Happy Tuesday my fellow drenched Shanghai friends. Hopefully you had a nice three-day weekend filled with bunnies and clean tombs. Bad news -- I looked up when the official Shanghai rainy season is. No joke, our rainy season is April, May, June, July, August and September. Luckily we get a tiny let up in December and January when, just by coincidence, it’s almost too cold to leave the house. Not to be deterred we Shanghainese don’t let getting wet stand in the way of having a good time. Over the weekend we saw a new market and design event at M50 based around coffee culture called Brew & Blend. It’s always nice to see new daytime events popping up around town. Then Monday saw the launch of the JuZhen print magazine, a new Chinese language alt. music and culture project that looks promising.
BOOM. Tons o’ culture continues to spread across our streets and with every new project we grow a little. At least until that new Shanghai concept music label of yours runs out of steam with your genius "music for free" platform. This week we pay homage to a music event that’s not a DJ night, not a live music event, not a brand launch, and not even close to a pool party. I’m talking about the monthly Space Out listening session hosted at On Stage live in the wee hours of 3pm on a Sunday afternoon.
Before we get into all that my live music gig selections for this week are as follows. First up is King Lychee at Yuyintang on Wednesday which you can find more info about from my China Hardcore article last month. Then on Thursday I’m going to say fuck it and check out the Nirvana cover band playing at On Stage. Oh I’m expecting big things from that guy. Friday the newly opened Inferno live bar has a big show in the form of The Horde + Undress for Success who are playing the Daily Vinyl Magazine launch party. Saturday I’m taking a salsa lesson so go find your own live music gig.
Space Out originally started a little over a year ago at the now defunct Regional Café. I guess putting a half million RMB sound system in an 80sqm cafe didn’t turn out to be the best business investment. Basically the concept is a pure listening party with a curated selection of one or two albums on vinyl played to a small group. You can find out more about Santo Chino’s ethos behind the event from this interview done back in January 2014.
Despite a brief break to find the current location -- On Stage in Red Town -- the past year of monthly listening sessions has proven a unique addition to Shanghai’s eclectic music scene. The new venue features a floor full of foam mats bought in by Santo Chino himself and allows for a larger audience to bask in On Stage’s impressive sound system.
Today we have a preview of Sunday’s Space Out session along with a few of my favorite past events, a couple of which really changed my listening habits. Yes, this gig is that powerful. Also if you make it to the end of the article, you can get a glimpse of what Santo Chino has planned for the rest of 2015's Space Out listening sessions.
This Sunday is a very special version of Space Out since it features an artist not usually known to the average music fan but who had a huge impact on the world with her work. Alice Coltrane may be famous for being the wife of legendary jazz musician John Coltrane, but she since the late '60s she has been the leader of her own bands, releasing experimental jazz amongst other styles that almost have no comparison. John Coltrane died in 1967 at the age of 40, which inspired her first solo album titled A Monastic Trio which features her unique harp work along with a cast of talented fellow musicians. One of the few harpists in the jazz scene and one of the even fewer women bandleaders, Coltrane was also a devotee of the Indian guru Sathya Sai Baba. In the early 70's she moved to Los Angeles and started the Vedantic Center, an orthodox Hindu place of worship.
Sunday’s Space Out will be playing her 1972 album Journey to Satchidananda, which is heavily influenced by her Hindu faith. On the album is the infamous Pharaoh Sanders on saxophone and percussion. This seminal piece of music showcases the start of her journey into spiritualism and Indian religion. Following Journey to Satchidananda is the first half of the 1987 piece Divine Songs, which was only available at her Los Angeles ashram on cassette until it was eventually bootlegged onto vinyl. This is meant to be a bookend to her career as a solo artist and is another deeply personal and spiritual album.
Alice Coltrane & Pharoah Sanders
Alice Coltrane - Divine Song
Personally the biggest impact Space Out had on me was the introduction of Steve Reich at the first OnStage session. Reich is an American composer who pioneered minimal music starting in the 1960's. Although I’m a fan of multiple music genres, for whatever reason I just never got into classical or composition based music. However, Steve Reich -- who introduced using tape loops and creating phasing patterns on his compositions -- really sparked my interest in learning more about minimal composers from the past half-century.
Reich has worked with the likes of Philip Glass and other minimalist musicians such as Terry Riley, but in terms of changing the landscape of composed music there are few that could trump Reich’s impact. You can find more about his early experiences and philosophy in the book Writing About Music from 1974. The Space Out listening session back in January featured the piece “Octet • Music For A Large Ensemble • Violin Phase”, which is an intense journey to say the least. From the 1980's on Reich has experimented with many forms of music including exploring the roots of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and he still performs his many styles today.
Steve Reich – "Music for a Large Ensembe: 2/2"
Cluster & Eno
Another personal favorite was the May 2014 edition of Space Out labeled "Krauts", which featured the album Cluster & Eno. This album was a collaborative piece from eccentric German musicians Cluster and English ambient musician Brian Eno. Cluster, who were famous for their avante garde style from madmen Moebius and Roedelius, played well off Brian Eno’s more structured style. The album also featured guest musicians Holger Czukay from Can, Conny Plank on the soundboard, and Asmus Tietchens on synth.
While Cluster proved to be an on–again–off–again project Brian Eno has been producing music nonstop for the past 40+ years. This collaboration was an important piece for introducing many of us outside Europe of the vast catalog of German experimental music.
Cluster & Eno
Not to be pigeonholed with only playing experimental music from over 30 years ago, Space Out recently featured a favorite of mine from Aphex Twin titled Selected Ambient Works Volume 2. Richard David James is the electronic producer known as Aphex Twin and has been one of the most prolific contemporary electronic artists to date, producing everything from acid techno and IDM to various forms of ambient music.
Selected Ambient Works Volume II was released in 1994 as a follow up to the album Selected Ambient Works 85-92. Widely popular across Europe and America, this album brought together music fans that would never be caught dead in the same room together. This album was produced with the mindset of telling a complete story through minimal compositions of percussion and synth work. With a whopping 25 tracks, this bad boy is good for putting dreams in your head every night you lay lay down.
Aphex Twin – Selected Ambient Works Volume II
It should be noted this Sunday’s Space Out will be selling a high quality version of the poster minus the date / location printed on a rare Epson printer. The poster was custom designed by Italian artist Ailadi and created with inspiration from the album. This is only available if you are on the mailing list, which you can sign up for at firstname.lastname@example.org
For upcoming Space Out sessions you can expect Monoton, Pink Floyd, Laraaji, Gaussian Curve, and a special selection from Gareth Williams who will be picking a sound track piece.
Now I’m going to leave you with a preview of the May 2015 edition of Space Out, which features Gigi Masin.
Gigi Masin – "Talk to The Sea"