thruoutin

thruoutin: American-born, Chinese-based electronic producer and multi-instrumentalist

thruoutin

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I’m all for the somber glitches and steady beats of thruoutin, an electronic musician with an eclectic discography all worth checking out. My personal favorite is his most recent release, April’s Contingent of Outlying Territory, followed by 2015’s Service.

From Bandcamp:

“This release is about the exploration to new places, whether physical or within our minds. The tracks were written between January to October, 2016. At this time I was finding new ways to approach writing songs; from a technical aspect I was limiting myself to a single sound source for the material. After an idea had been established I would expand upon it with another sound source to build on the original foundation. In this same period, on a physical level, I had moved house twice as well as traveled to new cities in between. With each movement I felt better about my surroundings and more comfortable with these journeys to new places. The album’s sounds narrate an expedition into uncharted territory. Each song is a chapter that takes the listener along on this mission.”

thruoutin: Website Facebook SoundCloud Twitter

Nasty Wizard Recordings

Nasty Wizard Recordings: the diverse sounds of modern pan-Asian shoegaze, all in one compilation

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I think I found a new favorite label – Nasty Wizard Recordings is a Beijing-based label that specializes in a range of noisy and out-there underground music (self-described by the label as “mostly evil music”). Last year they put out a release featuring HN favorites Chinese Football, so you know they’ve got great taste.

The label’s latest release is a collection of songs from some of pan-Asia’s most beloved modern shoegaze bands.

From Bandcamp:

“This May the gnarliest tape label in China, Nasty Wizard Recordings, is back with their first epic release of the year, a pan-Asian compilation of Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Japan’s shoegaze scenes. We’re talking ground zero for the blistering, reverb-drenched genre that has taken the continent by storm over the past few years! Featuring tracks from Hangzhou, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Xi’an the Asia Shoegaze Compilation Vol. 1 is a must have for anyone looking to get their head lost in the clouds.

With a love for making destructive noises with their guitars and array of electronic effects, Tokyo’s Oeil has been a constant presence in the Japanese shoegaze scene for over a decade, and while the band has been relatively quiet since their widely popular 2014 EP ‘Myrtle’ we were fortunate enough to have them share two of their latest tracks.

Next up it wouldn’t be a shoegaze comp without a bittersweet farewell. The Pillow Man, a trio out of Hangzhou, otherwise loftily known as ‘Paradise on Earth’ didn’t even make it to two years as a band. However that fleeting, affecting touch is captured brilliantly in the band’s few surviving tunes.

We then head down to the Pearl of the Orient aka. Hong Kong where Sea of Tranquility has been creating dreamy shoegaze pop since 2014. The five-piece, with an abundance of piercing guitar noise and pulsating reverb, continues to convey the starry romance of the genre to ravenous listeners.

Finally, we head to the old Qing Dynasty capital of China where Xi’an’s Endless White resides. The young quartet, fresh off their debut EP, relishes in jangly guitar work, wispy vocals, and sublime walls of sound that engulf the band and enrapture your ears — the perfect closer.

Links below to Hangzhou’s The Pillow Man, Tokyo’s Oeil, Hong Kong’s The Sea of Tranquility, and Xi’an’s Endless White”

Nasty Wizard Recordings: Facebook SoundCloud

The White Tulips

The White Tulips: Chinese noise-pop band’s self-released debut gets a reissue via Qiii Snacks

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Qiii Snacks, one of my favorite labels, is reissuing the White Tulips’ 2015 self-released debut ‘Fondle’, which you can now stream. The White Tulips are from Amoy (also known as Xiamen) and sound like your favorite indie noise-pop band.

The White Tulips/Qiii Snacks: Website Facebook Twitter

Babel Records

Babel Records: because moody Valentine’s Day songs still sound good in March

babel records

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Babel Records is a new Beijing label I’ve begun to keep my eye on, and so far I’ve really liked what I’ve heard. The label’s latest release is a four-track Valentine’s Day compilation that still holds up even though it’s March. My personal favorite is opening track “sweet,sweet tone” by sususu;Cattzim.

From SoundCloud:

“Whether you are lonely, missing, unrequited love or despair
It doesn’t matter, because we’re still before midnight
All beautiful things will take place in this quiet night”

Babel Records: SoundCloud Bandcamp Instagram

Pairs

pairs

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Pairs was a Shanghai noise-rock duo made up of drummer Xiao Zhong and guitarist F. They broke up two years ago, but, as Unite Asia points out, the duo will re-release its last album, ‘Maleika On Casley,’ on cassette via Indonesia’s Gerpfast Kolektif DIY label August 8th. One of the songs on the album is called “Smashing Pumpkins,” so you know it’s good. I just listened to the album again on Bandcamp and yes, it’s very good.

At first, “Blue Dress” might not seem like much – a muddled guitar attacks two power chords as the drummer pounds away and drowns out the vocals, which are always on the edge of audible. But then the chorus kicks in and it’s wonderful – all of a sudden I feel empowered with a sing-a-long chorus that belongs in a mosh pit. It’s one “whoa-whoa-whoa” away from being a great Japandroids song, and the world needs more songs like that.

Pairs: Bandcamp Facebook

yourboyfriendsucks!

yourboyfriendsucks!

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Guangzhou’s yourboyfriendsucks! is a necessary reminder that China is full of dynamic indie music. The Southern China group’s latest release, Episode 1 EP (Qiii Snacks Records), gives off strong Sleater-Kinney vibes, from the bittersweet trilingual vocals (Chinese, German, and English) to the spare guitars that are mostly reverb-hazy but also can be urgent and in-your-face when they need to be.

The highlight for me is the spacey cover of The Jesus & Mary Chain’s “Just Like Honey,” which would be a perfect addition to the Lost In Translation soundtrack.

From the group’s Bandcamp bio: “The music they made are some retarded pop songs added too much reverb, along with silly lyrics in Chinese / English / German and don’t-know-what-to-play-here-so-I-played-some guitar noise…Let’s get old, together.”

yourboyfriendsucks!: Bandcamp SoundCloud Facebook

John Adams – ‘Nixon In China’

Year: 1987

In 1972, President Richard Nixon traveled to China to meet with Mao Zedong in an effort to strengthen relations between the two countries in the later years of the Vietnam War. It was one of the most important diplomatic moments of the 20th century, and it’s the visit that would have defined Nixon if Watergate never happened. It’s the kind of real life epic that could only be captured in an opera.

At least that’s what John Adams thought in 1983 when he began writing the score to his first opera to Alice Goodman’s libretto and Mark Morris’ choreography. Adams wrote the opera by the encouragement of stage director Peter Sellars, who saw the complexities of Nixon’s visit; it could have been an election ploy, a genuine diplomatic mission, or both. However, Adams and Sellars did not want to create another bland satire poking at the easy target of Nixon, an awkward power-hungry stiff who is perhaps the easiest American President to make fun of. The goal of the opera was to explore the humans on both sides of the meeting and to capture the historical moment from those who were actually there. Even the title Nixon in China invokes some involuntary humor – can you imagine Richard Nixon walking around in China? Adams understands what he’s going up against in his attempt to humanize Nixon, and the play’s success is how he often gets close to his goal.

The main characters are Nixon and his wife Pat, Mao Zedong and his wife Jiang Qing (Madame Mao), and the two advisors of each leader, Henry Kissinger and Zhou Enlai. The opera is divided into three acts: Act One details the first night of the visit and the initial meetings between Nixon and Mao, Act Two follows Pat around rural China and exploring everyday Chinese life, and Act Three describes Nixon’s last night in China and everyone’s mixed feelings on the success of the visit.

Nixon in China has always been more influential than acclaimed – its initial reviews were mixed – but over the years it has earned its position as one of America’s most important operas. It is more famous for its existence than its success as an emotional engaging piece of music; few operas are based on a media event that was televised all around the world. Though the opera takes place in China, Adams’ score borrows almost entirely from Philip Glass’ minimalist style and rarely takes on any Oriental influence. That’s where Goodman’s libretto comes in, which is written in rhymed and metered couplets inspired by traditional Chinese poetry and theater.

American operas may not be as established or as grand as its European siblings, but Nixon in China was, and still is, a groundbreaking attempt at turning an old and inaccessible musical style into something modern and, dare I say, relatable? Also, does anyone think the beginning of the opera sounds like Elliott Smith?