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.
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.”
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.
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.
A year has gone by so fast, the October National Holiday break is soon upon us and NUART Festival has rolled round again! Good times – here’s the run down…
Chengdu’s free arts and music street festival on Kuixinglou Street is into it’s third year now, with no signs of slowing down. As in previous years, the multi-genre Main Stage will keep things pumping from afternoon till night outside Mintown, featuring some of Chengdu’s favourite acts Wednesday’s Trip, Zhang Xiaobing,Jahwahzoo and CDC, as well as imports from around the country including ChaCha (Shanghai), Chinese Football (Wuhan), WHAI (Beijing) and South Acid MiMi (Kunming).
One of this year’s most exciting addition is NU SPACE, our new venue that has opened out the back of Mintown which will be housing live sets from some of China’s most exciting producers iimmune, Hu Yang and Sulumi and the debut of the audiovisual collaboration 3000.
Kiwese is pleased to announce UMU and Microsoft Voices from Wellington will be performing with prepared turntables and projectors on Day 1, following last year’s Orchestra of Spheres debut on the Main Stage! Yeah!
Day 1 on the Main Stage sees things kick off with indie-pop songsters Wanmei Daoli, Chengdu shoegaze trio Sound and Fury and the good vibes of Tuvan folk tunes of Taiga from Xinjiang. My personal favourites, electro punk witches South Acid MiMi are coming up from Kunming to play Chengdu for the first time! Local hip hop stars CDC will bring all the 迷妹 out to close the night with their trap flavoured, acid tongued Sichuanhua rap.
Main Stage visuals will be run by Morning 早上好 resident Cha Fei 叉飞, so expect some trippy shit.
“We are Micro Soft Voices. We are Kathy, Vicky, Alex and Bruce. We are Apple Core. We are hash busting keyboard fanatics. We are laptop punk.” You do not wanna miss this set, the side project of Baba Rossa and Mos Iocos from Orchestra of Spheres!
Shanshui Records laoban Sulumi returns to Chengdu to perform a live set of his inimitable techno/glitch/8-bit production.
Shake off that hangover and get down for Day 2! Fake Swing (former and current members of The Hormones) will charm the street with their acoustic indie pop in the afternoon, before Biggaton and Blood Dunza “run it!” and get things skankin’ with Jamaican reggaeton MC magic. Charlie Tango from France are sure to please with their uptempo indie rock stylings, while Wuhan’s math rock darlings Chinese Football are one’s to look forward to, returning to Chengdu for the first time since their album release tour. Last but certainly not least, the Queen of underground Shanghai hip-hop ChaCha will get her groove on with DJ Aivilox from the Shelter on the decks! Parrrrrtay!
Day 2 in NU SPACE sees live techno from Beijing-based iimmune (Prajnasonic) and Hu Yang (Be Sure) with visuals by VJ Mian. YESYESYESOHYES.
Reggae big band Jahwahzoo b2b Zhang Xiaobing and Friends will no doubt see Day 3 off to a very green beginning. Chengdu’s legendary Wednesday’s Trip 星期三旅行 bring out the bass with their synth-saturated trip-hop, fronted by vocalist Wu Zhuoling. Starcardigan from Vladivostok return to NU for a follow up to their last show at NU SPACE, bringing their energetic electro-pop to the street!
Closing the Main Stage for 2016 is Beijing experimental rock band WHAI. I saw them play a couple of years ago at Yugong Yishan in Beijing, donning dark sunglasses, they were concealed by a thin transparent sheet while shouting “FUCK” repeatedly over droning guitar noise. Intrigued to see how this will go down on the street.
Faded Ghost a.k.a. ChaCha will spin a back to back vinyl set with Shanghai sister Aivilox in the afternoon.
To close the festival, NU SPACE will transform for the debut of 3000, a collaboration between bass music producers Cvalda and Jason Hou and lighting designers Li Kun and Miao Jing based on the concepts of space, sound and light. “要你命3000”。Not to be missed.
This year, the Street Party has been extended to two zones, one featuring local labels atmen and Disco Death with custom lighting installation by PLGRM, the other a vinyl stage run by Chengdu’s resident street DJ Marco Duits. Perhaps the only time of year the Qingyang District ayis forgo their own 8pm dancing session to get down with the ravers!
So what are you doing this National Holiday?
NUART FESTIVAL 2016
1 - 3 October
3pm - 10:30pm
NU Crossover Art
NU Street Party
NU Market Stalls
地址：成都市青羊区奎星楼街55号 ADD: Kuixinglou Street, Qingyang, Chengdu, Sichuan, China
Aus-atmen has wrapped for 2016. Last month we descended upon a grassy field in Flower Town with two soundsystems, several dozen tents, 200 lollipops and dreams of techno in the moonlight…However, Mother Nature is a wild woman who loves to party and she brought her rain to the dancefloor all night long! Despite it all, we felt the love!
(photos by 叉飞，Xiang and Kiwese)Formed on the basis of community collaboration, Aus-atmen would not have been possible without all of our partners, supporters, volunteers and friends.Huge thanks to Spectrum Maker for designing the poster and trailer with us, momo and the BIGGER CHA girls for constructing the Aus-stage installation, Steam Hostel for setting up their tent village, farinablu for her amazing prints and designs, Baicai and Jiewa for building the teepee that saved us from the rain, Zaomengshe and Danche Yule for ticketing, Yue Chen for the wristband design, Natalie at VICE Thump Berlin for coming out to find us, all the DJs who signed up to play Open Shua, the bar and food team for holding it down and all our friends who put their love, time and energy into this festival.From the sleepless nights of preparation right through to the pack down, Aus-atmen would not have been possible without you.Big love to all of you who came out – everyone who partied in the rain, fed the fires, danced in the mud, got freaky, drank tea, made coffee, wiped rain off the mixer, pushed water off the stage, kept in high spirits, took care of each other and brought laughter and joy to our wet and muddy little festival.We love you all!See you at Ein-atmen later this year….从前期筹备到音乐节结束，atmen得到了多方的支持：谢谢峰哥提供场地及各项帮助，谢谢谱造司给予前期海报及预告片支持，谢谢悦晨同学的手环设计，谢谢BGC一群可爱又生命力顽强的宝宝们，谢谢momo桑从头到尾的倾力支持，谢谢白菜和杰娃及朋友们手工搭建的teepee帐篷，谢谢瑞升设计的天使们，谢谢造梦社、单车娱乐、旁边儿、来电、kiwese的宣传，谢谢柏林Vice thump的Natalie对ausatmen活动的采访报道，谢谢蒸汽旅舍、farinablu和野手工作室的小伙伴们，谢谢无数可人儿们给予的无限爱的支持和鼓舞，辛苦大家了！感谢所有喜欢atmen的人，atmen会继续聚集能量，茁壮成长，迎接未知。今年Ein-atmen见！atmenxo
“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!
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