Andrew H. Walker, Getty Images Nine days after the deadly tornado that touched…
- Posted on Sep 2nd 2010 3:47PM by David Dacks
Arts and Crafts
Aphasia is a pretty sly name for an instrumental band from Taiwan. The term denotes to a psychological condition which impairs speech. Yi-Jyun Wu, aka Brian, the group's leader, explains that the name refers to the need to convey many emotions without fear of censorship in a closely monitored society. Their intense, disciplined compositions wouldn't have sounded out of place on Thrill Jockey about the turn of the last decade, but their social subtext keeps the music fresh.
"The government wants to understand what we are saying, but we have no lyrics," says Brian to his friends. "Sometimes the government is confused, but they don't care."
Indeed they don't, because the band was able to come to North America thanks to government support. That they showcased at a festival called TAIWANfest Crossover is certainly appropriate as, essentially, that's what they're trying to do. While they appreciate the official support, they chafe against the idea that it's the only reason they're here, just as any self-respecting rock and roll band would.
Aphasia also credits an article in Exclaim Magazine for their Canadian tour.
"Exclaim found us [while on a field trip to Taiwan]. They just like our music -- so it's not all about the government," says Brian with a hint of irritation.
The music industry in Taiwan is underdeveloped, to put it mildly, they say. Though there are plenty of corporately-driven pop stars, Brian and fellow members KK, Luxia and Yonker are among a small group of musicians who are aware of indie business sensibilities. They release their own music on KK's White Wabbit records, run out of her similarly named record store which sells North America's hottest indie bands. And "everybody plays in everybody else's band" she says.
When it's mentioned to them that Toronto's Broken Social Scene (whom they helped bring to Taipei) had a similar history, their eyes light up. They are clearly pleased to have made the trek to Canada, now somewhat familiar with the country's music thanks to a relationship with BSS's Arts & Crafts label.
KK says: "Look at the Polaris Prize. There are some bands we know like Caribou and Do Make Say Think. I thought it might be an indie prize."
Given the constraints of geography and industry, Aphasia isn't on a road to riches. However, even as Brian gestures towards the harbour and jokes, "I'll have a yacht in Toronto," he turns serious and says, "It's about only the music. It's always money-taking to play a gig in Taiwan. But we're all focused on the music, it's never ending."
Those words are so often a cliché, but you can see the concentration in his eyes. He's lived through the lack of opportunities for gigs, the frustrating societal pressures that make independent business so maddening, and two decades of sheer determination just to release music on his own in his homeland.
Though there are considerable language and cultural barriers while speaking with the band, Brian's description of what the group is all about is apt. Aphasia's music explores the state of mind when there's "pressure in your brain but you can't speak out."