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.
Welcome to February, Shanghai. If you were lucky enough to be in the Yongfu Lu area last Friday you may have noticed the 20 strong police force checking in on expat bars asking for passports. They entered Shelter on Friday night and allegedly raided Bounty as well. We can expect this to continue until the start of the Chinese keep a passport copy on you when going out, and I highly suggest not giving the police a hard time. Let me tell you from experience it does not end well. It’s a magical time to be in the city. As we draw closer to the year of the sheep, expect a slight lull in live music town followed by lots of gigs when March kicks off, like the incoming JUE Festival.
This week starts with the amazing booking of Swans on Tuesday at QSW. Then on Saturday Beijing tastemaker DJ Shackup returns with the 1LVSH crew hosting him at Arkham. Finally Shanghai has not one but two vinyl music events over the weekend and we have all the juicy details to keep your needles sharp and wax hot.
The Split-Works promotion group is really bringing their A-game with Tuesday’s Swans show. Formed in New York during the early '80s, the seminal experimental rock band broke up in 1997 before many of us got a chance to check them out live. Luckily they reformed a few years ago and haven’t lost any of their weirdness. Swans got their start in the No Wave scene playing alongside acts like Lydia Lunch, DNA, and Teenage Jesus and the Jerks. It might surprise you that Thurston Moore was featured in the first Swans lineup before he formed Sonic Youth. Most of the early music was repetitive, hard-driving distorted guitar with confrontational lyrics from front man Michael Gira, who has remained the only constant member of the group. If you were a misanthropic teen in the '80s, Swans was essential listening, along with Joy Division and Bauhuas.
Besides Gira, one of the most prominent musicians in Swans was vocalist Jarboe who joined the group in the late 80s. For over ten years she was featured on most of the band's records and although she did not rejoin the group in 2010 she did contribute background vocals to their most recent albums. Lately I’ve gotten into their 1996 epic 26 song dark ambient album “Soundtracks for the Blind”, which is comprised mostly of Jarboe’s field recordings. Just last Saturday I got a chance to see Japanese producer Yosi Horikawa who is touring with Red Bull and primarily uses field recordings in his work. I’m not going to lie I directly went out and bought a portable tape deck / mic and started recording the sounds of Shanghai. Look out for Sacco Soundscapes playing to an empty coffee shop in the near future.
What makes Swans such a legendary band is their ability to find new ways of torturing their listeners with abrasive harsh noise on one hand and sweetly serenading them with the other. To remain innovative for over 30 years is no small feat and Tuesday's show is truly not one to miss.
Swans – "The Burning World"
Swans – "Soundtracks for the Blind"
Our favorite DJ from Beijing returns to town this Friday for 1LVSH's new party series “Who Dat” at Arkham. Shackup got his feet wet in the clubs of London where he went to high school. Upon returning to Beijing he brought over his knowledge of UK bass music and started playing parties. You can expect him to play various genres including dubstep, footwork, and juke. I’m pretty sure Arkham is going to pop off for this one.
Shackup has played with some of the biggest acts around, like drum 'n' bass legend Goldie and transgender hip hop diva Mykki Blanco. Beijing has some really talented people in their hip hop scene, like Howie B and Wordy. These kids also work hard encouraging other Chinese up and comers to try their hand at DJing and producing. Good booking 1LVSH, keep it up.
Shackup – "Phosphenes"
Daily Vinyl vs. Vinyl of the Day
In a strange coincidence two different vinyl groups with very similar names both have events this weekend. First on Friday is the Singapore culture website & club night #vinyloftheday who are throwing their first Shanghai event on Saturday at local skate shop Ollie Free. The ‘About Us’ on their website contains lines like “She fits perfectly as you put her down. You’ve heard thousands of songs since, but as needle hits vinyl you know you’ll always remember your first time”. Ummmmmm that’s taking the vinyl experience to an interesting place.
Basically it’s a collective with three main DJ/Producer contributors who repost vinyl related articles and throw parties. Founding member Gerald Ang is hosting the early evening store event where people bring their own vinyl to play. Last Friday Gerald played a mean club set at vinyl bar URVC featuring three vinyl turntables going at once along with the Transmission crew. Vinyl of the Day are killing it in Singapore with over 38,000 followers on Facebook. Last time I checked my record store has 80, and I’ve been open four years. I got to get on this Internet everyone is talking about.
Then on Sunday the Shanghai collective Daily Vinyl, ran by local heart-breaker and organizer ollo-MAM, is throwing the second installment of their record swap event at On Stage. Really good time at the December launch party with some solid performances, DJ sets, and of course lots o’ records. You can find out more about that event from last month’s Music Monday Also part of the Shanghai Daily Vinyl collective is DJ Endy from the Hangzhou label Groove Bunny who is dropping a DJ set this Sunday.
To be clear Daily Vinyl and Vinyl of the Day are totally unrelated. I’m not sure if they will battle it out – I’m guessing they’ll just become good friends instead. Sunday I’m bringing five copies of the classic Madvillain record Madvillainy to sell so I’ll leave you today with a Gerald Ang track followed by a little Mad Outro.
Gerald Ang – "The Box"
Madvillain – "Madvillainy"