New Music, formerly Yin (音, “music”), is a weekly RADII column that looks at Chinese songs spanning hip hop to folk to modern experimental, and everything in between. Drop us a line if you have a suggestion.
As Covid-19 has made its way all over the world, shutting down live shows, tours and festivals, the music industry (as well as other creative industries) has been hit hard. In a show of support for musicians, Bandcamp, the integral hosting site for independent musicians, has decided to drop revenue shares for 24 hours on Friday, starting at 12am PST on March 20 (3pm, March 20 in Chinese time).
According to Stereogum, Bandcamp usually takes 15% of revenue for digital sales, as well as 10% for merch. They’ll waive those fees for a full day, so if you have some spare dollars in your electronic wallet, support your favorite musicians while you can.
Update: Labels around the world have made announcements saying they will give the proceeds from today’s fundraiser directly to their artists. Hong Kong label Absurd Trax took to Facebook earlier today to confirm that all sales revenue will be given to their artists, while Shanghai label SVBKVLT announced that 100% of Bandcamp purchases until the end of the month will go to artists. That includes sales on its newly released EP by Italian audio visual artist Seven Orbits.
SVBKVLT is also offering its Cache 01 compilation for free until the month.
Below we share some of our favorite recent Chinese releases on Bandcamp in 2020.
Deadly Cradle Death, courtesy of Will Griffith/Live Beijing Music
First up is Beijing-based Deadly Cradle Death. The duo is made up of He Fan of iconic Beijing band (and Maybe Mars alums) Birdstriking and Liu Xinyu of jazzy psych group Sleeping Dogs, as well as a founding member of iconic group Chui Wan.
The debut album release from this experimental, electronic, no wave duo feels long overdue. As one of the capital’s favorite underground live acts throughout the past decade, Deadly Cradle Death have represented the gritty, experimental and noisy tendencies of a Beijing music scene that sometimes seems to have faded away.
This record comes at a time in which reflection on all that has happened within Beijing music throughout the past 10 years can perhaps be more easily digested, while leaving a document of one of the capital’s best-loved bands.
The group first formed after He Fan returned to Beijing having witnessed sets from Sewn Leather and Skrillex at SXSW in 2011. The following year, He and Liu headed back to the famous Austin event to showcase Deadly Cradle Death. The pair proceeded to cause such intense noise that the cops were called.
They were slated to hit the recording studio to bash out an album later that year, but those sessions, for all intents and purposes, fell by the wayside. What remains from those early years in the duo’s life are a group of seven demos on Chinese streaming site Xiami, as well as a split vinyl 7-inch release with The Telescopes released via Genjing Records in 2015 and little else.
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Reviving a lot of those demos, Disconnection is immediately a very fun, intoxicating and noisy piece of work that could play well either in a livehouse or a club. The mixture of influences and points of reference is wide. “Deadly Keithyeetal,” the album’s opener, revels in a huge sense of space, with vocals expanding enormously courtesy of heavy feedback, while a thumping drumbeat supports eerily enjoyable drones.
There are also snippets of krautrock and Damo Suzuki-leaning vocals on songs like “Endless Dream” and “Animal Thing,” before the album closes on a high, with the undulating, semi-mystical, deeply psychedelic eight-minute epic, “Everything is Yours.”
Co-founder of Hangzhou-based electronic music collective Function Lab Guan links up with the excellent Merrie Records for the first time on Drone A. Known for his interest in industrial soundscapes, while also being entrenched in the art scene that surrounds Hangzhou’s renowned Central Academy of Art, Guan is an eclectic and very visual producer who regularly teams up with folks from Martin Goya Business (the collective of young artists run by essential video artist Cheng Ran) and adorns himself in a dark, metallic mask for shows at clubs around the country.
Here’s a taste of the imagery and sounds you can expect from Drone A:
This split release on Maybe Noise Records and WV Sorcerer Records by gogoj (aka Sheng Jie) was recorded all the way back in the winter of 2017. Sheng Jie is a key audio/visual and multimedia contributor for avant garde label, Maybe Noise, which she co-founded with Chui Wan frontman Yan Yulong and Carsick Cars founder Zhang Shouwang.
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With the electronic cello taking center stage, the brooding, atmospheric album revolves around themes of Bon religion, with each of the tracks being named for a god in the Tibetan faith.
Coming via Shanghai-based hip hop, boombap, jazz label Eating Music, this collaboration between jazz singer Voision Xi and producer Sdewdent is a gorgeously-paced nocturnal track.
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Initially a demo made by Sdewdent, who was signed to Eating Music after taking part in the label’s Eating Music Camp incubator program in 2019, the addition of Xi’s sultry vocals make for a delightfully jazzy track.
Multi-layered guitar music here from Ruby Eyes Records’ Hangzhou group Gatsby in a Daze. While you could describe the album as having connections to genres like shoegaze or jangle rock, those descriptions certainly don’t sum up the groovy, infectious, occasionally psychedelic sound that the band have created here on 432.
Shenyang-based Russian musician Anton Bogdanov has been excellently productive over the past few years, releasing a bunch of music on various musical formats that explore drone music and ambience.
Working under the name Pool of Light, Bogdanov has made a big impression on the North China underground scene, catching ears via his bowed guitar work, field recordings and use of Chinese instruments like the zhongruan.
On Green, Pool of Light’s second release via Pyramid Blood Recordings, we’re taken on a meditative journey, characteristic as ever of Pool of Light’s long, investigative tracks.
You can also grab this release on cassette:
Dropped via Guangzhou-based indie label Qiii Snacks Records back in mid-February, this light and breezy track comes via Xi’an band SeafoodCake who make their debut on the label. Exploring the ever-difficult sensation of awaiting a phone call or message from a crush, the five-piece transmute those feelings into a sound glittering with good summer vibes.
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Keep an eye out for Qiii Snacks Records’ forthcoming collaboration with Beijing-based cassette label nugget records and producer thruoutin, Tapes for Charity, which we’ll talk about in more detail in next week’s column.
More goodness coming courtesy of Ruby Eyes Records: Xi’an band Endless White’s latest is characteristically dreamy. Perhaps most impressive about this release is the group’s ability to play with pacing and the placement of Zhang Wanyi’s vocals. “My Little Perfect World,” Diaphanous White‘s eight-minute closer caps the release in spectacular fashion.
Cover image: Guan courtesy of Merrie Records
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