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Yin: New Old Beijing Gutter-Garage from The Molds

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Yin (音, “music”) is a weekly RADII feature 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.

Time to amble on into the weekend with some brand-new, kinda old Beijing rock’n’roll via scene legends, The Molds.

Initially formed in 2006, The Molds and their in-the-pocket blend of cool as ice rockabilly, garage, and the proto-est of punk fell in with the explosion of inspired guitar music centered at now shuttered Beijing venue D-22. Though they never quite attained the status or international name-checks of other bands to emerge from that same cauldron — eg, Snapline, Hedgehog, Carsick Cars — The Molds and their gaunt, black-clad frontman Liu Ge have retained a cult status in the Beijing scene, built off the strength of their infrequent stage presence (the band has split and reformed several times, most recently regrouping sometime in 2015 if memory serves) and a single EP, 2008’s A Cowboy Never Saw a Horse.

Now, after a decade of lineup changes and the adoption of a new home base in stalwart Beijing vinyl-slinging livehouse fRUITYSPACE, The Molds (with Liu Ge’s Waits-esque vocals up front, as usual) have finally released a proper debut album, Born Astride the Grave, released by fRUITYSPACE’s in-house imprint Spacefruity Records.

As is always the case with Spacefruity, the release comes complete with A+ cover art custom built for label-runner Zhai Ruixin’s basement screen printing operation. Here’s a taste:

 

That’s one of The Molds’ older tunes, the one that gave their 2008 outing its name with Liu Ge’s memorable line, “Just like a cowboy but I’ve never seen a horse.” In a 2010 interview, held on the occasion of one of the band’s recurring comebacks, Liu explains the significance:

LG: Lou Bega has a song called “You Wanna Be Americano”, I guess that’s what we wanted to say with this EP title. It’s the sense of embarrassment when Chinese people try to play Western music.

Well, there’s certainly nothing to be embarrassed about with Born Astride The Grave — 10 tracks of vintage cool that will finally cement The Molds’ crucial status among the Beijing underground, and hopefully turn a few more ears overseas. Pick up the album here, and if you like what you hear, find a 3-song EP of early live bootlegs (also released by Spacefruity as a limited 7″) here.

Cover image: The Molds at fRUITYSPACE, Beijing

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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.

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