Beijing’s homegrown eLectronIc and experimental musicians have come into their own in recent years – not to mention the international players who are now based outside of the capital.
So fast has the underground scene grown, that from there being a smattering of acts just a few years ago, there are now too many producers and artists worth listening to to mention on one page. As a starter, these three labels host some of the most exciting local acts playing on the Beijing after-dark scene today.
This pumpin’, bouncy collective, co-founded by bigtime producers Howie Lee (pictured, right) and Guzz, create progressive sounds that guarantee big crowds but that also speak to something more obscure. 'We take our traditional culture and combine it with modern techniques to create something innovative,' says Guzz, whose style has been described as 'ethnic minority club music'. Tune in for samples of traditional Chinese instruments brushing up against big bass beats.
Founded in 2015, Ran Music is the passion project of Shen Lijia, who founded the label to cultivate local electronic artists. 'It’s like an incubator to help artists develop themselves,' he told Time Out. Championing a vinyl revival, Ran hosts a broad church of sounds, from the minimalist beats of Thruoutin to the groovy bass of Soulspeak and the melodic deep house of Animal Pop.
'The Beijing scene is special because it’s open to letting people try new things,' reckons American-born Thruoutin. 'There are a lot of people doing different styles of electronic music that were really non-existent even just a few years ago.'
Nasty Wizard Recordings
'A secret order of tape alchemists,' says NWR; a weird but worthwhile listening experience say we. NWR is not entirely guitar-free, but they are free of anything you might have heard before. Hectic AF white noise mash- ups, synthy ambient melodies and a lot of postmodern electronic experimentation. This is music that would be as at home in an art gallery as in a nightclub, but you’ll also find it on cassettes, which NWR produces the old-school way, with A and B sides, thoughtful covers and limited physical releases.
Interview with Josh Feola, founder of Pangbianr
What makes electronic music in Beijing different?
It’s the way it figures out different strategies to take genres or styles of music that initially formed in the West, and make them organically local in one way or another, be that through incorporating Chinese sounds or working to build a distinctive grassroots community.
Who are the artists or labels to watch?
(pictured) is an interesting label trying to do something different, though sound-wise they’re more focused on techno (see them at Dada on Sat 25
). For truly experimental music, Bwave/Pixel Echo is doing something no other Beijing label even comes close to: exploring computer music outside the context of beats, clubs and dance.
I particularly like Jason Hou, Iimmune from Prajnasonic, and Menghan, who is slowly building her own experimental techno sound. And everything Howie Lee does these days is excellent – the music, the visuals and live show.
Which venues are best for electronic music in Beijing?
For actual listening purposes, certain events at Yue Space
are the best. Nasty Wizard, Prajnasonic, Do Hits and Pixel Echo have all been there, and sound great, though it’s not as good for late-night, blitzed dancing.
I haven’t been yet, but the people behind the new club Zhao Dai know what they’re doing. They’ve been throwing parties in Beijing for years via White Rabbit and Shadowplay. I’m looking forward to seeing the new space.
Pangbianr is an event booking platform and blog, covering underground music, art and film in Beijing since 2010.