For the past five years, the Shanghai band Absolute Purity have been electrifying audiences at livehouses around the city with their unique blend of punk, psychedelia, and electronic music. But until this month, they had never released an album. In fact, until recently, the band’s Netease music page showed just two tracks, both remixes of the group’s songs released in 2018.
Before forming Absolute Purity, Wen Jun, the band’s lead singer, was known for her band Guai Li. The earlier band holds a certain cult status among indie-rock circles for its single album, Flight of Delusion, which came out on seminal Beijing label Maybe Mars around 12 years ago. Her own musical history intersects with a variety of excellent bands, like AV Okubo and Ourself Beside Me, among others.
After she left Beijing and the group disbanded, Wen Jun began looking for people to play with in Shanghai — something that proved easier said than done. She says that, at the time, becoming a DJ was more trendy than being in a band, which made it challenging to find suitable musicians to form a group.
At that time, Wen Jun would go to livehouses to watch bands and find herself getting excited about the music she was hearing. She would inevitably bump into different musicians at these shows, but for the first six years that she lived in Shanghai, she couldn’t find anyone to form a band.
Finally, she met Zhang Yun, Absolute Purity’s original drummer. She also reached out to Tang Ting, the band’s guitarist, who she already knew. However, the sound wasn’t quite right, and so Zhang Yun helped to find a bassist, Qu Yichen. As the group’s sound developed, they eventually changed drummers, and Huang Zhiwei joined the band. Thus we have Absolute Purity’s line-up, as it stands today.
Explaining her thinking behind the band’s makeup, Wen Jun told us that because she doesn’t play instruments and can’t write music on a computer, her way of making music meant that she was required to form a band.
She also seeks out musicians who have different tastes, who bring some conflict to the songwriting process, saying that she likes musicians who bring their own ideas to the creative process, so that all members can inspire each other and create more exciting work.
This variety of interests is very apparent on We Fought Over The Moon, the group’s first full-length offering, which was released on Ruby Eyes Records on March 8.
You can see it in the cultural touch-points, as the band explores things like crime fiction — a very modern interest, as well as the longest-reigning monarch ever, Louis XIV. You can also hear it in the music, as the band blends synthesizers, psychedelia, bits of krautrock, and a distinct sense of dystopian post-punk throughout.
The process for creating this album began in early 2020. At that time, seven of the 10 songs from the album had already been written and performed live by the band. They supplemented these seven tracks with three new songs written from scratch.
Cover of Absolute Purity’s We Fought Over The Moon
“When we felt that we had enough songs and we were ready to record, we were discussing the issue of the producer,” Wen Jun tells us. “It was like forming a band again, wanting everyone to have different ideas colliding together. So I also hoped to find a producer who could bring their own creativity and join us as a producer who recreates the original song.”
The band eventually teamed up with Australian producer Angus Andrew, who is also the frontman and only consistent member of experimental rock band Liars. They connected through Hua Dong, the guitarist and vocalist of the Chinese band Re-TROS, with whom Andrew had worked before.
The agreement to work with Andrew was made before the pandemic, which ultimately threw a wrench in the works. The group had to delay recording for months, and, as travel restrictions stayed in place, they got their own sound engineer and began recording and communicating with Andrew through email.
The whole process took over a year.
Despite this, Wen Jun says Andrew’s presence felt like they had added a fifth member to the group.
The group are effusive in their praise of Andrew’s work as a producer, saying that the passion and energy that he brought to the process spurred the creative undertaking. His own motivation to be involved felt as if he was creating alongside the band, who were delighted with this dynamic.
After spending such a long time recording We Fought Over The Moon, the band began planning a tour. However, they quickly realized that they wanted to write new songs to make their shows a longer and richer experience for the audience. These songs have seemingly turned out quite well.
The next thing for Absolute Purity, then? While they don’t confirm this, the group hints at the possibility they will release a new EP after the tour.
This article was updated at 3:15 PM on March 28, 2022, to clarify the content of several quotes.
Cover image courtesy of Absolute Purity
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