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  All materials © 1999 
  Beijing Scene


Beijing Scene, Volume 6, Issue 2, October 22 - 28


by Steven Schwankert
Steven Schwankert is editor of China Buzz www.chinabuzz.com 

Dou Wei is perhaps the only Beijing rock musician of his generation, aside from Cui Jian, who continues to release innovative albums. He first came to public attention as the lead singer of Black Panther (Hei Bao), a stadium rock band popular in Beijing in the 1980s. Dou Wei left Black Panther in the early 1990s. While his former band continues to release records and perform in obscure provincial towns for the benefit of local long-haired liumang (hooligans), Dou Wei himself has been steadily adding to a solo oeuvre of innovative work that has a much more international sound than anything his peers are making. His new album Hallucination (more properly translated as Auditory Hallucination), hits record stores this month.

While fans of Dou's two previous efforts, Sunny Days and Mountain River Water won't be disappointed with the ambient, Brian Eno-esque aura of Hallucination, neither will fans of his heavier debut album Black Dream. 

Dou finally seems to remember his faux-metal roots and the fact that guitars make sounds other than chiming bells. Assisting this effort is former The Face guitarist [Deng] Ou Ge, who is ready to rock when Dou gives the command. Also backing him up in his band 'E' are bassist Chen Jing, a longtime Dou disciple with whom he has played since their days in The Dreaming band (Zuo Meng), and part-time Zang Tianshuo drummer Song Xiaofan.

Hallucination is not without its shortcomings. The influence of the Cocteau Twins is rampant on many of the lighter songs, especially in both Ou Ge's guitar voicing and phrasing. Dou's lyrical delivery shows a strong influence from obscure British group Bark Psychosis, with its heavy exhalations, not to mention that some of the songs on Hallucination are written in English. That is for the listener's ear to confirm, as the liner notes for the record contain no lyrics.

Hallucination represents neither the hypnotic intensity of Black Dream, nor the angst-inducing Sunny Days. It's the best record Dou Wei has produced in five years, and is extremely palatable material, neither too light nor too heavy, but more musically advanced than the Black Panther anthem of restless post-Mao youth Don't Break My Heart. Either way, it's love it or leave it, as Dou performs only music from Hallucination during his live performances, content to move only forward and not ponder where he's been.

Dou Wei-Hallucination (Rolling Stone Records)
rmb 10 (cassette)

The last time I saw Beijing rocker Huazi, he was dressed in a suit and tie and led his band Self-Education (Ziwo Jiaoyu) through a sleep-inducing set of songs. I assumed he'd hung up his guitar and joined an accounting firm, until his solo album Continuous Meaning hit Beijing music stores this month. It appears that Huazi has done some musical self-education of his own, and Continuous Meaning is one of the better albums released this year.

Huazi sounds unmistakably like a western artist he admittedly admires: Morrissey. However, that blatant imitation does not detract from the appeal of the record. Its clean sound is in some ways reminiscent of Dou Wei's recent Bark Psychosis cover material, but not nearly so obsessive about precision. The result is a collection of nine songs that are technically proficient but also innovative and loose, a record that both music aficionados and casual listeners can love.

The album's nod to its rock-and-roll roots is "Escape," which emphasizes the power and precision of Huazi's backing band. Also noteworthy are "I Tell You," the Celtic-influenced "Holiday," and "It's Hot and Noisy Up Front."

I thought I wouldn't be able to get Continuous Meaning out of my cassette deck fast enough. Instead, I can't seem to move on to anything else.

Huazi-Continuous Meaning (Modern Sky Records)
rmb 10 (cassette)

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