Various An Anthology of Chinese Experimental Music (1992-2008)

Various An Anthology of Chinese Experimental Music (1992-2008)
Sub Rosa has rightly gained a reputation for curating utterly captivating and diverse compilations of experimental sounds. Each volume of their Anthology of Noise and Electronic Music paired past innovators, both sung and unsung, with newer musicians, and also compiled canonized classics while offering up rarities from established artists. The trend was continued with their excellent Persian Electronic Music set, which was geared more towards exposing Western audiences to two little-known Iranian composers. This exhaustive four-disc affair follows suit, as curator (and Chinese noise musician) Dickson Dee serves up a wide range of artists with the intent of documenting a vibrant scene. As with other compilations from Sub Rosa, the quality is consistently high and always intriguing. It's also incredibly diverse, which makes for an exciting yet dauntingly uneven listening experience. It can, however, be somewhat tough to digest even one disc straight through when you're confronted with such a barrage of intense and rich flavours at every turn ― sometimes within the span of one work. According to the fascinating liner notes though, this matches the bric-a-brac manner in which China was exposed to Western experimental music and cinema. Apparently "dakou" ― surplus unsold CDs and DVDs shipped from the West to be used as recycled plastic then rescued from their original purpose and sold illegally ― was responsible for this subversive influence. This unorthodoxy is evident in the way in which many of the more recent works irreverently throw together disparate experimental genres. While some pieces stick to single forms, others come off like deformed mutant hybrids. The slightest hints of a beat get steamrolled by Merzbow-styled sonic eruptions. Other times, like on Hong Qile's contribution on disc three, murky, lo-fi, Nurse With Wound- style collages of traditional music dissolve into a digital ice-cream headache of high frequency noises. Outlandish genre mash-ups aside, this collection offers pretty much something in every imaginable experimental style: remote, minimalist techno; violent, early-Boredoms-esque vocal noise; elegant ebbing and flowing soundscapes; improv using traditional Chinese instruments; detailed post-concrete pieces; digitally distressed ambient music, à la Fennesz; shards of extreme guitar noise; fumbling, lo-fi, rock-informed experiments; and more. Much like Sub Rosa's other compilations, this set is a must-hear for any fan of noise, experimental music and the outer reaches of electronic music. (Sub Rosa)