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New Music: Shoegaze Stalwarts City Flanker Return with Synthwave Album

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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.

From Shaoxing in Zhejiang province, just a two and a half hour car ride south of Shanghai, City Flanker are one of China’s best shoegaze bands. Or perhaps we should say, they were one of China’s best shoegaze bands.

The trio have, for all intents and purposes, removed their eyes from their shoe laces on their latest album, The Journey to City Flanker, and have their sights firmly set on the sky. The new record is the band’s third and first since 2017’s Sound Without Time.

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In the intervening years, the trio have literally gone on a journey of rediscovery. Influenced by a trip taken to Nepal and Tibet after their tour in support of Sound Without Time, the music sounds like it has those big sky regions firmly in mind.

Synthesizers take center stage, wresting control away from the band’s previous emphasis on guitar distortion.

There’s a lot to chew on in terms of influences right off the bat. The album opens with “Sunset Boulevard,” which is reminiscent of The Horrors on their most recent album V.

 

The soaring quality of the track immediately establishes the idea for listeners that City Flanker have moved in a new direction on The Journey to City Flanker, although, to be fair, just about any track could have done this quite adequately.

“Love Fever” has hints of Toro y Moi bubbling around the edges, and “Night Rain” hedges somewhere between Neon Indian and Washed Out.

The clearest connection between the Tibetan and Nepalese inspiration for the album on the record comes on “The Journey” as Tibetan flute guides the listener through the 7-minute meditative closer.

Guitarist and vocalist Alex told us that reactions so far have been somewhat mixed, with fans bemoaning the new direction. But to us, it’s a fascinating new path for a band which, until now, had a firmly established sound. On the one hand, the music is undeniably very pleasant, on the other hand, it’s exciting to think about fan reactions and the future of the band’s musical experimentation.

Bryan Grogan
    Bryan is RADII's Culture Editor. He is a Shanghai-based writer and editor with an interest in culture stories with a social bent. He can be found at a music show, usually with pint in hand.