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Yin: Shanghai Band Duck Fight Goose Return (as YADAE) with Smooth Synthpop EP “AI”

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Yin (音, “music”) is a weekly RADII column that looks at Chinese songs spanning hip hop to folk to modern experimental, and everything in between. Drop us a line if you have a suggestion.

A lot’s happened since Duck Fight Goose, leading lights of Shanghai’s underground rock scene for the last decade, released their second studio album CLVB ZVKVNFT in 2016. They bid adieu to longtime drummer Jean Baptiste Terpreau, making the band a two-piece of founding members Han Han (aka Gooooose) and Wu Shanmin (aka 33EMYBW). They dropped their English name, now preferring to use the Pinyin Romanization of their Chinese name, YADAE (鸭打鹅). And they’ve gotten way more into house music.

 

AI (Love) is a stark but not totally unexpected departure for a band that’s made a career out of stark but not totally unexpected departures. While their 2010 EP FLOW and debut album SPORTS were tagged with genre labels like “math rock” and “experimental pop,” both (but especially SPORTS) came with carefully articulated conceptual baggage, reflected in the lyrics and album design. The band lurched in a more mechanized, electronic direction on CLVB ZVKVNFT, similarly a conceptual opus but one with a more rigidly synchronized meter and harder, metallic edge.

The very word “club” in the album title indicated the next steps the band would take, as its two core members pursued a several-year project of colonizing underground Shanghai dancefloors like The Shelter, Arkham, and ALL with their very different, but similarly esoteric, takes on “club music.”

Yin: Wild New Sounds from Shanghai’s 33EMYBW & GOOOOOSE

I like to imagine a conversation between the two in which they acknowledge that they’ve gotten weird enough with their solo projects over the last few years, maybe it’s time to just write melodies in 4/4 time, pen emotional lyrics to match, throw some black text on a white background as cover art and call it a day? That’s what’s happening on AI, which plays like a 12″ single that could seamlessly fit into a very early (or very late) slot at any reputable House club and comes with less edge and more polish than anything Gooooose or 33EMYBW have put out individually of late.

There are flashes of Duck Fight Goose sounds past (the midpoint of track 3, “Silver Wilderness,” faintly echoes the energy and sonic density of CLVB ZVKVNFT‘s climax, “horse”), but overall AI feels like another rebrand, and one best understood in the context of two singular, experiment-prone artists coming up for air and returning to their early preoccupation with crafting songs that’ll perhaps earn followers outside the set of hardcore club culture spelunkers that have enthusiastically absorbed the more radical ends of their recent output.

Recommended for fans of “subtle and modern emotional experiences,” as the liner notes have it. If you’re a fan, check back in with the band next year; they’re working on another 7 or 8 tracks in the same vein, which should eventually come out in the form of a 2020 album.

Buy/stream AI (Love) by YADAE (fka Duck Fight Goose) via the Merrie Records Bandcamp. If you’re in San Francisco, catch 33EMYBW and Gooooose play solo sets at the Recombinant Festival this weekend:

Recombinant Festival is Bringing China’s Avant Club Music to San Francisco

Josh Feola
Josh Feola is a Shanghai-based writer and musician, and RADII's Culture Editor. His coverage of Chinese music and art has appeared in The Wire, Dazed, Artsy, LEAP, Tiny Mix Tapes, and more. He's been active in China's underground music scene since 2010 via his booking platform pangbianr.com, and is a former member of Beijing bands Chui Wan, SUBS, and Vagus Nerve.