In person, Li Jianhong is quiet, a man of few words. During Vagus Nerve rehearsals, he uses words like "ritual", "sacrifice", and "apocalypse" to guide the music. He also loves nature, interacting with whatever sounds surround him. Among his releases, one of my favorites is "在这里/Here Is It", a series of environmental improvisations partially recorded on Qingliang Peak, straddling the border between Zhejiang and Anhui. I also love "山海経/Classic Of The Mountains And Seas", released by Tokyo label PSF in 2009, showcasing Li Jianhong's plugged-in aesthetic.
Li Jianhong: Here is it
At the amateur level, "guitar noise" — a genre sprawling from the drone of Sunn0))) to the hyper-noise improvisations of PSF artists like High Rise — is too dependent on electronic effects pedals: distortions and delays, octaves and choruses, gates and envelopes, phasers and flangers and fuzzes and many more. Li Jianhong uses a lot of these as well, but plays them more like a dancer than a musician, stomping through course-changes as his ritual unfolds. His guitar, and amp, and pedals, and sometimes co-performers work together as his instrument, and seeing him play is almost as important as hearing it.
But hearing it is also good. "1969" is out internationally from WV Sorcerer Productions, and within China from TATPE Recordings, a new label recently launched by Beijing-based noise artist Ding Chenchen.
Associated Douban pages
Li Jianhong: https://site.douban.com/lijianhong/
Vagus Nerve: https://site.douban.com/vagusnerve/
Mind Fiber: https://site.douban.com/mindfiber/
WV Sorcerer Productions: https://site.douban.com/wvsorcerer/
TATPE Recordings: https://site.douban.com/tatperecordings/
About the author
Josh Feola is a writer and musician based in Beijing. He’s organized music, art, and film events in the city since 2010, via his label pangbianr and as booking manager of live music venues D-22 and XP. His ongoing event series include the Sally Can’t Dance experimental music festival and the Beijing Electronic Music Encounter (BEME). He has written about music and art for publications including The Wire, LEAP, Sixth Tone, and Tiny Mix Tapes. He also co-authors the Gulou View opinion column for the New York Observer. As a musician, he formerly played drums in Beijing band Chui Wan, recording on and touring behind their debut album, White Night. He currently plays drums in SUBS and Vagus Nerve, and also records and performs under the name Charm.