WE are Shanghai's music community and we are ... What?
Taking a second stab at that question is the compilation album "We Are Shanghai Vol 2," the sequel to an album that came out last year and attempts to capture what makes our music scene go. Each artist or band gets one song to show their stuff, creating an interesting tapestry of Shanghai sounds.
The series is put together by Shanghai music veterans, each involved with projects beyond this one. Ivan Belcic is art director for Twin Horizon, which has produced artwork, including posters and T-shirts for local bands. He also plays drums in metal duo Death to Giants, along with Dennis Nichols.
Nichols also works on the project, and Belcic cites his influence in getting a wider array of artists in "Vol 2." The third person involved is Adam Gaensler, perhaps the city's premier blues guitarist and the person in-charge of mastering the album.
"We Are Shanghai Vol 1" featured 18 tracks in its CD form and 20 in digital available at www.weareshanghai.com. There is an eclectic range of artists, although the majority are bands largely made up of expats. Some of the highlights, though, do feature Chinese musicians, including a track by Top Floor Circus.
"We Are Shanghai Vol 2" features fewer tracks at 14, though they are longer songs, with four clocking in at over five minutes. The longest comes from Alec Haavik Friction Alliance at over nine minutes. It's notably the series' first jazz track.
Although new artists are featured, those making onto both albums prove an interesting link. There are four of them: Pairs, Rainbow Danger Club, The Song Dynasty and X is Y.
In contrast, at least seven of the groups from "Vol 1" have either broken up or left Shanghai, including The Instigation, Boys Climbing Ropes and Break for Borneo.
Of the four that stuck it out between volumes, two are in a small group of bands that consistently draw people, Pairs and Boys Climbing Ropes. Pairs has been consistent with their insistent aural attack, playing spazzy punk music. Although they have just released an album with their cleanest production to date, the track here, "Gig of the Week," retains the lo-fi sound they are known for.
Rainbow Danger Club, however, has leaped in style. Its track "The Country Way" is a peculiar mix of country music with a drum-machine beat, a far cry from the indie rock "Drown the Creatures" from "Vol 1."
"We Are Shanghai Vol 2" shows development of Shanghai music as a whole. There are some objective measures - the recording fidelity has improved, for instance - but more than that, the music has gotten better.