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Today we visit the lovely dongbei port city of Dalian, some of whose musical movers & shakers will be making their way down for a one-off Beijing gig this weekend. Let's lead off with this jam, kind of a no-brainer:
That's Which Park, who are playing this Saturday at XP along with fellow "Dalian-wave" unit Doc Talk Shock. We'll get to those guys in turn. But first let's take a look at what Dalian is perhaps best known for: SUPER INTENSE MAXIMAL SCREWDRIVER-ON-GUITAR-VIOLENCE POST-ROCK OBLIVION.
photo by Da Bai
Or, to put it more succinctly: Wang Wen. Formed in 1999, Wang Wen is one of China's oldest and most respected post-rock bands. Its members have been in the trenches for even longer, slinging da kou CDs at outdoor Dalian markets and churning out gritty practice room recordings from practically the very first time they touched their instruments. As the members' tastes veered from '90s alt staples like The Smashing Pumpkins to the blissed/bombed-out instrumentals of Explosions in the Sky and Godspeed You! Black Emperor, they began to develop a unique idiom of Chinese post-rock. The rest is history in the making.
Wang Wen tours harder than pretty much any band in the Mainland, and have eight releases under their belt. Most recently they've teamed up with Chengdu-based promoter New Noise and Beijing vinyl label Genjing Records to extend their sphere of activity to Europe and beyond. They've already completed one successful European tour, opening for Mono and pg.lost, and are planning a return trip for later in the year. They undoubtedly put Dalian rock on the map. In contrast to most of the Chinese bands that manage to make it abroad, Wang Wen has the drive and work ethic to make Chinese rock as a whole an internationally relevant phenomenon.
photo by toni
Spiral Cow also taps into that post-rock sensibility, but they're more inclined to take a deep dive into experimental prog, calculus-derived time signature depths. Their sound has been described as "instrumental-progressive-Chinese-country-post-math-rock." Yeah, why not. A member of Which Park calls them "China’s first meaningful math rock band." Spiral Cow formed in 2004 and has put out two records since then, 2005's Strange Meat and 2007's Like Playing to a Cow. As far as I know, they haven't played out of Dalian much, and even there they haven't played a show in almost two years. Nevertheless, their influence lives on in a younger generation of Dalian bands, most notably...
Doc Talk Shock was formed in 2008 by a group of friends influenced by Wang Wen and Spiral Cow's deep instrumentation, but equally enamored with the alt stylings of such '90s indie standards as Broken Social Scene, Sonic Youth, and Pavement. Writing about them ahead of a Beijing gig several years ago, a friend of mine deeply immersed in China's indie and post-rock scenes commented that "a lot of listeners will probably think they’re a Beijing band when they first hear them." Doc Talk Shock indeed sounds more akin to Beijing noise pop groups Birdstriking and Mr. Graceless — with whom they've shared the D-22 stage several times before — than any of their local cohorts. After releasing a self-titled EP in 2010, Doc Talk Shock went into the studio for their first proper release last year, recording with P.K.14 vocalist Yang Haisong as part of Modern Sky's "House Party" series. This Saturday they'll come play Beijing for the first time since 2010, along with...
Which Park has been around in one form or another since 2005. After a few lineup changes, they started gigging heavily in Dalian in 2008, when they self-released their debut LP Loser's Glory Time. In 2010 they came to Beijing a few times, playing one of that year's more memorable shows at D-22. Here's a shitty video I shot of them at the time:
Check out Which Park hi-res and in the flesh on Saturday at XP, along with Doc Talk Shock and Beijing indie heartthrobs Mr. Graceless.