Experimental Labels Seek New Musical Forms in Beijing and Shanghai

Via Bandcamp Daily.

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.