Fazi 法兹, The Fallacy 疯医, RUBUR, Dream Can 谷水车间, Lur:, Sweet Sister Session at Modern Sky Lab 2021.07.17
I remember when I attended the first session of M-Lab’s noise, shoegaze and psychedelic music festival in Beijing, 2017 at the original Modern Sky Lab (dubbed the Legal Vitamin Music Festival). Essentially a murders’ row of the indie scene’s more riotous and, dare I say, esoteric acts, it was a hell of a good time and perhaps was an inkling of how much the musical landscape was to change over the next few years.
Cut to 2021 last weekend for the 4th session of the festival (I’m not even going to get into that scramble of a translation that is Noise Staring Fan) and it’s clear the demand for this kind of music is growing. But really, the best part of these kinds of showcases aren’t the headliners but the chance to catch up with some of the scene’s more underappreciated acts and see how they handle the big stage.
The first night kicked off with Wuhan’s Sweet Sister Session, a band who seemingly emerged out of nowhere over the summer – a no-frills jumble of 1960s acid rock filtered through the likes of 13th Floor Elevators, Suicide and Spacemen3. Dabbed in layers of electronic organs, noise feedback, crunchy guitar riffs, and distorted vocals, it’s space psychedelic music pure and simple – and while they need a bit of refining to better distinguish one song from the other – it was a hell of an introduction to the band, one that had people texting me from all corners of China curious about them.
I missed Lur: in order to grab a bite to eat (as I said last time – get these cats in a place like ALL already) but made it back for RUBUR, a band that knows how to make their presence known, throwing listeners into a swirl of feedback and simmering reverb. It’s ruthlessly gorgeous and crackles with energy – and finds the sweet spot between abrasive and delicate. Quite possibly the best set I caught over the weekend.
I have no idea what’s going on with Dream Can but I kinda love it – while the psychedelic wonderland chock full of noise rock anarchy, spacey strawberry-tainted melodies, and bewitching siren-like vocals remains intact, there’s more of an improvisational free jazz spirit to how the songs unfold, adding a bit of madcap energy to their already tipsy sound.
The Fallacy have gone through numerous shake-ups over the years – from their more direct punchy post punk, to their more synth-heavy sound. Now they seem to be entering a more leaden melodic phase of their career. When it works it works, and really dig how catchy some of their new tunes are. But at the same time, it’s a bit too refined and is missing that wild card element that bands should always have in their back pocket. And while one might think saxophonist Li Zenghui might be the wild card, for the most part, he’s too subdued – essentially acting as an additional guitarist.
Got just a taste of the carnal auditory pleasures of Xi’an’s Fazi, a band that exudes rapturous sincerity and calculated mayhem with surgical skill. I get caught up pretty easily in their sets but forced myself away from the frenzied mosh pit to catch the last subway home, but it was clear audiences were left in good hands at midnight.
Check back in tomorrow with a round-up from our contributing correspondent Phil who will be putting down his thoughts on the bands from day two while getting existential!