Somewhere between France, China and Russia, something sprung from the gaps between synthwave and punk and it’s landed here crumpled and angry. A 16-bit retro energy crunches and churns under bass heavy EDM drums, crude swathes of goth and 80s electronica are slathered with fractures of synthesised sounds. And as we slip between ‘Pleasure Principle’ / ‘Replicas’ Gary Newman, as we fold in Crystal Castles, Heartrevolution, and recall the charred chaos of Cabaret Voltaire, what comes out is a cold blend of agropop sonics with a sly twist of hardcore macabre.
Underneath all the crush of the retro-dystopia, there’s the pained desperation of nu-wave romantics in the blurred, almost dirt buried vocals. As they move through the gutter of each punch drunk track, they provide the organics, the earthwire. Overhead we dilate, we distort, we career, through that palate of monochrome synthwave. Self-deprecation and harsh isolation, they shine clear through the frantic and heavy.
But the further we move from those familiar settings, from stylistic defined expectations, the closer we get to those clear stand-out tracks that elevate Méi Jùn Bìng’s debut album. ‘Empty Glass’ is a Brad Fiedel chase scene in waiting until surged filtered torrents of trance induced synthlines start swirling between the blunt textures. There’s a minimalist heat in the cool repetition of bass sounds and 808 drum rolls, we verge on the on the earliest of 90’s euphoria and I want the track doubled in length.
As I’m wishing this came as a 12” vinyl single with an extended remix on the flipside, ‘Fate’ slides in with its pressed modulations. This combustible jitter of tweaked aggravation runs hot, aggravated and vivid, and again it all ends far too quickly.
Move forward two tracks and we hit its antithesis. ‘No Time’s steely-eyed metallised sounds carve a grove made of sinister soundscapes and wire-thin production. We slow-cook in this sci-fi until close to end, where we jerk into beat-driven home-turf electro that snaps into action scene clamour. Again it’s these genre-bent bust ups and breaks that show off the best parts of the album.
I mull over the highlights of Méi Jùn Bìng’s debut record as the closing song comes unexpected. Gone is the fever and fury and noise, cast aside are the rapid-fire bit-driven synths, instead we get ‘Civilisation’. Pitch shifting sounds undulate and transform with a morbid John Carpenter style swoon. Percussion comes thick and simple as sinister arpeggios slip their streams in and out of our focus. It’s the sound of alternative end times, dense, deep and wonderfully ominous.
Méi Jùn Bìng‘s debut album is out now to stream and to buy on CD and cassette.