China’s Shijing Stereosystem – Propaganda

| Records

Chinas Shijing Stereosystem - PropagandaThis year’s provocatively titled Propaganda album by China’s Shijing Stereosystem really does make you appreciate the sounds of Chinese music and the flavor of Chinese culture, albeit through the lens of contemporary pop music — it’s everything you could want in an indie rock album, if that album was made in an alternate universe.

China’s Shijing Stereosystem, or CSS as they call themselves, seem to be a Chnese band based in London, England. I would tell you more, but there isn’t much more to tell — there is a surprising dearth of information about them in the one place you’d expect it to be, the Internet. But that may change.

CSS have definitely found their groove on Propaganda, their third release since they started in 2021. In their aim to “smash together the cultures of different Worlds”, they are thoroughly successful, with elements of hip hop, indie, electronic, and pop melding perfectly with traditional Chinese sounds.

But that in no way conveys how enjoyable this record is. Perhaps it’s the unique qualities of its sound, partly a factor of instrumentation, which favors instruments most westerners have never heard of, and its tonality, which is both familiar and utterly different from that of western music. In this context, a song that one might describe as indie pop, takes on an unexpected beauty amid the exoticism.

As for the vocals, it’s hard not to equate this kind of balladizing with what I tend to think of as Chinese movie music. Perhaps this is one way in which it embodies “the culture, history, food, evolution and the beauty of China” — driven along by the “massive drums” of which they are justly proud.

As to songs, there is so much to like here. The massive drums kick in hard on “Pinyin vs China Girl,” without overwhelming the song’s melodic core. “Beijing People” gives us drony punk rock, with some sort of Chinese reed instrument lending the melodic element. “Red Book” has a hip hop flavor. “Great Wall of China” is almost folky.

I could go on, song by song, but you get the idea. Every song is good. There are no bad songs. And while the music sounds very Asian, you don’t have to be a fan of Asian folk music to like this. I’m an indie girl, and this kills me.

Shijing is the name of a classic book of Chinese poetry. There is also a practice in China of singing Shijing Songs, which were reputedly songs written by Confucius to help people remember his sage precepts. “7 Temples of 普宁寺” is Puning Temple, the Temple of Universal Peace.

Indulge your subversive side! Check out China’s Shijing Stereosystem today!