Monday, July 09, 2007

Cold Fairyland

Most Shanghai rock music feels like an impossibly bad imitation of music I wouldn't want to listen to anyway. The big influence seems to be eighties "hard rock", maybe, but it's kind of hard to tell as it's all so generic and boring.

So it was refreshing to see Cold Fairyland, one of the most respected Shanghai bands. Rather than bad rock, it felt like some mix of the classical Chinese sound and a progressive rock band.

The concert was at Zhijang Dream Factory, the new location of Yuyintang, which was closed recently for not having proper permits - it's all BS, considering Yuyintang was in the middle of absolutely nowhere and still couldn't get a noise permit. The new location is more convenient, but missing the cool/weird underground feeling - it's now basically a box, in the back of a lounge, in an under-utilized shopping complex for foreigners. Anyway, it was a CD launch party, the $5 ticket cost also bought a copy of the band's CD.

The most distinct element was a pipa, a traditional Chinese instrument that featured prominently in most of the songs. It's a string instrument, and the sound is somewhere between a banjo and a plucked guitar. It really stood out in the mix, also there were constant fills, the lady was very talented at it. She also was the singer, maybe a third of the songs had vocals. She wasn't quite as good at that. It's hard to see in the picture, but she was wearing some kind of wedding dress to the concert, cool cool!

It was contrasted mostly against an electric cello. I'm a big fan of cellos, and I think it could have stood out more. There's also an electric bass player here, to go along with the (unpictured) guitarist, and the drummer. In prog-rock fashion, they were all given a chance to stand out, even the drummer was given a solo, although the guitar and the pipa had the most emphasis.

I won't lie, I think the band has problems. They're obviously talented, and have a very interesting, unique sound, one that manages to be a hybrid of Chinese-Western music. But it's not especially melodic, nor are the solos particularly interesting, and I don't know if it qualifies as more than very skillful background music. But it's definitely worth the gentle reader having a listen, the band has an English language website with some interesting pages - first an entry on their most recent album, with free MP3s of the CD's two best songs, and also the site's front page, which has a number of songs from their previous albums online, as well as a link to purchase the albums.

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