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New Music: Shanghai Band Mirrors Explore Psychedelic Dreams on Debut Album

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New Music, formerly 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.

Shanghai band Mirrors have finally released their much-anticipated debut album. The group, who’ve been tearing up the live music scene in China for the past few years, made a big impression with their first EP, Separate Reality in 2017. That release was comprised of four tracks, all of which that make it onto the new album, entitled Within An Endless Dream.

With that initial EP, the group stated their lofty intention to break through to another dimension. Ambitious, sure, but anyone who has caught the band play live can attest to their incredible blend of hallucinogenic swirling guitars and improvisation. Getting that down in a recording is no easy feat, but the group have largely been able to recreate the immediacy and intensity of their live sound.

 

Leading up to the album release, Mirrors dropped a couple of singles over on Bandcamp as well as accompanying videos on YouTube, including a mini-documentary about their recording process, the mastering part of which was done with the help of Gang of Four sound engineer John Webber. Suited to the group’s meandering, psychedelic style, the video for the album’s title track “Within An Endless Dream” is a voyage through a black void dotted with cats, flip flops and bai cai (Chinese cabbage).

For the second single release, “Ding 1 Ding” they drafted in the help of German avant-garde jazz saxophonist Klaus Bru. Bru’s saxophone pierces the wall of sound created by Mirrors, adding another layer to the improvisational nature of the track.

While ostensibly playing on a genre of music called psych wave, the trio go back and forth between a variety of styles. “Delta City” for example is a twisted and lyrical surf psychedelic track, which is followed by “Hun,” a more introspective piece, playing with driving guitars and thumping percussion.

Another interesting point to make about the record is the inclusion of a song called “Zang Shou Zhi” or 脏手指, which translates as Dirty Fingers. Followers of the Shanghai music scene will recognize that name as one of the city’s more famous indie groups over the past few years. Mirrors drummer Daniel Jacob wrote the song and lyrics, but refuses to give away the song’s meaning, saying, “I think in the age of internet knowledge it’s nice to leave some mystery for people to wonder about.”

Because of the outbreak of Covid-19 earlier this year, Within An Endless Dream‘s release was postponed, which explains the considerable gap between their most recent single, “Ding 1 Ding” (which dropped on February 11) and the release of the album itself today (May 22).



The group — completed by bassist Da Bai and vocalist and guitarist Aming — also had to shelve plans to play in Jacob’s native New Zealand this February and March. They’re hopeful that they can get flights and that venues open later in the year so they can reschedule.

If you’re in Shanghai, the group will celebrate the launch of the album at Yuyintang Park on Friday, May 29.

Bryan Grogan
    Bryan is RADII's Culture Editor. He is a Shanghai-based writer and editor with an interest in culture stories with a social bent. He can be found at a music show, usually with pint in hand.