Beijing-based Nocturnes曳取: Indie Pop Shrouded in Shadow
Updated: Feb 15
Once a dynamic duo and now a tenacious trio, Nocturnes曳取 (yè qǔ) is a gang of tunesmiths who synthesize lo-fi tapestries that engulf you into a space of dejected self-reflection and pessimistic probing into the human condition.
See the China Temper posting with minor edits here.
All photos provided by Nocturnes曳取.
Once a dynamic duo and now a tenacious trio, Nocturnes曳取 (yè qǔ) is a gang of tunesmiths who synthesize lo-fi tapestries that engulf you into a space of dejected self-reflection and pessimistic probing into the human condition. “When I was 15, I felt a little lost. I started playing guitar and using music as a means of escape, to make my own world,” Dave (大卫| Dà wèi), Nocturnes曳取’s guitarist and the initiator of the band, tells Temper.
A world is exactly what they’ve created. Through their seven-year existence, Nocturnes曳取 has molded a soundscape of elegant lyrics that are profound poetry, mesmerizing rhythms that are all-consuming and aural atmospheres that are heavy with despair and numbed anxiety. This abysmal oasis is totally original, earnest and not their private paradise, but orchestrated for the like-minded. “I think all music creation is a kind of self-expression, but it needs to be a true and sincere expression, through our [personal] histories and skills this is possible. [There’s] a lot of great music, but music that people genuinely remember and has a huge influence certainly is music that resonates and is sincere,” states Chen Yutong (陈雨曈 | Chén yǔ tóng ), the band’s drummer and newest addition, when asked about her philosophy towards making music. “I think the music aesthetic is very selfish and private. So, it's a happy matter when your music attracts people with similar interests.”
This code of individuality isn’t just held by Chen personally, but the band as an entity. “To be the ‘one and only.’ I mean any band can aim high and say ‘we want to be the absolute best,’” replies Wei Du (委度|Wěi dù), vocalist and the other half of the original lineup, when questioned about the band’s philosophy, “but I mean most of the time to be ourselves seems more important or ‘aesthetically correct,’ like, we’re not ready to be ‘[TikTok] famous’ or to make any songs that we’re not comfortable with just to make profit or to impress someone.”
With such a gloomy, cold tone to the songs they compose, a name like Nocturnes曳取, that invokes mental images of nightfall, obscurity and hopelessness, is brilliant. But the name’s origin isn’t because of the esoteric qualities of yin over yang or such narrow symbolism. “At first, we thought our songs were made for the night-listeners, that’s the Nocturnes part,” explains Wei Du, “then to better suit for local market, I came up [with] the two Chinese characters: the first ‘曳’ means swaying, flickering, like a cool dance move, ‘取’ means to take away. …we want our audience to take away and create meanings on their own, no limits and no restrictions of any sorts.”
If there’s any overarching themes to Nocturnes曳取’s discography, it’s boundlessness and questioning everything. “For me to write lyrics and melody, I suppose the keywords here are ‘openness’ and ‘spontaneousness,’” Wei Du states, “I want my audience to create meanings independently while listening to our music, totally set free. We bring them into a certain atmosphere, set up the right mood then everyone is free to go wherever they want, that’s the kind of feeling we want to deliver.”
Fusing elements of pop, electronic, indie rock, classical and jazz, Nocturnes曳取’s sonnets are just what Wei Du intends: pulsating pallets for personal, philosophical inquiry. Melodies flow slow and hypnotic, enveloping you in a blanket of grayscale tranquility that allows you to vanish into the beats. Even with its somber serenity, Nocturnes曳取’s music is emotive, seeping into your soul and caressing any hidden hurt and igniting feelings of existential dread.
Wei Du’s voice is haunting as it soars, descends, and masterfully code-switches, reciting stories that are all too relatable. Through the lyrics that Wei Du composes, Nocturnes曳取explores themes of being by plunging into the shadowy depths of present-day existence and the ultimate bane of existence: love. Songs like “Love Kills” and “Shutter,” both first released on the 2017 EP Dust in Glory, poetically express the sorrowful and tainted aspects of love: soul-crushing heartbreak, unrequited, blind love, and being wronged in love. At least that’s our interpretation.
Nocturnes曳取 formed in 2015 after Dave became enamored with Beijing’s music community. “I came to Beijing in 2015. At first, I planned to stay for 6 months and return to Ireland. But I fell in love with Beijing’s music and bands. I saw many awesome shows and slowly started to want to have my own band,” Dave reminisces, “on Douban, I posted an ad looking for a vocalist and afterwards Wei Du and myself started to write songs.”
Wei Du continues the tale: “When the band was born in late 2015, we pretty much did everything on our own: making songs, contacting tiny gigs, stuff like that. The first EP was made in Dave’s bedroom, it’s called A World Full of Adults and it’s super lo-fi. I still have a CD copy of that which is the most precious thing to me.”
After releasing this aforementioned EP on their own in early 2016, Nocturnes曳取’s narrative began to pick up speed. They signed to CAOTAI Music (草台回声|Cǎotái huíshēng ), a Beijing-based record label with, according to the label’s Twitter, an inkling for泛艺术 (fàn yìshù) or pan-art, in the fall of 2016. Once joining the CAOTAI coalition, Nocturnes曳取 partook in gigs throughout China and Europe. In 2020, they started another chapter in the band’s tale with Chen Yutong filling the role of percussionist and, in 2021, they turned the page by signing to the label WaterMade (水形|shuǐ xíng), a subsidiary label of Modernsky (摩登天空| módēng tiānkōng).
MUSIC AND FASHION
Like the vast majority of bands that have been interviewed for our music-related pieces, Nocturnes曳取’s members see fashion as analogous to music. To put it succinctly, fashion, like music, is a medium for self-expression. “Of course [fashion] is a means to express myself!” exclaims Dave, “I’m a bit of a shy person, so I use fashion to allow others to understand my mind or to find people like me.”
Chen and Wei Du concur, for the most part. “At some level, yes. I guess the way you choose to dress up yourself, pick certain clothes and accessories, can say a lot about your personalities and values,” admits Wei Du, whose stage attire is nothing distinct from her daily wardrobe, a color spectrum of black to white.
Like Wei Du, Chen’s opinion towards stage getup is also black and white albeit with a tinge of devil’s advocate: “When it comes to a band, [you] need to first unify some elements with the [other] members, and then, with this in mind, wear your own style of clothes. During a performance, a music band being seen as a whole is the best. When performing solo, you don’t want to be so limited, because every time [you] want to give everybody the feeling of surprise,” she remarks and goes on to state that she doesn’t want her stage style defined.
Speaking of their stage attire...
a Nocturnes曳取 performance is an all-encompassing experience, and their monochromatic getups are just one piece of the puzzle. “To some degree, yes,” Wei Du states when answering a question about the relationship between fashion and music, “[for] Nocturnes 曳取, we set up a cool vibe on stage using cool lighting installments (thanks to Dave the expert), sometimes VJ too. I mean there’s a lot you can say about a band when it comes to ‘stage presence’ and for me they’re the true ‘fashion’ elements in band music: all the little parts add up in your performances, not just the clothes you put up individually.”
Nocturnes曳取 hails from the hutong mazes and concrete jungle that is Beijing.
With a new record scheduled for release this year, Nocturnes曳取 is revving up for a nation-wide tour entitled Dengdui Perfect Match Tour (登对巡演 | Dēng duì xúnyǎn), presumably named after a 2021 single. Upcoming dates for this domestic excursion are February 18th in Guangzhou, February 19th in Shenzhen, and on March 17th in Beijing. The St. Patrick Day’s show will take place at 疆进酒 OMNISPACE in Beijing’s Dongcheng District. For more tour information, keep an eye on Nocturnes曳取’s 微博Weibo.
Soft yet edgy, hypnotic yet jarring, Nocturnes曳取’s creations are every shade of somber. Like biting breath on a freezing winter night, Nocturnes曳取’s music is earworms with teeth that pierce you to your core and lead your mind astray to wander its own murkiness. It’s a nirvana for those who see the proverbial glass perpetually half empty and wear their fractured hearts on their sleeves. So, nestle into your favorite meditation spot and get ready to explore consciousness’ opacity.