Zhao Cong – ‘Afternoon’

Posted by on July 21, 2017


Earlier this summer I spent some time with Zoomin’ Night imprint of Beijing-based Zhu Wenbo, thanks to tidbits of news emerging about his compilation of Chinese experimental music There Is No Music From China — curated with Yan Jun for release on Zoomin’ Night and Noel Meek’s End of the Alphabet Records. That collection is available via End of the Alphabet and features some fun familiar faces, like Gao Jiafeng and Torturing Nurse. On this occasion, Zoomin’ Night is the rabbit hole that I dropped into, culminating with Zhao Cong’s enigmatic Afternoon cassette.

Recorded “using cardboard tube, microphone, objects” and produced by Zoomin’ Night proprietor Zhu Wenbo himself, Afternoon is a wonderful work of process and preparation. Though the atmosphere blurbs, distinct strata within the prepared field recordings — nature sounds and vehicle noises — give the sense of a tubular cardboard metropolis, filled by the standard machine and natural ephemera that accumulates, stacks, and echoes throughout cities. You’re far out between two majestic towers of empty, erect rolls, balanced on a minutely vibrating rubber band while cars drive by below, with a few canopies of foliage dotting the ground for shade. I can’t help but imagine a denuded, but unobnoxious version of James Marsh’s blisteringly awful Man on Wire. The b-side wraps slowly with several minutes of aural neurosis, starting with a skull-piercing tone that — applied to my Man on Wire analogy — maybe corresponds to some alternate ending where Philippe Petit falls midway and diffuses into a gas. Afternoon is discrete, unassuming, and disproportionately absorbing.

Though it was actually released late last fall, Afternoon is available to download for free or on tape via Zoomin’ Night.