There are not that many significant rock bands in the Shanghai area, as the scene itself is still expanding and searching for its own particular traits. Perhaps it is the mixture of foreign and Chinese elements that indeed makes Shanghainese rock what it is.
If we had to name a list of relevant bands from this area, 冷酷仙境 (Cold Fairyland is their name for the international audience) would definitely make it. When this album was recorded — at the ARK in Shanghai, 2005 — the quintet was composed of Chinese members (two women and three men) and featured, apart from the usual drums, bass and guitar, also keyboards, cello and especially pipa (琵琶, a traditional string instrument, similar to a lute). This progressive folk rock band formed in 2001 and has always displayed multiple influences, from Western prog rock (quite a rare characteristic for a Chinese band) to traditional music, at times even flirting with metal.
Front-woman Lin Di (lead vocalist, pipa player and at that time also on keyboards) is the centerpiece of this project, while drummer Li Jia provides a diverse and personal rhythm pattern (often playing odd time signatures). The live rendition is top-notch and works as a showcase for the many musical faces of the quintet (currently a sextet), focusing on more "live-friendly" tracks – starting with the powerful opener "模仿剧场". The set-list features songs from their first two albums, with a couple of dips into Lin Di's solo project ("诱惑之舞" and "洪水") and the then preview of "地上的种子", foreshadowing the more acoustic-oriented approach of their next phase. The crescendo of "等待告别" closes the performance; here the rock roots of the band clearly come out.
After that, Cold Fairyland welcomed keyboard player Xi Jin'e – in order to allow Lin Di to only take up lead vocals and pipa — and a new bassist, this time a foreigner (all but a rare feature in Shanghai). Their March the eighth gig at the Yuyintang (a small and somewhat historic venue in the city) confirmed the notion of listening to one of the most interesting Chinese rock acts, although they unfortunately gave away no clues about any upcoming releases (their latest album "地上的种子" came out in 2009). In conclusion, this band is highly recommended to anyone interested in knowing about a different take on progressive rock, to those who love female vocals or just to anyone looking for something new. You can buy their albums on the official website.