pure guitar and drums brutality
by Richard Mason
Like side 2 of Pink Flag, this article begins with the commercial.
On the few occasions I have money to spend on music and no clear idea of what, I gravitate towards Aquarius Records of San Francisco; they always list something I'm ignorant of that sounds worth investigating. Here's what caught my eye most recently – their description of Ghost temple by D!O!D!O!D!:The latest from Tokyo's PSF label isn't one of their usual offerings of free jazz, outsider improv folk, or garage psych... it's not even "Japanese noise". It's actually Chinese noise. Not that that sounds much different from the Japanese variety! The oddly named D!O!D!O!D! are a raucous n' rowdy guitar and drums duo hailing from Hangzhou, China. Guitarist Li-Jianhong and drummer Huang Jin lay it on thick here, freaking out with the best of 'em. Crashing, clattering drum battery versus scrabbling, feedback guitar overload. Non-stop madness. If loud n' noisy improv is your thing, if you dig Hijokaidan and Ascension and Rudolph Grey and Harry Pussy and suchlike skronk and skree, you'll be happy PSF (ED NOTE: the Japanese label, not this publication) hooked up with these two frenzied Chinese noiseniks to bring you this disc.Loud'n'noisy improv is one of my things & I, er, "dig" Harry Pussy [haven't heard any of the other 3 mentioned above but 1 out of 4's not bad] and bought the CD. I'm extremely glad I did. Here's what I think.
Li-Jianhong plays the guitar AND the amplifier AND the pedals, creating a saturated sound, whilst Huang Jin plays the drum kit as drums rather than percussion, albeit with as much melody as rhythm. They combine to create blocks of sound with space and silences and washes of sound where sounds blur between instruments and bleed into each other. The feel is live, vibrant, emotive and immediate. There is brutality there, certainly, but controlled and thought out; the feeling is one of intensity, skill, physicality and listening with heads up [as opposed to thrashing with heads down] both to themselves and each other. Both players play rhythm and melody, separately and in unison. It's 'rock' rather than 'jazz' but, strictly speaking, neither; noise with method spontaneously applied, both fascinating and exhilarating. Maybe it's just my ignorance of an area of music I lack knowledge of, but I was struck by the fact that it was a new sound to me and I resolved to find out more.
My first step was to contact Psychedelic Speed Freaks (PSF) Records in Japan for further information. Many thanks to Hideo for providing me with information and contacts and for enduring my spineless and inexcusable "sorry, I only speak English" line of questioning. His recommendation of Jianhong's solo recording [of which more later] is one I must act upon. But what I acted upon first was his recommendation that I contact Alan Cummings. I was already familiar with Alan's colossal input with regard to contemporary Japanese music in sources such as The Wire magazine and Julian Cope's Japrocksampler book and thus emailed him immediately. Soon I received what I now realize was a typically informative and friendly reply which provided these pointers:
"Most of what I know is from the following (Japanese) website:"
"The gist of which is that they were formed in Hangzhou in April 2005 as a duo of Li Jianhong (guitar) and Huang Jin (drums). The group is normally an improvised noise duo, though they have played live with other guest members. The Ghost Temple album was originally released on Jianhong's 2pi label in 2005, then reissued by PSF the following year. They have also had tracks appear on a number of compilations including An Anthology of Chinese Experimental Music 1992-2008 (Sub Rosa) and Asian Flashback (PSF). The rest of that page gives details of the various concerts and festivals they have appeared at and who the additional members were. They played in Japan in 2006, though Huang Jin wasn't able to make it (perhaps due to visa problems, I can't remember). There's more info (again in Japanese) about the drummer, Huang Jin here:"
"Apparently he lives and plays mostly in Chengdu in Sichuan, and he's been in a whole range of different groups and projects since the mid-90s."
Hideo had given me Li-Jianhong's e-mail address and Alan recommended that I contact him directly. I did so and swiftly received a reply in which he told me and told me his English was not good but he could probably get a friend to help him with it. Here are my questions and his answers.
Q: Which guitars, pedals and amplifiers do you like best and why?
LJ: My favourite pedals should be all kinds of fuzz pedals, whose rough but warm sounds function as a catalyst for me to make psychedelic noise. I have 12 fuzz pedals of different types. But nowadays I make more improvisational music and use fuzz pedals less. As to guitars, I prefer Gibson. I usually use ES-125 now. I like its sound and it's light to carry. I've never had a guitar amplifier for myself yet. The models I prefer include Roland JC-90,Fender Twin Reverb and Delax Reverb. But they are all expensive for me.
Q: How long have Huang Jin and you been playing music together? What do you enjoy about his drumming?
LJ: We haven't been together for long. Before, it was only once or twice in a year (that we would) perform together. The last time we played together was last March. D!O!D!O!D! is always in a state of that it was about to destruct. Now my emphasis is on my solo projects and my improvisational collaboration duo with VAVABOND. In D!O!D!O!D!, I quite enjoy the explosive and energetic feeling in the performance. I like the power and the impulsion in Huang Jin's drumming, but it seems that he began to doubt about such a style later on. Now for most of the time, he plays in a pop rock band in his home town. To be honest, it's a great pity.
Q: How did you get to record for PSF?
LJ: My own label 2pi Records released the album in 2005. At that time, I was invited to perform in Japan. So PSF republished the album before the tour. Later on, they also released two solo albums of mine.
Q: Which musicians do you admire?
LJ: AMM and Keith Rowe, Derek Bailey, Jimi Hendrix, Incapacitants, and many other Chinese folk musicians such as Guan Pinghu, Lin Shicheng, etc.
Q: Can you play in Europe soon?
LJ: There are plans about visiting Norway and Germany, but unconfirmed yet.
Q: How do you describe the music of D!O!D!O!D!?
LJ: D!O!D!O!D! was only one of my several plans in music creation. I have many other projects too. To perform as D!O!D!O!D! is a labour work. I quite enjoyed many performance of D!O!D!O!D! though. Those performances always went on and ended in quite a high mood. But now, the project is almost over. My emphasis now is on my present "environment improvisation," which is a genre I developed recent years by myself.
It'd be disingenuous of me to claim that my decision to investigate the music of D!O!D!O!D! wasn't prompted by at least a tinge of curiosity based on their nationality. Having said that, their music more than stands up in its own right as inventive, striking and refreshing and I'd urge anyone who's read this and was intrigued to investigate them as soon as possible. You could do so by contacting PSF:
As well as PSFD167 [D!O!D!O!D! Ghost Temple] the label has released PSFD-170 [Various Artists Asian Flashback] which contains tracks by both D!O!D!O!D! and Li-Jianhong ["(the) first PSF compilation to focus on the linkages between the established underground scene in Japan and nascent ones in China and Korea"] and PSFD-187 Li Jianhong Classic of the Mountains and Seas ["this solo disc sees him simultaneously channelling Keiji Haino and Masayuki Takayanagi as he dissolves himself into an avant-guitar mandala comprised of full-bore drone, sustained runs of psychedelic soloing and phantom echo"].
It'd be churlish in the extreme of me however to refrain from also recommending the aforementioned source of my interest to you as a reliable source of singularly adventurous and unusual musics:
Expect, and hopefully enjoy, the unexpected.
Thanks so much to Hideo from PSF, Alan Cummings and Li-Jianhong. Forgive me for stating the bleeding obvious, but this piece wouldn't have been possible without their not inconsiderable input.
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