Atlantic Waves 04may10: An Anthology Of Chinese Experimental Music 1992-2008 (pt 2/3)

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. (


Sleeping Dogs Lie 61: Wang Fan

With Five Primary Elements, Beijing-based sound designer Wang Fan offers one hour of pure meditation, a piece of soothing electronica where nature speaks; no break beats or high-frequency BPM tempos here. Much like being lost in a tropical forest, with all the modern comforts – naturally. Wang is a composer and vocalist, a pioneer in China’s experimental/improvised music scene. Born in 1970 in Lanzhou, Gansu province, he relocated to Beijing in 1996. The same year the self-taught minimalist noise-maker created China’s first formal experimental music piece. Ten years later, he’s still at it, experimenting and mingling sounds together. On this release, Wang has ventured out of town, out of Beijing at least. The CD is filled with the sounds of nature: flowing water, singing birds, quivering leaves and Buddhist bells, woven, with no small degree of poetry, into a synth matrix. At the seventeenth minute, ethnic vocals and drums offer a semblance of melody. At the twenty-fifth minute, the human voice is exchanged for the sound of wind. At the forty-seventh minute, one hears reeds bending in the wind. In a world of facile pop purée, Wang’s experimental music offers an alternate reality we should all meditate on. That is if music, in any form, doesn’t interfere with your cosmic vibes.

01 Wang Fan: “Five Primary Elements” from “ Five Primary Elements” (2006)