Best 2011 Chinese Underground Music

By , 2012年 1月 3日

You might have already seen this if you subscribe to the pangbianr email newsletter (if not, sign up here). Anyway, I’m not big on year-end wrap-ups, mostly because my sense of time is distorted and my memory works more tangentially than linearly. In fact, the “year-end” phenomenon always weirds me out. It just feels so arbitrary (since I live in China I have to do it twice), and I inevitably spend the first few days of the “new” year in an atemporal haze. Which is why this post is coming on January 3, 2012. Anyway, in no particular order, here is my list of 2011’s most interesting music releases from the Chinese underground:

Luxinpei – 三幕话剧配乐 (OST for 3 Pieces of Drama) CS (Rose Mansion Analog)

This dropped in January and held up as one of the best products of Beijing’s Zoomin’ Night scene from 2011. Lo-fi no wave arrangements for guitar and bass, plus a slew of digital effects pedals of course. stream a song here

小红与小小红 – 黑样 (Black Sheep) CDR (G.B.J.D. Records)

Minimalist Kraut-pop, ambient and dreamy contact-mic vocals. This self-released CDR is an important benchmark for an emergent DIY culture in Beijing. It also turns out to be a snapshot memorializing XHYXXH‘s old sound, since they’ve now switched up their instrumentation and vibe entirely. download one song here and stream/buy here

Dear Eloise – Castle & Song for Her 7″s (Genjing Records/Share in Obstacles)

Beijing’s answer to surf pop… hazy bedroom shoegaze made with no audience in mind, as the band never plays live. download a song here & stream/buy here and here

On that note, 2011 saw two great new vinyl labels spring up in Beijing: Genjing Records, run by Nevin Domer of Maybe Mars/D-22/Fanzui Xiangfa, and Share In Obstacles, run by P.K.14 frontman Yang Haisong (also of Dear Eloise) and Paris-based musician Zaza Zhang. So buy a record player and catch up with the rest of the world’s anachronistic hipster zeitgeist!

Demerit – split 10″ with SS20 (Genjing Records)

Beijing’s best hardcore band had a big year, taking part in the Vans Warped Tour then playing more legit West coast shows with old punk legends like Fear, Poison Idea, Reagan Youth, and the Casualties. This was their only musical output for the year – 3 songs on a split 10″ record with German thrash band SS20. stream/buy here

Duck Fight Goose – Sports CD (Maybe Mars)

Sports, DFG’s first official album, was released in December and it is a fairly epic assortment of high-concept digital post-rock (the band has a sound engineer as an unofficial fifth member who makes pedals and amps with the band’s compositions in mind). It’s a record that bears repeated listens as the brain can’t quite wrap around it in a single take. stream a song here

Soviet Pop – 蜘蛛洞历险记 (Record of Adventures in the Spider Hole) CS (Goaty Tapes)

I actually can’t find any evidence that this has officially been released, but I have a copy of it so I’ll lump it in with 2011 releases. California-based cassette label Goaty Tapes has picked up on the wavelengths coming out of China’s underground and released a solid document of Soviet Pop’s thoroughly disaffected urban malaise synth music. Very Kosmische with something that is specifically Beijing in its affectation… stream/download here

Li Jianhong – Here Is It / Empty Mountain / Twelve Moods CDs (CFI)

Another big milestone for 2011 was the move of Li Jianhong and Vavabond to Beijing from Hangzhou and the establishment of their label/platform China Free Improvisation. The couple’s new project Mind Fiber recently made gallery rounds down south, but earlier in 2011 they released three environmental improv pieces by Jianhong: reflective, heady guitar+natural ambience meditations that can help dispel the bleak urban fog in your mind, especially if you’ve been listening to too much Soviet Pop. stream/buy here

Torturing Nurse, Orgasm Denial, MeiZhiYong, Li Jianhong – 4 Way Split CS (Fuzz Tape)

And to end things on a happy note, here is the opening gambit of another 2011 newcomer: FUZZ TAPE is a new all-cassette label dedicated to “pure noise, harsh noise, power electronics, extreme noise” from China and beyond. It’s run by Dongbei’s MeiZhiYong, a NOJIJI affiliate. This 4 Way Split is a strong first release, clocking ~15 minutes apiece of tortured guitar, electronics, tape machines, and inputs unknown from harsh noise lieutenants posted in Changchun, Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. buy here

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