ROM album preview

The futuristic hip-hop collective on the launch of their new album

This week local Cyber-punk futuristic hip hop collective ROM launch their self titled album at The Shelter. Alexander Barlow finds out all about them

Earlier this year audio-visual trio ROM played a show at an off-key club in Nanjing. ‘I had my perm at the time,’ says the trio’s alt-rapper Icenine. ‘I got it in the Philippines. People make bad decisions in the Philippines. I’m glad mine was a just a perm. I’ve heard of a lot worse things happening.’


Icenine, or Chris Hatt to immigration, doesn’t subscribe to the cliches of rap. No baggy pants, New Era cap or crotch-grabbing on stage; no wanting for ‘beef’. He’s a theatrical showman, a kind of underworld, sci-fi dandy who makes deep, elliptical, sometimes eerie, socially concerned hip hop that speaks of the moral imbalances of eroding, near-future societies and destitute, post-modern dystopias. Deep shit, in other words.


Together with VJ Olivepixel and beatsmith Blaise Deville, he built up an experimental, left-of-field live show out of a frustration with Shanghai’s staid hip hop scene. ‘My lyrics, to me, are the most important part,’ he says. ‘But I’ve had to accept the fact that nobody understands them here. So we’ve had to develop this concept-based thing to give people an idea of what they’re going to hear.’


The concept is cyber-punk, where they create an alt-futurist, tech-noir clubscape with the use of costumes, visuals and projectors set to all strains of hip hop. ‘He’s the cyber guy, I’m the punk,’ says Hatt of Olivepixel, real name Kim Laughton.


To mark the launch of Icenine’s new album ROM this month, The Shelter sees, ‘our biggest and most grandiose ROM yet, with several projectors and as many broken screens as we can afford dangling from the ceiling.’ Costumes are tailor made at fabric markets, and tunes come from Cavia, Blaise Deville Downstate and Drunk Monk.


For 50RMB, you get the CD, a rom chip and specially commissioned artwork from a number of local artists. The package, they say, will commemorate the death of physical media ‘from a near future perspective’ in keeping with their cyber-punk ethos. ‘But even if you don’t get the idea,’ says Laughton, ‘it’ll still be a good party.’


Alexander Barlow


ROM is at The Shelter on Saturday 19 November.

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