Radio Chongqing

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Special Edition LP I – Vinyl

Super Invincible Records

SI001

“Dark, mysterious rich and beautiful… This band is really cool.” – Bill Frisell

“Talk Talk, circa ‘Spirit of Eden,’ recording inside David Sylvian’s beehive.” – Christian Wright

This is one of the most hauntingly beautiful and mysterious records we’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to. One of those rare vanished recordings that turns out to be a timeless classic.

In the dark of winter 1996, an implausible trio sprouted through the cracks of the rain soaked streets of Seattle and began captivating the hyper-caffeinated denizens of that city, drawing on a combination of unique instrumentation and an innovative approach to sampling and looping on the fly to create intensely compelling, surreal soundscapes. Songs that started from almost nothing, seeded with a solitary note, phrase or series of taps would slowly morph into vast and lonesome hymns to vualien technology, uncanny sonic tapestries of poetry and solder interwoven with the buzzing of bees, inverted heartbeats, breathing, and the click and whir of clockwork automata – all haunted throughout with disembodied voices, voluptuous strings and soul-arresting trumpet, transporting the listener to a never-before-visited and yet eerily familiar time and place.

They called themselves Radio Chongqing.

The sounds RC produced were unforgettable – the sonic equivalent of old black and white sci-fi movies experienced from the back of a cathode-ray television, where tubes glowed in their secret tabernacle and the smell of warm electrons and magnetized copper beckoned the child.

In other words, intensely seductive extraterrestrial nostalgia.

A barefoot percussionist in a wooden chair wielding not only various ethnic drums and bells but an intriguing collection of found objets d’ son (including a very Varèse looking oxygen tank) in close proximity to a single microphone, one foot on a pitch-altering whammy pedal, bending notes and pulses as though they were made of light. A lissome girl holding a trumpet, looking as serious as God designing the night sky before touching the horn to her lips and stopping every conversation in the room. A stick player (see stick.com), his thin, nervous appearance belying the hypnotic voices and soothing textures his fingers called up like ghosts.

Scattered between and connecting all three an array of blinking black slabs – these were the Lexicon JamMan loop machines, lo-fi by today’s standards, but did RC know how to put them to use. This was no “looper band,” with guitarists ramming single-bar riffs down the throat of a repeat pedal so they could play a bitchin’ solo over their own part. It was something else entirely – enigmatic sound paintings, created one brush stroke at a time until you weren’t quite sure how it was that you suddenly found yourself grappling with the idea of poetry from the other planets.

Because all the pieces were improvised from zero, RC never played the same song twice. You either caught the performance or you missed it. They lived by their wits and most of their best compositions are in the ether. Metaphysical souvenirs.

They stayed together just over two years, putting out mind blowing improvised show after improvised show as well as earning some well-deserved appreciation from the usual small collection of critics who were paying attention.

Stick player George Soler, fresh off the plane from five years making music in the smoke and neon of Taipei, escaping the cold Seattle rain one winter evening in 1995 slipped into the Speakeasy Cafe and walked straight into Greg Gilmore’s JamMan soundscape. “I walked into that beautiful sound and within seconds knew I’d just found the musician I’d been waiting my entire life to play with.”

Over the months the two would play through their now-synched JamMan units at Gilmore’s house, bringing the art of looping to a new dimension. It was when they accompanied trumpeter Lesli Dalaba on a tour of China with Jeff Greinke’s LAND that they realized they were a trio. 

Dalaba was a respected Radio Chongqing Back Covertrumpeter on the 80s NYC downtown experimental scene with John Zorn and Bill Frisell and is for our money the greatest “unknown” trumpeter in the world. Her voice is pure psychic poetry, sensuous, her muse a zero-gravity fire. George Soler’s stick sound rivals Tony Levin’s for dark seductiveness and warmth with an additional dimension of textural storytelling. Influential on the early 90s underground scene in Taipei, he’d led improv quartet Jazz Cowboys, eventually signing with Taiwan indie Crystal and making music with international folk legend Chen Ming-chang. Greg Gilmore, one of Seattle’s most innovative musicians, was taste personified as drummer for the pioneering Mother Love Bone, alternative metal at its best. His later evolution into a soundscapist and sonic blacksmith in the period preceding the birth of RC places him in one of the more interesting corners of the Seattle underground along with saxophonics conjurer Skerik. 

And so this reissue has got it all – story, risk, sonic innovation – not to mention the most sublime trumpet performances we have ever experienced on record. (“On Fire” is the masterpiece on this LP and, simply put, has to be heard to be believed.) 

RC’s 1999 CD apparently sank without a trace following its release. Discovering a band like this is why we look for records in the first place and it is with immense pride and pleasure that Super Invincible reissues RADIO CHONGQING as its maiden release on pristine 180-gram vinyl in a gorgeously realized gatefold package filled with goodies.

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  • First of two long awaited 180-gram wax reissues of RC’s music from Super Invincible
  • Limited edition release featuring exclusive cover art by world renowned painter Zhang Xiaogang
  • Sublime Abbey Road Studios remaster
  • Full-color, tri-lingual liner notes and art booklet
  • Old school tip-on gatefold jacket
  • Includes lossless download of complete LP

 

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