Comprised of multi-instrumentalist Yan Yulong, Liu XInyu (guitar), Wu Qiong (bass) and Li Zicaho, the Beijing, China-based experimental psych rock quartet Chui Wan, take their name from the Taoist philosopher Zhaungzi’s treatise on inner sageness and outer kingliness, Qi Wu Lun. They’re also part of a growing list of Chinese bands receiving interest and publicity here in the West, proving how ubiquitous certain aspects of American culture actually are these days.
Interestingly, as Zhaungzi writes in the Qi Wu Lun: “When the wind blows, every sound may be heard therein.” And it’s this very concept of seeking the infinite within the mundane that has been a major influence on Yulong and Xinyu’s improvisational compositions which eschew easily discernible melodies and vocal harmonies for movements based around minimalist drone and densely textured sound that possesses a rather painterly quality – with each sound being the stroke of a brush across a canvas. In fact with the release of their critically applauded debut effort White Night on China’s preeminent indie label, Maybe Mars, the band’s work received praise from the likes of Time Out Beijing and China’s Global Times and MTV Iggy – and as a result, Chui Wan’s profile grew so large nationally that they toured with Psychic Ills across their homeland, including shows in Beijing, Hangzhou, Suzhou, Kunshan, Shanghai, Wuhan, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, and Macau. Over the last couple of years, the Chinese quartet have received greater international attention as they’ve played at Helsinki, Finland’s Niubi Festival and have played several shows across Northern Europe and Scandinavia including Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Tallinn, as well as France.
And with each member’s side projects and solo projects, Chui Wan have established themselves as one of the key acts in Beijing’s experimental music scene. Their self-titled album has already seen praise in their native China by SmartBeijing.com for a “more lush, more dense musical offering than their 2012 debut.” The album is slated for a May 1 Stateside release, and a Stateside tour to support it, which will include a May 15 date at Baby’s All Right. In any case, the album’s first single “The Sound of Wilderness” possesses an eerily atmospheric quality that reminds me quite a bit of both The Church and Disappears Kone EP. Starting off with gently ringing feedback, the song starts off with chiming guitar chords, before complex syncopated rhythm, bass and dreamy vocals join in and slowly begin to build up in intensity. But pay attention to the fact that you won’t notice a recognizable hook or chorus – the song’s focus is on creating a particular mood through the repetition of a theme, that’s subtly varied and held together by the rhythm section. Repeated listens of the song evoke naturally observed phenomenon – of viewing brewing storm clouds moving over the horizon, of smoke appearing like floating serpents before your eyes; a brief yet gorgeous burst that will quickly dissipate before you can catch it.