In the tsunami of musical creativity that has washed over Taiwan in recent years, one of the more original and innovative bands to have emerged on the scene is Prairie WWWW (落差草原 WWWW). Adjectives such as psychedelic, tribal, folk, experimental, ambient, and noise hardly do justice to their music, even when applied collectively. Perhaps their music could be included in any playlist that has ‘hauntology‘ in the title. Then again, hauntology includes such a wide range of sounds that it is not so much a genre label as it is a name for a process of making music—a process that begins with collecting sounds from past and present cultural landscapes and pasting them in to musical collages that convey a sense atemporality in human existence.
In a way, Prairie WWWW’s music is like the tip of an iceberg—the end product, or visible aspect, of a process of creation that begins with observing, feeling, and sampling their environment. The samples they collect include those from the natural landscape, such as the sounds of the ocean, running water, or footsteps crunching the earth, as well as human-created sounds such as poems, or chants heard at a carnival. They also manage to collect an interesting range of creative percussion sounds from non-traditional sources (somewhat reminiscent of Hunters and Collectors in their early experimental period). While sometimes this material is left more-or-less in its raw state, usually it is mixed with, or serves as inspiration for, their unique brand of avant-garde electronica.
The lyrics tend to be chanted and spoken rather than sung, which gives the music a kind of quasi-religious feel. But this is not just some kind of veneer or a gimmicky attempt to be different. Prairie WWWW are serious about their art, something that has been clear right from the beginning with their first EP which is called ‘Entering the Void’
Each of their records is a separately conceived project. In fact, the same could be said for each individual song. For example, the beautiful ‘He Almost Doesn’t Feel Anything’ (他幾乎什麼都沒有感覺) and ‘Rising of the Sun’ (太陽升起) on the second EP evoke feelings of seeing beyond the banalities of daily life and gaining awareness of a much greater cosmic cycle. Another great track is the title track of the most recent EP, Wu Hai (霧海), meaning ‘foggy ocean’, with its gentle droning vocals and light but insistent drumming is described as like watching the dead linger before entering the void while we watch filled with consciousness and memories.
Prairie WWWW, who are cofounders of the Lonely God label, have been around since 2010, during which time they have released four records—three EPs and one LP. They played at the Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia in 2016, and this year they performed at the Fuji Rock Festival, where they were placed second (according to votes from the audience) among 15 rookie bands.
They can be followed on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr, their music can be streamed on Soundcloud, Spotify, and Streetvoice, and their records can be purchased from Bandcamp, Indievox, and at their live shows.
Do check them out you are ready to enter one of the more esoteric of realms Taiwan’s indie music and expand your awareness of what music can be.