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[Music Monday]: Why Shanghai's Music Scene Doesn't Suck

Taking a look at five of the best songs on the new "We Are Shanghai IV" comp that features over 40 artists from Shanghai. From headnod beats to punk and black metal...
By Jan 26, 2015 Nightlife

Lately Music Monday has been something of a bad luck charm for the concerts we’ve featured. First a couple weeks ago UK punk band The Boys ran into problems that forced them to cancel their China tour. Then just last week Los Angeles singer / producer Low Leaf was hospitalized from some bad kimchi and had to cancel her tour as well. Both cancellations left a gap in many Shanghai’ers weekend. If your Friday was anything like mine then you ended up at Perry’s Bar drinking 10rmb beer and listening to the Goo Goo Dolls mixed into Dave Matthews Band. A sad state of affairs indeed.

This weekend we celebrate the local Shanghai music scene with the release show for We Are Shanghai #4 at Yuyintang. The 2015 version of this annual compilation gives us over 40 artists of varying genres. As organizer Ivan Belcic explains “To be included, you need to be based in Shanghai, and your track has to have been recorded or released in the target year. If you fit those criteria and get your song to us on time, you're in.” Keep that in mind when blazing through the Bandcamp album that switches from nu-metal to punk to experimental electronic to folk and so on. There's a lot of different shit happening in Shanghai these days.

Today I’m going to focus on a few artists that are either newer to the Shanghai scene or that I haven’t gotten a chance to feature in previous Music Mondays. Make sure to head to Yuyintang this Saturday to pay homage to all that is live music in Shanghai (for better or worse).

And download the full compilation right here for free.

Swimful Buterfly

Let’s start off with British expat producer Swimful Buterfly whose contributing track “Night Fountain in People's Square” is nothing less than amazeballs. The inspiring piece is off his 2014 digital album “Return to a Dream” which features 12 tracks that blend atmospheric backdrops with solid beats. You might recognize the slowed down vocal sample of Japanese singer Shione Yukawa from the famed Linda Linda Linda film on this one. Lately Swimful Buterfly has been collaborating with local producer Damacha who is also featured on this year’s We Are Shanghai compilation. They have plans on releasing a mixtape together this year that also features MC & producer Pantoo. Along with that mixtape there is a planned collaboration with Shanghainese MC Maxfeel which we should get a taste of in the near future.

One of the most striking elements of his work is the skillful blending of shoegaze soundscapes with striking beats that flow perfectly into one another. I asked Swimful Buterfly about how this style came about and he had this to say;

“I was always into ambient, shoegaze and noise music before getting into hip hop, so for me it's natural to blend the two. The turning point for me was hearing "Birth of Rap" by Lil B. I remember putting it on and I was amazed when I heard this guy rapping on a beat that was essentially formless female vocal samples with only a kick drum underneath it. There's something beautiful about the juxtaposition of harder rap beats and gentle ambient music.”

While he's only played a couple times live in Shanghai, Swimful Butefly plans to hit the streets more this year so keep your eyes peeled for him on local lineups.

Swimful Buterfly – "Night Fountain in People's Square"


I’ve been wanting to feature this Shanghai band for a while so this is a great chance to introduce them to the SmartShanghai world. Playing a symphonic style of progressive metal these locals are probably some of the most technically-inclined musicians we have in our scene. Over the past couple years I have been getting more and more into progressive metal. Heck I’ve been getting into more everything progressive from '70s prog rock to late '90s progressive trance. MathLotus are more on the end of shoegaze post-rock that meets the Shanghai Symphony and gets robbed in the alley by Opeth. Personally I’m not usually a fan of such polished productions and 5 minute technical guitar solos but I have to tip my hat at MathLotus for doing a bang up job putting their own spin on the ever increasingly popular post-metal genre.

It seems like the progressive metal they do stems from British bands like Caravan and Atomic Rooster, who weren’t afraid to experiment with introducing non-conventional elements to create more grandiose songs. MathLotus take this up and notch with atmospheric backgrounds, violins, and synth keyboards that create their unique style. Enjoy this track “My Sin and Soul” submitted for the annual compilation and for more MathLotus check out their Douban.

MathLotus ft. Mr. Cheng – "My Sin and So"


Had enough of all this shoegaze, downtempo, atmospheric nonsense? Well so have expat rockers PVA and their mission is to kick Shanghai in the ass with a little thing called good ole fashioned shit-punk rock n’ roll. Self proclaimed the hardest, sluttiest, and drunkest of all bands this trio that includes Ian, Jason, and Clive hit the local scene like a ton of bricks in 2014.

With a mission statement that proclaims “We wanted to get drunk and play terrible music, so here we are...” it seems Round Eye may finally have met their match in hard partying bands. To my surprise PVA’s Bandcamp includes six well recorded demo songs plus a lyric sheet for every song. Why don’t bands include lyrics anymore? After listening to all their street punk, hardcore, and pop-punk numbers it was hard for me to pin down any exact comparisons but I walked away with a strong Epitaph, Hopeless, and Fat Wreck Chords feeling in my ball sack.

PVA are loud, abrasive, offensive, and possibly just what this town needs to encourage a little good ole fashioned angst and circle pits action. Or maybe they are just assholes, it’s hard to tell. Either way they better hope The Man don’t find out about this little thing called Bandcamp and Google translate (not to mention symbolism). My favorite track of the demo “Pig River” paints a nice picture and this track was chosen for the We Are Shanghai album so let’s drink the water together!

PVA – "Pig River"


Next up on our tour de force Shanghai edition is American expat producer Damacha who has really come into his own over the past year. His sample based tracks that will have even the hardest of moms bobbing their head to the short lived beats. 2014 saw the release of a cassette and digital album “~” on the up and coming Hangzhou hip hop label Groove Bunny. Damacha will be traveling down to Guangzhou to hook up with prolific beatmaker Pete Chen and open up for the big Yosi Horikawa / Daisuke Tanabe show on Feb 7th. After that he returns to Shanghai to play the second installment of the Tetragrammaton series at the Shelter on Feb. 14th featuring "The Sorceress".

In terms of Damacha's upcoming production plans he is currently working on a footwork album for Shanghai label SVBKVLT. This will be a concept piece drawn together from pieces of shitty Chinese club tracks you can find on the street corners of all the happening spots around Shanghai. Creating his own lo-fi style of footwork that when someone in the club comes up and asks the DJ “play more high energy music” you can throw on a Damacha original and blow their damn minds. Be warned the song requester might not be able to handle the load and most likely will just punch you in the face thinking you are making fun of him. But thems the breaks.

For now enjoy a piece titled “Pushin O” that summons all 36 chambers and then some.

Damacha – "Pushin O"

The Arcbane

Last but certainly most evil is another Shanghai band who rain terror by a name called The Arcbane. These Chinese purveyors of the melodic death metal black arts are on the Playful Warrior label, lead by the dreadlocked man himself Sam Dust of Chaos Minds. Having cultivated their sound over the past 5 years the necromancer masters have recently simplified and pushed a heavier, more raw style that sets them apart from the many metalcore fakers in China. Tackling subjects with song themes that include topics like hatred, death, murder, darkness, mourning, loss, and pain The Arcbane’s lyricist Xander Cheng doesn’t exactly keep it light.

No one just wakes up into the upside-down cross back tattoo and a pint of goat blood for breakfast lifestyle. The Arcbane got their start with liking bands such as Linkin Park just like the rest of us. Over the past five years they have had a bit of the Spinal Tap epidemic going through no less than 3 drummers. First up drummer Ding He (2007-2009) died in a bizarre gardening accident. Following He was Min Yang (2009-2010) who choked to death on someone else’s vomit and finally Mingrui Li (2011-2012) exploded on stage during their 2012 Japanese tour. Let’s hope current drummer Jiale Yuan keeps his eyes on the beat and stays away from the pyrotechnics.

The Arcbane – "Endbringer"


Well there ya go kids, just five of the over forty tracks on this year’s We Are Shanghai Compilation. Kudos to the guys for the time they spent putting this together. Go to Yuyintang on Saturday and help support our scene.


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  • ty_canadian

    It's too bad that these bands aren't playing the show though... Bummer.

  • zmann999

    Yeah would be nice to see Swimful Buterfly, but PVA is playing Saturday, so there is that....

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