HW&W’s Mike Gao has just uploaded his latest work, a collaborative original with help from Howie Lee called “方庄” or the “Fangzhuang” neighborhood in southern Beijing. This piece was written nearly a year ago in the city, and was recently picked back up to be tweaked and completed.
Towards the time for release, I was second guessing the track a lot, doing hella revisions and reuploading them to the compilation Bandcamp for a week after it was out already, trying to come up with new bridges and melodies and cleaning up the mix, f**king with some groove, messing with transitions etc.
What emerged is an immensely complex and intricate amalgam of rhythms, melodies, samples, and arrangements that blends aspects of many different cultures and musical styles into one cohesive train of thought. There are sections of joy, despair, contemplation, stillness, movement, and everything in between. The track is true work of art. It can be downloaded for free here.
It begins with an evolving array of tribal bells and drum strikes, all laid over soft Rhode chords. Suddenly, a hip hop beat reveals itself underneath scrapes and clinks of metal. It fades away for moment before a snare roll brings it back, this time with a far-off, pitched vocal sample and short cymbal crashes. The beat transforms into a slow, sub-heavy rhythm with subtle hi hats and cascades of a muted, flute-like synth. New inclusions of percussion enter and exit the space constantly. A quick sample from a Kanye track can even be found amongst the rubble. The track continues with a tight, broken arrangement of kicks and snares as the exotic vocals echo behind. A feeling of darkness settles over the beat, the Rhode returns, and a series of kicks and blips take the listener to the close.