條 條 條
Tape, Fuzztape, 2011
I’ve already mused about Fuzztape here and there. I would be glad to recapitulate, repeating myself and saying: Fuzztape is the only tape label active in China at the moment, it keeps releasing filthy über-limited records by the best Chinese noise musicians and so on. Sadly, Fuzztape’s homepage has been down for several months and the last release (a four-way split between Soviet Pop, Deady Cradle Death 致命摇篮死, Fat City and 张守望 Zhāng Shǒuwàng) came out more than half a year ago. Yet 梅志勇 (Méi Zhìyǒng), who runs Fuzztape as a branch of the almighty NOJIJI, is definitely not missing in action. He recently toured Japan with Torturing Nurse, and a live recording from the tour is supposed to come out as a lathe cut soon, so it’s likely that Fuzztape’s operations will resume in the near future. If not, another dead label in the ephemeral Chinese underground scene would not be a surprise…
I got a batch of Fuzztape releases earlier this year. Among them, there was a tape by Mei Zhiyong himself called 條 條 條 (or just 條, according to the cover) packed in a standard transparent box with a color artwork featuring mud-covered corpses somewhere in war-torn Libya. The words Buddha Liberation on the front cover looked eerily ironic. Having never listened to anything by Zhiyong and having heard about his passion about DIY electronics and pedals, I was quite curious to check out one of his releases. Through a generous release trade I was finally able to satisfy my curiosity, and I hereby announce my findings: this tape is shit. Plain, unpretentious, self-contented, sincere, understated, desiccated, odorless, almost loveable shit. Be warned: throughout this review I will use the idea of shit as a pure signifier, so feel free to understand it as you please. The overall sound of 條 條 條 is extremely murky and lo-fi, potentially similar to a forgotten 4-track guitar recording for a Slovenian black metal album from the early nineties, basinskially decomposed for twenty years and processed through a faulty fuzz pedal. I admit that my tape rip might have aggravated the already atrocious lack of any detail (as the only tape head available was my sister’s crappy stereo player) but I assure all the readers that the original tape sounds pretty much like this: motionless, extremely poor in frequencies, fuddled by oversaturated mids and thin high squeaks. The A side consists of a spurting electronic signal driven through an array of simple distortions for twenty-so minutes. The poor frequency response and the absence of any rhythmic element give to the result a sort of cheap industrial/drone feeling – think of distant factory sounds muffled by a snowstorm and echoing in a subterranean shit-stained public toilet. Cyclically, the droning and monotonous rumble breaks up in careless decimations and granularities that make it stagger and crackle for no apparent reason. Take out the tape, flip it, and enjoy its B side – once in a while, a true B side: a crappy live take of a lonely drum machine slowly covered by distant washes of white FM noise, piling up without any structure until the gain is cranked up, the drum machine goes reverse and everything melts into shit, boredom, the horror. The already poor palette of sounds collapses back into the same unforgiving, anonymous, mid-boosted lo-fi distortion of the previous track, while the brazen drum machine lazily surfaces back once in a while, as if joking or pretending to be trapped in the same rarefied frequencies of the whole record. The last track is the paradigm of the tape: two minutes of spitting interference and filtered high frequency signals oscillating inside a cheap flanger, one hundred eighty-six seconds of meaningless, submissive and dejected whirrs and distant bleeps. Pure shit.
I normally enjoy bashing records and being mean, but I have to admit that with this tape Zhiyong made me transcend my original attitude and reach a new plateau of understanding. It is basically impossible to review this tape. I will probably never listen to it again, but at the same time I feel that the unsettling sincerity and simplicity of these tracks has something to say, conceptually, to everyone having time and interest to actually talk about noise in the year 2012. After all, we all understand the sheer pleasure and fun of distorting the simplest signal that one can get of his equipment and fiddle with it just for the sake of it. Mei Zhiyong just recorded some shit and made tapes out of it. Why the fuck not.