FM3 + Dou Wei, Hou Guan Yin: A Review

FM3 + Dou Wei — Hou Guan Yin
Lona CD

The Beijing based duo FM3’s popular Buddha Machine distilled improvisations and sounds shaped in the course of several years of live explorations down to a series of thirty second loops, set to infinitely repeat. As disks like Staalplaat’s Mort aux Vaches testify, American born Christiaan Virant and Szechuan native Zhang Jian’s live improvisations have a real strength to them, that goes beyond concept and packaging. Zhang Jian began his career as a live musician, playing keyboards in various Beijing based rock ensembles in the mid 1990s. Dou Wei, who plays drums on Hou Guan Yin, is a key figure in the Beijing rock scene, dating back to the early 1990s when he had a goth band called The Dreaming. He’s collaborated with Zhang before in the Bu Yi Ding (“Not Sure Yet”) Band, and with FM3 on 2004’s Story of Flowers in Mirror.

Recorded live in Beijing in 2004, the sound on Hou Guan Yin (Guan Yin being the female Buddha of compassion in China), is firmly ambient, slow repeating loops, with a film soundtrack feel to them that connects with Zhang’s other musical career as a composer for Chinese film and television. Virant contributes some moody guitar lines, while an array of samples from all over the map chatter in the background. The drums are sparse, atmospheric, minimal, often playing an ornamental or improvisatory role while the loops keep up a throbbing rhythm. On other tracks, the extensive use of dub effects starts to sound like Vladislav Delay or vintage Chain Reaction. The whole has a strangely gothic atmosphere, like music for a particularly dark and forlon sequel to celebrated Hong Kong mystery films like A Chinese Ghost Story.

Originally published in Signal to Noise, 2006.

Speak Your Mind