In an effort to better understand the Chinese underground, we here at Far Out Distant Sounds are reaching out to various musicians and participants in the scene for lists of their top artists, albums and more. This week we asked Leng Mei, the singer and guitarist for Streets Kill Strange Animals for his top 10 albums from China. He's chosen some new and relatively current releases as well as some Maybe Mars classics and a few titles dating back all the way to the 20th century! A nice cross-section of Chinese indie, punk, and experimental music. Check out his list below and listen to the full Streets Kill Strange Animals catalog in our shop!
Cui Jian - Balls Under The Red Flag
Cui Jian is widely considered the godfather of Chinese rock. The 1994 album Balls Under The Red Flag, his 4th, sees him at his best. Mixing influences ranging from the Velvet Underground to Daydream Nation-era Sonic Youth to free jazz, he creates a mixture of punk and jazz that remains distinctly Chinese. Often filtering Western sounds through traditional Chinese instrumentation, including the suona and zheng. Listening to Cui Jian it's easy to see why, despite all the changes that China has been through in the past two decades, he is still admired and respected by the country's underground scene.
Dou Wei - Black Dream
Dou Wei left the heavy metal band Black Panther in 1992 to record his debut solo album Black Dream, a landmark of the Chinese scene. Drawing influences from the likes of Bauhaus, the Cure, and even reggae, Black Dream is a shadowy and atmospheric album reveling in experimentation. Dou Wei continues to experiment to this day with an extensive catalog of releases. Having shared bills with Radiohead and collaborated with Brian Eno, he is one of the few members of his generation still widely respected by the contemporary scene.
The Fly - I
Part of the second wave of China's underground rock scene, The Fly, along with Tongue, No, and Pangu, were known as the four Punk Gods. Rooted in No Wave punk rock, their seminal first album The Fly I was released in 1997 and is a mix of Jesus Lizard-esque noise and outsider jazz. Their album still resonates today and their influence can be felt among the more avant-garde and math-rock strains of the Chinese underground scene.
Snapline - Party Is Over, Pornstar
Produced by Martin Atkins, this album, Snapline's debut, is so steeped in early 80's post-punk influences that it's difficult to believe it isn't actually some lost, obscure 80's album. It was one of the first three albums released by the Beijing label Maybe Mars and has gone on to inspire a generation of Chinese musicians. Much of what is now considered the Beijing or Maybe Mars sound can be traced back to this release. For fans of Wire, Joy Division and other artists of that ilk. Grab your copy here.
Muscle Snog - Mind Shop
Formed by members from the Shanghai acts Boojii, 33rd Island, and Top Floor Circus, Muscle Snog was a short-lived but widely influential band whose members went on to form Duck Fight Goose. Mind Shop, Muscle Snog's one and only studio album is an eclectic mix of art rock and whimsical experimentation which takes many vivid twists and turns. "Call It Pop Song" (AKA Kill Me In A Dirty Nation) is a standout track that wouldn't be out of place in the Flying Nun catalog, while The Boy With The Burning Legs is a startling, dramatic and unique piece of explosive rock music. Order the CD, or listen to Mind Shop here.
8 Eye Spy - How Damn Far To YinMa Lane?
Nanjing No Wave act 8 Eye Spy wear their influences on their sleeve but shouldn't be underestimated. The band's debut album How Damn Far To YinMa Lane? was produced by Yang Haisong and released by the Beijing label Maybe Mars in 2009. The twelve tracks see each of the members swapping instruments and, like their music, continually disintegrating and recombining in a multitude of configurations. The full album can be streamed and purchased on our site.
Duck Fight Goose - Sports
This debut full-length from Shanghai's Duck Fight Goose is a staggeringly fresh and original take on forward-thinking, futurist, art-rock. Somewhere between late 70's Bowie, Bauhaus and something from the future that still doesn't exist yet, this album is a real head turner and comes with the highest of recommendations from the Far Out Distant Sounds staff! Stream and purchase their CD on our store or grab the clear vinyl 7" single lifted from this stellar album.
DOC - Northern Electric Shadow
Evolving out of a previous incarnation entitled Doc Talk Shock and combining with fellow Dalian natives Which Park, DOC leave their Polvo-esque indie guitar angst behind for a decidedly more Post-Rock approach. Their eight-track LP incorporates synthesizers and electronic elements to create more expansive and sprawling arrangments. Doc Talk Shock's Modern Sky CD, Lights of Detour, is available here.
P.K. 14 - Music For An Exhibition
Not your average album by this legendary Chinese underground post-punk band. This is P.K.14 at their most experimental, improvisational and collaborative. It's a joint venture with Maybe Mars label mates Alpine Decline, as well as Zhu Wenbo of Zoomin' Night, Fat City and Not In Catalog fame. Recorded as a live performance at Beijing's UCCA gallery. Grab your copy of the orange vinyl double LP here.
Re-TROS - Before The Applause
This latest offering from Re-TROS is a real departure from their earlier recorded output. They have left the Goth Rock and Post-Punk influences behind for a far more electronic and accessible sound. Before The Applause, produced by two-time Latin Grammy award winner Hector Castillo, is their first in eight years and the follow-up to Watch Out! Climate Has Changed, Fat Mum Rises... Their earlier releases can be found here.