Andy Best: September 2012 Archives
Random Rules is a feature at the A.V. Club which you can check out here.
One feature of the blog is to try and cover different stuff. Some of it I really really like and some of it I just recommend - in the context of exploring and understanding the overall scene.
I had my MP3 player out in front of DJ B.O. the other week and it occurred to me to do a random rules for fun. To my surprise, it didn't invite complete ridicule and a promise never to trust my opinion on bands ever again. Ha.
Here are the rules: You set your MP3 player's entire content to shuffle then list off the first few tracks. In the A.V. Club feature they do 10-13 ish and talk about them. I'm just going to do a list for fun. The point is it's RANDOM and you have to stand by it, no track-skipping no matter what - that includes multiple tracks by one band or filler/remixes or whatever.
So, without further ado, let the trust-in-authors-taste destroying begin:
[hits shuffle ... grimaces]
1 "Single Beat" Snapline (Party is Over Pornostar)
2 "Zaoyu" 8eyespy (How Damn Far to Yinma Lane)
3 "Tonight, Tonight" Smashing Pumpkins (Greatest Hits)
4 "Piece of my Heart" Janis Joplin (Greatest Hits)
5 "Broken Face" The Pixies (Wave of Mutilation)
6 "Ultraviolence" New Order (Power, Corruption and ...)
7 "Midnight" Rancid (Let's Go)
8 "Flight of Icarus" Iron Maiden (Piece of Mind)
9 "Your Silent Face" New Order (Power, Corruption and ...)
10 "Swallow Everything" The Mr. T Experience (KZSU Sessions)
11 "Four Women" Top Floor Circus (0093 Revisited)
12 "Smiling" Operation Ivy (Energy)
Well, I have to say, when you're a modern person with a decent MP3 player and at least a couple of thousand songs in there, twelve at random seems brutal. But there you have it. If you have a blog stick yours up.
Shanghainese label and booking agency Zhu Lu He Feng were once a big deal. They hosted Sonnet, a local fan favourite with real appeal and potential, and blazed a trail into the city's university campuses.
Then a bunch of stuff happened last year that saw them lose their flagship venue ShanHai and leading acts Pinkberry and Sonnet. It went a bit quiet after that.
Now though, things are stirring again and the injured player is coming on as a sub.
A glance at the page shows that their previous exploratory deal with French act Nitwits has expanded to them having a 'France office' and it has yielded a number of new acts. Their expanded roster includes new local acts, international bands and now senior bands such as Plastic Chocolate. A look at the recent shows reveals a new university slot and an upcoming gig at ... hmmn, an address in Qingpu Town. It's Zher Bar.
Check out the roster at the Douban page, most Shanghai based readers will probably have come across Yao Yao, Give and Yin before but not Cherry Cherry who will have to put something at their page I suppose.
Full disclosure: I have a personal relationship with a member of this band.
Edit: there was a track naming mix up at the Douban page. The track I quote at the bottom is Last Days, not Under The Black Moon.
Stalin Gardens are a younger band on the scene made of Chinese and French musicians who are dedicated to the no wave style and formed via a mutual love of the group Swans.
After a rocky start trying to settle a full line lineup, they played memorable shows at the Maybe Mars anniversary show and with Mr Ray at Yuyintang for Wooozy. Now they have recorded a debut album at Shanghai's Post Tape with Brad Ferguson producing.
The album is available for listening at their Douban ahead of traditional release. It is called Shanghai Void and is notable to me for reflecting both the China scene influences and life in the city itself, not to mention some excellent turns of phrase and an excellent recording of fan favourite / child cancer epic Osteosarcoma.
"Lights out. The city's mine ... "
Pic: Girls Like Mystery, the hair demonstrates the genre better than any word can.
Shanghai Calling was put together by Mike from Girls Like Mystery on a Friday night at Yuyintang. I'm trying very hard to be plain and formal and leave the in-jokes/stories until the end. This was a great night and Mike in particular deserves credit for it. Line up:
Girls Like Mystery put themselves on first and played a passionate full length set. They play big emotion, big chorus Brit-rock and had a good crowd full of fans. They were really up for it. There was a great atmosphere and for a moment we were in a rock club in London or Manchester. Exhausted band members thanked the organizers and the other bands and the enthusiastic punters and then
we all went home ... the next two hours of the night began. I think I'll start calling this the Shanghai Reverse Line Up (although I'm about three years late).
Next up was the first guest/supporting act Stegosaurus. I missed their recent release show. The band have done an excellent job of capturing their strengths: layered vocals, humour and an ear for genre tropes. They have also made both albums available for free at Bandcamp here. Even better, the step up in quality also translated to an assured and confident live show. This turned out to be the theme of the night, bands giving committed performances that respect the audience.
Candy Shop closed out the night. The local pop-rock group have been around the block on the scene and have a deliberate and polished act. This band give a balanced mix of energetic live music produced by a genuine band and Chinese pop. It allows them to play venues like YYT and also to close out Chinajoy.
And now onto the in-jokes/blather. Rock's very own DJ B.O. was manning the tracks between bands and who should be standing right in front of the table there but DJ Spenny and crew. DJ Spenny is the head DJ and music manager at M1NT Shanghai's premier VIP/rich douche culture venue and the antithesis of rock scene values. Obviously this makes it the target of much ribbing and B.O. had put out a parody pic of Spenny's promo on Facebook. The reason I have to write this is
guilt that Spenny actually was unassuming, enjoyed the show and even made a point of saying hi to B.O. and shaking his hand. Shit. Also, he is tall and gym'd out and could clack our heads together like Moe.
Saying that though, it doesn't excuse the existence of M1NT in today's world and we'll keep pushing for culture that inspires bottom-up and not worship of top-down.
To access the whole series of posts just click on the tag crash at the bottom.
The landscape, inner and outer, is now set and the action, and the threat of action, begins in earnest. Ballard's surreal images and juxtapositions achieve deep resonance here.
Ballard, the character, works at Shepperton Studios where Elizabeth Taylor is filming. He goes on set to find them prepping a car crash scene. There are two cars, the before and after. Taylor is made up in fake injuries. Meanwhile, Seagrave the damaged stunt driver sits a top the before-car in full drag, caked make up and fake breasts. Vaughan flanks him, camera in hand. Ballard tries to protest but is absorbed into the sinister entourage.
Almost as a punishment, Vaughan later drives recklessly around Ballard's wife Catherine on the highway. Ballard had been thinking over his mental image of Catherine, her purity, her impossible cleanliness. He entertains definite notions of post-crash superiority over her. But Vaughan's actions ignite her sexually and reveal to Ballard the impulses that are in all of us.
Continuing on from last post, I find this reading keeps bringing up memories. I'm sure this is a familiar story, although I'll avoid names or details. While I was at university, I casually knew a guy from another year. He was handsome and healthy, strong yet unimposing. He had an assured manner that made him instantly popular. He held the right amount of eye contact, was always friendly and yet none of it was forced or fake. He seemed supremely comfortable in society and an expert, natural player of its rules, as well as having many natural advantages. He exuded control but no one felt controlled. One summer we heard he'd crashed his car.
It had all the features of the serious crash. Friends or relatives had died in the crash. He had an extended stay in hospital. His legs were severely broken and he was on a morphine drip for pain. His spleen had been removed. What I expected when he returned was a kind of nobility in the face of sadness, like a distant stereotyped World War One veteran. But, from my casual point of view, it was quite different. He seemed dangerous, unpredictable and reckless in a way. You couldn't expect a certain reaction at a certain time. But I think, and I've personally seen four of these cases in my life, that he ceased to exist in the conventions of society described before. Not a conscious rejection, the rules and conventions simply didn't exist anymore, they had been dispelled.
To access the whole series of posts just click on the tag crash at the bottom.
I took a break from blogging Crash in order to read Ballard's autobiography, Miracles of Life. It had coincidentally arrived in the post as I finished chapter ten and got to the halfway mark.
In Miracles, he talks about Crash and all the controversy around it and his pre-novel art installation of crashed cars. It was fascinating to me because it made me realise something. My reaction to this book is the opposite. I have spent the whole time nodding gentle approval and recognition internally.
Ballard's world of car fetishization, sex and death, accidents and the advertised glossy lifestyle commercials of near religious fervor is one I am intimately familiar with.
Car adverts are just that, sexual and fetishized. And death and injury are all around. I have been in a crash, and my home area has the A41, a road famous for its roadside wreaths. I can recall many stories of sex in cars, of accidents, of friends on morphine drips with shattered legs, and of sperm on the plastic back seats. All the while, TV, magazines and leadership lead us by the nose into this landscape using unsubtle sexualized symbolism developed through actual psychology research. It is real and uncontroversial to me.
Now Ballard has entered Vaughan's inner circle and gazes at his own photo dossier. There is Seagrave the stunt driver and his wife Vera, Vaughan himself, Gabriel the young social worker crippled by her crash whose leg braces and wasted muscles show new sexual possibilities, there is now Helen ... and Ballard himself. The chapter ends when he stops short after Vaughan mentions Elizabeth Taylor and he realizes the extent of Vaughan's plans and how complicit he will be in the outcome.
Picture: D22 'red wall' shot by Niederhauser
Australian DIY music distro Tenzenmen has long been including China scene bands with full releases in its catalogue. Have a look at their excellent site.
Tenzenmen are about to release Beijing noise-indie group Birdstriking's first full album on the Maybe Mars label.
For those of you who want to get a listen to the album as it was intended, Tenzenmen have made it available for listening on Bandcamp.
I'm a big fan of the band and they were great at Yuyintang last time around. It was a bit disappointing when they slowed their explosive rise in order for frontman He Fan to sub in for Carsick Cars but hopefully this album is a sign that Birdstriking is taking off.
Streets Kill Strange Animals are exactly the kind of band in the China scene I really like. It's hard to get an exact description. Dark-noise-indie / China scene post-punk? PK14 are the obvious front runner. I like 8 Eyespy, Mr Ray, Birdstriking, Streets Kill, Residence A (non-pop half of the set), Carsick Cars, Marrow, Boys Climbing Ropes / Little Punk, Retros ... and there's a lot more. I'm just going off the top of my head. These are the bands that sound 'Chinese' to me ..or at least 'China scene' away from the odd view that bands must include some form of ethnic folk to be 'Chinese.' I guess Oasis aren't really British or Rock - no Celtic folk or morris dancing! Anyway, SKSA feel like an expression of the experience of living in Chinese cities, if that makes sense.
Of course, metal fans don't give a fuck for such non-metal musings.
Not much room for the review now. First thing you notice if you've been away from YYT - oh, it sounds and feels great, in a league of its own in Shanghai. X is Y performed as a two piece. As usual, it was a master class in dynamic control. Good energy tonight. Rainbow Danger Club have been touring the USA and just came back. They added a cellist and played all the hits. Check the Bandcamp for a full album.
Streets Kill Strange Animals were dead on. They showed the full range within that style while always keeping up enough energy to make a good live show. Eleven years in China, along with being really into those bands meant it was heaven for me. That's just me though. Great night at YYT all round.
Pic: top: Streets Kill (the best photo from their own album on their page). Bottom: Friend or Foe
Sorry about the post title, it's a barely logical mash up of things to do with Ice Cube. All last week was a blur of wisdom tooth induced suffering / pills and I'm over it but in hangover mode.
This Friday has a bunch of shows but two that I'm especially interested in. Coincidentally, the people behind them sent me some info too. So:
Friday 14th September 2012
Friend or Foe are back.
433 Dagu Lu, 10pm kick off
Friend or Foe have found a new bass player and are kicking off the next round. You can still hear their full album on Bandcamp here. They will have all kinds of goodies at the show and a remix album is on the way. They play modern punk rock with a great energetic show.
Streets Kill Strange Animals are an excellent Beijing based indie band in the mould of PK14. Listen to the first demo track on their page, linked via their name above, to see what I mean. They are a bit more eccentric than their other China-scene-dark indie-post-punk band contemporaries. Support from X is Y and Rainbow Danger Club.
Both shows will be a good time, choose one and go. Don't be that guy/gal sitting in their hometown the next year telling people you sang bullshit pop hits at KTV and drank at home all your time in Shanghai. Support people who do interesting/personal stuff and take part in sub-culture.
XP is a new venue in Beijing. It is the latest incarnation of the now closed D22 Club. The people behind D22, and label Maybe Mars, are focused on the feeling and community behind their Zoomin Nights at the old club.
Here is a video of Skip Skip Ben Ben playing there. Skip Skip Ben Ben play an interesting mix of dreamy J-pop ideas and a distinctly China-scene sounding dirt-noise-indie. Singer Ben Ben has 'got the rock' too, which anyone who has seen them live can attest too.
To access the whole series of posts just click on the tag crash at the bottom.
This pleasant domestic idyll, with its delightful promiscuities, was brought to an end by the reappearance of Robert Vaughan, nightmare angel of the expressways.Let's recap a bit, because the story is about to plunge back into the spaces of the mind hinted at in chapter one.
James Ballard had his life transformed by a near fatal car crash in which another driver was killed and the man's wife, a doctor named Helen Remington, was injured. The transformation was internal and his perception has been altered. He is now alive to the psychogeographical landscape of motorways, vehicles, concrete and airports - and the inevitable promise of fetishized death they bring.
Ballard and Helen has started an affair, reliving the accident through sexual encounters so powerful that arousal has ceased to function out of this context.
They now attend a stock car rally held by stunt car drivers working on the nearby Elizabeth Taylor movie at Shepperton. Part of the entertainment is a re-creation of a real crash which itself goes wrong creating a crash. The scene director was none other than Vaughan himself and Ballard and Helen help him take the injured driver to the hospital. All the set up, the characters, the ideas and the symbolism, are now coming together and paying off. Ballard sits in the car out front of the hospital and marvels at Vaughan's scarred body and confident manner. The real revelation comes at the close of the chapter, a shocking physical realization of Ballard's dreams and feelings about the crash.
In the lavatory of the casualty department I stood beside Vaughan at the urinal stalls. I looked down at his penis, wondering if this too was scarred. The glans, propped between his index and centre fingers, carried a sharp notch, like a canal for surplus semen or vinal mucus. What part of some crashing car had marked this penis, and in what marriage of his orgasm and a chromium instrument head? The terrifying excitements of this scar filled my mind as I followed Vaughan back to his car through the dispersing hospital visitors.
Picture: The band onstage with fans at Yuyintang earlier this year.
Shanghai metal mainstay Chaos Mind recently released their first full length album called This Is Our Moment.
They call it an EP so a more accurate description may be a nine-track EP. If you go to the band page link above and scroll down the page, you will find the whole thing available for listening. Here is the track listing:
05.This is Our Moment
06.I'm Sorry,You Are Not Mine
07.Fk Me Hard
08.Just Waiting For
09.My First Shanghaihua HC Song【COVER】
Here is a one of a kind video from Shanghai's Top Floor Circus called Shanghai Childhood 上海童年. It features photos from fans uploaded to Douban of their own Shanghai childhood. The song is sung in Shanghainese and features the usual mix of Lu Chen's sly humour and genuine love for the local culture.
To access the whole series of posts just click on the tag crash at the bottom.The inquest for the original accident has now come and gone. Ballard has been cleared of all charges and accidental death has been returned. But the transformation in Ballard's thinking stays. He is now having regular car fetish sex with Helen Remington, who herself is taking a new job in the Road Research Laboratory.
Six hundred yards behind us the traffic waited on the raised deck of the motorway, the afternoon sunlight crossing the windows of the airline buses and cars. My hand moved around the outer curvature of Helen's thighs, feeling the open zip of her dress. As these razor-like links cut my knuckles I felt her teeth across my ear. The sharpness of these pains reminded me of the bite of the windshield glass during my crash.Their encounter in this chapter is detailed, precise and very specific with both of them following a kind of ritual. Many juxtapositions and images flood his mind at the height of his ecstasy.
Finally he notes that over many encounters, the transformation has become complete with both of them now fully associating sexual acts with cars, motorways and the accident. They try to have sex in Helen's house but she is distant and Ballard cannot get an erection. How much farther can this go? We move towards the midway point with the mysterious Vaughan waiting in the wings.
This small space was crowded with angular control surfaces and rounded sections of human bodies interacting in unfamiliar junctions, like the first act of homosexual intercourse inside an Apollo capsule.