[Ambient/drone artist Unii, playing at Harley's this upcoming Saturday]
Greetings and salutations to another great week of music in Shanghai. Last weekend I was delightfully surprised by the Hot Club of Beijing that stormed through town. The quintet featured a full upright bass on top of a rarely scene clarinet section and they kept the whole crowd dancing for over an hour. If you ever head up north make sure to catch them playing at their regular watering hole Modernista. The show also gave me a chance to check out new local band Tribes of Asaph who did a solid cover of Iron and Wine. That show was put on by local acoustic troublemakers The Horde, who have an music video release at Logo next week.
[Iron Mic MC battle at Arkham on Friday night at 10.45pm
[From Ian:] Friday was also that 13th annual Iron Mic battle I wrote about. Never seen Arkham more packed with local kids for a non corporate-underground event. Just raw, grassroots Chinese hip hop shit, with kids flying/high-speed-training in from all over the country to compete. The final battle was between a really positive kid from Xinjiang and a more ferocious battle rapper from Yunnan, and shit got pretty real. Yunnan won, but I think the Xinjiang kid really won.
Look out for some photos on the site soon. I don't know what's up with hip hop fashion in China these days but some of these cats looked like their daytime job is selling shanzhai Hood By Air in a Guangzhou fashion mall...
One of the contestants even proposed to his girlfriend of six years on stage.
[Dude lost the battle but his girl accepted the marriage proposal...]
Saturday had that Sub-Culture show with Fatima Al Qadiri at Shelter as well. The club was packed, pitch black, and in full-on rave mode. Never seen The Shelter that dark before, which contrasted sharply with Kim Laughton's installation of spam emails in laboratory bottles under a heavy seizure strobe, with a live video feed of people reading/playing in said emails beaming to the screen behind the DJ. Whoa.
[Kim Laughton's installation at The Shelter on Saturday -- "A sealed collection of spam email originally received by some of the most exciting contemporary artists, musicians and thinkers"]
One complaint about clubbing in Shanghai circa 2014 is people (both laowai and local) just pushing through crowds/stepping on feet/spilling drinks on people and not saying "excuse me". Seen this more often at Arkham, Shelter, and other places lately -- you know that shit wouldn't fly back home. Shame, shame...
[Back to Sacco] Coming up this week is a special treat from the Rat On crew with brand spanking new local band Undress for Success. Saturday’s show also features Japanese drone artist UNii which is a departure from the usual metal and hard rock stylings of the rat. On top of that you’ll get a healthy heap of Nonplus of Color, one of my personal favorite new bands. Also this weekend features a special Sunday live performance at Shelter of Beijing born and London based producer/singer Fifi Rong. Let’s check out all that and more...
Undress for Success
New band Undress for Success has risen from the ashes of the now defunct Shanghai band Battle Cattle. This project by bassist Laurent has a darker post-punk feel and is just what this town needs. Don’t expect Battle Cattle part deuce, as the sound is completely different and even experimental at times. The album Main in the Machine was recorded in Laurent’s basement and at 72 Studios. The album was mastered by the great Frank at The Carvery -- check out this interview with him about the process.
Anyway, catch Undress for Success's first show at Rat On this Saturday night. Should be good.
Undress for Success – "Eight of Spades"
Also at Harley's on Saturday is an encore show by Sapporo drone-pop sensation Unii who blew Shelter’s doors off last Thursday. She also did sets in Beijing, Qingdao, and Hangzhou, and it should be interesting to see how the crowd reacts at the usual rock n' roll based Harley’s bar. Unii does soundscape style ambient that's influenced by her Hokkaido island surroundings. The ambient/drone scene can be pretty boy-centric so it’s nice to see a woman’s touch in the experimental world. Twisting field recordings and other samples with layered effects and sequencing, her style is very unique and should be experienced in the first person. Just don’t expect her to come out in a schoolgirl outfit singing bubble gum pop.
Unii - "Hatsuyume"
Have you ever been to Shelter on a Sunday? No, I didn’t think so. Well there is a first time for everything and this Sunday’s FiFi Rong show is a must go. Rong was born in north China and raised in the south, growing up with Grandma’s folk, opera, and revolutionary songs. Musically she preferred alternative rock as a youth and now blends of all her various musical exposures into her current sound. She has worked with the likes of Tricky and says there are elements of hip-hop, ambient, UK garage, 2-step, Chinese, and jazz in her latest album next pursuit. Well that’s a pretty tall order but I’ll say one thing -- these aren't your run of the mill tracks and they should be interesting live on Sunday.
FiFi Rong – "If I Only Knew"