Prajnasonic – the independent Beijing-based electronic label kickstarted by four of the scene’s more intriguing electronic artists with an affinity for cold, intricate beats took over the new Sanlitun-located frequent collaborative space last weekend to showcase some of the electronic scene’s most offbeat characters – both the label’s pioneers as well as some of the emerging, genre-defying producers pushing the genre to fascinating new territory. And what a night! Instead of your typical evening of club floor bangers (which would have been fine considering the talent on hand), the organizers embedded a sense of discovery and creative ingenuity to the evening, allowing the artists to shine and go off on their own paths.
The evening kicked off with DAYO (known as minimal techno soundscaper VU to most) who gave a sparse almost rudimentary militaristic crisp hi-hats (the 909 drum set) which were being programmed and played through an X-Box controller of all things. On top of that, the visuals were cued up to every note leading to some visually simulating and eventually haunting imagery.
The highlight of the evening came from Meng Qi who continues to defy all convention, giving his most accessible and heartbreakingly beautiful set, using his moving moanful voice and gradually turning it into an instrument, evoking everything from Radiohead to Sigur Ros, all the while maintaining his artistry and mastery of his ‘toys’ and ear-tingling sounds. Goosebumps.
Afterward, the self-taught Hong Kong musician Heta Uma who made his way to Beijing four years back. A deluge of influences and twisted layers spinning frantically one on top of another, it’s a carnivalesque party that the producer has assembled – crossbreeding sparkling KTV-inspired mayhem to Panda Bear-esque neo-psychedelic pop and even some straight-up rockabilly swagger. Punk rock filtered electronic music.
Up next was the experimental duo version of seminal post-rock group Hualun – with Ding Mao and Zhu Mingkang on hand providing some atmospheric, world-building, ambient music that burrows into your psyche.
The night closed out appropriately with a hard-hitting cold techno set from Wavwave, the alter-ego of iimmune – a set that managed to shake the walls of the space (I spent most of it dancing outside). A toast to Prajnasonic for their craftwork and ability to instill wonder into their music.