Tag Archives: China

A Brief Guide to Metal In China

Be Persecuted

Be Persecuted photo by Deng Zhang

Though outside music was mostly banned from the People’s Republic of China until the 1980s, metal gained an early foothold among rock musicians and fans in the country. Genre forerunners like the glam-leaning Black Panther, formed in 1987, and epically named Tang Dynasty were packing stadiums and moving units in the early years of the genre’s appearance in the country. Continue reading

Genome 6.66Mbp is the Shanghai Label Keeping the City’s Nightlife Alive

Genome MBP 666
All the press on Shanghai’s Genome 6.66Mbp might have you believing they are impossibly cool. With a collaged, destructive digital art aesthetic, spiffy photoshoots with the members donning post-rave, totally alien outfits, and music that sounds like it could soundtrack autonomous Tesla rides and 45-minute space shuttle trips in the future, the label founders are like bait for Western publications looking for the next big thing out of China.

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These Experimental Labels Seek New Musical Forms in Beijing and Shanghai

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Wu Shanmin

On paper, Beijing and Shanghai are almost polar opposites. Beijing, with its dusty alleys and dynastic past, is home to emperors, bureaucrats, and artists. Shanghai is bigger, richer, and newer, a swinging port city with a futuristic skyline that went up virtually overnight.

Yan Jun, a pioneer of experimental music in China, summarized the differences memorably in a 2014 Wire essay: “Beijing turns to olden times and Shanghai escapes to another dream, a future world that does not exist and never will. There are all kinds of music in Beijing and Shanghai, but, following the above line, nostalgic music typically accompanies Beijing and an international standard of music fits Shanghai.”

Yan, who lives in Beijing and has spent plenty of time in both cities, started his music career in the ‘90s as a rock critic. His pithy, poetic writing style earned him an instant fan base, and bands from all around the country would send him hand-dubbed cassette demos to be reviewed in the few music magazines that existed before the Internet made its way to China.

Today, Yan’s Sub Jam label has become mandatory listening for anyone who wants to get a grip on the early days of experimental music in China, and Yan remains a go-to arbiter of interesting sounds being made on the level of Chinese underground culture. His latest dispatch on that front is There Is No Music From China, a 14-track compilation co-released by Wellington label End of the Alphabet and Beijing label Zoomin’ Night.

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Beijing Label Genjing Bridges China’s Underground With The World

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Genjing Records was born on the road. Nevin Domer, who has lived in Beijing since 2005, was on tour with his hardcore band Fanzui Xiangfa (Chinese for “criminal thoughts”) in southeast Asia when he realized he needed to press vinyl records to sell abroad. Domer hit it off with Malaysian band Daighila, and decided to press a split 7” with them in order to have some merch to sling on Fanzui Xiangfa’s upcoming European tour. This was in 2010, and Domer—a DIY-to-the-core anarcho-punk—had been managing international operations for the Beijing indie label Maybe Mars since its 2007 founding. “I immediately thought this would be a good way to help other Chinese bands touring abroad,” he says. “Realizing vinyl is still important for sales internationally, it’s better to have vinyl releases than CD releases in a lot of DIY markets.”

That approach has worked to this point. Genjing has put out 47 vinyl releases to date, and Domer pays for all the pressing. By giving bands like Beijing’s Demerit and SS20 from Germany vinyl to sell while touring each other’s home turf, they maintain the label’s DIY spirit while giving Genjing artists the means to make a living. The imprint has adopted a genre-agnostic approach, pulling from Domer’s deep and comprehensive network of bands in China: Everything from space-crisped kosmische (Snapline), to bedroom shoegaze reverie (Dear Eloise), to esoteric folk compositions (Li Daiguo, Yang Fan).

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Most of Genjing’s releases are split 7”s, with distribution shared among partner labels in Europe, the United States and Japan—or, more recently—Domer’s new Far Out Distant Sounds distro, which is co-run in San Francisco by Enrique Maymi of The Brian Jonestown Massacre. “It’s about building that bridge, involving multiple labels in multiple territories,” Domer says. “Focusing on 7”s instead of full releases is a way I can try to document more fully everything that’s going on in China. This way I can do more releases that maybe aren’t as comprehensive, but allow me to document a more diverse variety of bands.” 

Genjing has also stoked the popularity of vinyl within China; it hasn’t been widely used since propaganda songs were printed for mass distribution during the Mao era. We asked Domer to share some of his favorite Genjing tracks, highlighting releases that have realized his mission of bridging the Chinese underground with the rest of the world. “It’s still on a very DIY level,” he says, “but I feel it does kind of build a connection, and adds something more ‘real’ to that relationship between bands in China and the outside.”

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