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Culture

New Music: Slow-Burning Cinemascapes from Hubei Band Hualun

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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.

The members of Hubei band Hualun returned to their hometowns this Chinese New Year to visit family. But because of the Covid-19 outbreak, they unexpectedly ended up staying there for the longest time since they’d reached adulthood.

While not an ideal situation, the band did happen to be in the same city, Yichang, throughout the outbreak, which allowed for them to rehearse together during their long stretches of downtime. (Although as band member Ding Mao tells us, he spent a large portion of his time at home either washing his hands or telling his family to wash their hands.)

The group did manage to get some work in, however. Fans of Hualun on Bandcamp might have noticed that they have been re-releasing parts of their excellent wʌndərlænd series, which were previously released independently. Three of the releases in that series have appeared on Tennessee indie label Gezellig Records, British indie label Crafting Room Recordings, and Oklahoma’s WEATNU Records in the past few months.

The group also pieced together a foursome of excellent tracks into a new EP called Homework in Quiet Time, taken from improvisations they had worked on at the end of last year.

 

Of the four tracks included on Homework in Quiet Time, two were included on compilations released during the Covid-19 pandemic. The record’s opening track, “Five Peaks,” appeared on Californian label Katuktu Collective’s Isolate With II, while “Roller” was included on Songs from Quarantine, a compilation put together by New Jersey musician Teen Idle.

“Five Peaks” and “Swimming in My Room” are gorgeous, slow-burning instrumental tracks. Both make use of a plodding bass guitar and drums, which lay the foundation for guitars and synths to dance. They’re soft and fragile songs, seemingly ready to fall away at any moment.

“Roller” on the other hand is bright, with the opening sounding like something you might expect from singer songwriter Vashti Bunyan. Ding Mao’s synthesizer comes to the fore on the closing track, “A Penguin Called Todd” (great name), creating a sound that’s nothing short of cinematic.

As the group gear up for a busy 2020, they say they will again be soundtracking a film for a young director. They previously soundtracked the excellent An Elephant Sitting Still, by the late writer-director Hu Bo.

Related:

“An Elephant Sitting Still” is an Elegy for China’s Industrial North

They also plan to consolidate all of their records and merch into one website, and in the latter parts of the year, will begin work on a new album.

Follow Hualun on Bandcamp.

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.