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Album Review: Imperial China – Phosphenes (Sockets/Ruffian)

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MP3: Imperial China – All That Is Solid (limited time exclusive download)

Sockets is having a label showcase at the Black Cat Mainstage on Fri Jan 22nd including Imperial China, Hume, Buildings, The Cornel West Theory and Big Gold Belt.

First, let’s address the unavoidable: few can discuss any independent music act coming out of DC without mentioning Dischord Records. This is not without good reason since Dischord casts a long shadow, more a movement and culture than anything so narrowly scoped as a record label. Since its output, while significant, began to dwindle in the late 90s, there has been arguably no real engine of creativity to rival its explosive, pioneering hey-day. DC has steadily kept up with musical trends and , building a strong cast of devoted locals, but no real movement or creative hub has emerged. DC is a town in flux. This is something both artist and label are acutely aware in this situation.

With Imperial China’s signing, DC label Sockets appears well poised to step in and pick up the torch where Dischord laid it down. Preparing to catalyze a genuine movement again, they have amassed a strong roster featuring some of DC’s most exciting and ambitious music makers (notably Buildings, and Hume). All of their acts seem to be mindful of striking that careful and electric balance between experimentalism and accessibility, as well as being painfully aware of the Dischord void.

Imperial China debuts on Sockets with their full-length Phosphenes, a release I’ve had the luck of following throughout its life from birth through live performance, recording and refinement with Devin Ocampo at the famed Inner Ear Studios, to its completion and finding a home at Sockets. It swiftly became one of my favorite albums to listen to last year, so I am very confident it will be in my top albums of this new year (the year of its official release).

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