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[Music Monday]: Modulations
Fall has fallen! Lots brewing on the music front in September and October. Here's what to get into over the next few days...
By Sep 7, 2015 Music

Art by Lifafa

Music Monday is a weekly SmartBeijing column, serving up fresh audio/video streams from bands living and making music in China (or coming to China, or thinking about coming to China, or whatever).


We're finally here! Autumn, known colloquially here in Beijing as "the 2-3 weeks of the year during which the weather isn't complete shit." Enjoy it while it lasts, my friends. Luckily for all of us, the end-of-summer slump is easing up. Lots brewing on the music front in September and October. Look forward to more depth SmartBeijing coverage of new rumbles in the local music scene in the weeks to come. For now here's what to get into over the next few days:


First up, in the "Films about Music" column: on Wednesday night, Meridian Space begins a month-long series of music documentary screenings. It was supposed to kick off last Wednesday, but they were visited ahead of time by local authorities saying something to the effect of, "Hey we're trotting out all these new anti-aircraft-carrier missiles on TV this week, don't jam our signal with all that noise." Now that the air is clear on that front, Meridian will proceed this Wednesday eve to show 1998 doco Modulations: "The evolution of electronic music and its many genres. How the wide range of styles and scenes formed through experimentations on sound formation."

Check out this thoroughly '90s trailer:

Pretty solid cast of characters weighing in on the topic, including Afrika Bambaataa, Robert Moog, Giorgio Moroder, Juan Atkins, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and John Cage. (Fun fact: John Cage invented electronic music with his 1952 piece 4′33″, composed entirely from the sound of his aging audience's pacemakers.)

Drop in to catch a little time-capsule perspective on an idiom of music that has subsequently ascended to the status of culture-crushing zeitgeist. No entry fee, 8pm start.

The rest of Meridian's September screening series is super solid, too: catch Scratch, an in-depth meditation on the role of the DJ in hip hop culture on WED Sept 16; Beautiful Noise, a recent retrospective on noise-pop/shoegaze greats like My Bloody Valentine and Cocteau Twins, on WED Sept 23; and A Band Called Death, focusing on the eponymous African-American proto-punk pioneers, on WED Sept 30.


Following that up with some vaguely cinematic live music: Lifafa from New Delhi. Lifafa is the solo project of Suryakant Sawhney, dauntless leader of New Delhi underground indie rock royalty Peter Cat Recording Co. Over the last few years, Sawhney's branched out from his base in rock and folk music to experiment with solo electronic compositions incorporating keyboard, vocals, and samples reflecting his particular mashup of cinematic and musical influences, stretching from Sam Cooke to Manna Dey, from '50s Americana screen idols to the golden age of '60s/'70s Bollywood epic. Here's his latest EP, In Hi Ko:

After a series of successful European tours and two killer mixes for Amsterdam's Red Light Radio, Lifafa is striking east for the first time, making his Beijing debut with two gigs reflecting the two Janus faces of his strongly local but globally informed musical identity.

Catch him at Dada on Thursday with the Sinotroncs crew, playing a set of original compositions and deep South Asia cuts. Then on Friday at DDC Lifafa gives a more intimate live performance, joined by a solo set from Carsick Cars/White+ frontman Zhang Shouwang and the new duo of Hot & Cold's Josh Frank + Tom Ng of long defunct Hong Kong band Offset: Spectacles.


Rounding the corner on the weekend: on Saturday, DDC hosts the official offline launch of RAN Music. RAN is a new Beijing-based label that's been making waves for a few months, starting off on a strong note with the May release of Luv Plastik's Electric Fantastic EP. Luv Plastik will be rumbling out of the woodwork for this gig, playing their first show after a long hiatus.

But the headlining slot for this gig goes to Beijing boom-bap beats producer nonpareil, Soulspeak, for whom RAN has just released the stellar, eclectic Ghost Echoes EP. Soulspeak — aka Jeff Liang — has been producing hip hop and electro-soul-jazz fusion heat for over 15 years, starting out on his home turf of LA before sinking in among the roots of Beijing's burgeoning underground hip hop scene in the early '00s. He's toured internationally, both solo and in high-profile collaborations, previously with mixmaster Wordy and more recently with rising hip hop/soul crooner J-Fever.

Soulspeak and J-Fever have a big-deal release event coming up later in the month for Color Blind, their collaborative LP forthcoming on Douban's D-Force records. In the mean time, catch Soulspeak live with trad jazz trumpeter Toby Mak at RAN Music Live Vol. 1 along with support sets from Luv Plastik, Dawei, and DJ J.R.G. 50rmb, 8pm start.


If you need way more bass with your beats: check in at Dada on Saturday, when The Antidote hosts a return visit from UK producer Slugabed. I caught Slugabed on his first Beijing outing in March 2013, back when Young Grasshopper me was just learning that "bass" is a genre of electronic music and not just an audio frequency range, and that Ninja Tune is a rad London label and not just a euphemism for deadly Cage-ian silence. He was pretty great. This time around he's joined by Danish "future bass master" ELOQ, who will be making his China debut.

Here's a hot little Slugabed number from a few years back: "Sex (Official Video)". Really just closed the book on the topic of "sex" with this official video, I'd say:

And here's a little taste of what ELOQ's working with:

Ticket price TBA, 10pm start.


"Modulations" screening = WED Sept 9 @ Meridian

Lifafa = THU Sept 10 @ Dada + FRI Sept 11 @ DDC

RAN Live = SAT Sept 12 @ DDC

Slugabed & ELOQ = SAT Sept 12 @ Dada


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