Li Jianhong - "Buddha Machine In Li Village" (HeXieFu)
HeXieFu is a collection of fringe music from China. It’s assembled by the FM3 collective, the makers of the storied Buddha Machine, a little plastic box with a headphone plug that plays a series of hypnotic loops over and over, pushing its cheap plastic construction to its limits when the bass kicks, and has served as songwriting tool for Brian Eno and ex-Sun City Girls figurehead Alan Bishop. Don’t let that throw you.
Many of the artists on HeXieFu break rock/pop composition down to its core elements, one at a time, hoping the subconscious will take over and kick in something both new and worthwhile: the great promise of the Buddha Machine for music students. Li Jianhong’s “Buddha Machine in Little Village,” is baseline Buddha-Machinist, a complex, shape-shifting piece of musique concrete built on a simple loop, with rhythmic and melodic elements that emerge only at the gentle mercy of the underlying whirr. Walnut Room’s “Jie Xie” provides an even more austere example. “Yu Qiu Yu,” by B6, is so fucking minimalist in its drones and jet-gusts, its intermittent rhythmic ricochets shock.
Indeed, the deconstructionist sympathies behind the Buddha Machine’s popularity pervade HeXieFu, to a degree. But that mindset doesn’t necessarily lead to anything as cool as Monolake’s box-inspired creations, and shouldn’t involve any faux-Buddhist head-up-the-assery. There’s always more out there.
This is a pretty damned broad survey of this part of the Chinese underground. Sun Dawei’s “Chu Yu Li Xeng” and Huang Li’s “Tong Nian Ju Gu” know what time it is with complex contemporary tech-savvy rhythms, and are haunting after-party music in the vein that can no longer be called “trance” because, in these cases, it’s gotten its tentacles into the subconscious at large. Da Wang Gang’s “Cai Shen Men,” with its soaring vocal and underlying creaks, is new-age done no-wave and all-ages. “Faster and Faster,” by Top Floor Circus, is the sort of unbalanced campfire folk that Sun City Girls fans could love as much as the SCGs themselves. Zi Yue’s “Bensheng” is somewhere in the all-seeing middle, a meditative drone that morphs into an eerie, passionately sung, multi-layered slow jam.