The Chinese art scene, like many art scenes (and even more so, tech based ones), maintains a certain gender imbalance. The amount of women in the experimental music scene can be counted on two hands. Wei Wei, aka VAVABOND, is the most active of the bunch. In her early years, Wei Wei devoted herself to literature, translation, and sound editing for TV stations, but in 2006 started making music and performing as VAVABOND. Later, she formed the psychedelic noise duo Vagus Nerve with Li Jianhong, the pioneer of Chinese experimental music himself, distinguishing herself as an important force in the burgeoning subgenre.
VAVABOND uses Max/MSP to produce harsh sound textures and overwhelming drones. Chinese music critic Yan Jun said her first album, Inti.mac.y, “sounds like macho artists like Zhou Pei, Li Jianhong and Junky playing around with hardware, moving backward and forward, and creating perversions loudly and aggressively.”
Her sound pieces back then were composed, or rather improvised, on her laptop in one take, evoking sparkling fires full of texture. She didn’t care about composition, instead experimenting and playing with sounds and structures with a hedonist posture. In Vagus Nerve, Wei Wei and Jianhong combine laptop and guitar, and on their album Lo Pan, released by Utech, VAVABOND’s high volume sonic drones leave listeners breathless.
VAVABOND’s unique sonic style is influenced by insects, electromagnetism, crop circles, outer space, extraterrestrial life, and the cosmos—everything that is related to preternatural and unexplained events. A typical track might weave together disparate elements from electromagnetic interfaces, electronic frequencies, the sound of insects wings, and breathing into a noisy-quiet scene. In VAVABOND’s latest performances, the elements used are more detailed and polished, layered over the complex sounds that Max/MSP produces. She’s also taken up the iPad as her instrument, using the React table app to make her performances more vivid and rich.
VAVABOND performs with many Beijing-based experimental musicians in an underground concert
An integral part of the Beijing experimental music scene, VAVABOND collaborates with many local musicians and you can typically find her making the rounds at various music and new media art festivals. She also creates sound pieces for exhibitions and fashion shows and is organizing a new music label which will be named China Free Improvisation. As the lone female ambassador of the Chinese experimental music scene, she’s definitely got her work cut out for her, but consistently proves that she’s up to the task.
Check out a few of our favorite VAVABOND tracks below:
Image Courtesy of VAVABOND