Atlantic Waves 27apr10: An Anthology Of Chinese Experimental Music 1992-2008 (pt 1/3)

This four-disc volume at first seems like a daunting, overwhelming prospect: in addition to being a vast and sprawling collection of works, it’s made up by a roster of artists whose work will (for the majority of Western listeners at least) be entirely unfamiliar. The Sub Rosa anthologies are unfailingly impressive collections of work, but this one more than most represents a deluge of new information and new sounds. Help is at hand thanks to the inclusion of two booklets: the first gives a full tracklist complete with artist biographies, while the second (penned by Zbigniew Karkowski and Yan Jun) offers some background context to this collection, with an essay on Chinese underground culture. Compiled by artist Li Chin Sung (aka Dickson Dee), the selection here draws new laptop and electroacoustic music from across not only mainland China, but Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia too, and while its impossible to give any kind of comprehensive or fully formed representation of a music scene as truly multi-faceted and subterranean as this, hopefully the collection will offer up a number of new avenues for you to pursue in discovering more about the intersecting cultural movements hinted at within. After an initial disc filled with glorious experimental sounds and cutting edge abstract electronics that border on the more academic end of digital musics, by the second CD slightly more pop-influenced sounds start to infiltrate the compilation: while the likes of Wang Jong-Kuen’s ‘Leaving’ and Dickson Dee’s own ‘Somewhere’ occupy a rigorous and uncompromising microsound approach, you can hear 4/4 dance music templates being utilised throughout Sun Dawei’s ‘Crawing State’. In addition to these extremes, sifting through the compilation reveals a particularly resonant affinity with noise music, with groups like Torturing Nurse and D!O!D!O!D! suggesting cross-pollinations of Japanese, American, and more European, industrial influences. Noise is truly a global language. In fact, one of the most striking things about the compilation, once you’ve worked your way through its full expanse, is that old notions of East and West don’t necessarily count for much within the context of music – at least not experimentally motivated music (for example, just compare the sense of forward-thinking post-digital innovation presiding over Dennis Wong’s ‘Para_Dot’ to Alva Noto’s hyper-minimal propulsions). In any case, there’s a abundance of revelatory moments and exciting, unfamiliar sounds spread across these four discs, and for any follower of experimental music, the anthology has to rank as essential listening. (