IN MY EARS #13: Zaliva-D’s Story
Let’s kick 2017 off with some weird, new music: Zaliva-D’s Story. This six-track EP was actually released in late 2016, a strong endpoint for Beijing collective Do Hits in their first year as a label.
Zaliva-D is the husband-wife duo of Li Chao and Aisin-Gioro Yuan Jin, who divide dark sound synthesis and off-putting live visual design between them. Within the Beijing electronic music scene, Zaliva-D’s bass-heavy productions fit best at Dada, with its focus on underground and less commercial sounds. I’ve been following Zaliva-D since early 2012, before Dada was even open, and they’ve always been an outlier.
In those days, the duo could be found performing in unlikely places, like punk dive School Bar, folk bar Blue Stream, and experimental music haven Zajia Lab. I booked them several times at XP in the early days of that club, which also focused on experimental music. Zaliva-D was always an uncomfortable fit, in the best way. Frankly, none of those venues had enough bass to sustain them, so Dada has been a blessing for their sound. But they don’t quite fit there, either.
Before hearing anything, the first thing you notice about Zaliva-D is their look: hard-gothic BDSM attire, intensely angular hairstyles, and gas masks that would let your lungs survive a nuclear fog. Their sound isn’t much brighter. I can’t really give a better description than they do themselves on their Soundcloud, where they write: “The black Bodhisattva from electronic hell.” Pretty much.
I liked booking Zaliva-D at XP, because in some ways they were more adventurous and sonically interesting than a lot of the noise artists that would regularly play there. Certainly they were louder, most of the time. I think they broke a bass amp once. You can tell by watching them that they are very, very serious about what they do. Performing live, they act almost as if they’re under a spell, or maybe like they’re trying to cast one. In person they’re sweet and humble; on stage they truly look and sound like demon conjurers.
Which brings us to today’s selection: “Lullaby”, the opening track from Zaliva-D’s new Story EP. It starts off with abrasive, wordless chanting — more like grunting really, or a kind of perverted overtone singing. When a rhythm finally manifests — after about two minutes — it’s marked by a ritualistic, South Asian-sounding melody on the high end and a dark, muddy bass line writhing around the bottom for the rest of the song. Though other Do Hits artists have been known to sample Indian instruments and vocals (see Guzz’s An Elephant in the Jungle for a recent example), this sounds and feels different, less neat, less club-friendly. Less friendly in general. More sinister.
If you want a small sample of what I’m talking about, you can catch Zaliva-D’s Li Chao tonight (Saturday, January 7) at Dada Beijing, as he supports the release of Spyfi (aka Senders Chen)’s latest release, Let Me Low It.
Zaliva-D - “Story”: https://dohits.bandcamp.com/album/story
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.