Chinese guitarist Li Jianhong takes spiritual psychedelic noise to Europe

Guitarist Li Jianhong is fairly unknown in the U.S., but he’s one of the most important experimental musicians in China. Like Sonic Youth and Japanese rock collective Ghost, he straddles and/or blasts his way across the line between psychedelic rock and exploratory noise; he also frequently incorporates a spiritual component inspired by Buddhism and traditional Chinese art. The tracks on his latest album, Father, and a Wild Trail Zigzagging Down, were recorded in 2018 at various venues on his first European tour, and together they make for a lovely summation of his range and focus. The track “At Dusk, Man at the Stream” sounds like Li is slicing his guitar apart with pieces of scrap metal—it’s as though an unaccompanied rock musician wandered into an ambush and came out with an instrument stripped of its parts. “At Dusk, Daffodils at the Stream” spins its ominous ambience from feedback, drones, clicks, and warbles, and the 27-minute title track also starts out diffuse and quiet—before building into an ecstatic wah-wah drone. Its thick, harsh, sustained blast of grimy lyricism is equal parts Jimi Hendrix and Iannis Xenakis. Listeners won over by this excellent set of songs are advised to move on to Li’s 2008 magnum opus, the 51-minute, one-track San Sheng Shi—or, for something completely different, D!O!D!O!D!, his early, Ruins-esque punk duo with drummer Huang Jin.   v


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