Beijing-Based SOURTOWER’s Music Is a Bittersweet Oasis
In this Temper Fact Checker, we sample all the tangy flavors that are Beijing-based SOURTOWER’s sonic solace. SOURTOWER (酸塔 | suān tǎ) is an independent musician who crafts bewitching beats that seep with sentiment. Spoiler alert: These eloquent dance tracks are pure earworms!
See the China Temper posting with minor edits here.
All photos courtesy of SOURTOWER 酸塔.
Illustrator by day audio architect by night, Wang Xu (王旭｜wáng xù) is a solo artist who is best known throughout the underground music circuit as SOURTOWER (酸塔 | suān tǎ). A lover of fine art and music since childhood—even making silly ditties as a kid, SOURTOWER didn’t start to create music until college. “I started to be interested in making music when I went to college,” SOURTOWER explains, “…I played in a band as a drummer with some friends.” But it wasn’t until entering the workforce that her signature sound and skills really came into their own. “After [college] I lived a life of going to work every day until 2017 when I started to compose complete songs…, that was also when I started to see my depression properly,” SOURTOWER tells Temper, “I had a lot of emotions that I wanted to express…”
Blending elements of synth pop, dark wave, dreampop, 80s disco and shoegaze, SOURTOWER’s music is an original take on indie electronica. With a voice that possesses an ethereal vibe, SOURTOWER creates hypnotic explorations into the labyrinth of human emotion. Lyrical concepts explore such bane-of-existence subjects as deep-seated, enigmatic anguish that only a severely broken heart can incite and pining for the past.
But, with every yin there is a yang, and the juxtaposition in SOURTOWER’s music is between the lyrics and the instrumental arrangements. The use of whimsical electronic melodies and catchy bridges transports the listener to a hazy, incandescent dance floor where their internal self can twirl away the turmoil. In other words, pure escapism to a sonic safe haven. “I think maybe SOURTOWER is a place where lonely people could hide for a while,” SOURTOWER explains when asked about the philosophy behind her music, “eventually we have to face our own problems. But anyways, it's good to have a place to rest for a while, right?”
Started in 2017, SOURTOWER began as a trio and only became a one women show in 2019. Since becoming an independent musician, SOURTOWER has released an EP entitled “How Many Times?” on Nugget Records, an indie record label from Beijing.
MUSIC AND FASHION
With bleached blonde hair and a love for stripes, polka dots and quirky graphic tees, SOURTOWER’s fashion sense is all her own. And like the music she creates, clothing is another medium that is utilized for self-realization and expression. “Absolutely. I think trying different looks and dressing styles is the process of getting to know yourself,” she responds to a question about fashion as a means of self-expression, “through this process I can find out what I am most comfortable with and also how I want people to see me.”
Music and fashion have always been interrelated. Take heavy metal’s battle jackets, punk rock’s mohawks and rap’s baggy trousers. “I think both of them are very important parts of shaping a person's style,” SOURTOWER concurs when asked to give her thoughts on music and fashion’s interconnectedness, “I believe that people's behavior sometimes changes depending on what they are wearing and the music they are listening to. So, I think in a way their relationship is interpenetrating…”
Based in Beijing, SOURTOWER’s origins began in Inner Mongolia, and that includes the name. “I used to live in my grandparents' house when I was a kid and there was a radio broadcasting tower nearby,” SOURTOWER explains, “when I started making my own music, there was also a radio tower near the apartment I was living in….it remind[ed] me of a lot of sweet memories from my childhood. So, I decided then to use the word ‘tower’ and add another word to it with the same ending, ‘sour.’ I thought this will also make the name [catchier]. The Chinese translation of [SOURTOWER] ‘suan ta’ is also a cute and memorable name.” But like a bottle of wine, time brings out more complex flavors and profound significance. SOURTOWER’s name is no different. “As time passes, I think it also gives itself a deeper meaning: life is one sour thing after another piled on top of each other.”
(*True-che is a neologism that Rochelle coined in 2019. Meaning that something is too spot-on, it can be used in any situation where you wholeheartedly agree and/or acknowledge the profound truth of something.)
Ready to submit yourself to the bittersweetness of sentiment and shuffle away the blues? Grab your dance shoes and head over to Beijing’s MCLAB on November 6.
We all have the feels sometimes and, for whatever reason, need to marinate in misery. SOURTOWER’s discography is a perfect companion when you need to wallow for a moment and then dance it out, feeling the sweet—yet sour—touch of serenity. So, get swept away by sentiment and dance it out!