If you happen to be in Dalian, Liaoning province, China this weekend, I strongly recommend you check out the Dusk Festival. A lot of great Chinese bands will be playing. Some of my favorites are Duck Fight Goose and my dear friends Doc Talk Shock. Below is a review I did for Doc Talk Shock’s latest record Lights of Detour for Focus on Dalian magazine, a bilingual (English & Chinese) journal serving the Dalian community. While you’re reading the review a year after it was published and several reviews have been published since, I say with confidence that my review was the first published review of the record. The review is pretty glowing and you should be skeptical because of my personal relationship with the band and the fact that I wrote the lyrics for several songs on the record- but if you can look past those red flags and give the record a listen, you’ll see it’s worthy of my praise and worthy of yr. ears. Of the surprising things to come from the review is that Brad Seippel, a gentlemen from Mobile, Alabama collaborated with on a few tracks and shared billing with one of his projects Thruoutingenue many times, was living in Beijing when the article was published and it brought us back into contact briefly. I’ve had the good fortune of befriending some really talented and creative people- I’m not bragging, I’m counting my blessings. For those of you who found yourselves outside of the circle of cool, here’s yr. chance to catch up. In honor of the reprint, I whipped up a panda portrait of this international rock phenomenon. If yr. interested in more great Chinese bands, I strongly recommend Wang Wen 惘闻, the Sound and the Fury , Porcupine, Rebuilding the Rights of the Statue (RETROS), Zi Ran Juan,New Pants, Hang on the Box, ma2, Gemini Trip, and the Bear Minorities (Yu Dong and Jiang Hao from DTS making dreams melt with sound). Before I left Dalian, I made a film with Jiang Hao, Yu Dong, and an Irish DJ named Peter Donelan that exhibited our music and the ideology of a discourse-generating experiment we developed together called ‘Wonder-Were-Wolf,” the title both a nod to Wonder Woman and our monthly meetings where we turned in werewolves over heaping piles of meat and flowing rivers of drink. One last Chinese gem: My favorite Chinese song-and-dance man from my favorite province (Sichuan, of course) MC石头 (MC Stone) – if you get a chance to see him and his crew (which resembles a Chinese casting for an early John Waters film) perform live, you MUST go.

The review is posted below the pic.doctalkshockischineserockShortly after I arrived in Chengdu in 2007, an enthusiastic musician from Northeast China contacted me on the internet to say, and I’m paraphrasing quite recklessly here, “Welcome to our China. You are a musical genius.”  Few things have ever endeared me to someone like praise and we quickly began exchanging music, thoughts on music, and general pleasantries with each other. In 2010, Jiang Hao and I finally met in person. This fateful meeting occurred on my birthday and Doc Talk Shock’s first EP proved to be a birthday gift that continues to bring me ‘confusion and joy.’ While it lacked the cosmic intimacy of Bear Minorities (Jiang Hao’s previous project with fellow member of DTS Yu Dong), I could hear something really special in their new band.

Employing the powers of persuasion that have won Doc Talk Shock so many fans, Jiang Hao convinced me that my life would be incomplete without an extended detour through the city he calls home, Dalian. Once moving here, I found Jiang Hao and Yu Dong not only to be talented musicians, but also gracious neighbors. In both Doc Talk Shock and life, the songwriting duo compliment each other much like Thurston Moore (Jiang Hao) and Lee Ranaldo (Yu Dong) of Sonic Youth. In turn, these two have found a talented rhythm section that compliments them well. In addition to keeping time, bassist Evgeny ‘The Man of Steel’ Kozachinskiy and drummer Sean Rollins provide Doc Talk Shock with a certain exoticism, representing their native Russia and United States respectively. On stage or off, these four gentlemen bring a semblance of rock n roll sincerity to everything they do.

Their first EP and live shows brought Doc Talk Shock to the attention of iconic Beijing record label Modern Sky. The label offered to release their first full-length album and sent Yang Haisong of PK14 to Dalian to produce the record. Recorded in only eight days, Lights of Detour maintains the velocity of a live performance while offering pockets of headphone gold.

“Sweet Swear” begins the album with fidgeting guitar notes, reminiscent a carefree child playing with a blade of glass, that are soon joined by equally aimless, but effect-laden guitar and drums that putter out the rhythm of a slow-motion trampoline. This introduction evokes the space jazz of Tortoise and Euphone, but soon finds itself trumped by the glorious spirit of rock. This first outburst of rock triumph and its subsequent retreat back to heady instrumentation sets the tone for Lights of Detour, following a formula of climaxes and collapses sprinkled with pleasantly surprising deviations from what the ear expects to come next. “The Futurist” stands out as an obvious single- catchy, dreamy, youthful. “Paint the Volcano,” the album’s fourth track and my personal favorite, goes in several directions at once, culminating in the kind of rock triumph that lifts your heart towards the sun.

On several of the tracks on Lights of Detour, Kozachinskiy and Rollins tackle sophisticated time signatures with both cool nonchalance and raw fury.  Because the record flows so seamlessly, it’s easy to overlook the shifts in time signatures. The record illuminates how much Jiang Hao and Yu Dong have matured as songwriters since the first EP. In Red Rock: The Long, Strange March of Chinese Rock & Roll, Jonathan Campbell explains one of the major dilemmas in assessing Chinese rock music, the difference between what is ‘good’ and what is ‘good for China,’ and I deem Doc Talk Shock’s Lights of Detour to be great, not only by the standards of Chinese rock, but by the standards of both international and trans-dimensional rock.

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