Post-rock can be perplexing for the uninitiated. With its fluid use of analog and digital instruments, irregular chord progressions, and vocal-less compositions, the subgenre has upended the formulaic structure of traditional rock music. Post-rock songs are more like lengthy, melody-led narratives, designed to evoke powerful emotions and whisk listeners away to distant lands.
China’s first post-rock band wasn’t formed until 1998, but the scene has matured over the past two decades. As bands began experimenting, many started to include traditional instruments, which resulted in sounds with a distinctly Chinese flair. These unique sonic textures are what helped put Chinese post-rock on the map, but many bands are still flying under the radar.
In this edition of Neocha Select, we’ve put together a list of Chinese post-rock bands that we think you should check out. From up-and-comers to veterans, these bands from across the Middle Kingdom offer a gamut of different styles that’ll satisfy music lovers of all persuasions.
后摇滚（post-rock），摇滚乐里的无字天书——这种鲜有固定旋律、鲜有人声的音乐，瓦解了传统摇滚后重组旋律、揉杂着古典乐、器乐和现代电子音乐，它带来的是宛如长篇叙事般的情绪大爆发，虽然，它仿佛只提供了旋律和氛围，但所带来但震撼，却让无数乐迷感受到了海洋、宇宙、孤独和爱。而自从 1998 年第一批中国后摇乐团的成立，国内后摇的历史至今也已经书写了整整二十个年头。不少以器乐为主的演奏方式和东方传统文化的体现，也让中国后摇的独辟蹊径，获得不少国际的关注。
这篇 Neocha 精选集，从风格、地域、成立年份，多方面盘点了国内不同地域的后摇乐队，有元老级的先锋乐队，也有略为小众的新声代，希望能给你带来不一样的聆听体验。
Region: Dalian, Liaoning
Year Formed: 1999
Style: Grandiose, Plaintive, Atmospheric
Wangwen is one of the most iconic bands in the Chinese post-rock scene, and they’ve been an international presence since their early years. They’ve crafted a signature sound that’s brash but desolate, forming dense soundscapes tinged with melancholic undertones. It’s precisely the band’s dimensionality that has turned even the harshest critics into fans. Guitarist Yuan Laoqian has summed it up the best, “Post-rock is subversive. It deconstructs melodic structures and explores an instrument’s full spectrum of sounds. It doesn’t follow genre expectations.”
Year Formed: 1998
Style: Traditional, Folk, Melodic
In China, Wangwen may be considered the quintessential post-rock band of the north but Zhaoze claims that title for the south. Though both are pioneers of the Chinese post-rock scene, they have vastly different styles. Zhaozhe broke grounds by being the first post-rock band to incorporate traditional Chinese instruments into their music: the result is a captivating sound that seamlessly weaves the elegance of Chinese folk music with the ferocity of rock. Blistering chord changes and nimble strumming on a modified guqin (a seven-stringed Chinese zither) combined with their guitar riffs, basslines, and drums make for emotionally charged tracks that excite the imagination.
Return to Delicate Past
Year Formed: 2007
Style: Mellow, Ethereal, Romantic
Return to Delicate Past is a post-rock band that doesn’t believe in overengineering their sound. Fitting to their name, the band produces airy compositions through a less-is-more approach, one that implores listeners to sift through each note and take in the melodic details. Their music reminds listeners that simplicity has its merits and rewards those who aren’t afraid of stepping into unfamiliar sonic terrains.
Year Formed: 2007
Style: Grandiose, Romantic
Sparrow‘s music marries instrumental ambiance and electronic influences with math-rock time signatures, creating tracks that brim with warmth and strength. Through razor-sharp drum beats and meticulous songwriting, they’ve crafted a distinctive sound that ebbs and swells with intensity, one that listeners can get lost in for days.
Region: Shaoxing, Zhejiang
Year Formed: 2008
Style: Brash, Dissonant
Despite the electronic and punk influences that appear in their music, Little Wizard has a style that leans towards traditional rock sounds. In their music, the slow burn of emotions found in typical post-rock is nowhere to be found, instead replaced by an unrelenting energy that kicks off on the getgo. Powered along by punk-rock drums and electronic synths, their music hit listeners like a defibrillator to the chest.
Region: Xi’an, Shanxi
Year Formed: 2008
Style: Rhythmic, Gentle
Though the band was formed in Xi’an, Amber‘s music is far removed from the gravitas that many associate with the ancient Chinese city. Their sound is elegant, mesmerizing, and infused with a contemporary sensibility. The track, “Hangover Star,” is often cited as many people’s first taste of post-rock in China. With recurrent melodies and a slow-ascending emotionality, Amber’s music soars to climactic heights before caressing listeners with euphonic harmonies.
Year Formed: 2008
Style: Clean, Down-to-earth
From “Dopamine” to their latest release “Spring Festival,” Mofei has a playful approach to choosing track names. The way they interact with online fans is similarly tongue-in-cheek, often responding to comments with a heavy of self-deprecating humor. The band has crafted a distinguishing sound that’s raw and unpretentious. Listeners won’t find bleary-eyed melancholy or bludgeoning rhythms in their music; what they will find is a sound that, much like the band itself, is introspective, pure, and sincere.
Region: Qinghai, Xining
Year Found: 2012 年
Style: Chinese-style, Grandiose, Abstract
Tation‘s music is often described as “post-rock from the highlands of China” and it is: the members are all from the snow-capped mountains of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. With their sharp focus on instrumentation, Tation creates meandering tracks that combine classic folk instruments with experimental electronic sounds. Their tracks, through masterful manipulation of tension, take listeners in and out of riotous crescendos and spacious interludes. The band’s Chinese name, Tian Sheng (meaning “sound from the heavens”), is inspired by a line from poet Li Bai’s Gu Feng: “They disappear, suddenly, into the shadows; but the wind returns with a voice from the heavens.” Considering the polarity of their sounds, it’s a name that feels particularly fitting.
Region: Weihai, Shandong
Year Found: 2015 (Disbanded in 2017)
Style: Pure, Unconventional
Guitarist Dong Shu was once asked about his musical aspirations. He answered that he hoped his music could be like a child, able to cast aside worldly cares and exist with a fairy-like sense of wonder. This is how the band name, Xiantong (meaning Fairy Child), came about. The band’s mentality of “ignoring outside influences and going against the mainstream” has attracted them a devout following during their active years. Though the band has since disbanded, their uncompromising approach to music-making is something that can still be appreciated.
组建时间：2015 年／2017 年解散，现为单人后摇团
Before the Sunrise
Year Found: 2015
Style: Soulful, Melodic
Not much information is available online about Before the Sunrise. Even on their official channels, the band’s bio features only two sparse sentences: “Darkness and cold dissipate with the coming dawn. Hope and light are reborn with every rising sun.” Their sound, while classifiable as post-rock, stands out from bands who’ve pigeonholed themselves into the genre—it’s music that has a soul. The band pairs digital sounds with human vocals to create jaunty, hummable tunes. These songs move along at an unhurried pace and often end abruptly, leaving listeners craving for more.
组建时间：约为 2015 年
From thunderous cacophanies and soothing stillness to optimism and despair, the appeal of post-rock lies in the universality of its sounds and the emotions they convey. The magic of the genre lies in its ability to captivate the imagination and invite listeners to engage with the music on their own terms.
Due to copyright issues, more songs can be found on the bands’ official channels.