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[Music Monday]: On The Road

A little bit of Indie and a little bit of Electro as Music Monday shares tunes from incoming acts Neon Indian, Samuli Kemppi, and Rodion.
Nov 16, 2015 | 14:57 Mon
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.

I'm writing this week's article on an Amtrak train bound for San Francisco from my small hometown in California. As I rediscover the ins and outs of American food and culture, I can't help but appreciate the unique life and experiences we're afforded living in Shanghai. Taking America's version of "the fast train", I'm gazing out into the emptiness of Southern California and thinking on the tragic events that happened over the weekend in France and beyond.

I'm not going to get deep into the politics of it all because, in reality, I feel most of us are just worker bees and our views right, left, or middle don't really have much impact on what the powerful do to those who are not. But a certain aspect of that terrible night really strikes home for me (and maybe for you as well), in that so many of the fallen were rock music fans attending a concert. We can put ourself in that concert hall and be overcome with emotion imagining every terrifying and horrific aspect of that night. We could have gone to that show. We could have been there.

Of course, the very real circumstance is that events similar to this tragedy happen all around the world to different people who are always also never deserving of it and are always also just trying to live their lives as best they can. While not diminishing that fact, this one tragedy amongst the many that needlessly occur really resonates with me as an attack against a gathering around music -- an attack against a celebration of free expression.

Here in China, we are not strangers to people who attack free expression. Even so, though, as I come back to Shanghai this weekend, I'll be coming back to celebrate as much free expression as I can out there in the city with friends, fans, and people who make and perform music. I'll be coming back to celebrate every second and night in which our life and art isn't controlled by fear mongers and cowards. Now I'm going share my three music event picks with you, but whatever you get up to this week, keep those who have fell in Paris, Beirut, and around the world with you and appreciate every piece of art, music, food, and sport while you can. Be well, my friends.

Neon Indian

Now this is what I'm talking about. This is the show Shanghai needs. Some good old fashioned indie electronic rock with psych roots called Neon Indian. Hailing from the heart of Texas this rag-tag outfit centered around front man Alan Palomo kicked things off at the tail end of the 2000's with the album Psychic Chasms. In fact, the bands name itself is a reference to taking acid. Hey, that's alright. I'm down for a round of kool aid at Neon Indian Friday at QSW.

Right out the gate, these Texan hipsters were getting solid reviews across the board and made all the 2009 "Best of" lists. Of course, for the second album they did the logical thing and bunker down in a Helsinki winter studio before dropping the album Era Extraña and doing a proper world tour. The music is just feel-good electro pop ideals for ironic sweater-wearers and people who love their cats. We are currently in the third wave of Neon Indian who are touring in support of the album VEGA INTL. Night School. Expect a smoothed out journey of electro fun.

Put on your spandex pants and tie-died unicorn shirt because Friday we dance like we've never danced before. Dig deep for that 120rmb. Get there on time. Looks like no opener.

Neon Indian - Slumlord

Neon Indian - Psychic Chasms (Anoraak Remix)

Samuli Kemppi

You don't have to stop dancing at QSW. Afterwards, take that proletariat chariot (or Uber) down the road for the Footprint anniversary party at Arkham. Finnish techno slave Samuli Kemppi is your headliner. You might know him from the Deep Space Helsinki radio show that he co-hosts. No? You don't listen to a lot of Finnish FM radio? What? Well, if you've been on a underground techno dance floor in the last little while you've most likely danced to one of his tracks. This cat is throwing down some serious hardware music gear in his studio including a Eurorack rig, vintage and new synths, and more drum machines then you can shake a hi hat with.

After years and year of releasing countless 12" records to the hungry techno and acid masses, Samuli Kemppi tied together a 12-track masterpiece titled Observer Effect. That bad boy can be bought in a double LP format from the crew at M_REC LTD. Deep and esoteric, mind-fuck choonz. I'm not sure if the kids down at Arkham are ready for the underground techno of Samuli Kemppi who is pulling down a live set, but they've got the support acts of Hu Yang, MIIIA, Jackie, and big man Ben Huang to set them up proper. Show starts at 10pm on Friday at Arkham and will cost you 100RMB.

Samuli Kemppi - The Observer Effect Sampler

TWR72 - Reflect (Samuli Kemppi Remix)


Rodion is one of my favorite producers going. These days, while most of his Italian counterparts seem to have shunned their Balearic disco or sound scape roots for a more modern (and usually shitty) sound, this native-born Roman soaks it up. His Italian forefathers like Goblin and Riz Ortolani lead the way for Rodion to create a new style of synthesized dark disco and techno vibe. Trained to be a church organist at an traditional Catholic music academy, we are all lucky he's chosen more cosmic scenes and sounds.

Rodion's faith lies in the precious Gomma Records whose roster also includes electro duo The KDMS who visited Shanghai last month. Despite this devotion to Gomma Records who have released the bulk of his material this Italian still finds time to do releases for the likes of Eskimo Recordings, Nang Records, Slow Motion Disco, and Roccodisco just to name a few. Imagine that, a real Italian producing forward thinking Italian Disco. As a homage to his roots Rodion remixed the classic Giorgio Moroder track "E=MC2", which was the first song the 73 year old producer played on his first ever DJ set. Too bad Moroder turned out to be a horrible DJ.

Not a stranger to the middle kingdom Rodion has remained close ties to Chinese indie electro scene over the past five years working closely with Beijing band Nova Heart. There has been much build up for the newest Nova Heart album in which a sample track for was released last month. I'm not sure on the amount but I'd guess this latest album has received a healthy dose of Rodion. Check him out Saturday Night for a Co:Motion party that is supported by MIIIA, Laura Ingalls, Mau Mau, Raz, and sultry RedScale VJs.

Rodion - Solenoid (Alien Alien Intersetellar Dub)

Nova Heart - Evil

In the words of the great David Hasselhoff:

I made a lot of dues, had plenty to lose
Traveling across the land.
Worked on a farm, got some muscle in my arms
But still I'm not a self-made man.

I feel the run for many years to come
I'll be searching door to door
And given some time, someday I'm gonna find
The freedom, freedom, freedom I've been searching for


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.


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