Some hype is fully deserved, like, for instance, everything you’ve heard about Duck Fight Goose. Duck Fight Goose is a Shanghai-based rock band that has been steadily building a reputation as a group with a distinctive sound since they formed in 2009. After the release of their first EP Flow that same year, things only got better. They were signed with Beijing’s Maybe Mars Records, and last December the quartet—Han Han on guitar, San San on bass, Panda on guitar and Da Men on drums—released their first full-length album, Sports.
Duck Fight Goose isn’t really comparable to anything else you may be hearing around China right now. They’re taking risks and developing a determined, straightforward sound. Their songs are experimental, but in no way inaccessible. Many of the sounds and instrumentations on the album are layered over and over: electronic and instrumental sounds that are built upon each other to create this complex experience, and then topped over by bare, undemanding lyrics mostly in English. It’s so easy to overdo it with this method—many musicians just keep adding until songs become a jumble and unlistenable—but Duck Fight Goose find the right combination of rhythmic complexity and occasional dissonance to create really interesting things.
There are standout songs on the album, for example “History,” a David Bowie-esque anthem that starts simply then builds to a crescendo with each layered added. “Athletes” is another prominent song that demonstrates the masterful and driving percussion that guides many of their songs. Some songs are a little bit futuristic, and some hearken back to the experimental Western rock of the 1970s, and some are a little bizarre. But they’re all good.
For some reason, this album sounds like Shanghai to me, if a night in Shanghai were a collection of songs. It’s dark and a little bit gritty, sometimes cheerless and sometimes refreshing, and at the same time the entire thing has a neon glow around it. There are so many layers—almost too many things to pull apart and dissect—but somehow everything fits together and works, even if you can’t tell how. It’s delightfully strange. If this is the direction that Shanghai music is moving in, it’s a good way to go.