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).
Happy Monday once again! I guess some of your weekends were cut short by APEC. Damn power structures. You might not know this, but APEC member countries every now and then send some super underground representatives to subtly influence the Asia-Pacific economy from the bottom up. To that end, this week we have some ambassadorial subterfuge going on via percussive drone ensembles from the United States, experimental Mongolian folk-rock fusion, and psychedelic cumbia bass from Peru. Let's get into it:
First up: Man Forever. Douban.com continues its "Behind the Billboard" series spotlighting out of town talent by hosting New York City percussionist and composer John Colpitts, who goes by the handle Kid Millions. Kid is a staple of the NYC underground rock scene, making his name initially as the drummer of Brooklyn psych rock heavies Oneida. He's also collaborated with a long list of notable sonic sorcerers, including J Spaceman of Spacemen 3 / Spiritualized and minimalist Japanese noisers Boredoms as part of their 2007 77 Boadrum performance, which entailed 77 people pounding drums in a public Brooklyn park.
The latter collaboration must have left an impression. In 2010 Kid Millions formed Man Forever, which I guess you'd call a percussive drone ensemble. "The fuck does that even mean," you ask? Better answer through sound:
That's from Man Forever's debut, which dropped in 2012 on Thrill Jockey. Since forming and formalizing the project, Kid Millions has taken the show on the road, teaching friends and freelance drummers the simple, highly repetitive, ultimately hypnotic scores behind the dense tapestry of sound entailed in each Man Forever composition. In 2013, he performed with the progressive classical percussion ensemble So Percussion at the Met. This collaboration led to shared studio time and the release of Ryonen, which dropped in April of this year, and is what Colpitts will be presenting in Beijing. Here's a short doc released by Thrill Jockey explaining some of Colpitts' ideas about drumming in general, drumming in the subway, drumming in air, etc:
Choice quote: "The point of the piece was to do something so utterly banal and mediocre and poorly conceived that it would kind of disappear in the performance art world and experimental music world, like it wouldn't even register a blip." Banality — in terms of the extreme repetition of simple individual elements — is the key to Man Forever's aesthetic. On record, Man Forever sounds meditative, atmospheric. Here's what it looks like live:
Kid Millions and the China Man Forever ensemble (featuring the drummers of White+, Omnipotent Youth Society, and SUBS) will perform the piece above on Friday, November 7 at XP. That one's preceded by two weekday gigs featuring Colpitts playing solo and collaboratively as Kid Millions: he's at XP's Zoomin' Night on Tuesday, November 4 with a whole host of local noisemongers, and he'll do a collaborative performance with Carsick Cars's Zhang Shouwang on Thursday, November 6, also at XP. Finally, here are some scans from a slick little black-and-white print zine that the organizers threw together for the event. You may have seen some copies floating around this weekend...
Another good one on for Friday night is Ajinai's album release on Friday at DDC. Ajinai is a five-piece Mongolian rock band, formed in Beijing sometime near the end of 2009. You've got the two solid Mongolian folk bedrocks — the morin khuur (horse-head fiddle) and the throat-singing — plus some electric guitar and rock drums. Sounds a bit like Hanggai on the surface, but Ajinai plays the fusion element much more subtly and richly than do their hammier Grassland Rock predecessors, elegantly synthesizing Mongolian soundscapes into compositions that often veer in much more avant and esoteric directions.
In fact, Ajinai's founder, lead throat singer, and morin khuur-ist Hugjiltu was a founding member of Hanggai in 2005, and subsequently quit the band to focus on his own work. In between, he's also played in Dawanggang's experimental post-folk orchestra, an influence that almost certainly has bled into Ajinai. Right around the time he was forming Ajinai, I'd always see Hugjiltu giving improvised, unannounced performances in Amilal's tiny space, sometimes with acolytes learning horse-head fiddle from him, most often solo, always somehow managing to defy expectations associated with "Mongolian folk music" and never pandering to an easy "world fusion" sound palette. To this day these rank as some of the best live music experiences I've had in Beijing.
So, on Friday, Ajinai releases their second studio full-length, appropriately enough entitled Synthesis. There are a few tracks up for streaming on Xiami — worth a quick blinking-off of your VPN. If you can't live without your Facebook notifications for more than 10 minutes, here's a cut from a recent live set Ajinai gave in Denmark this past July:
Get a lot more of that on Friday, November 7 at DDC.
The gig on Friday night at Migas is so different from the Ajinai show, it's practically antipodal. Also on the fusion tip though, I guess. Dengue Dengue Dengue from Lima, Peru sweeps through town with their El Tigre sound system, which pumps out a heavy-psychedelic-dosed mix of dub and techno infused with Dengue Dengue Dengue's particular vision of "jungle cumbia." When they say "jungle," they mean less Goldie, more ayahuasca:
That's a heavy stab of cumbia bass right there. Dengue Dengue Dengue is coming to China via Philipp Grefer / Fake Music Media. Philipp has a background in Latin American studies, and it's nice to see him putting it to such good use, bringing insane psychedelic dancefloor dictators all the way to Beijing. That's true cultural diplomacy! Dengue Dengue Dengue plays on Friday, November 7 at Migas with support from DJ Wordy and Nassdak.
Kid Millions solo = TUE Nov 4 @ XP Zoomin' Night
Kid Millions + Zhang Shouwang = THU Nov 6 @ XP
Man Forever = FRI Nov 7 @ XP
Ajinai Album Release = FRI Nov 7 @ DDC
Dengue Dengue Dengue = FRI Nov 7 @ Migas