The Beijing trio Snapline formed in 2005, when they were studying science and engineering at the city’s most elite universities. They initially grouped themselves with Carsick Cars, The Gar, and White into the “No Beijing” movement, cribbing the influential New York no-wave LP title for a 2CD compilation and short tour that year. While their peers went on to buff the most abrasive elements of their sound into more or less palatable forms of noise rock and post-punk, Snapline earned a reputation for uncompromising, often alienating live shows. Their 2007 debut, Party Is Over, Pornostar, showcases a brazen mix of minor-chord melodies, industrial fuzz waves, motorik drum machine propulsion and percussive guitar shreds, all backgrounded by vocalist Chen Xi’s surreal lyrics ontologically probing the bleak postmodern Beijing landscape.
Snapline recorded a follow-up LP with PiL drummer Martin Atkins, who became enamored with the band during a 2006 trip to Beijing. Dissatisfied with the result, the band re-recorded the songs from scratch with a much more minimal approach in mind. The finished effort, Phenomena, is a study in musical economy: a single synth provides bassline, beat, and stripped-down melody; a single guitar yields rhythm and lead. Chen Xi’s vocals straddle the sound like some kind of dystopic computer-brain commandant (in fact, he has a degree in Nuclear Energy and is a senior Microsoft engineer).
Two tracks from the yet-unreleased album have snaked their way online, accompanying “unofficial” video collages from Beijing-based videographer and frequent band collaborator S. Dummy. Dummy’s re-appropriation of retro-futuristic classics Metropolis and Solaris suits Snapline’s soundtrack perfectly. Check out “She” above and “Part of Solution” here:
Phenomena will be released on June 2 from Maybe Mars Records.