P.H.0 Silkpunk band from Brooklyn, NY
Local Music Spotlight: P.H.0

Brooklyn's silkpunks subvert, reshape, and redefine what it means to be East Asian in a Western setting

There have only been a handful of musical acts that can claim a truly unique sound, one that no one else has shared before or since. Talking Heads, Rage Against the Machine, and Klaus Nomi come to mind, and I’m adding Brooklyn’s self-described “silkpunk/cyber metal” quintet P.H.0 to that list. Their primarily instrumental music contains elements of industrial, math rock, 80’s California hardcore, stoner rock, nü-metal, ambient, and EDM, all tied together with a strong sense of melody. 

What sets them apart from other bands who grew up listening to the likes of Nine Inch Nails, Tool, Joy Division, System of a Down, et al, is P.H.0’s three secret weapons in the form of traditional Chinese instruments – suona, a double-reeded wind pipe;  pipa, a Chinese lute (both played by Tong Kong); and erhu, a two-stringed bowed instrument (played by Danting “Chi-Chi” Qiao). These three instruments are rarely heard in the context of Western pop music and give P.H.0 a singular sound. Fortunately, it’s not a gimmick. These sounds enrich the texture of the band’s music. 

The repeated suona in the intro of “Vanity,” the first track of P.H.0’s 2023 debut album Karma, evokes the music of Peking opera (and, to my ears, Appalachian fiddle music) before giving way to a crunching guitar breakdown that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Mastodon record. The suona motif is referenced by the erhu in the song’s middle section amid a quieter guitar riff that would make early 80’s The Edge smile. The song is a mélange of styles and sounds that fit seamlessly together. “Mo” is another track featuring the erhu along with Static X-esque guitar, bass, and drums. On “Wu Wuo,” the erhu floats above a jungle beat accompanied by quotes from Orwell’s 1984. The pipa and erhu also liven up “Genko,” elements of which would have fit nicely on a DFA record, albeit with heavier guitars thrown in.

P.H.0’s identification as a quintet of “silkpunks” stems from their shared Chinese heritage and their desire to subvert, reshape, and redefine what it means to be East Asian in a Western setting, in their case music, to break down boundaries and blur assumed cultural divisions. Their sound is both futuristic and traditional, ideologically dissonant but blended in an intriguing and exciting way. It contains elements of many styles presented with instrumentation and an ethos that reaches beyond the scope of most music. Check them out – you’ve never heard anything like them.

Upcoming Shows: P.H.0 will perform on Saturday, March 9th at 7 pm at Bowery Electric as part of the 2024 New Colossus Festival. More information and tickets here.

P.H.0’s linktree

Adam is just a dude based in Brooklyn who enjoys thinking about music in all forms. He enjoys cooking, board games, baseball, and arranging songs for ukulele that shouldn't be played on ukulele in an extremely amateurish way. Adam is shown here at age 13 on his way to a bar mitzvah.

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