2014 continues being a top notch year for releases – whether it\’s the rise of xiami and other chinese based streaming service, the persistence of bandcamp and soundcloud despite obvious firewall hurdles, and just generally bands using the internet as a means to an end, it seems there’s just some much good music to strive through these days – including these new releases from world music interlopers Xiban, shoegaze faves Skip Skip Ben Ben, emo rock outfit Tookoo, multi-instrumentalist genre-bender Djang San, and post punk electronic duo Hot & Cold. Some come along folks and let the music fill those headphones.
The best act I caught at the Hanggai Festival a couple years back was Xiban, a multi-national, multi-instrumental troupe that fully embodies the world music category and then takes it even further by incorporating experimental textures and techniques, creating a world of sound that’s invigorates the old noggin. Cool stuff indeed. The group just released a double album last week, Peace and Prosperity and Powder of Five Minerals, and they are bonafide masterpieces. For those whom enjoyed Xiao He’s experimental folk allure, to those who get off on the majesty of Hanggai vast soundscapes, or to Second Hand Rose’s love for the intersection of traditional and present, then this is the album for you. A reinterpretation of Chinese music that’s absolutely mesmerizing – the bands says it best of their profile page – “With a strong touch of rock, Peace and Prosperity is our reflection upon the past, a summary before saying goodbye. Powder of Five Minerals, on the other hand, is the carefree state when we let go and zone out, listen to our heart and give it free reign.” Give the two albums a listen over here and purchase them here.
The mad Frenchmen, Jean Sebastian, aka Djang San, returns with two releases on opposites sides of the totem pole. First up, Djang San jumps down the rabbit hole some more with Elevator music for shampoo commercials, an experimental free-wielding album self-described as ‘about consumerism’. While, they are plenty of eyebrow-raising moments, particularly the inclusion of 50’s-era-style adverts, there’s a surprisingly amount of soul and humanity to the consumer-ready tracks. I’d take a ride on this elevator any day of the week (speaking of which, Dada + Djang San anyone?). For Folk songs no one will listen to, Djang San taps into his folksy-acoustic wielding persona, and once again manages to find compassion and emotion in the simplest of folk songs. Just from an instrumental standpoint, Djang San has made leaps and bounds and I’d eager to see him move and dare I say converge, his side projects into something more substantial and extensive. Grab the two albums over at Djang San’s bandcamp here.
I’ve given indie rockers Tookoo a bunch of shit because of their Christians affiliations – find it fascinating more than frustrating actually. But when push comes to shove, Tookoo has proven one of the scene’s most vital emo rock bands. This can be mostly attritubuted to the bands’ persistence in not softening up their sound as evident on their late summer release Love Is Key, Hallelujah. Take the jagged jangly guitar on their opening song ‘The Angle’s Share’ and you have an idea of the bands approach to the often chastised (though profitably beyond belief) genre – rough and dirty, and melodic as ever, like the good lord’s love (ugh). It’s a bit hard to stomach, and though brothers Xiaoquan and Xiaochuan vocals don’t always hit their marks (the less said about their Nirvana cover the better) I’m surprise at how much of it works, such as later tracks ‘Will She Be There’ and ‘Let Me Out (Rusty Caught Me)’. For emo fans, this is a must listen.
Love the concept of international splits – great way to gives bands exposure abound and to a new fanbase. While Genjing Records has thus far, been the torchbearer for this sort of thing, there’s a new player in town. Based in Chicago, Gary Records, is the latest entity to release split 7’’ vinyls out into the world – their latest features one of my favorite bands, shoegaze noise rockers Skip Skip Ben Ben, and transnational post punk electronic duo Hot & Cold. While the Hot & Cold tracks are dope in their own right (featuring perhaps my favorite track of theirs, ‘Nothing But Scared’) it’s the two brand spanking new tracks – ‘I’m Out of Drugs’ and ‘Illusion of Love’, the latter I’ve been feverishly waiting for since I first heard it live back in mid-2012. Props to Gary Records for making it happen. And yes, let’s get Skip Skip Ben Ben back on tour already!