[Music Monday]: JUE Jagged Edges
Four choice cuts from the jagged edges of JUE Festival, which kicks off on Thursday and packs >20 events between then and March 22...
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).
Was a rough beginning to March for live music in Beijing. Most of my plans for this past weekend were canceled as I was in the process of writing last week's Music Monday. Luckily, this week sees the beginning of the 2015 JUE Music + Art Festival. And it's looking fantastic. Really don't know what's seeped into the water at the Split Works office to make them book so many challenging, left-field acts on this year's JUE, but whatever it is, I've been drinking it for years and years, and I'm so glad everyone else is finally getting on my level!
I should mention that there's something around 20 JUE events going down between March 12 and March 22, most of them booked by independent organizers attaching their program to JUE's promotional juggernaut, and mostly NOT weirdo avant noise shit like I'm into. JUE is primarily a music thing: the art events still have some kind of music connection, like this sound art exhibition at AOTU, this "translation slam" in collaboration with the Bookworm Literary Festival, or this screening of movies about Chinese rock music at UCCA. The purely music stuff hits pretty much every genre. Folk, hip hop, barn dance music, indie pop, grime, French, et al.
You can find the full JUE program here. A little something for everyone. Me, I'm interested in the most whacked out sounds JUE has to offer. And it has at least four gigs'-worth. Let's get into this:
JUE hits the ground running on Thursday, March 12 with the second Gulou Double Decker: parallel shows in perpendicular universes at the uncanny wormhole connecting Dada and Temple. Upstairs, Live Beijing Music hosts a free showcase of "new dangerous sounds" from a handful of young bands aiming to put their stamp on 2015: "New Wave electro rock kids DiD, grunge party rockers Death Narcissists, and psychedelic shoegazers Solaris", plus a headlining set by Gum Bleed.
Meanwhile, downstairs, Dada hosts Danish producer Hari Shankar Kishore, aka DJ HVAD. HVAD will make his China debut at this one, shotgunning a unique blend of mangled Indian percussion, glitched breaks, broken dubplates and charred samples, Sygnok Records style. Been spinning this dude's insane glitched-brain productions ever since coming across some of his vinyls in India last December, still not sure how to describe it or what to think about it. This video says more than words:
And here's an interesting article on VICE offshoot thump about HVAD's more radical cultural moves: "Riots, Race, Records: DJ HVAD vs. Denmark"
HVAD (that's Danish for "what") comes to Beijing fresh off supporting Aphex Twin on a string of 2014 festivals, a brief tour of India, and en route to his debut at Austin, TX industry festo SXSW. Expect this dude to blow up in the coming year, as his beats have been passed on to Kanye via Bjork producer Arca. Feel like Kanye will be all over this. He loves abrasive sounds and racial politics.
At Dada on Thursday, HVAD is joined by White+ drummer Wang Xu and Da Bang drummer Linan doing live sets, Nova Heart / Hedgehog drummer Shi Lu dragging a full kit onto Dada's dance floor for a live set with Hot & Cold's Josh Frank, and a whole host of other local dark music fanatics / deranged percussionists. 30rmb, 10pm start
Then, on Friday, Australia's Primitive Calculators bring their bombed-out Melbourne industrial suburb sounds to Yugong Yishan. Primitive Calculators were at the very heart of the Melbourne punk scene when it kicked off circa 1977. Then they called it a day two years later. Despite such a brief initial run, their legacy has lived on in generations Australian iconoclasts to come. In 2009, Nick Cave asked them to reform for a reunion set at All Tomorrow's Parties, and since then the band has been on a tear, finally able to perform the singular oeuvre of aggressive, confrontational, industrial electronic music that was too fucking pre-apocalyptic-future for the '70s Aussie punks that by 1980 had gone more Bowie than Vicious.
Primitive Calculators is being wined & dined in the PRC by Genjing Records, who've just released a hardcore slab of 7" vinyl shared between them and Shanghai's Torturing Nurse. Here's that:
And here's some text from the press release for this record, which I wrote, and auto-plagiarization doesn't count as such:
"Roland Barthes also said: 'We know now that a text is not a line of words releasing a single 'theological' meaning (the "message" of the Author- God) but a multi-dimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash,' but — again — who gives a shit? Certainly not Primitive Calculators, who know that nothing has changed since at least 1978. It’s all 'the same / the same / the same / the same / the same / the same / the same.' The World Is (still) FUCKED. 'The Same [Simon Cotter remix]' likewise starts with the guttural remnants of a voice no longer attached to any human frame. The author long ago died, and who knows who/what [Simon Cotter] is (/was)? We may live in a post-industrial world, but Primitive Calculators never lose their edge. Any abacus will tell you that four = four, over and over, day and night, dawn after nuclear dawn. The best you can hope to do is replace your bones with this ancient, ruthless logic and melt into the future."
Whew. While a humanities degree in 2015 might not net gainful employment with opportunities for upward mobility, it can still pay off in free records sometimes! Get primitive calculated on Friday, March 13 at Yugong Yishan. Support from SUBS and Birdstriking.
Damn. This weekend. Saturday is BORIS at Mako. Like many great Japanese things, BORIS took an idea coming from outside the island (they're named after a Melvins song) and obsessively perfected it, in the process making something entirely unique and world-shaking. In this case, it's HEAVY MUSIC. I guess Boris is a metal band? I think their genre is just "fuccckkingggg heavvy, maaannnnnnnnn." I think that's a hashtag you can search.
BORIS has a deep archive: 19 releases over 22 years. Even though the majority of those are epic one-song rippers: that's still many damn records. Their most recent has the wonderful title Noise. Ironically, the songs on it have a more classically pop structure. But it's still quite heavy. Presumably this is mostly what they'll be playing on Saturday:
BORIS has been the White Whale of alternative music bookings in China for a long time. Guitar China was supposed to bring them last year, but they fucked it up somehow. Probably didn't realize that BORIS isn't joking when they say "four hundred high wattage Orange amplifiers" on their tech rider. They do not blaspheme when it comes to amplifier worship. Split's got all their ducks in a row this time, though, fingers crossed, knock on wood, bring earplugs... Saturday March 14 @ Mako
One more JUE showstopper I'm going to profile here, on a similar topic (extremely loud music intended to be experienced more by your body than your ears): THE BUG on Friday, March 20 @ Dada. The Bug is the most stable moniker of protean German post-human-soundscape producer Kevin Martin, who's also variously answered to King Midas Sound, Techno Animal, Ice, God, etc, etc. God is such a good DJ name. DJ God. Except the God in Martin's universe is pretty much over this whole humanity project. Kinda moved on. At a certain level of zoom-out, we're all just so many bugs.
Here's my favorite The Bug track:
The Bug's another one who insists on carting in several thousand decibels'-worth of extra amplifiers for any live gig he plays. Specifically, sub-woofers. There will be enough bass at this gig to rattle your distant ancestors' bone marrow. Check this review from a recent set The Bug performed at a music festival in Berlin:
"A Kevin Martin silhouette - cap, hoody, beard - emerges in front of twelve orange spots though billows of dry ice - we have been promised foghorns after all. The Bug has always been a master of creeping dread, and here the prospect of the unleashed power of his own gigantic soundsystem between the right hand stacks of the Berghain's Funktion One has people rather giddy in expectation of a pure and brutal basting. To voluntarily submit yourself to extremes is of course not masochism in the simplistic definition of the word (and masochism is obviously all about pleasure) but it's interesting to see how his exploration of power works in a human dimension without the vocal foils of his allies and comrade MCs... So when he does unleash the absolutely tremendous and awesome - a word I never use its been so ruined of late - foghorn blasts and my buttocks tremble against the security barrier I'm crushed on and my coat lifts half a centimetre off my shoulders, the hairs on the back of the neck stand up from joy as much as sonic vibration. He's there nodding away against the bright lights, treating these blasts in exactly the same way as he might a dubplate. It's all a bit like the horns in Brave New World.
"How do you follow The Bug? By punching. By slicing... He makes his voice sound like steel. There's a visible slight delay from when he's articulated his vocal sound, and when it pours out of the speakers, its a furnace blast opening up onto Siberia. This is snide, sliding down mountain scree on a metal sheet, not knowing where gravity will drop you off, beats that pop lustily like lanced boils, all over the place and a variety of tortures, dub with steel claws, laceration techno, dubstepping on a landmine, a hammer and tongs metal aesthetic applied to electronic music. A couple of days before, Mondkopf's Extreme Precautions project is satisfyingly histrionic and pompous, synths that glow like the jewel encrusted penthouse of a future space dictator; he screams like the tyrant being pitched from it into the void when the inevitable rising happens."
Damn. And I thought I got hyperbolic with this shit. Relax dude.
The Bug's latest full-length proper was last year's Angels & Devils, loosely a concept album about "Utopian/dystopian, black/white, complexity/singularity, negative/positive..." Here's a cut off the Devils side featuring UK grime MC Manga, who'll also be making the trip to Beijing:
So yeah, that's The Bug x Manga on Friday, March 20 @ Dada. Bring earplugs, again. Actually probably bring one of those things they put on you before you get an X-Ray, just to be safe.
That's some — but not even close to all — of JUE 2015. I guess the harder edges of it, but there's plenty of JUE to go around for all types of music fan. Find the full spread of JUE-affiliated events (dates, times, locations, ticket prices, canned press release texts, pretty pictures, etc) here.