New Music, formerly Yin (音, “music”), is a monthly RADII column that looks at Chinese songs spanning hip hop to folk to modern experimental, and everything in between.
November has been a transformative month. The weather has cooled considerably, and sunset in Shanghai happens before 5 PM. Seasonal affective disorder is in full swing, and you’d be forgiven for feeling some winter blues.
With that said, music has been helping. We’ve been treated to some excellent releases this month, like a summer throwback from Gavin Too and Peng Tan, a short EP devoted to the delights of the betel nut, and a beautifully diverse orchestral album from Fishdoll.
As always, don’t forget to check out the latest episode of SoundCheck, where Wes Chen, host of hip hop podcast thePark, and Bryan Grogan talk about their favorite tracks of the month.
Gavin Too was one of the earliest artists to join Chengdu-based hip hop label Mintone Records. Here, he teams up with Peng Tan, the former lead singer of legendary rock band Dada, for a delightfully laidback track.
“In the Mood for Park” feels like a requiem for the summer as we head into the winter months in China, capturing the solar energy that a long summer day can imbue in a person.
Fishdoll’s second full-length release was three years in the making, as the Beijing-based producer attempted to create an orchestral collection of songs praising natural life.
Taking a cue from her first album, Noonsense, the latest release feels cinematic. At times it is reminiscent of the wonder of early Disney soundtracks while still maintaining Fishdoll’s jazzy electronic stylings.
Hardcore Raver in Tears’ first full-length release is a heady brew, combining influences from rave culture with Chinese culture, with a particular nod to Hong Kong.
While The Survivors Club includes some previously released tracks like “Take Her to Wanda Plaza” and “Dongguan,” we’re also treated to “Combo No. 1” and “Combo No. 2,” both of which feel like they are imitating advertisements. The incredible piano- and vocal-driven “Chelsea Girl” closes out the record, offering a completely different sound from the group.
As part of the upcoming Novox 10 mixtape, Hyph11E song “Escapism” was reimagined by Skyshaker, the founder of queer activism alliance House of Vemanei, along with tracks by nine other SVBKVLT-affiliated artists.
Ahead of the release of Novox 10, SVBKVLT has released a short EP featuring four different remixes of “Escapism,” each of which goes in different directions in the hands of Lenchanter, Skyshaker, and Eclipse Lunar.
An ode to her birthplace, Hong Kong, Rainbow Chan’s Stanley is inspired by family, nostalgia, and her grandmother’s recorded mixtapes.
At its core, the record is pop bliss, driven along by Chan’s strong vocals and supported by impressionistic synthesizers. The album’s opener, “Heavy,” is a standout, setting the tone for what is to come, while the slow-burning “Love Note” is infectious.
Described as an opera in three parts, Krakatoa is a sprawling artistic combination by calligrapher Qian Geng, video, noise, and performance artist Anton Kaun, and experimental saxophonist Wang Ziheng. The result is a 90-minute cassette and 228-page art book, as well as a silkscreen and art card box.
The three tracks on this release are named for places where the trio met. “Ingolstadt” makes use of undulating, thudding noise, combined with Wang Ziheng’s wild saxophone, for a sound that could easily mirror escaping magma. The other two tracks, “Berlin” and “Munich,” each feel more introspective and less physical than “Ingolstadt.” You can find excerpts of the three pieces on WV Sorcerer Productions’ Bandcamp page.
The latest EP from Sleeping Dogs takes influence from the afrobeat genre, a continuation of the group’s love of tropical music. Additionally, the Chinese name for this release, 槟榔小曲 (Binglang Xiaoqu), gives praise to the delight of the binglang, or betel nut, a stimulant commonly found and eaten in Southeast Asia.
Featuring a hell of a lot more brass instruments than we’re used to from Sleeping Dogs, and some lovely percussive work to open up “Graaaally Town,” the two instrumental tracks on Pinang Tunes are delightfully danceable.
Following the release of his hyperactive pop track “AI NI AI DAO” last month, Jiafeng has dropped a group of five remixes of the song, featuring some very interesting interpretations.
Chinese producer GG Long Xia leans into the sentimental elements of “AI NI AI DAO,” softening its edges and increasing its tempo. Meanwhile, Argentinian producer Catnapp brings the bass elements of the song to their extremes, and American galen tipton adds a dose of jazz-infused heavy metal.
Chinese-American hip hop artist Bohan Phoenix teams up with Taiwanese alternative pop musician 9m88 (who released her EP Beyond Mediocrity this month) for “Glory.”
An ode to his mother and all single mothers, “Glory” is yet another beautiful short single from Phoenix in 2021, following “But I Still Love You.” The track sees him continue to lean into giving praise to his loved ones in his recent musical releases.
Guangzhou band Nouvelle has been making incredible lofi music in South China for years, but this is their first full-length album on Beijing label Maybe Mars, which was four years in the making.
The music is a delicious fusion of melodic punk, exulting in their lofi tendencies, burying vocals from time to time, and allowing the guitars to completely overcome the other musical elements in any given track. Ultimately, it’s a lovelorn album that sounds best when the band sings about youthful love’s confusion.
Cover image compiled by Sabina Islas
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