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White

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cover   imageA big deal has been made in the underground music press about China’s new music. Comparisons with other geographically unified music scenes like New York’s No Wave movement echo throughout the web but as Sub Rosa’s recent overview of Chinese music has shown, the idea of a single scene (or even a geographical localisation of protagonists) is a false notion. This duo from Beijing sound nothing like any of their contemporaries and they sound little like their admitted influences. White impressed me greatly last year when I saw them live in London and now that their debut album is finally available, they have floored me yet again.

 

Open Note

White - White

While there are echoes of Throbbing Gristle or Swans at various points throughout their album, White move beyond any ground previously explored by those groups. Even Einstürzende Neubauten, the band who have nurtured White (Blixa Bargeld produced the album and it has been released via a label that has been born out of Neubauten’s supporter project) are only given passing nods from time to time (although there is a homage to their early clamour during “Roswitha Strunk”). These bands are influences in methodology only; Shenggy and Shou Wang have forged a distinctive, modern sound from post punk principles.

White’s music has a positive, optimistic quality to it that is infectious. Throughout the album I get a feeling of serenity and happiness that should not be from a band touted as China’s answer to industrial music. The strange slide guitar (if it is even that, it is a mysterious sound) in “Spring House” creates an off-kilter feeling of hope as Shenggy gently sings over it. Once the music takes flight, Shenggy and Shou Wang have the grace of birds. The effect is beautiful and unusual yet not as delicate as this written description would suggest. White create sturdy music that is also lightweight, the notes and beats made from a musical form of aluminium.

The standout track on the album is “Build A Link,” where the brightness of White’s outlook on life shines brightest. The rhythm and evolution of the song is reminiscent of Kraftwerk’s “Neon Lights” and like Kraftwerk, White romanticise the mundane features of modern life that define how we now live. The lyrics here encapsulate the feeling of joy at realising how technology is no longer a depersonalising entity but a new way of forging links between the various cultural islands of humanity. “47 Rockets (For Wan Hu)” explores this sort of technophilia but with a bit more oomph to the music; a joyous climax towards the end of the song like fireworks in the night sky.

Finally, the studio process has worked very well in White’s favor, the rough edges of their live performance have been smoothed out and every little nuance of the duo’s playing has been captured in beautiful detail by Marco Paschke. The final mastering is superb; the dynamics are fully preserved which makes the listening experience natural sounding and, above all, enjoyable. This solid production along with the fact that these are great songs, White’s debut is a standout release that has surpassed all my expectations.

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Last Updated on Sunday, 20 September 2009 12:41  


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