Celtic punk by way of Wuhan, dystopian synth pop via Chinese expatriates, a post rock delight out of Shijiazhuang, and the latest dance music compilation from Beijing label Ran Music – it’s the latest releases to set your ears into a frenzy, including new albums from SMZB, Wanderlust, Spin Axis, and Ran Music.
The godfathers of punk return! Seminal Wuhan punk outfit SMZB, whose Celtic-based socially conscious punk rock has made them a staple of the Chinese punk scene celebrate twenty years and ‘one thousand ways to rebel and fight’ with their latest LP, the sneakily titled The Chinese Are Coming. It’s engrossing collection of songs – catchy, timely, engaged and enraged yet victorious at the same time. The addition of bagpipes, banjo and the always-reliable tin whistle only add to the jubilant defiance that SMZB stands for. It’s amazing the band is able to infuse their music with as much social commentary (‘The Chinese Are Coming’) and political critique (‘Born in the PRC’) as they do – a testament to the band’s long lasting power and stature. They’re fighting the true fight and they’re coming out on top. Bandcamp.
Shijiazhuang group Spin Axis bring their impassioned brand of post rock to the masses with their self titled EP (on cassette for the win), SA. Inspired by the late 90s post rock movement, the band joins countless others in China expressing their love for the genre, and while it takes a lot to stand out above the rest, Spin Axis have got guts and vitality to spare. Combining electronic elements, math rock breakdowns, and shimmering guitars galore, the band gives each of their songs a forward moving momentum that puts you in a trance before the cathartic, often times vocalized, release – a gambit that really grounds and contextualizes the high emotional stakes at hand here and one that pays off spectacularly. Spin Axis may just have four songs under their belt now, but I have a feeling we’ll be hearing a lot more from these cats down the road. Xiami/Douban/Taobao.
Tianjin synthpop duo Wanderlust, now based in New York and Toronto, continue exploring synth-heavy dystopian soundscapes on their latest, Neo-Taste, out now on D-Force Records. The duo, consisting of Zuo Wei and Liu Di, formed in 2009, and not too soon after headed overseas to study and dip their toes further down soundtrack and sound editing industry. Despite their new setting, their LP feels right at home here in northern China – based on Taosim, the album tells a ‘sci-fi story which happened/will happen between two different kinds of culture’. Some unearthly vibes at play here – detached ‘out of the ether’ vocals, cold aloof synth chords, and an offbeat heedless streak that’s punk through and through. It’s a strange, curious record, one that feels kitsch, disjointed, overstuffed and dangerously alluring and perplexing in the best possible way. Get freaky if you dare. Bandcamp.
Beijing label Ran Music brings forth its second installment of Ran Groove – a dance-music compilation highlighting some of the slickest grooves and melodies in the China electronic scene. From Chinese techno veterans Mickey Zhang and ELVIS T., label residents J.R.G. and Animal Pop, as well as newly rising producers Knopha (Xiamen), Diva Li, Hielektromen, Another Van and VU – Ran Groove Vol. 2 is a diverse mix of tunes that rebel in the various corners of the techno world with one thing in common – getting you moving. A killer way to kickoff any weekend and keep the vibes high. Bandcamp.