Our photo theme this week is “The ’90s in China.” Not China in the 1990s, but “The Nineties” as a global pop cultural form as it has been consumed and reworked inside China, both then and now.
Zhai Ruixin is a native Beijinger who operates fRUITYSPACE, a basement music venue near the National Art Museum of China that is home to a healthy cross-section of the capital’s noise makers, amateur rappers and indie rockers. fRUITYSPACE grew out of Zhai’s earlier venture, fRUITYSHOP, which remains one of the best places in Beijing to pick up new and secondhand vinyl records. This summer he launched his own vinyl label, SpaceFruity Records, telling Chinese music outlet Wooozy (link in Chinese): “It was a very natural process. SpaceFruity Records is based on the way fRUITYSPACE developed. The first two records are for Boiled Hippo and The Molds, who often perform here. I like their music and we share a point of view, so I helped them to publish their albums, which are sold at fRUITYSHOP. It’s a proper cycle, a smooth process from self-production to sales.”
We asked Zhai to share his favorite slab of ’90s sound to slot in with this week’s photo theme:
I think the ’90s, worldwide, was the most prosperous decade for independent, underground music. Countless classic albums were made during that time. Choosing just one is too difficult, but if I had to think of one in a hurry, off the top of my head I would say Shellac’s 1994 album, At Action Park. I first heard it around 1998. I’d picked up a dakou version of it because I saw Steve Albini’s name on it. I thought it must be a fierce enough record, and indeed it was. It actually exceeded my expectations, it was different from other noise rock or alternative rock albums I’d heard, from the tone to the style of playing. It was “dry,” it was “noisy,” it was restrained, it was nervous, all of the sounds were pulled taught together. For a restless adolescent like me at the time, that record undoubtedly switched me on to another mode of hearing. It pointed me to further-reaching realms of sound. I think this was Shellac’s best album.
Cover photo: fRUITYSHOP, Beijing (via TK Hunt)