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[Music Monday]: Birds Fly South

"Got any leads on a house party? I can't afford my own turkey so I'm looking to bring some cookies or cranberry sauce to try to get down on a bird."
2015-11-23 16:34:30
Music Monday is a weekly SmartShanghai column, serving up songs from bands living and making music in China (or coming to China, or thinking about coming to China, or whatever). Copyright holders: if you would like your song removed, please contact us here, and we'll honor your request promptly.

Flying Lotus plays QSW on Thursday

Well, it’s another Monday in the Gotham city that is Shanghai and the only thing to do is work that 9-to-5 until it’s time for a pint down at your corner craft brew bar (and, yes, there is literally one on every corner now). Hopefully, everyone participated in the many art events over the weekend, including PC Music darling QT’s performance at ART021’s opening party.

According to Ian, "a mix of about 300 art-world people, ballers, hipsters, music fans, and randoms made it out to this bizarre KTV in Minhang that's filled with about a billion dollars worth of contemporary art and free G&Ts."

"After Cavia warmed up and artist Cheng Ran did his, "I Love Shanghai, Shanghai Loves Me" performance -- which was just him in a Taobao-custom cat suit modeled after his own cat, dancing to some minimal techno, and chanting in a robot voice -- QT's set started with some ironic fake-ads for her energy drink ("I was skyping with my friend in Brazil, and we were having some connection problems... then we both just popped at QT and we were so connected!"), then was just her playing (not mixing) some PC music remixes of pop songs, and then dancing / lip-syncing to a few originals ("Hey QT" and one more). Some people in the front were really into it, others looked confused or bored. I walked around and asked some people what they thought":

"She's gotta be taking the piss... yeah she's definitely taking the piss."

"This is shit. But it's a really good lesson for Chinese DJs and artists -- you have to have good management. She's packaged so well."

"It was about what I expected. It is what it is."

Many likely weren’t aware of how big of a cultural icon PC Music & QT has become, but what the event did do is bring together a mixed crowd that might not necessarily meet in Shanghai. They could have organized the event better and put QT on a bit later (people started bailing immediately after), but still, it's good to see people doing parties outside of clubs and bars. The art and music worlds should should collide more. Also, the real performance was up on the third and fourth floors anyway, where hundreds of KTV girls traipsed through the halls and past giant works by Xu Zhen, Ding Yi, and Yang Fudong, and flooded into baroque KTV rooms.

Alright, maybe I don’t love-love PC Music, however since learning about the mysterious label earlier this year I’ve been infatuated with the whole crazy concept (or lack thereof). I remember watching a video titled "Fanta" from PC Music artist easyFun and thinking, wow, this is very similar to the aesthetic that Shanghai based artist Kim Laughton dolls out.

Sometime later while bringing this up to a friend I was told, "You’re an idiot, that video WAS made by Kim Laughton." Well, I’ll be damned. You may not know the name Kim Laughton but there is a good chance you’ve experienced his visual installations at various clubs in Shanghai over the past five years. Kim does amazing work and has come a long way from the days of surviving on 10rmb street meat-bun sandwiches. That frugal diet let him save money to build increasingly powerful 3D rendering computers that allows him to make videos like that for easyFun.

While perhaps Kim hasn’t gotten rich off the past-future concept, the folks down at UK’s PC Music certainly are primed to with the recent signing deal on Sony Music / Columbia Records. At first, what drew me to the label was a rumored ethos about anti-commercialism presented in the form of overt pop. However, it looks like I was reading too closely between the lines and this music / art culture project isn’t that deep. Nevertheless, that experience opened the doors to a world unknown and I was exposed to other internet genres like seapunk, chillwave, new rave, and my personal favorite, vaporwave. Dude, vaporwave is so awesome with hundreds of chilled out albums on Bandcamp and many of the artists holding stronger anti-commercial stances. But I’m going to get more into vaporwave another day (bet you can’t wait for that!), and instead today we are going to talk about three nights of chilled out and broken beats in the form of Thursday’s Flying Lotus show at QSW, Friday’s Kid Koala gig at Shelter, and Saturday’s Re:plus concert at Mao Live house. Giddi up, beat fans…

Flying Lotus, Thursday @ QSW (Tickets on SmartTicket)

Flying Lotus once Twittered: “Dear Journalists There is no such thing as ‘aquacrunk’ Please stop trying to put us in a box. We’re just having fun making music”. The always on-point producer and label head was talking about another fictitious internet music genre partially based around some of his work. I couldn’t think of a more important statement then “Please stop trying to put us in a box. We’re just having fun making music”. That head strong attitude is one reason this Thursday’s Flying Lotus show at QSW is one of the most important gigs of the year. The other reason is simply the music of Flying Lotus is unparalleled in originality and beauty.

Getting his feet wet interning for Stones Throw records Flying Lotus split his time between film school and absorbing everything the LA beat scene had to offer. Having just got back from LA last Friday where I went to underground transgender hip hop show in the basement of a downtown abandoned theater it became clear that town offers a very unique view of hip hop and beat culture. It didn’t take long for Flying Lotus to carve out his own specific niche within the LA scene, and after just a few short years he had a record deal with Warp records, and launched his own label that goes by the name Brainfeeder. Since Brainfeeder started they have had the pleasure of putting out music from the likes of The Gaslamp Killer, Mono/Poly, Mr. Oizo, and yes even some Lorn.

Flying Lotus has remained to walk that line between respected experimental artist and sought after commercial producer making songs for the likes of Cartoon Network and working with big names like Thom York or Erykah Badu. His fifth studio album titled You’re Dead that dropped last year also on Warp records was a 30-minute masterpiece that features guests such as Herbie Hancock, Snoop Dogg, and Kendrick Lamar. A jazzed out freakbeat record that bring you down one minute and smacks you back on your feet the next. You’re Dead even features a surprise guest in the form of Flying Lotus’s alter ego, Captain Murphy who I hope makes an appearance at this Thursday’s show. To be honest, I’m kinda down for whatever about this week’s concert and just hope the sound is on-point. Don’t sleep and make sure to get your presale tickets here! Check out a cut from his latest album long with a classic FlyLo song…

Flying Lotus - Dead Man's Tetris (feat. Captain Murphy & Snoop Dogg)

Flying Lotus - Fall in Love

Kid Koala, Friday @ Shelter

Way back in 2003, I got a chance to see Kid Koala perform at an underground space and I’ll never forget that night. Mostly because I shot-gunned a pint of whisky before going in and becoming “Yelly Guy”. You know, Yelly Guy. He's that asshole in the crowd who thinks it's hilarious to scream out mid-song heckles. FREEBIRD. Well, I was that guy that night and Kid Koala stopped the show challenging me to an on stage staring contest. Let’s just say he won. Turns out, Kid Koala incorporates multiple versions of such mid set showmanship tools that make every one of his gigs better than the last. Showmanship -- that’s what is missing from the bullshit DJ sets of today.

Since 2000, the native Canadian has been laying down some of the best instrumental beats on UK’s Ninja Tune records. That initial release of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome was such a banger I can still remember the first time I listened to it. Since then Kid Koala has continued to dig up the rarest beats then proceeding to cut them up and spit out under his own unique style. Over the years, he has thrown down with some of the respected artists around like Amon Tobin and was even part of that short lived project with Del the Funky Homosapien that went by Deltron 3030. Don’t forget that tour he did with Bjork either, you know those two little cuties fit right in with each other.

Kid Koala has able to stay fresh after touring for over 20 years now is his constant collaborations and relentless need to find just that picture cut. Naturally, Kid Koala’s path lead to touring with DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist further solidifying his name in the history books of exceptional breaks DJs. One of my recent favorites is the 2012 album 12 bit Blues that fits perfect on those endless Shanghai rainy days. I couldn’t think of a better place to see this legend than the newly refurbished Shelter this Friday night. Just don’t be like me and break out some Yelly Guy antics; that’s good for anyone.

Kid Koala - 5 Bit Blues

Kid Koala – Fender Bender

Re:Plus, Saturday @ Mao Livehouse (Tickets on SmartTicket)

What’s that you say? After two huge gigs it’s Saturday night and you still haven’t had enough chilled out beats. Well, no worries, my friend because performing a live set a MAO is Japan’s own instrumental hip hop beat maker Re:Plus. I know, crazy right?

Re:Plus is the brainchild of Japanese pianist and producer Hiroaki Watanabe. Getting his start by having a track in the “In Ya Mellow Tones 3” 2010 mixtape that featured multiple talented Japanese musicians, Re:Plus has gone on to produce a large body of work that includes hip hop instrumentals to heartfelt piano solos. I can’t get enough of the trend over the past decade of blending soundscape atmospheric almost new age music with a mixture of varied jazz & hip hop beats. If you are a fan of this style as well make sure to check out Shanghai based artist Swimful who is a master of the shoegaze beat art form.

This is the first time Re:Plus will visit China and let’s hope he doesn’t get any road blocks thrown in his way like so many other Japanese musicians have had the past couple years. Although we don’t know much about Watanabe himself it’s clear with the musical range of different projects he is involved in that this guy is not running amateur hour. Re:Plus has worked with many of Japan’s best MCs & singers in everything from pop to hiphop to easy listening. Here are a couple of my favorite songs but make sure to check out his discography and jump on that itunes or youtube for a complete listen.

Re:Plus – Nighttime

Re:Plus – Moonscape

Damn, is it a week for downtempo or what? Everything kicks off on American Thanksgiving and I couldn’t be more thankful to all the people who helped put on these shows and in general we live in a town where such great music happens on a regular basis.


This column is written by DJ Sacco, who runs Uptown Records, Shanghai's dedicated vinyl shop. Ironically, they don't sell Mp3s or dabble in anything digital, instead they have 7" and 12", EPs and LPs from rock to electronic, rare pressings, DJ equipment and band merchandise. Find them in an old bomb shelter at 115 Pingwu Lu.