33 Dao — Xunzhao Guowang
(Modern Sky 8-032, 2007, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2009-07-01There has always been a kind of surreal appeal to the sound of carnival music, and it has managed to creep into a variety of genres, from Broadway musicals to Hamster Theatre. This Shanghai band (No. 33 Island in English) infuses their twisted pop-rock with a fair amount of carnival atmosphere along with doses of Chinese opera, gamelan, and just plain strangeness. Often there’s a bass sound (keyboard, maybe?) that sounds like tuba, and when you combine that with a martial snare drum and tinkling glockenspiel, you’ve got an intriguing mixture, especially when they’re doing a song that’s a little reminiscent of something Sparks might have done on Propaganda. Eccentric sound design backs nursery-rhyme melodies, and I’m told the Chinese lyrics are as surreal as the arrangements, with titles that translate as such things as “Two-Legged Dog on a Triangular Stage” and “The Monkey's Dance before the Giant Awakes.” (The album title is Searching for the King in English.) If you’re looking for consistency or straightforward songcraft, look elsewhere, but for an intriguing dream journey through a twisted fairground populated by strange people and animals, this is your CD. And lest you think it’s all bizarre sound combinations, they do get out the guitars and rock from time to time, like a warped 90s Britpop band singing in Chinese. Every track features something interesting, and I just hope those outside Asia can get a chance to hear it. If they were from Sheffield instead of Shanghai, the British press would undoubtedly call them the next Radiohead. Or something.
Related artist(s): 33 Dao
Ennio Morricone RIP – Famed composer Ennio Morricone has died at the age of 91. The creator of scores for more than 500 movies, some of his works have become the most recognizable sounds in the history of cinema. His soundtracks for Sergio Leone's Westerns made from 1964 to 1971, are iconic landmarks in film music, but he also composed for dramas, comedies, and other genres. He won the Academy Award for Best Original Score in 2016 for The Hateful Eight. » Read more
Keith Tippett RIP – One of the giants of British jazz has left us. Keith Graham Tippetts, known professionally as Keith Tippett, died today at the age of 72. His work from the late 60s into the 70s and beyond includes some of the greatest jazz produced in the UK, and stands as an impressive oevre to this day. » Read more
Phil May of The Pretty Things RIP – We were saddened to learn that Phil May, lead singer and founding member of The Pretty Things, has died at the age of 75. The band's 1968 album S.F. Sorrow is one of the enduring classics of the psychedelic era, and the group existed in various forms until finally retiring in 2018. » Read more