Cold Fairyland and the Three Musical Genres

For me, there are three types of music. First of all there’s music that you listen to while having sex. Of course, the sound of this music depends on the type of sex. It could be for lovemaking in the soft light of scented candles, for make-up sex, or for that casual encounter after an all-nighter at Windows Too. We all know this type of music. Who doesn’t have a handful of playlists ready?

The second, to me, is the practical music, the kind you listen to while washing the dishes, making the bed, straightening up the apartment or walking to work, riding the metro, up the stairs, down the stairs, in the elevator; it’s the soundtrack for your life. This type is more personal, more suited to your specific moods and needs.

The last category in my list of musical genres is the kind that you listen to while you frolic in the fields—if you can find them.

Shanghai-based Cold Fairyland’s latest studio album—Seeds on the Ground— released in 2007, falls somewhere in between my second and third categories. I certainly couldn’t picture myself having sex to this album unless, perhaps, I were a cast member of Riverdance, or had a penchant for wearing tights, or feathers in my hair.

So to review this album I did what any good music writer would do: I grabbed my mp4 player, a dustpan and broom, and headed over to Century Park.

Cold Fairyland is usually placed in the progressive rock genre and they have demonstrated for the Western world that music in China is moving forward swimmingly. They’ve been playing together since 2001 and last year were recognized as Best Locally-Based Band in Shanghai by City Weekend. The quintet consists of bassist/vocalist Su Yong, drummer/vocalist Li Jia, cellist/vocalist Zhou ShengAn, guitarist Song JianFeng, and lead vocalist/keyboardist LinDi, who adds the mystical sounds of the pipa and ruan, which are something like Chinese lutes that date from the Qin Dynasty.

Seeds on the Ground
begins with the title track and the lyrics come out of the silence like an incantation: “We are the children of the city, but we can still love.” This album, like the others in Cold Fairyland’s catalogue, calls up images of nature—blue mountains and sparkling streams—and juxtaposes them with images of the city. The music itself is decidedly folk with classical nuances and sprinkles of traditional Chinese melodies. Of the 11 tracks on the album 8 are instrumental.

The album works well as a whole with each song blending seamlessly into the next. While listening to it, it’s actually difficult to tell when one song ends and the next begins. For me, that’s a sign of a great album. The cavorting satyrs that the music conjures in your head are another matter entirely.

The melodies are well organized and layer over one another like pieces in a puzzle. The idea of the songs being puzzle pieces seems to be hinted at by the fourth track on the album, titled “Puzzle.” This track is perhaps the most interesting on Seeds on the Ground because off its looser construction, which distinguishes it from the rest of the songs. “Puzzle” gives us a smooth bass line and allows the drummer Li Jia to open up a bit more. There are certainly moments on the album when the drums seem out of place amongst the trills of the pipa and ruan, which makes it seem that Cold Fairyland is unsure of its place in the progressive rock genre.

Nonetheless, this band is a remarkable gem of Shanghai and can be seen playing regularly at various venues throughout the city. Their next show will be at the Melting Pot, 10 Hengshan Lu, on February 25. For more information on Cold Fairyland visit their website or myspace.

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