Yin: Drunken Elephants, Big Rabbits, and Surprisingly Uplifting Avant Electronic Music

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12:34 AM HKT, Sat October 6, 2018 2 mins read

Yin (音, “music”) is a weekly RADII feature that looks at Chinese songs spanning hip hop to folk to modern experimental, and everything in between. Drop us a line if you have a suggestion.

Shanghai-based play rec, the self-described “cutting edge sound art & electronic music label from China” founded by Wang Changcun and Xu Cheng and featuring involvement from Han Han aka Gooooose, have just dropped their newest release. The label mostly deals in self-consciously weird, avant-garde electronic music. Intriguing, but not necessarily something you want to put on to gear you up for the weekend. Yet the latest album to be released from their stable is a little different. Well, relatively at least.

Zafka Zhang’s The Wild Ark is 12 tracks of bright if not exactly breezy electronic oddballness. It’s one of play rec’s most accessible releases, without eschewing any of the artsiness that makes the rest of the label’s back catalogue so interesting.

It also comes with a sociology and anthropology-related creation story, which we’ve copied and pasted for you below. But first, hit play on this track, “Drunken Elephants”:


Here’s Zhang’s explanation for the record, lifted from the Bandcamp page:

“I started to make electronic music in the end of 2016, and at the same time I also started to write a book with my colleagues in China Youthology. This book is about today’s social and cultural changes, and the status of young people and business. The book was written in 2017 and published in August 2018. The process of writing the book is also the process of making music. In the book, we call today’s world “Great Plains” to describe a volatile society that is full of risks and opportunities. We call the state of people and organizations “nomadic”. Therefore, I plan to make a trilogy of electronic music at the same time, to response to it.

“In December 2017, the first album of the trilogy「The Abraham’s Machine」was completed. This album was published in the Play Rec label in February 2018. In this album, the prophet Abraham disappeared, left behind him a machine. People bowed to the machine and prayed, thus the journey and a dialogue started and recorded. I used the Reason 10 software to create the album. I also included my poem entitled “Journey” written in Oxford Street Church in London in 2004.

“「The Wild Ark」is the second album of the trilogy. It’s about the Ark being not there, and the Great Plains a wasteland, and everywhere a boat. In the gloom, the sentient beings are scattered, surging, and boundless. Sky, dust, deep sea. Flying, creeping, sluggishing. Twelve tacks, twelve portraits. I used Ableton Live 10 software to create.

“The third album of the trilogy has not yet been named and is already in progress. It’s about the reflection of the people, and the reorganization of the social contract.“

So there you go. If that all feels a bit heavy, here’s another track from the record to sooth you:

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