Happy 4th anniversary to the Chinabot label, who celebrates with this collection of creative sounds from Asian artists across the board. We’ve been enjoying the work of the label since its inception, with notable attention to Sabiwa and Neo Geodesia. This roster expansion includes artists new to the label, as well as many exclusives. Imagining these artists performing at a single festival, our imaginations start to soar. The colorful cover (from label head Saphy Wong) provides an apt reflection of the wealth and variety of talent.
Kyoto’s Seaketa kicks things off with the hyperactive arcade sounds of “Ranbu,” followed by Vietnamese collective Rắn Cạp Đuôi, whose new album we only just reviewed. “Waltz” is not on that album, nor, amusingly, is it a waltz. Instead, it’s a blast of metal power, exposing even more timbres not found on that diverse set. The breakdown, however, is decidedly un-metal – although still not a waltz.
Japan’s King Rambo Sound is a pure percussive pounder with sheep noise, the type of track that lands on Tik Tok. Then things get slow, really slow, with the deliberate pacing of Vietnam’s Mona Evie, growing ever more active by adding chimes, sub-rhythms and sampled brass, building to an industrial conclusion. This is a hard act to follow, so Pisitakun offers a piece more thoughtful than club worthy, ending in a flurry of gunshots and yells culled from the 2010 Thai military crackdown. Kyoto’s Dagshenma pauses for reflection before plunging into the chaotic rhythms of “YoO.” The half ends in “funeral,” a collaboration between OHYUNG & lucy liyou whose strings seems even more melancholic due to the sequencing of the cassette.
Side B starts with the tumbling abstractions of Ayankoko, whose own Khmu Thidin was just released by the label: 21 tracks, and happily, “Here’s that rainy day” is not found among them. Seoul’s Arexibo, fresh from her debut EP, offers an ambient “Flame,” another exclusive piece. West Borneo’s Juan Arminandi contributes the percussive “Potong Tanah” as a statement on environmental destruction. Then comes the compilation’s strangest piece, a cross-continental collaboration between Vincent Laju and Samin Son: avant cello and guttural voice.
After this, it’s a relief to land on safer shores. Laughing Swan eases into “Black Swan” before pulling the curtain back on the drums. Japan’s at her open door continues his quest to “mix the 80’s music of YMO and Depeche Mode with modern African and new age music,” which begun on the recent XOR EP; and Jaeho Hwang enlists family members (and perhaps a cat) for a playful finale. So what have we learned from all this? The Asian electronic scene is alive and well; the Chinabot label is increasingly relevant; and there’s a lot more great music left to discover. We suspect next week’s release party at London’s Cafe OTO will be amazing! (Richard Allen)