五行 WuXing is an astral voyage through and over the urban geographies of China. It covers a big part of the immediate landscape of the Republic, from sci-fi architectures to traditional old pop corners, it could be taken as a sonic tour of the common spaces shared by China’s metropoleis. It’s not loud, it’s not imposing itself burying us under statements and grandiloquence, however is confident, multidimensional in many ways, curious about its own possibilities, comfortable with itself, and then unique.
The promo says “Wu Xing is a collection of songs that conceptually could be interpreted as Kamemameha and Chakra’s eulogy to Neo-Liberalism, inviting listeners to take their hands and be led to a paradise of low-interest, high profit salvation. Yet the bittersweet irony of this tribute is not hard to divine given the EP’s title, drawn from the ancient Chinese theory of the five phases. Perhaps the message is that truth lies beyond greed and materialism and that change is a constant which we cannot avoid.” First great thing about this is that the promo gives information that’s intelligent and accurate about the music. Wu Xing does sound like that, and much more too. Score!
Just consider a second, the relevance of some of these concepts in China, materialism and constant change, and then press play and listen the album at least a couple of times before continue reading this.
My take of 五行 WuXing is that it sounds a lot like ideas that are crossing the minds of the millions of young people forming the work force of China, wherever they are from originally. These themes are daily food for us here: greed, lies/truth, and the constant of change, and I’d add something else to the mix because I hear its presence in 五行 WuXing somehow, the duality between overpopulation and solitude. The inertia experienced in China’s metropoleis has certain characteristics that apply to them all and to all their citizens. Maybe this is also happening in cities outside of China (I am just not there), and 五行 WuXing was made in China. 五行 WuXing feels a lot like GuiGuiSuiSui is owning their geographical and cultural location through these songs.
Moreover I believe that the original message transmitted in this album is bigger than what the duo had in mind when they were making it, which is a characteristic of all great art works. You know, when the reader has space to interpret the book in their own ways beyond what was the original purpose of the writer, that’s when you know you have a good book in your hands. Well this is the case.
From noise to folk, experimental to punk, minimal techno to industrial passing by dream pop, just writing these words I see Chinese sonic landscapes appear in front of me that I didn’t know I knew in this way, and all of them materialize in GuiGuiSuiSui’s style.
“Low Interest Salvation” starts easy and pretty but it gets heavy very quickly, and heavy like it is not meant to make you feel comfortable, regardless of its ulterior motive you might start to yell along the lyrics very quickly and maybe after a couple of rounds with the tune you will begin to wonder what did just happened there, what is this beast in me?
“Zombie Land” won’t let you rest in peace yet, the 8-bit is sexy but tricky, it’s not a kind track, more like a bitch inside your mirror, sexy yeah, but the bitch looks like you, and you are not that, or are you. If you can’t resist the game, the trick is in the off key arpeggios, maybe.
I’m a sucker for incidental music, so “Automatic Vedic Machine” it makes my heart pulse and brings to my memory smells and colors that I have only seen in China. It’s a sweet and sour tune to love.
“Shadow of the Moon” is weird, it’s dissonant, but its space is beautiful, makes me think of those parks in the middle of the cities, with statues of politics and soldiers around, and the open sky on the top surrounded by skyscrapers of all ages, and a little lagoon with lotus flowers, mosquitoes, bats, and a smell of rancid mixed with grass.
At this point you are already trapped in these sounds, you are about to hand yourself fully into the experience and “Li River Part 1” takes you like a fast train that doesn’t stop for you to get in, but it sucks you in it, and as you start to balance your guts you get deeper into the fantasy just like neon lights turning on at dusk like when it was the first time that you saw an anime landscape becoming real in front of you. Then “Li River Part 2.”
We could say the the sound of 五行 WuXing is an upgrade in the story of GuiGuiSuiSui considering this is the first album that sounds like this from their discography, but if this is a sign of what they are up to now, then it’s more likely that their new fans will love them more when they go back to the their beginnings, the transition in GuiGuiSuiSui’s sound is a story that has material for one or two essays. There’s the personal history and music experimentation of GuiGuiSuiSui’s founder Dann Gaymer, from playing punk horror with a one string skateboard guitar, going through an episode of blues, among some more sounds, to meeting his better half Su Nan and having her style and sound added to the mix. The journey has been such until now that is clear the whatever expectations we have for what comes next will not be that but something that we are not yet imagining, and if you ask me, I dig that.
五行 WuXing is the first album of a trilogy to be released yet. It is also the second studio album of GuiGuiSuiSui, the previous one was Write Me Death Letter, there are other seven works to find in their own Bandcamp. 五行 WuXing is their fourth work recorded by Yang Haisong in his Psychic Kong Studio in Beijing. 五行 WuXing was mixed and mastered by Li Shenjie, and it was released under no record label.