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Favourite Releases 2016

The other day, while sunbathing on the lawn of a Melrose flat, my friend and I began thinking about the diminishing human element involved in post-internet music consumption.

When I was at high school, I basically lived at Slow Boat Records and Real Groovy – music havens where I’d browse for hours, listen to CD posts, purchase records, get recommendations from staff, find out about new releases from posters in the window, pick up gig guides and buy tickets to upcoming shows.

I remember getting up at dawn to bus into town and be amongst the first to hear Stadium Arcadium the day it was released in New Zealand. I remember staying overnight outside the ticket booth, flanked by fans draped in sleeping bags, eagerly waiting for sales to open for their first Auckland show. This was about ten years ago now.

Nowadays, you can be a fan without ever leaving your front door. With the exception of buying The All Seeing Hand’s Sand to Glass on vinyl at the door of their album release show, I bought all this year’s featured albums online, without even talking to a single person.

The internet means accessibility has grown but human contact has reduced. But the creation, sharing and consumption of music is still an immensely personal thing. These albums create the soundtrack to so many aspects of our lives, they speak to our own experiences or the experiences of others and make us feel things more deeply. Let’s continue to feel, express ourselves and connect with others.

I’m so thankful to all these artists for producing these works and sharing them into the world, where they can be shared and distributed in an instant across the globe.

In no particular order, here are Kiwese’s favourite releases from New Zealand and China in the Year of the Monkey 2016.

Header Illustration: Ali Pang


The All Seeing Hand // Sand to Glass

(MUZAI)
Wellington, NZ

The All Seeing Hand finally gave birth to Sand to Glass in December and oh yesyesyes, it has been worth the wait.

In their first album to feature predominantly English lyrics, Sand to Glass showcases Marks’ politically pertinent wordsmithing, encased in industrial metal clanking by drummer Ben Knight (Rogernomix, Unsanitary Napkin) and those trademark, turbo charged electronic power ups from scratch master Alphabethead.

It is perhaps their most ‘pop’ record to date, if The All Seeing Hand could ever be considered so, with tracks like Lizard Brain and Swarm standing out as previously released singles and indicating a shift away from the more abstract compositions of Mechatronics (2013) and Fog and Debris (2014) and towards a tighter sense of songwriting.

Listened to this on repeat while biking through the smog of Chengdu, the soundtrack to this environmental apocalypse.

Favourite track: Dog Eat Dog


Hu Yang //  Xu Huai Ruo Gu

(Be Sure)
Beijing, CN

My friend Liu Xing introduced me to Xu Huai Ruo Gu earlier this year and I was immediately hooked. Released digitally on the Berlin/Shanghai techno label Be Sure, which is home to brilliant offerings of mixtapes from artists such as Art’s Difficult (ELVIS.T) and Shanghai techno queen MIIIA.

Formerly known as NiChiFanLeMei, this Mt. Emei born Beijing-based producer creates a kind of brutalist, no nonsense techno – all muscle, no fat.

Possibly my most listened album of the year, suitable for furiously bike riding to a destination or scrubbing the kitchen and getting that shit clean as hell.

Favourite track: Restricted


Orchestra of Spheres // Brothers and Sisters of the Black Lagoon

(Fire Records)
Wellington, NZ

FIRELP430 Death And Vanilla - EP LP SLEEVE

Brothers and Sisters of the Black Lagoon is a psychedelic serving of tunes, many which have been part of the Spheres mind-melting live set for the past few years.

Their knack for combining the everyday with the otherworldly is evident throughout the album: Let Us Not Forget, an eerie prayer of reminders before leaving the house, the intensely danceable South East Asian inspired jam Anklung Song and their fast-paced Zombie Zombie cover Rocket #9.

Bubbling with sounds both organic and electronic, voices both chanted and spoken, influences both local and extraterrestrial, Brothers and Sisters of the Black Lagoon is a tasty, special brew from my favourite band of Wellington weirdos.

Favourite track: Anklung Song


Duck Fight Goose // CLVB ZVKVNFT
押打饿《未来俱乐部》

(D-Force Records 大福唱)
Shanghai, CN

Duck Fight Goose have teamed up with producer Lv for this smashing record on D-Force, their first release in four years, the soundtrack to interplanetary cyborg dancefloors.

CLVB ZVKVNFT is bursting with imagination and inspiration, combining elements of breakbeat, acid house, synth pop and techno into a cohesive string of 12-tracks. Busy yet uncluttered, frantic yet disciplined. A triumph.

Favourite track: 《马》


Unsanitary Napkin // Patriotic Grooves

(Zero Style, Always Never Fun, Limbless Records)
Wellington, NZ

FASCIST VOLCANO
SPEWING
MOLTEN SHIT

Patriotic Grooves is a fast and furious fuck you from Wellington punk trio Unsanitary Napkin, formed in 2015 and fronted by guitarist/vocalist Hannah Salmon a.k.a. artist Daily Secretion, who is well known for her zines, gig posters and album art in collaboration with other Wellington-based bands.

The 12-tracks of the album are punctuated with broadcast radio beeps and sound grabs from white, male New Zealand politicians and media identities. Incredible, machine-gun-like drumming from Ben, who forms a blistering rhythm section with Rupert on bass.

As the album’s defining image of Donald Trump being annihilated by a rainbow beam from a winged vagina (the sticker version shaped like a sanitary pad) would suggest, Patriotic Grooves is comprised of vaginal blasts of anarcho feminist anger directed towards the chauvinistic and conservative peaks of society.

Brief and intense.

Favourite track: Feminine Odour


iimmune // Abnormal

(D-Force Records 大福唱片)
Beijing, CN

Melodic, dramatic and emotional. Thoughtful compositions reminiscent of Four Tet and Aphex Twin, Abnormal is the beginning of Bobo’s metamorphosis from film scores to dancefloor ready techno.

Keep an eye on his electronic label Prajnasonic and stay tuned for next year, when the bass will drop.

Favourite track: 鲸鱼-


So Laid Back Country China // Sin Cristales

(Self-released)
Wellington, NZ

“I’m too busy drinking / all of the time”

In September, I found myself sitting in the bath tub of a five star hotel in Auckland, up to my tits in hot water and drowning in anxiety. Like my mind was smashing itself into the ground, stuck in a violent wash cycle of negativity, trapped underwater in a swimming pool covered by an immovable tarpaulin. I felt like I was going to rip my own face off.

Sin Cristales brought me back to earth, having articulated such emotions to great effect. Grateful. xx

Favourite Track: Ballad of Calm Arms


Yue Xuan // Entrance & Exports
岳璇《Entrance & Exports》

(Mo Records)
Beijing, CN

Entrance & Exports is a remix of Yue Xuan’s beautiful piano album In & Out from 2015. Bringing together producers from around China such as MHP, Broken Thoughts, Hong Qile, iimmune and Cvalda onto one impeccably well-crafted compilation (which was initially available as a free download on Douban), the remixes span Minimalist, Post-Rock, Drum & Bass, Techno, Glitch, Drone, Hiphop, Experimental, Ambient and IDM, bringing a whole new electronic take on the original.

Entrance & Exports and accompanying national Remix Tour is a fine example of how this young composer is utilising the resources and connections around her to produce something new and exciting.

Favourite Track: Nine of Swords (Cvalda Remix)


Mermaidens // Undergrowth

(Flying Out)
Wellington, NZ

Mermaidens have come a long way since those first acoustic demos four or five years ago, with Undergrowth released in March establishing them as a staple of the Wellington indie scene.

Enchanting mermaids conjuring “dark witch rock” from the dense scrubland is as psychedelic as it sounds – lurking with hidden dangers, the title-track Undergrowth gradually flows from a slow and dreamy creek into a thrashing, rocky river, a structure many of the songs take on the album. There’s certainly something of the occult about these mermaids, whose reverb drenched vocals often take form in first or second person: “I’m a corpse on the beach / I’m a thing / send me out to sea,” pulling the listener deeper into their imagined natural world.

The undergrowth is a mysterious place barbed with the grit and sharpness of gorse, as well as the strength and unruliness of deep roots. Look forward to new material in 2017.

Favourite track: Under the Mountain II


DOC (Dalian Obscure Club) // Northern Electric Shadow
DOC 《北方电影》

(D-Force Records 大福唱片)
Dalian, CN

There’s something in the water up in Dalian…

I hadn’t even heard of the Dalian Obscure Club until copies of Northern Electric Shadow turned up on CD and vinyl at NU SPACE.

The power of crashing waves, the fluidity of rising tides, the delicacy of swirling rockpools – this is understated, beautiful ocean-inspired math-rock. A fresh breeze of sea air!

Favourite track: 加百利布吉 Gabey’s Boogie


Males // None the Wiser

(Fishrider Records)
Dunedin, NZ

A burst of sunny South Island power-pop. The long-anticipated follow up to their debut MalesMalesMales in 2012, None the Wiser is full of so many bright, catchy riffs and uplifting falsetto parts that wearing sunglasses should be listed as a prerequisite for listening. A set of wonderfully crafted guitar songs.

Favourite track: Chartreuse


The Fuzz // The Root of Innocence
法兹乐队《童心之源》

(Maybe Mars 兵马司)
Xi’an, CN

This upbeat, chorus-soaked indie rock record is possibly the most Maybe Mars-y Maybe Mars release to date – you just know Yang Haisong has been here.

The audience were quietly bopping along when The Fuzz came to Chengdu on their enormous album release tour in early 2016. Then when Sijiang from Hiperson came out to help them sing《控制》, the crowd exploded with cheers and turned into a sea of moshing bodies, it was beautiful.

Favourite Track: 《控制》


Peach Milk // Finally EP

(Self-released)
Auckland, NZ

Peaches and cream are my favourite kind of lollies. So perhaps it is inevitable that I would be into this new young Auckland producer, who dropped her first EP earlier this year. Peach Milk’s music sounds like her name would suggest – sweet and smooth.

Look forward to her sound evolving in the new year.

Favourite track: Heretic


yourboyfriendsucks! // Episode 1
yourboyfriendsucks!《第一季》

(QiiiSnacks Records)
Guangzhou, CN

Six-tracks of candy-coated indie-pop from our Cantonese speaking friends yourboyfriendsucks! Opening with a tribute to Just Like Honey by the Jesus and Mary Chain, how can I not love this? Surprisingly clean production for QiiiSnacks Records (formerly Full Label), known for their DIY lo-fi recordings.

Perhaps the biggest travesty of 2016 is the dissolution of ybfs!, as the lead singer Zoey has moved to Europe to study. Episode 1 is in fact the final episode. Boo!

Favourite track: Stay or Stay Away


Higher Brothers // Higher Brothers Mixtape
海尔兄弟 // 《海尔兄弟》

(Self-released)
Chengdu, CN

higher-brothers-mixtape-cover-art

“来嘛来嘛来嘛差一位 ~ ”

Perhaps I’ve included Higher Brothers Mixtape here more for their impact rather than my own personal taste, but their skyrocket to fame and influence on the local scene this year is certainly noteworthy. If Fat Shady put Chengdu hip-hop on the map, Higher Brothers CDC rappers Masiwei (马思唯), Dz, Psy.P and Melo, have dabbed themselves to the top and become one of Chengdu’s, if not China’s most iconic hip-hop acts.

This 19-track offering is a searing blast of arrogance and attitude delivered in a mix of lightening fast Chengduhua and American slang. Whether or not elongated trap beats are your thing, or that each track repeats the chorus about five times, tracks like 《野猪儿》 and 《尴尬》 have attained anthem-like status and established hip-hop as the biggest sound in Chengdu.

Now managed by Asian hip-hop agency 88 Rising, Higher Brothers have taken Chengdu hip-hop to an international level of “worldwide shit.” As collaborations with international artists such as Harikiri, Charlie Heat, Bohan Phoenix and J.Mag roll in, I look forward to their sound maturing more in future.

HIGHER.

Listen on Xiami.

Favourite track: 《尴尬》


Commended:


Singles:

  • CA1XR //  爱在一方(Future Disco V.I.P)
    Chengdu, CN

  • Cut Off Your Hands // Hate Somebody
    Auckland, NZ

  • Womb // Feeling Like Helium (demo)
    Wellington, NZ

  • Hiperson // 追和等
    Chengdu, CN


Next year we can look forward to…

Debut record from Chengdu indie babes The Hormones, the sophomore album from South Island songstress Nadia Reid, something trippy from Beijing no-wave masters Chui Wan, minimal techno stylings from atmen, the debut record from Kunming electro-punk wastrels South Acid MiMi Dance Team, potentially music from new Maybe Mars signees Lonely Leary and Dream Can  perhaps even something from those mysterious Dunedin-based creatures Elan Vital and Kolya

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Favourite Gigs 2016

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.

minzhu-lu-ring-road-demolition
The fall of Minzhu Lu. Video: Unknown WeChat source.

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.”

– Brian Chippendale for The Creative Independent

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.

Chinese Football

Little Bar, Chengdu

8 January 2016

gigs_chinese-football-pedals

“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).

Check out their album on Bandcamp.

Mike Shannon

.TAG, Chengdu

19 March 2016

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!

Chunyou 春游

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?!
gogo-kr-chunyou-2016
atmen live. Image: 仙人张
Aus-atmen Festival

Dongli Juyuan, 三圣乡, Chengdu

21-22 May 2016

aus-atmen-MAT

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.

IMG_3885

16:30 – 18:00   Hao (Chengdu, CN)
18:00 – 19:30   May (Chengdu, CN)
19:30 – 21:00   Bchir (Rabat, MA)
21:00 – 22:30   Ewan (Chengdu, CN)
22:30 – 00:00   Xiaolong (Chengdu, CN)
00:00 – 02:00   Mike Ravelli (Amsterdam, NL)
02:00 – 04:00   Su (Chengdu, CN)
04:00 – 06:00   Xiang (Chengdu, CN)
06:00 – 07:30   Chamberlain (Beijing, CN)
07:30 – 09:00    Hiroshi (Hiroshima, JP)
09:00 – ??????    CA1XR (Chengdu, CN)
??????  – ??????    Su

Hiperson + Lonely Leary

NU SPACE, Chengdu

10 June 2016
chen-sijiang-3mb
Chen Sijiang of Hiperson. Video: LittleNew

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.

Hiperson Lonely Leary poster

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

screen-shot-2016-12-29-at-8-48-58-pm

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.

Neverland

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.

gigs_-neverland-poster

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
punk-fest
One of the many stage dives at Punk Fest. Image: YRL

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

Galatos, Auckland

2 September 2016
cut-off-your-hands
Nick Johnson from Cut Off Your Hands. GIF: Kiwese

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.

gigs_others-way-timetable

JC Satàn

NU SPACE, Chengdu

17 September 2016
gigs_jc-1
Image: Kiwese

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.

NUART Festival

Kuixinglou Jie, Chengdu

1-3 October 2016
nuspace6
Image: John Yingling

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.

nuposter-02

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.

mr sterile Assembly

Support: Die! Chiwawa!Die!

Loft345, Guangzhou

15 October 2016

mr-sterile_guangzhou

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

screen-shot-2016-12-29-at-6-06-58-pm

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 Rother

Support: Chui Wan

Little Bar Space, Chengdu

31 October 2016

michael-rother

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…

Eagulls

Support: Sinkers

NU SPACE, Chengdu

18 November 2016

eagulls3

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?

Sisu (Acoustic)

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

gigs_trump

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

Meow, Wellington

23 December 2016

gigs_ash

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.


Commended:

  • 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

Favourite Releases 2015

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 by So Laid Back Country China

(Wellington, NZ)

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.

Favourite track: Open Eyed
https://solaidbackcountrychina.bandcamp.com


No Need For Another History by Hiperson
《我不要别的历史》 海朋森

(Chengdu, CN)

Rejoice!! Our long diet of Hiperson demos streamed off Youku was finally supplemented this year, with No Need For Another History released 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, alongside new 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.

Favourite track: 《幕布》The Curtain https://hiperson.bandcamp.com


TANGO by She’s So Rad

(Auckland, NZ)

THIS ALBUM IS JUST SO GREAT!!!

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).

Favourite track: Better Off On Your Own https://shessorad.bandcamp.com/album/tango


Chinese Football by Chinese Football

(Wuhan, CN)

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!

Favourite track: 400米

https://chinesefootball.bandcamp.com/album/chinese-football


Carb on Carb by Carb on Carb

(Auckland, NZ)

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.

If you are in the market for odes to beloved pets, sweet riffs and breakneck drum rolls, this is where it’s at. Added 2015 bonus, James released the God Bows to Math + Carb on Carb China Tour Documentary in September, which premiered on Kiwese! Good times!

Favourite track: Phenomenal Ladies https://carboncarb.bandcamp.com/album/carb-on-carb


Mù Chè Shān Chū by Howie Lee
《木屮山出》

(Beijing, CN)

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.

Space Epic by Terror of the Deep

(Wellington, NZ)

‘Cos it makes me feel – – – ~ – – –

– – – ~ – – – so unreal!!’

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… 

Favourite track: Saturn

https://terrorofthedeepnz.bandcamp.com/album/space-epic


Demos on Douban by South Acid MiMi Dance Team
南方酸咪咪领舞队的小样寄在豆瓣上

(Kunming, CN)

Image from South Acid MiMi's Douban.
Image from South Acid MiMi’s Douban.

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!!

Favourite tracks: NUNUDUGU, Lucy in the Sky With Dolphin, Love is Pain, Disco 女孩, The End, so many!!
http://site.douban.com/southacidmimi/


Seed (single) by Mermaidens

(Wellington, NZ)

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.

https://mermaidens.bandcamp.com/track/seed-single


Loop by Stolen《循环》 秘密行动

(Chengdu, CN)

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!

Favourite track: A Glossy Flirt
https://mimixingdong.bandcamp.com/album/loop


Womb by Womb

(Wellington, NZ)

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.

Favourite track: Cosmic Dreaming
https://w–o–m–b.bandcamp.com/


People, Society, Money by Fatshady
《人.社会.钱》谢蒂

(Chengdu, CN)

fatshady
Image from Douban.

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.

Favourite track: 坝坝球
https://site.douban.com/fatshady


 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.

Favourite track: Cushion Plant, Ponderosa
https://teamcatfood.bandcamp.com/


A Million Farewells by Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes

(Shanghai, CN)

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.

Favourite track: New Day
https://genjingrecords.bandcamp.com/album/a-million-farewells


Elixir by Totems
(Auckland, NZ)

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!

Favourite track: Echolocate
https://cosmic-compositions.bandcamp.com/album/elixir


And one more…

Multi-Love by Unknown Mortal Orchestra

(Portland, OR via Auckland)

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!