Pan Daijing

A Satin Sight

Images of conservative China do not conjure up anything one might associate with dark, noisy techno. Rigid adherence to conventional gender roles, and an ardent insistence on filial piety seem well out of place in dance music culture. In Pan Daijing’s A Satin Sight, however, there is a vigorous refusal of those rigidities: her unbridled lust for the distorted, sexual, and deviant at odds with the old-fashioned values of rural China.

Having grown up in Guiyang, Pan’s early exposure to music was limited – almost surprising, given the particularities of how she handles sonic material. That being said, growing up without access to the Internet, it’s also perhaps to be expected that she would find excitement in the unrestrained (to say the least) spaces of BDSM and techno culture, the two of which meet in her particular sonic output; "That’s why I really enjoy playing live sets. I feel like everybody on the dance floor are like slaves or something, and I’m dominating them with the sound. Like every kick is something I use to whip them.”

It’s unsurprising, then, that she’s referred to as a "sonic provocateur", who often has to cancel shows because many venues think her performances are "too violent or dark.” The 21-minute EP is one to get your heart racing and palms sweating; it’s enthralling and addictive yet disconcerting and uncomfortable. Pan has reasserted her penchant for the uncomfortable, in a sonic iteration of the discomfort of David Lynch’s Eraserhead.

Opening track ‘Tenderloin Tanz’ is relentless from the get-go, recalling the kind of perpetual drive to be heard on tracks by Paula Temple. Thumping percussion beneath spurts of noise race across its six minutes, arguably the strongest of the lot, its energy of emblematic Pan’s aesthetic as a whole.

‘Exile’ features a minor, melancholy synthline that teeters on the edge of cliché, paired with the tireless, distorted percussion that’s a staple of the EP. Partway through, a voice whispers in mandarin: “if one day I leave, would you look for me?” And whether you read this as a reference to the rift between the artist and her background (or as a suggestion of a somewhat more conventional romantic pretext), Pan’s assertion of her developing sound is undeniable. Bleakly coloured, ‘Exile’ is composed of swaths of haunting, metallic timbres.

‘A Season in Hell’ recalls the opening of similarly coloured ‘Unflesh’ by Gazelle Twin. Except Pan doesn’t skulk – though the piece builds gradually, its direction is clear from the off: snares and toms begin their mechanic punching beneath metallic, singing-bowl-like resonances, undulating between pure, minimal tones and disorienting, cacophonous polyrhythms.

The singing-bowl timbres also reveal another layer to Pan’s particular sonic approach, informed in part by her experiences in a Tibetan temple. As a female, she was not initially permitted within the space of the temple, but after expressing her respect for "their religious and spiritual identity," she was allowed to sit in on religious ceremonies. Subsequently, her own quasi-religious attitude toward sound takes very seriously its ability to affect, encapsulated in comparisons of the vibrations of sound to the vibrations of sexual pleasure. Beneath the singing-bowl hums is the perpetual kick-drum-whip, with which she enthusiastically commandeers listeners.

Final track ‘Nomenklatura’ contests ‘Tenderloin Tanz’ for the position of most interesting moment of the release, treating us to the sounds of being eaten alive – a series of noisy squalls, screams and croaks, reminiscent of of Lotic’s Trauma. Warped, unintelligible speech, fitting jaggedly in place over the synth screeches below, to create a noisy, techno squall.

A Satin Sight is a welcome follow up to 2015’s SEX & DISEASE, released on German label Noisekölln. More rhythmic but just as dark, Pan’s latest offers a sonic throttling over a smothering.

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