The Great (fire)Wall of China makes it tricky for its underground music scene to connect with the outside world. For example, Facebook and Instagram are banned in the mainland but there’s a Chinese equivalent in Weibo. Check out GriffO鬼否‘s page and they have over 140,000 followers there, but scarcely any social media presence outside of China. To make matters worse, Spotify and Bandcamp are blocked as well, so the band’s discography is sorta piecemeal across several platforms. This inconvenience is outweighed however by GriffO鬼否‘s captivating music.
The band’s sophomore album 本体Ontology is available on Spotify. If you wanna support the band more directly, their debut album《NEO ENIAC》 is on Bandcamp. Both albums are fire, but this new one burns a couple degrees hotter. Once the groove sparks on “自然法则 Natural Law”, perspiration begins. Frantic piano passages reminiscent of mouse on the keys, and soft backup vocals harkening tricot reveal a distinct Japanese influence but it all comes together in a uniquely GriffO否 way.
Another instant highlight on the album is “未连接 Not Connected”. The ringmod riff and futuristic synth bass make an unlikely but beautiful backdrop for the ethereal vocals that prepare the song for launch. What follows is a journey that weaves between tension-building passages and more explosive moments, riding the edges of complacent and cacophony, until all’s left is vocals and drums to bring it home.
GriffO鬼否 also pull from some Latin influences on a few tracks. “超真实生态瓶 Hyperreal Eco Bottle” has a chill math rock samba thing going on, but with an ultramodern twist. There’s all this natural room space on the guitar and drums while an alien-like Korg cons its way into the fold. This blending of natural and synthetic elements is something the band has a real knack for.
“终端 Terminal” also features a step of Latin swagger. Imagine an early nineties Selena dancing in a dingy dive-bar lit only by a busted mirror ball. The rhythm section is so tight, particularly in the bridge where the bass goes Bootsy Collins while the band forages into something like vapor-funk. Innovative isn’t quite the right word for it, but likely fans of Mr. Bungle are gonna dig it.
There’s a popular reality TV show in China called Big Band (乐队的夏天). It’s like American Idol meets battle-of-the-bands, and this year GriffO鬼否 was a contestant along with several other established and up-and-coming bands. The live performance “界门纲目科属种 Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus Species” might not have won over the judges, but it’s fascinating to see math rock getting on such a big platform. Could you imagine TTNG on Britain’s Got Talent?
This genre thrives in the underground because bands like GriffO鬼否 who take risks and make proggy yet catchy, nostalgic yet inventive, earnest yet playful music. If they ever come stateside, they’d be great on tour sandwiched between the likes of Deerhoof and Tera Melos. 本体Ontology vinyls would be selling like hotcakes off their merch table. And while maybe it is what some folks call musician’s music, but musicians are people too.