Research and other investigations by Matthew Niederhauser out of Beijing, China.

Domus Mixtapes: The Sound of Beijing

Looking out on Beijing in the morning from my bedroom window.

I just completed a Domus Mixtape for Beijing. You can hear it over at Domus or on SoundCloud. I drew exclusively from Maybe Mars and Modern Sky for the music as well as a live recording of Zhang Shouwang/张守望 of White+ and Carsick Cars fame. There is a lot more music out there in China, of course, but this is definitely some of my favorite material. Sort of the soundtrack to my life over the past four years. Below is the accompanying text, track list and some portraits of the performers included on the mixtape from Sound Kapital:

The hardest part of the day in Beijing is getting out of bed. Gazing across a smoggy skyline and watching the hectic traffic below is reason enough to hide under the covers for a few more hours. It is a dystopia – maybe even a nightmare. That is why I embrace the night. The sky remains a muted black, and I can seek out sparks of life in the darker recesses of the city. Beijing’s mutating urban landscape can only be matched by its shifting artistic climate, especially in the realm of sound. Desperation breeds discontent, and voices are emerging to express it. Every weekend features full billings at a growing number of performance spaces across Beijing: dive bars near the universities, small coffee houses hidden amongst the hutongs, larger concert halls in defunct government buildings, or experimental enclaves adjoining fish farms on the outer edges of the city. Beijing’s erratic social landscape is now molded by the Internet and mobile phones instead of more closely controlled media channels such as television and radio. Those with idiosyncratic tastes readily connect with each other and access an exponentially broader realm of music from both home and abroad as they continue to pick apart the past fifty years of western pop, rock, jazz, punk, electronic, and experimental music with increased vigor. The performers on this mixtape constitute a formidable new wave of artists striving to expand their creative limits in an autonomous and compelling fashion. Even though it is too early to tell what may come of the innovative strides made by these musicians, there is no doubt that they will continue to break ground within Beijing’s nascent artistic landscape, helping to push the boundaries of an already expanding realm of independent thought and musical expression in China. In the end the city resists description. Outside the smoke-choked bars everything is layered in a fine coat of dust. Whole neighborhoods disappear and find their way deep into your lungs. That’s the problem. The city gets inside you – fills you to the brim – consumed by a monstrous flow of people and infrastructure. It’s savage but enticing. Six million people flocked here over the past ten years and half a million are expected each year for the foreseeable future. The implosion is just beginning. The nebulous heart of the middle kingdom skips along to ever irregular beats.

Tracks:

01. My Great Location – Rebuilding the Rights of Statues/重塑雕像的权利

02. Some Surprises Come Too Soon – P.K. 14

03. No. 6 Space Ship – AV Okubo/AV大久保

04. Sand Hammer – Hedgehog/刺猬

05. Sunday Girl – Ourself Beside Me

06. Flu – Snapline

07. You Can Listen You Can Talk – Carsick Cars

08. Golden Gate – Duck Fight Goose/鸭打鹅乐队

09. This Side Down – The Offset Spectacle/憬观:像同叠

10. To Die – Soviet Pop/苏维埃·波普

11. The Earthquake – 24 Hour/24小时

12. Hospital – Guai Li/怪力

13. Beijing is Not My Home – Demerit/过失

14. Intro/Outro/Transitions – Zhang Shouwang/张守望 live at D-22 on November 22, 2011

Sound Kapital Portraits: HedgehogSound Kapital Portraits: AV Okubo

Sound Kapital Portraits: Ourself Beside MeSound Kapital Portraits: Guai LiSound Kapital Portraits: 24 Hours

Sound Kapital Portraits: LiqingSound Kapital Portraits: Zhang ShouwangSound Kapital Portraits: Liweisi

Sound Kapital Portraits: P.K. 14Sound Kapital Portraits: Offset SpectaclesSound Kapital Portraits: Demerit

Sound Kapital Portraits: Snapline

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