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Martin Atkins’ China Dub Soundsystem

Made in China (Invisible China)

Feb. 27, 2008
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Made in China (Invisible China) “I just want some rock music”: The first words you hear on the latest offering from Martin Atkins—ex-PiL/Killing Joke drummer, Pigface ringmaster and industrial entrepreneur— have grown so familiar to us in the West that they sound comical.

In some parts of the world, however, a simple attraction to rock music still constitutes an act of defiance with potentially grave consequences. Of course, as the Chinese economy awakens into the profit-ravenous behemoth that it is, Chinese society is undergoing massive, sweeping changes. And, like a predictable virus, rock music isn’t far behind, already infiltrating Chinese life and spinning off new strains. Savvy to this and sensing untapped creative frontiers, Atkins set off for China in 2006 and began an intensive two-week process of collaboration and sampling.

The first fruit from this trip, Made in China, plays like re-contextualized field recordings in the same vein as Stewart Copeland’s Rhythmatist. Atkins juxtaposes modern and traditional sounds, including DJs, Tibetan chants, mandolin and instruments such as the pipa and hulusi, along with heavily digitized post-production. One imagines that Atkins viewed Eastern scales (with their notes that fall in between the pitches of Western music) as a treas- ure trove of infinite harmonic possibilities, not to mention the atonal abrasion that Atkins made into a career. Whether this music would be interesting without the exotic (both to us and Chinese audiences) cultural back-story depends on how much of Atkins’ oeuvre you already dig. To some, this will essentially sound like a Far East mutation of Pigface. To others, Made in China will represent an engaging artifact of musical anthropology. Atkins is no academic, but he clearly understands that he has to keep the music moving, which he does in trademark fashion.


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