Preview: Duck Fight Goose

Shanghai's most inventive band are back with a futuristic new album

When we meet Duck Fight Goose’s Han Han to discuss the Shanghai band’s new album, their first in five years, he tells us he’s spent the previous week at a camp for music producers in Norway, courtesy of the country’s taxpayers.

We envisage a week of musicians pushing boundaries as part of a well-meaning, government-funded Scandinavian festival of creativity and positive energy. After all, Han is one of China’s leading experimental musicians, both through his solo GOOOOOSE project and in futurerock outfit Duck Fight Goose. But no – the camp was designed for producing pop hits for major labels. 'It was like a factory, our group produced maybe 40 songs in four days,’ says Han. ‘But they were upfront about what they were doing.'

Han’s music isn’t known for its mass appeal, and together with bandmates 33 ('SanSan'), Panda and drummer JB he’s built a reputation for uncompromising live shows. Duck Fight Goose once cut short a set in support of Guns ’n’ Roses legend Slash in Shanghai after their music proved too challenging for the crowd.

Yet there he was in Norway, charged with cranking out hits for the next generation of Western pop stars. Unsurprisingly, Han’s involvement with the potential hit-making was minimal. 'I was honest with them and played them some of my songs on Soundcloud,' he says. 'They thought it was interesting, but not exactly what they were after.'

He laughs when we ask if the experience left him tempted to go into writing pop hits for mainstream stars such as Jolin Tsai or Li Yuchun. 'Maybe,' he chuckles. 'I was happy that they saw my style as too underground. That means I’m doing the right thing.' Instead, Han’s focus now is on releasing a very different kind of record.

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Clvb Zvkvft album art

Entitled Clvb Zvkvnft (German for 'Club Future'), Duck Fight Goose’s second album features packaging that looks like a computer game and the band’s statement that, 'It’s almost better to think of their music as software, undergoing iteration after iteration, stack upon stack, version updates pushed with the engineer’s perfectionist fervor.'

For anyone following the quartet’s trajectory through their recorded output, the album is a radical change. Whereas their 2010 debut EP Flow was a straight-up math-rock record, and 2011’s full-length Sports contained plenty of guitars, Clvb Zvkvnft has more in common with the likes of Jon Hopkins and Lindstrom than it does with, say, Battles.

But this isn’t exactly Duck Fight Goose’s Kid A. The quartet have been hurtling toward a futuristic electronic sound for some time, with a new gadget and effect seemingly added every time they’ve played live over the past half decade. 'I wouldn’t call this electronic music, though it’s more like it,' says Han. 'But each song has its own style. There’s no real reference point – which is partly why it took so long. There’s old-time disco, IDM… it’s varied.'

It’s certainly a record with a lot going on, from the sci-fi soundtrack synths of 'ATM In Da Space' to the punchy, funked up march of 'Army' and the skittering, bassy rhythms of 'Metro Disco'. Yet this, incredibly, is the stripped back version. Early demos were more complex, almost bewilderingly so. Realising this, Han has spent the intervening months with producer Li Weiyu of Shanghai’s Juju Studios, stripping back layers.

'At one point there were 60 tracks in one song,' says Han. 'Now it’s more like 30. We spent time picking out the most important elements of the songs then focusing on the overall design from there.'

This gave standouts such as the anthemic 'Horse' room to breath before the final master was relayed through Li’s reel-to-reel tape machine to 'add a little grit'. The resulting album is due for release on D-Force, with a launch show at Tango this month.

'Our music is quite full,' says Han, 'so we want the live show to be a whole experience.' It might not be Scandinavian pop, but it might just be a taste of the club of the future.

  • 4 out of 5 stars