Empty Editions presents Mein Corona, a new single from legendary Hong Kong-based provocateur and pioneer of Cantonese industrial noise music Xper.Xr. His first official release since 2006, Mein Corona is an ecstatic, darkly humorous, and ultimately hopeful document of life amidst the ongoing global Coronavirus pandemic. A singularly twisted interpretation of The Knack’s 1979 hit single “My Sharona,” Mein Corona embeds lyrics that allude to Chinese bat-eating and state conspiracy within a densely layered aural brigade of whip-cracks, sirens, shattering glass, and stock TIE Fighter screams. All, of course, set to the instantly recognizable and perversely infectious guitar riff of the original song. The single follows in a tradition of unexpected reimaginings and wayward covers—think Merzbow covering Christmas classic “Silent Night,” or Tori Amos’s version of Slayer’s “Raining Blood”—situations where the original is subverted entirely to great effect. Although Xper.Xr’s own discography is already studded with a number of bizarre renditions of existing tunes—from Prince’s “When 2 R in Love,” to interpretations of children’s nursery rhymes—Mein Corona might just be the strangest and most timely one of all. Developed spontaneously, and certainly not originally intended for proper release, this single was recorded in a series of feverish, ad hoc studio sessions between Xper.Xr and Alok Leung, and features saxophone provided remotely by the great Parisian improviser Jean-Luc Guionnet.
Mein Corona unfolds as an absurd and truly unorthodox version of the 1970s radio hit. Xper.Xr carries the song’s original melody in karaoke fashion—a buzzed delivery that vies for presence amidst an overwhelming backing track and general anarchic confusion. Guionnet’s laser-sharp, siren-like saxophone playing functions as a kind of back-up vocal contributing to the atmosphere of sustained mania and malfunction. Within this carnivalesque universe of sound, Xper comes across as an unhinged bandleader directing a chorus of short-circuiting televisions—an aural metaphor for the affective space of our own quarantine-addled, compulsively media consuming, remote moralizing, and online shopping selves. Xper’s musical response to the pandemic is inflected by a perspective and sense of humor which is characteristically Hong Kong: a kind of self-lacerating relative of 無厘頭 (mo lei tau). An absurdist type of grassroots humour which delights in grotesque exaggeration, verbal nonsense, and illogical performances, 無厘頭 originated (at least in part) as a cathartic outlet for Hong Kongers widespread sense of existential futility as colonial subjects. This irreverent spirit is found throughout Xper’s work, especially as he has challenged conventions of deference and “good taste” within the realm of avant-garde music. With this tact on full display, Mein Corona is a brazen and confounding attempt to find a kind of optimism (even if that optimism is simply the ability to still create) amidst the confusion, adversity, and paranoia of the global pandemic: a much needed antidote to an atmosphere of official dread and grey seriousness which has suffused our everyday lives.
The release was inspired by The Knack’s “My Sharona” written by Berton Averre & Doug Fieger (1979), produced by Empty Gallery and Xper. Xr., with Saxophone by Jean-Luc Guionnet and additional arrangement from Alok Leung. Midi-sequencing, recording, mixing, and mastering is by Alok Leung at Lona Records Studio, Hong Kong, April 2020. Artwork is by Xper.Xr and Michael Yu. Special Thanks to FeastOn.
All proceeds of “Mein Corona” will be doubled through a matching grant from Empty Editions and donated to the Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention at Hong Kong University.
Release: July, 2020
XPER.XR (born 1970) is a Hong Kong-based artist, performer, and provocateur belonging to the city’s first generation of experimental musicians. After releasing Murmur (1989), arguably the first industrial noise recording in the territory, he went on to release and perform alongside such names as Otomo Yoshihide, Merzbow and Whitehouse. Characterized by a constitutional irreverence, deliberate courting of failure, and self-effacing aesthetic, Xper.Xr.’s practice represents a crucial moment of the city’s artistic counter-history. From 2012 to 2015, he ran the seminal underground exhibition and performance venue CIA in Kowloon, organizing shows with like-minded artists Kago Shintaro, Vagina Dentata Organ, New Noveta, Hermann Nitsch, Laibach and Olivier de Sagazan.