightening, andvisually enhanced by the Queen of Psychedelic Projections Herself, Lady Lazer Light. The stage was a whirlpool of colour and sound and the bar was packed with familiar faces, with Valhalla regulars happily drinking alongside the refugees of less fortunate venues.
In the second set of the night, the Spheres took the stage in inimitable style – festooned with the finest eyewear The $2 Shop can buy, armed with one-of-a-kind wooden and tin instruments and oozing with the bizarre stage presence that has earned them a cult following throughout the country. The crowd surged forward, ready for the cosmic rhythms.
As Lady Lazer Light sprayed forth her kaleidoscopic beams and the Spheres chanted a mantra about iPhone chargers, the sensorily satiated crowd swayed shoulder to shoulder as one, united by a brilliant display of colour and sound. If the desired effect was group hypnosis – they certainly succeeded.
The show was a spiritual experience for the city – the buzz around Valhalla, the friendliness and happiness of all the people who had come to celebrate and support, it was a truly magical night. Orchestra of Spheres and Lady Lazer Light were the gems in Wellington’s creative crown, and we all bowed down in ecstasy.
Around the middle of last year, things really started to fall into place. I was emailing Dan from the Spheres on an almost daily basis and we were gradually putting together the pieces for a national China tour. The dream was coming to life, everyone was excited.
KIWESE: “Are you guys bringing Lady Lazer Light?”
DAN: “Erica Sklenars is going to be in Beijing for three months on an artist residency!! So we’ll bring her along for the trip.”
The morning after the second Orchestra of Spheres show in Beijing, I awoke with a heavy hangover to find Erica passed out on the couch at my friend’s tiny flat in Beixinqiao, wrapped in her screen as a blanket and surrounded by noodles of projector cables and chargers. A Lady Lazer Light bomb had exploded in the lounge and ground zero was beautifully chaotic. This chick is crack up.
Despite being a fan of her work for years, I’d actually never met Erica Sklenars before she arrived in Beijing last September.
During my time with her in China, through all the madness, set-ups, pack downs, instant noodles, Jingjiu, overnight train rides, WeChat frenzies, gaffer tape, raves, laughs, cries and hangovers, she became a very dear friend, one who I have enormous respect and admiration for as an artist, improvisor, communicator and genuinely wonderful human being.
I am so pleased to finally feature her here on this humble blog.
KIWESE: Sup Sklen, how’s it going?
As Lady Lazer Light, you’ve been a staple visual collaborator in Wellington for many years. Can you tell us a bit about your current set up in Dunedin?
I’ve been living between Dunedin and Wellington a bit this year with various projects, but I’m technically based in beautiful Port Chalmers, Dunedin, living and making work in Chick’s Hotel.
What’s the deal with Chick’s Hotel at the mo?
They closed a couple of weeks ago, went out with a bang with a number of awesome farewell gigs, including Shifting Sands and The Clean sending us off on the final night.
I’ve been away since then, but word on the street says there is a killer recording studio developing downstairs…
You were based in Wellington for many years, how have you found the transition to Dunedin life? My only experience with the music scene on my trip there was a seedy late night karaoke bar, where I realised Seven Days by Craig David is actually really hard to sing.
Haha! I have only encountered YouTube karaoke down there… but may have heard something about such bars.
I’m finding it quite different, a bit more chill, a good place to reflect on my practice and on my high-energy, chaotic last few months of travel.
There are some really cool things happening there in the music scene, some awesome new and old bands, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to collaborate and perform. There is actually some REALLY great music happening there at the moment.
You’ve mentioned Élan vital before. Could you name some other acts you’re digging in Dunedin?
I collaborated with Repulsive Woman recently, she played alone outside an old Free Mason Lodge and the audience watched/peeped on her from inside through a camera obscura I constructed. She plays One Direction covers.
You were in Beijing for three months and really thrived in it. Do you have any favourite spots for music and art in the city?
Liquid Light Show at Temple Bar Beijing, which Erica participated in. Sept 2015.
Shocking Pinks DJ Set at Dada with visuals by Lady Lazer Light. Sept 2015.
Mos Iocos of Orchestra of Spheres with Lady Lazer Light. School Bar, Beijing, Sept 2015. Image / Live Beijing Music
What do you miss about China now that you are back in NZ?
I miss the food of course! I loved it all. I miss being able to order a bunch of different dishes – I’m terrible at making decisions on menus.
I miss always having an exciting new place to go! There’s one particular dish I would get that was kind of an omelette thing with sprouts and noodles, it was soo good for late breakfasts. And the shredded potato!! So good.
I miss the friendly faces around where I was living, going on adventures through different villages to find art supplies, taking several forms of public transport to go somewhere, the amazing friendly people I would meet that would extend so much help and kindness despite us not speaking the same language.
The Spheres tour was so bloody fab. Do you have a particularly standout gig?
Too hard to choose! I loved the BBQ party in Feijiacun because that was in the community I was living in.
I loved the NUART Festival in Chengdu and the after party at Zaoshanghao, so much fun! I loved every city and show for different reasons, I can’t pick a single fav. I really want to come back and I’m working on some plans, watch this space!
When can we expect to see the South Acid MiMi x Lady Lazer Light music video?
What would you say to other artists wanting to visit China?
Do it, it’s an awesome place to tour as a band and to make art.
Chur girl, you Sklegend!
Erica will be speaking in Wellington tonight and tomorrow:
P-LAB: LADY LAZER LIGHT
Time: 7:00pm | Wed 13 April 2016
Location: Pyramid Club
272 Taranaki Street, Wellington, New Zealand
For her P-LAB session, Erica will be delving into her world of projected visuals and speaking about her recent 3 month residency in Beijing on the Wellington Asia Residency Exchange.
The Pyramid Club is run by the Sound and Exploration Society.
International Connections: An artist residency forum
Time: 5.30pm – 7.30pm | Thu 14 April 2016
Location: Adam Auditorium, City Gallery
101 Wakefield St, Wellington, New Zealand
Hear internationally acclaimed visual artists speak about their practice and residency experiences in a panel discussion chaired by Courtney Johnston, director of The Dowse Art Museum. The artists – Marc Brandenburg, Etienne de France, Erica Sklenars and Sian Torrington – will share their work and their thoughts about the world versus Wellington.
Berlin-based Brandenburg is the current Goethe-Institut Artist in Resident at the Bolton Street Cottage; Etienne de France, from Paris, is the Massey University Artist in Resident staying at Te Whare Hera; and Erica Sklenars and Sian Torrington are both Wellington-based artists recently back from Asia.
Behold! Beijing’s bogan paradise – where no one’s body is a temple and nobody ever leaves sober. Coated with a delightful lustre of Jager, coffee shots and projectile vomit, Temple Bar is discreetly tucked away in an upstairs building off Beijing’s Gulou Dong Dajie.
Following a packed out show at School Bar the night before, Beijing’s WeChat feeds were wagging about the unconventional stylingsthat had landed in town.
For night two of their China tour,Orchestra of Spheres and Lady Lazer Light returned with a different set of tunes and even more floating eyeballs, intoxicating the warped minds of Temple even more than usual.
Check out the video of ‘Rotate’ below!
Cheers to Pink at Temple, Georgia Hind and Anton Burian.
From Wellington stoner country to Beijing glitch hop, 2015 was packed with awesome releases from both New Zealand and China. Here are fifteen Kiwese favourites!
Illustration by Ali Pang.
With Knees of Honey in Goodbye Canyon bySo Laid Back Country China
So Laid Back Country China (or 很放松乡村中国) is a four-piece band fronted by Harriet Ferry and Michael Keane, former members of beloved Wellington folk/country hooligans Big River Chain and John the Baptist.
Originally meant to be an EP, With Knees of Honey in Goodbye Canyon, is a slow-release trip into wide open country spaces, at once soothing and hair-raising in the sparse layering of instrumentation and vocals.
No Need For Another History byHiperson 《我不要别的历史》 海朋森
Rejoice!! Our long diet ofHiperson demos streamed off Youku was finally supplemented this year, with No Need For Another Historyreleased on Maybe Mars in April. Recorded by China’s post-punk overlord Yang Haisong, Hiperson have re-recorded well-loved tunes such as《他打定主意做一个游客》He Made Up His Mind to Be a Tourist and 《门》Entrance, alongsidenew material that reasserts their guitar-driven, sharp tongued sound.
Those distinctive stabbing staccato vocals from Chen Sijiang, alongside puns such as “这是通往剧院的大路!” yelled in tandem with guitarist Ji Yinan, in my opinion make Hiperson one of the most lyrically talented bands in China today. Check out the Kiwese interview with Hiperson earlier this year.
TANGO is a joy from start to finish – really tight songwriting and jangly pop melodies led by the band’s Anji Sami and Jonathan Toy. Nominated for Best Alternative Album at this year’s NZ Music Awards, lost out to UMO’s Multi-Love (also excellent).
China’s national football team is unlikely to score points anywhere, but Wuhan’s delightful indie-pop band Chinese Football are winners!
This year Chinese Football released both a self-titled EP and a self-titled full length album, the latter of which I am rating here. Sparkling TTNG-esque math rock riffs, endearing vocal harmonies and brightness. Forever destined to be compared to American Football, Chinese Football’s music would indeed be suited to cruising around the sunny Midwest.
Chinese Football play Chengdu’s Little Bar on 8 January and Chongqing’s NUTS on the 9th. Yay!
Aucklandite indie-emo-pop power duo Carb on Carb released their much anticipated self-titled album back in February, what a pearler! James and Nicole have been busy touring the USA this year, making a lot of new friends and forging their own American dreams.
Fresh release from the inimitable Howie Lee, just out this month on Alpha Pup. Beijing blazzzze – Mù Chè Shān Chū is packed with those East Asian samples, clicks and tweaks Lee has become known for. Featuring fresh takes on tracks Sinka and Shang from last year’s also excellent Eastside Sampler Series. Future kungfu swag.
Oh man. I fucking love Terror of the Deep. Their music makes me imagine walking up Riddiford Street with sunglasses on, blue skies, and a hop in my step. Flax and toi toi. Newtown. Space Epic has a much lusher, texture than TOTD’s previous spare and crunchy bass-guitar-drums sound, with the addition of Tom Watson on keyboard and trumpet. Picks up where Permanent Weekend left off, with a re-recording of ‘When the Planets Align.’
Recorded by OOS’s Dan Beban at Pyramid Club and mixed into the galaxies in 2015. A journey through space, to Neptune and beyond…
Demos on Douban by South Acid MiMi Dance Team
South Acid MiMi (Shishi, Weilin + Yixiao) are such rad bitches. Straight outta Kunming, this freaky disco punk trio is leading crowds to the dance floor. I saw one of their early shows in January when I was randomly in Kunming and it was the most refreshing thing I’d been to in ages. They sound like… Grimes? Iggy Pop? Karen O?
These bizarre, addictive beats from three keyboards, vocals, a laptop, LED light poi and various bottles of spirits. South Acid MiMi are gearing up to release an album with Ruby Eyes Records in Beijing next year.
Stay tuned for a Lady Lazer Light x Kiwese x South Acid MiMi production very soon!!
Mermaidens are Scrumpylicious incantation creators. Seed is a mean tune. Sounds like discordant fuzzy kelp scum, the three-piece creating a bubble of noise that scares off even those freaky fish with lightbulbs on their head. Look forward to more next year.
Stolen (pinyin: mìmì xíngdòng) tore shit up this year. I saw them play a countless number of times around the country, bursting with energy at every gig. After signing to Beijing’s new D-Force Records, they had the opportunity to professionally record in Taipei, producing a more refined collection of their excellent free demos.
Dark, chilling, insanely danceable – with Loop and a huge national tour under their belt this year, Stolen have raised the bar even higher. While one hears Joy Division or Kraftwerk when listening to Stolen, their newer material is more electronic beat based, scatty tech rhythms. The boys have been writing new material up in the mountains, so anticipate more from them next year!
Wellington woodland dream folk. Womb is the solo project of Charlotte Forrester, womb companion of Haz Forrester, who she used to play with in Athuzela Brown. This is really gorgeous music. The echoey vocals remind me a lot of Grouper, while the sparse guitar phrasing in ‘Sounds of Our Voices’ definitely brings Electrelane to mind. Sonorous Circle label mate Sean Kelly mixed and mastered these five lovely tracks with some Seth Frightening magic.
Fatshady is the biggest rapper in Chengdu. He entered the hip-hop lexicon several years ago with his track 《明天不上班》, empowering audiences to bunk off work in style. He raps completely in Chengduhua, garnering immediate appeal by opposing the bland, standardised Mandarin of TV, radio, school, officialdom…
While the beats are pretty simple (as if ‘shab shabba Ranks’ could come in at any moment), the rapping is second to none. While I can only understand half of his lyrics, his music speaks to my friends unlike any other artist I’ve seen – because he is using their language. There is no one else doing it quite like Fatshady. Out on C.D.C.
A. Cushion Plant and B. Gold in Quartz by Team Cat Food
(Auckland via Wellington, NZ)
February saw a Team Cat Food double release. As with everything these guys have released, I love it. Mellow and vibey electronic textures and beats, with i.ryoko and Seth Frightening featuring on each side. Churrrr.
A Million Farewells by Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes
Well, this is epic. Shanghai’s famously un-Googleable Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes have released this noisy emotional outpouring on Genjing Records. Former So So Modern drummer Daniel Nagels joins ‘Tom’ – Xiao Zhong of Pairs, ‘Katie’ – Sharon Cee-Q with her dreamy vocals, and Samuel Walsh on bass.
‘My Life is Over’ will have your ears ringing, while other more dream pop/shoegaze tracks act as a welcome counterpoint. Beautiful stuff. Vinyl release through Genjing and Tenzenmen, or you can stream it on Bandcamp.
Elixir is certainly the most mature and cohesive Totems release to date, with nine tracks that flow seamlessly from start to finish. Jungle/drum & bass/echoes of his old trap sound that are equally suited to both chilling and raving. Released in December with Cosmic Compositions, Elixir has already had several plays at Kiwese HQ, also known as my lounge. Chur chur!
With only one kiwi member, UMO are arguably not even a NZ act. But they get nominated at the NZ Music Awards and also get funding from NZ On Air so whatever. Multi-Love is the follow up to 2013’s II and it is just really fcking awesome!! More groovy and melodic than their previous two albums, with the addition of a keyboardist/back up vocalist.
Favourite Song 2015: Can’t Keep Checking My Phone
…Where it at?
Mirror in Mirror by Skip Skip Ben Ben
(Taipei / Beijing)
Ben Ben’s new album has been released in Taiwan on Re:Public Records, and I’m eagerly/impatiently waiting for it to come out in the Mainland on Maybe Mars… Check out the preview below. NEED.
Many of these artists have released their music on Bandcamp for the criminally low price of ZERO DOLLARS. Koha where you can! Support independent music!
What makes a ‘good show’? The artist? The venue? The crowd? Here is a list of ten shows in chronological order that left an impression on Kiwese this year.
“Music, in performance, is a type of sculpture. The air in the performance is sculpted into something.” – Frank Zappa
To me, live music is a symbiotic relationship between performer and audience, they need each other to exist. There is an unfiltered bond between the artist and the crowd at every show, an unrepeatable experience in time and space. The shows I tend to enjoy most are the ones where the crowd is engaging somehow with the performers, whether through dancing or cheering or stage invading – letting the performers know they are not alone.
With the increase of computers in music production today, old expectations of live music have shifted to accommodate these new digital elements. While some critics believe computers detract from a live show, artists are creating and embracing interesting new ways to perform with digital technology. In China, going out to a gig in 2015 no longer means bass-drums-guitar, but rather something that echoes the digital world we live in.
South Acid MiMi Dance Team @MAO Livehouse Kunming 南方酸性咪咪领舞队在昆明MAO Livehouse
I stumbled into a South Acid MiMi show in Kunming in January and never looked back. Officially indoctrinated into the girl cult of face masks, weird music, freaky dancing and lots of whiskey. Very stoked to have been able to collaborate with them and Lady Lazer Light in October. This early MiMi show was filled with lots of experimental instruments and props, which have since been refined into three keyboards, a laptop and percussion.
Weilin + Shishi
2015.04.17 Noise Temple @ Little Bar Chengdu 黄金＋绵羊在小酒馆
Noise Temple is hypnotic, digital, dark – the syncing together of VJ Mian’s visual projections and Huang Jin’s razor sharp drumming abilities makes for a unique pulsating of the senses. This show featured contemporary dancers (thought I’d see pigs fly at Little Bar first) and vocal/instrumental cameos from various musicians. Unfortunately, Huang Jin has since moved to Beijing to join Re-TROS so Noise Temple no longer play with the blessed regularity we had gotten used to in Chengdu.
Video below is from another show at Morning Bar in April.
2015.04.25 Aus-atmen @ Xiwo, Chengdu Luna, Cvalda, Hiroshi, Xiang, Su
New techno/minimal/ambient music label Atmen had their debut party in an empty swimming pool in the leafy outskirts of Flower Town. Featuring Cvalda, Hiroshi, Xiang and Su, playing to the early morning. Enough said.
2015.06.26 – 2015.06.28 Neverland Electro Music Festival @ Wulong Fairy Mountain, Chongqing
山谷露营电子音乐节 仙女山 武隆 重庆
Two days, two nights, two stages – Neverland 2015 returned to the misty mountains outside of Chongqing, following their first festival in 2013. Neverland is a collaboration between NUTS and Morning Bar, attracting fans and friends from Chengdu, Chongqing and surrounding regions such as Guizhou. Camping festivals are few and far between in China, and Neverland beautifully fills the need.
The location is sublime – rolling green hills, white flowing mist and cloudless skies. The main stage saw DJs from around the region bring everything from swing to techno, while the psytrance community stayed entranced with their own 24/7 party at the stage on the flat. A very low key and awesome festival, with only a couple of hundred punters and no security. Amped for next year!
2015.07.03 Hiperson @ Little Bar Space Chengdu
When Hiperson set out to tour ‘No Need For Another History’ 《我不要别的历史》, they returned as a different band. Several hundred friends and fans turned up to the new big Little Bar (the new/old/big Little Bar thing is gonna get confusing) to welcome them home, and they sure as hell delivered. Kiwese became the first person to ever stage dive at a Hiperson show – life achievement unlocked.
Chen Sijiang, who’d shaved all her hair off in Shenzhen, completely commanded the stage with guitarists Ji Yinan and Liu Zetong thrashing about in the wings and Tao Ge bopping with conviction on bass. When the band went silent for Sijiang’s monologue and the spotlight lit her shaved head and wide-open eyes, you could hear a pin drop as the entire crowd sat in the palm of her hand. A mighty performance from one of Chengdu’s favourite bands.
2015.08.01 Stolen ‘Loop’ Album Release Show @ U37 w/ Dead J and Noise Temple 秘密行动《循环》专辑首发演出
Chengdu turned out in droves for Stolen’s album release show at an empty warehouse in U37. Perhaps some of us were a little TOO excited – I almost broke my ankle in the mosh pit and had to be carried husband-bride style to a taxi by my flatmate. Nevertheless, an epic show from a band that has become one of the most talked about acts in China this year. That synth-bass break in A Glossy Flirt has become my official pogo beer shower anthem.
Managed to catch Stolen on tour in Guangzhou and Beijing as well, but the energy at this album release home show was unparalleled.
2015.09.18 Shocking Pinks @ School Bar Beijing
Kiwese caught an overnight train from Chengdu to catch Shocking Pinks first show in China at the notorious School Bar in Beijing. The formula of Ash Smith (bass) and Cory Champion (drums) that was concocted last year at Puppies is still solid, as Nick Harte led them through a selection of songs from his previous albums to a responsive and dance-ready crowd. Check out the interview at live performance of ‘Smoke Screen’ in the video below.
2015.09.29 – 2015.10.11 Orchestra of Spheres + Lady Lazer Light China Tour
Dreams do come true! This year Orchestra of Spheres (Xīngjī Yuètuán) came to China, YEAH HARD! In a twist of seriously awesome timing, their hometown partner-in-crime Lady Lazer Light was in Beijing on an art residency and brought her cosmic visions on tour! Crowds in Beijing, Chengdu, Chongqing, Kunming, Dali, Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Wuhan were given their first taste of OOS magic.
In addition to OOS, special side-shows included Cave Circles + Globular Synthesis at Brothers BBQ in Feijiacun, The Niubis in Chongqing and a Cave Circles + Su live techno set at Morning Bar Chengdu.
Big love to Baba Rossa, Mos Ioccos, EtonalE, Woild Boin and Lady Lazer Light putting their faith in Kiwese and being incredibly rad people.
Photo by Will Griffith.
Poster by Hannah Salmon.
Photo by Will Griffith.
Photo from Full Label Guangzhou.
Photo by American Apparel.
2015.12.17 múm @ Little Bar Space Chengdu
A band that uses cello and melodica – I was prepared to hate this. Pronounced miooyyuujm, Icelandic atmospheric-music-to-have-sex-to band múm gave us a spiritual show of delicate vocal harmonies and careful layering of instruments, alongside slow panning lights and dramatic hisses of fog – the singer’s pixie sigh of ‘xie xie‘ the only thing that would break the audience out of their sonic incantations. At times I felt like I was sinking into the ground, no one was moving. My favourite part was when the singer started to theatrically rip her own head off – see video below.
2015.12.18 – 2015.12.19 Ein-atmen @ Chengdu Air Raid Shelter 在成都金里西路放空
And finally, to round off the year, the crew from Atmen and Morning Bar hosted a two-night techno party in an air raid bunker in downtown Chengdu. Music wise – the first night featured Tanzman, Su, Ewan and Haozi and the second night continued with Xiaolong, Xiang and Hiroshi. Visual artists projected their works throughout the shelter all weekend. The air raid shelter is like nothing I’ve seen before – long corridors of old concrete rooms and rusty steel fittings.
With Chengdu undergoing so much construction and change, it was beautiful to be part of something so fresh and innovative in the underground chasms of the city. This is what it is all about – people coming together to build events in new spaces.
Read the Zaomengshe interview with Su and Xiang here.
Want to find out about events before they happen? Many of these events sold pre-sale tickets on Zaomengshe, download the app to keep in the loop! www.zaomengshe.com