White Is Coming

(HWPR) WHITE is the self-titled debut album from one of the most talked about bands to emerge from the Beijing underground in recent years. Produced by Blixa Bargeld at Einstürzende Neubauten studios in Berlin, White is the starting point for a more widespread recognition of new music from China, and sets the benchmark for all others who follow. White is being released on Bargeld's OpenNote label this Summer, distributed in the U.S. by Ryko.

Together, Shenggy (KORG MS-20, drums, percussion, sampler, vocals) and Shou Wang (guitar, organ, pedals, dome theremin, vocals) have conjured a sound - part electronic shimmer, part cosmic industrialism - that arrives like a nocturnal transmission, complete with advertisements and radio static, through a neon rain.

The heartbeat of the band, beneath Shou Wang's delicately bowed loops and slashing atonal freak-outs, is Shenggy's KORG MS-20, generating everything from a seismic, murky techno pulse to Throbbing Gristle-esque waves of distortion, making for an album of contour and contrast, one moment gripped by suffocating paranoia, the next carefree and gloriously ebullient: witness the giddying theremin assault that opens that album, the warm washes of kosmiche organ and, crucially, Shenggy's rich, bright vocals that unify and personalise these trips into the Asian ether. This is the sound of Beijing in 2009 - hypermodern, Chinese yet defiantly aware of the world beyond, operating within a twilight space that finds its rhythms in the silent accumulations of CCTV cameras and the jangle of omnipresent consumerism.

As would be expected of an album produced by Blixa Bargeld, beneath the heart-stung melodies and urban anxiety, there are oblique percussive flourishes and an attention to textural detail that gives the album its satisfying weight and density. During recording, the band had full access to Neubauten's unique collection of rhythmic tools, as well the engineering team that went into making the Berliners' last album. Whilst the subtle yet unmistakable influence of Bargeld gives the record focus and power, the finished product very much matches the vision White had in mind when performing in Beijing.

"Blixa was very good to us," says Shenggy. "He let our ideas breathe. We played our songs and he helped shape them, to get the most out of them, but it was all about what we could do. The important thing was to get us thinking about our material on a different level. For one song, he asked me questions from the control room and had me answer automatically, to get my subconscious working. In another, I had to think of a phrase and then Shou Wang had to respond with his guitar. Everything was recorded. In the end, the pieces fitted together with a kind of dream logic."

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