I realise that I haven’t explored the Australasian “DIY specialist” label tenzenmen as much as I should have, but there’s just so much of it that I just feel daunted. I do recall making a list of my favourites among the tracks I’d heard, and I’ve covered Guai Li and Snapline, at least. Now it’s time to pay some heed to China’s trailblazers, P.K.14.
The blurb says:
P.K.14 occupies a space in Chinese music that might be analogous to that of Talking Heads or Television in the New York of the 1970s. They are among the most thoughtful and self-referential of bands, with an enormous curiosity about music coupled with a complete inability to care about musical fashion. Among the astonishing group of young musicians that has emerged in Beijing over the last four years, they are almost unanimously cited as the band that has most influenced the young Beijing music scene with their eclectic approach to music. But although they are at the heart of the Beijing scene, at the same time they are wholly unique and seem to be traveling in their own scene – one which consists of only one band.
The subject of numerous articles, interviews and critical pieces on Chi- nese, US, German, Austrian, French, Swedish, Norwegian and Australian television, as well as dozens of newspapers and magazines from around the world. Most recently, TIME magazine chose P.K.14 as one of Asia’s five best bands and one to watch in 2008, a list also including Cornelius.
City Weather Sailing, the fourth full-length album from P.K.14, is the band’s most cross-polinated and exciting recording so far. In the credits we find Dennis Lyxzén, Torbjörn Näsbom, Dimitri Daniloff, Greg Calbi and Sterling Sound. A collaborative journey born in Beijing, given shape in Sweden and with a stop-over in New York before returning to China.
The obvious starting point is post-punk rock, but there’s a mournful violin in there that gives it quite an unexpected edge. It’s the only band that makes me think simultaneously of Sonic Youth and Wire. They’re taking overdone, tired references and putting them together in ways I haven’t quite heard before, and for that I give them kudos. In common with their labelmates, P.K.14 aren’t immediately different but are just quirky enough to be fascinating. They’re not a hurricane like (latter-day) Sufjan Stevens, but they’re definitely a breath of fresh air.