【Taipei Times】Loh Tsui Kweh Commune 20 Years Project

Loh Tsui Kweh Commune (濁水溪公社)
Loh Tsui Kweh Commune 20 Years Project
Himalaya Records

You never know what to expect from Loh Tsui Kweh Commune (濁水溪公社), also known as LTK. After 20 years and five albums — which include classic recordings that have influenced several generations of Taiwanese punk and indie musicians — the band has released an album of full-on electronica dance music that oozes 1980s nostalgia.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or dance when I first heard this record. There is not one trace of extreme guitar noise or any of the bizarre and vulgar obscenities that have made the band one of the most notorious — and beloved — indie groups in Taiwan.

Instead, Loh Tsui Kweh Commune 20 Years Project takes the band’s music to the other extreme. The music is slick and disco smooth, and the lyrics, mostly sung in Mandarin, are about romance and heartbreak.

But all eleven tracks are unmistakably LTK. Bandleader Ko Ren-chien (柯仁堅) has made an art out of celebrating taike (台客), which used to be a derogatory term referring to Taiwanese working-class culture. The 40-year-old has outdone himself in writing the songs for this album, which begins with an instrumental
titled Taikno Music.

Ko says this collection was inspired by the music he grew up listening to, particularly bands like Depeche Mode and Duran Duran.

Eternal Love treads dangerously close to parody when Ko croons “Stay with me” in English — you could almost picture him with his hand on heart and a mock wince. But the hooks are relentlessly catchy and for the most part, never let up for the rest of album. Other standout tracks include Aerolady and Girls on the Avenue, which are pure 1980s cheese, from the reverb-drenched snare drum smacks to endless flurries of synthesizer arpeggios.

Indie-pop producer Ciacia (何欣穗) provided most of the backing female vocals and her lush harmonies are the perfect foil for Ko, who sounds like he has just hijacked an unsuspecting karaoke party and is having the time of his life.

At LTK’s 20th anniversary concert earlier this month, the band didn’t perform any of these new songs, but they didn’t need to. During a set break, they hired professional dancers to perform a racy strip tease with the album as their sound track.

— David Chen