If you’ve just heard the epic instrumentals of post-hardcore Nao, then you only know one side of this sound-shifting story. Formed in 2004 by vocalist/guitarist Tat, lead guitarist Hoong (currently of Deng Deng Etc) and brothers William (bass) and Jimmy (drum), Nao was a controversial socialist prog punk band. Their “no nonsense” live shows included political sermons that separated them from the fluff of indie bands with nothing to say.

Even if you didn’t understand Tat’s intense Mandarin rantings, you’d still stand in awe of the band’s military precision. Songs like ‘Mata Mata’, ‘We Wait’ and ‘Silent Now’ exemplified their early sonic mayhem, which combined Fugazi’s rawness and Primus’ groove, with lyrics regarding police corruption, the abolishment of Chinese schools and the ISA.

Nao still is a band whose actions speak louder than their songs Рmembers participate in street demonstrations and their risqu̩ performances attract the men in black every now and then. Turbulence is thus nothing new to the band. Hoong left the outfit due to ideological conflicts shortly after their self titled debut album was released under Soundscape Records in 2007. Then as a trio, Nao went through a period of uncertainty, until eventually they found inspiration in bands like Mars Volta and King Crimson.

Enter the second phase of Nao: psycho prog sans vocals. Relates Jimmy to JUICE, Nao now “prefer to sing from their instruments”. JUICE caught the band in action recently with new Johorian bassist Teng at Sunburst 09 ; they rank, together with Deng Deng Etc and Killeur Calculateur, as part of the big 3 of local heavy bands and proves that a band can undergo change without losing its original message, vocals or not.

The band has performed twice at the Beijing Midi Music Festival – China’s own version of Woodstock and with a sophomore album and an Asian tour in plan, the future looks bright for Nao.

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