Tzusing, “绿帽 Green Hat”
By James Gui · March 30, 2023 Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP

Less widely known than the “smelly lunchbox moment,” the embarrassment that comes with accidentally wearing a green-colored hat is a rite of passage for Chinese men, both in China and the diaspora. (For the uninitiated: to “wear a green hat” is a Chinese euphemism for a cuckold.) Tzusing’s latest record 绿帽 Green Hat uses this trope to deconstruct Chinese masculinity through the language he knows best: hard-hitting industrial body music.

Amid the saber-rattling of heads of state across the Pacific, this dissection of masculinity might be coming at a salutary moment, though whether its message will bubble up from the global club underground remains to be seen. In any case, the record doubles as concept album and DJ toolbox. “偶像包袱 (Idol Baggage)” seems to place the green hat sonically on the listener as laughter and Ha crashes (pun intended?) seep in through its dark trudging rhythm; “戴綠帽 (Wear Green Hat)” does so again through its title, with a whimsical kazoo-like synth texture and progression that evokes a circus of cuckolds. 

In other tracks, Tzusing expands on a certain militaristic aesthetic, expressing an ambivalent virility in its sound palette. “孝忍狠 (Filial Endure Ruthless),” the record’s first single, sports a bass riff that evokes Led Zeppelin’s sand-blasted anthem “Kashmir.” As the track closes, a text-to-speech voice with a Chinese accent takes over the track with an unintelligible monologue. “Clout Tunnel” expands on the earlier track’s military-hardened motifs with samples of sirens and a woman’s voice prefiguring the drop: “punching a tunnel.” These nods at militarism come to a head on the final track “Residual Stress,” which quite literally chugs forward with a machine-gun clip. Quantized perfectly as in a video game, the rounds fired at the beginning of the track are clearly digitally generated or manipulated, but the base violence that its relentless rhythm implies still overwhelms in a way that the typical trap or Jersey club glock sample might not.

Sampling computer-generated vocals and animalistic sounds, distorting them beyond recognition, Tzusing whips up an uncanny, more-than-human air in these tracks. Man—he who attempts to dominate nature in the Enlightenment tradition and the virtuous patriarch who does the same in the Confucian—gives way to that which he has tried to control and the tools he created to do so, finally collapsing in a gasp at the album’s conclusion.

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