As always with my year-end roundups – I realize the vast amount of releases I missed out on. Some because I replied too heavy on xiami and bandcamp (I just kinda figured out 163.com), so because I held out too long on acquiring certain albums, and some simply just slipped through the cracks. So for January we’re gonna be playing catch up with some of the big albums we at Live Beijing Music missed out on – starting with Wood Pushing Melon, Miserable Faith, The Big Wave, and Hanggai.
Once described as ‘the most disturbing sound of Chinese rock’, the Beijing based avant garde supergroup Wood Pushing Melon returned last year after a decade plus long hiatus. Originally formed in 1998 in Changchun under Song Yuzhe (vocals/guitar), Zhang Fangze (guitar), Chen Chuangyuan (bass), and Li Dan (drums), all accomplished musicians in their respected fields, the band were already a cult phenomenon by the time they disbanded in the early 2000s. Cut to 2016, the band mysteriously returned under Tree Music with their debut The Birth Of Tragedy – and it is a treat. Feverish, manic, unhinged, and hot bloodied – it’s pure unadulterated punk disguised as progressive art rock helmed by some truly groundbreaking artists operating in the ether sphere of Chinese rock and roll. Just might have to sneak this into my ‘2017 Best Of’ cause this is an album that’s deserves love. Xiami/Douban
Beijing-based new wave synth pop trio, The Big Wave, with a fetish for New Order-esque soundscapes and cryptic (stilted and loving it) lyrics are back in fighting mode after their recent signing with Modern Sky and self-titled debut – a release that I’ve been all too patiently waiting for since I first caught them in the summer of 2013. All the hits are here – ‘Fill In’, ‘Rough Sea’, ‘Unknown’, ‘Kiss Girls’ (a song that originated with the band’s previous incarnation The Planets) and ‘02’ (originally ‘Chinese Live In Hong Kong’ but tweaked to please censors) – and I gotta say, it’s pretty damn satisfying in have it all in one cohesive package. As per usual with most bands’ first go around with a major label, their sound does come off as too sleek at times, but it works within their aesthetic and in the end, this is a band fully committed to their sound and aesthetic – aware of what they’re riffing but completely repackaging it in ways that make me what to hit up prom circa 1987. 163.com/iTunes
One of the most influential and longstanding rock bands in China, Miserable Faith, continue subverting their originally metal-tinged sound with more organic earthly sounds on their latest The Youngster. The band, a regular festival closer, made headlines last year when they signed to Modern Sky and it seems as if the band is using their new clout (as if they needed anymore) to relay some hard hitting world weary messages to the youth of today – delivered in dusty folk laced guitar ballads, reggae-tinted jams, culturally rich sounds from the band’s ancestors, and of course, a couple hard rock anthems for old times sake, this is Miserable Faith not so much softened but more meditative and wise. Xiami/Douban
Not so much slipped under my radar as went right completely over my head, Mongolian folk rock demigods Hanggai returned this year with their biggest canvas yet, Horse of Colors – a huge, extravaganza fusion rock opus that proves once again that the sky’s the limit with these guys. Produced alongside renowned producers Bob Exrin (KISS/Pink Floyd) and Garth Richardson (Red Hot Chili Peppers/Rage Against The Machine) it’s a sprawling LP, full of riffs that’ll have you barebacking your cat like a horse, and star gazing ballads that’ll make you yearn for grasslands. And while often times it comes off as a bit too clean and sleek for my tastes, something that would work like gangbusters at say the Chinese New Year Gala as opposed to say Bonnoroo, I do admire the genre bending and cross-national fusion sound that Hanggai is pulling deeper into. Xiami/Douban