白+’s criminally overlooked debut record is likely to provoke a suite of different responses following a first, completely blind, listen. Is it a somehow-forgotten Cluster record released in-between Zuckerzeit and Sowiesoso that has just been rediscovered? Or maybe you just completely forgot what the Neu! records sound like and are now re-familiarizing yourself with them? Is it outtakes from Steve Reich’s original Music for 18 Musicians sessions?
Nah, it’s just arguably the best krautrock record of the entire decade, and it comes from a wholly unexpected place – the rarely-discussed experimental underground of Beijing, China. The group is a side project of Zhang Shouwang, perhaps slightly more known for his work with Beijing-based indie rock group Carsick Cars. But there is no shred of Zhang’s indie rock leanings to be found on this record; instead, it could easily fool even the most hardcore krautrock enthusiast into believing it to be a true lost artifact from 1970’s Germany.
So, is all this to say that this is largely a derivative record that breaks little new ground in channeling its influences? Yeah, pretty much. But dang it’s so incredibly well-written and so faithful to its source material that it’s hard to really care that it’s not really doing anything new within the genre. Take the album’s brilliant second track, “銀 (Silver)”, for instance – it features a hypnotic series of piano loops that sound as if they would be right at home on Kraftwerk’s Ralf and Florian, a synth lead not too far off from something Gary Numan would’ve put out around The Pleasure Principle era, all on top of a constantly forward-driving rhythm reminiscent of Neu!. Or how about “綠 (Green)”, whose repetitive but subtly varying synth and piano lines beautifully evoke Terry Riley’s In C. Out of place only is the final track “紅 (Red)”, essentially a bizarre rap-punk crossover that closes out the album in a pretty baffling and not particularly satisfying way.
Listen to this absurdly obscure gem so you can fool all of your cool krautrock friends by telling them it’s the real deal and then sweeping the rug out from under their feet when they least expect it.