Fazi (法兹), a post-punk band based in the historical city of Xi’an, is making waves with their latest album Folding Story. An incredible display of the band’s musical mastery, one needs only to listen to the album’s opening track ‘Invisible Water’ to take stock of the member’s talent. Frontman Peng Liu dives into the song with yearning vocals while a pinging synthesizer and the universally familiar sound of water — an inspiration for the album — ripples in the background.
The band purposely traveled to the Northeast China port city of Dalian — famous for its stunning coastline and abundant seafood — to be close to their source of inspiration while recording.
View this post on InstagramA post shared by FAZI / 法兹乐队 (@fazi.cn)
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During an interview with RADII following the album’s release, Peng describes the watery sound effect as the “artistic conception of amniotic fluid in the mother’s body.”
This liquid backdrop returns in the closing track ‘Way to Atman.’ In it, bassist Jiaxuan Li, guitarist Cheng Ma, drummer Boyang Li, and Peng create a mournful rhythm that conjures the image of a tide washing away a funeral pyre.
By strategically placing the sound of water at the start and end of the album, the band hopes that listeners will reflect upon “returning to the origin.”
“The whole album can be listened to on loop. And water runs through its entirety,” adds Peng.
Birth, life, and death might seem like heavy topics, but their universality ties in with Fazi’s aim to “write an album for everyone.” Peng explains that the lyrics in all 10 tracks tell the coming-of-age story of ‘the Protagonist,’ who is a composite of “ourselves, our friends, and ordinary people.” He adds that the songs delve into the Protagonist’s deepest emotions and heart.
Photo by Aykes
The new album’s lofty themes might surprise cynics, who were put off by the band’s new ‘commercial fame’ following the appearance of the former signees of beloved indie label Maybe Mars (the band is currently signed with Space Circle) on The Big Band in 2020.
The glossy TV series and its contemporaries have a complicated history with ‘authenticity,’ and many stalwart fans, both artists and audience members, have expressed their grievances.
“There might be three times as many people at these shows now, but a lot of them are looking at their phones every two seconds,” says David Carey, co-owner of underground Beijing venue Nugget and frontman of popular indietronica trio Nocturnes. “What they saw on those TV shows was so airbrushed, some of them might not like what they see when they get to the venue,” he adds.
Photo by Jin Shien
It is an unfair assumption that artists like Fazi have ‘sold out’ by partaking in The Big Band. Peng quickly admits the hit show “got us more attention” but insists that it “didn’t affect and change us, because we are ‘sober’ and know what to do.”
“The Big Band is over for us, and we just keep writing new music and touring,” he continues.
What will happen if such future tours are frequented by first-timers who are more familiar with fluffy reality TV than grimy independent livehouses? Fazi isn’t fazed. In fact, they can’t wait to ruffle some feathers, says Peng, who trusts that their band has what it takes to make new audiences forget all about their mobile phones.
“It’s a good thing that more people are paying attention to the Chinese rock scene. They’ll have more listening options, and the bands will have more opportunities. We want to exact some influence,” Peng says.
Loyal Fazi fans shouldn’t be put off by the band’s efforts to reach a wider audience. As Live China Music (LCNM) recently reported, the band often “reinvents their sound as they see fit.” Besides detailing Fazi’s latest evolution as one going from post-punk to atmospheric post-rock, LCNM also praised them for “painting on a larger canvas” with a “touch as deft as ever.”
Folding Story is also further proof of Peng’s lyrical prowess. One of his favorite lines appears in the second track, ‘Eye In The Sky,’ which is sung in Mandarin but roughly translates to English as “I want to create naturally without thought. I know some will laugh. I tried my best to seek my way.”
Then, on the final track, ‘Way to Atman,’ which bears similarities with an elegy, Peng croons, “The landscape is retreating. There is anger, pain, sadness, and conceit. I let go of that part of myself, but I won’t forget.”
Photo by Yang Ya
But it is Folding Story’s very first track, ‘Invisible Water,’ that simultaneously challenged and inspired Peng lyrically. While penning the song’s lyrics, he pictured one of life’s most tremendous forces “from a child’s perspective” and imagined the young one anticipating this ‘gift’ from his family.
Peng explains that, for the womb-water cocooned Protagonist in ‘Invisible Water,’ love is a luxury.
“He has learned to comprehend the meaning of love and to receive its expression.”
You can stream ‘Folding Story’ on Netease Music or on YouTube
Cover image by Aykes; all images courtesy of Fazi
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