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Yin: FunctionLab, One of China’s Best Music Labels, Caps Off a Strong 2019 with Yikii Release

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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.

Quick one to play us out of 2019. Back on January 17, I called GG Lobster’s Punk Rock Karaoke the “the best 21 minutes of 2019 so far,” and the label GG co-runs, FunctionLab, has not let up at all between then and now. It’s really been a remarkably full-on year for the young crew out of Hangzhou, who despite only launching in late 2017 made it on to RADII’s decade-end list of China’s most important record labels.

Related:

The Best Chinese Music of the Decade, Via Its Most Influential Record Labels

FunctionLab’s latest is an album for Yikii, an artist originally from the cold, barren northern city of Changchun but who has rooted down in Hangzhou and fallen in with the FunctionLab set. Probably because of her penchant for vision-inducing experimental bedroom “club music.” For example:

In a text accompanying this music video, Yikii writes:

“My mother and I went to the park on a very cold fall day to shoot a video. We shot more than 100 videos and only a few could be used. After that, I drew a lot of small illustrations and made subtitle pictures. I sent the materials to Dasychira one by one. She also drew very lovely and delicate small illustrations and animated them. Then she began to cast magic on all the material, and in a lilac flash, the magic began to materialize. Day and night came and went, and she tried to sing the mantra — and in the end, all in the eyes it was like restore a beautiful dream.”

 

Hell of a way to cap off the year, in my opinion. And FunctionLab shows no sign of slowing in 2020. Label co-founder Juan Plus One tells RADII: “After this short party winter, we made some reflections on the scene in Hangzhou, and decided to pay more attention to the DJs and producers in our collective next year, to give local talents more chances. Of course, we still will invite DJs and producers we like to come to China, but the local party scene needs more and better-quailty local talents to construct.”

As for releases, keep an eye out for a new GG Lobster EP, and an LP for another key FunctionLab founder/driver, GUAN, as well as releases for XiaoQuan from Brazil, T5UMUT5UMU from the US, and Resla 92 from Chile. You can keep track of all this — or dig in to the back catalog — at FunctionLab’s Bandcamp.

Josh Feola
Josh Feola is a US-based writer and musician, and RADII's former Culture Editor. His coverage of Chinese music and art has appeared in The Wire, Dazed, MIT Technology Review, Artsy, Bandcamp Daily and more. He's been active in China's underground music scene since 2010 via his booking platform pangbianr.com, and is a former member of Beijing bands Chui Wan, SUBS, and Vagus Nerve.