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.
Shanghai-based duo Weird Dane and KALA are the fusion cuisine your playlist has been craving.
Weird Dane (Dana Kendall) is a founding member of seminal Massachusetts hip hop collective Dark World, where he first developed his style of irreverent wordplay and surreal pop culture references. Li Kala is a Hangzhou-born vocalist and pianist whose origins in classical opera have long since given way to a spacier, avant-garde approach to singing and composition.
Together, the freshly married couple have released their first music video, “Tunnel Song”, the opening track in their debut album Mooncake City. Suffice to say, it is a beautiful, cyber-dystopian masterstroke.
The track opens on an atmospheric vignette of the Shanghai subway, and the reverb-laden voice of the PA system. The filter sweeps and cuts into KALA’s Mandarin-language verse:
Lay on my shoulder in the night tunnel Don’t be nervous, just forget about everything Last night my dream was too long, can’t remember it all Long string of lights, please don’t shine down on me
The city is busy and the traffic is loud Everyone is anxious wearing their new clothes With tiny lights in their hands they peek over the firewall Don’t shine on me, I don’t wanna forget
“This is the opening track on the album, and we wanted to create a space where you can forget your daily life, your work, your phone,” explains KALA, referring to the tiny lights. “This is the tunnel where you can leave all that behind, and go to other parts of your consciousness.”
To KALA, Mooncake City is very much a concept album, and even though the Tunnel Song video is overwhelmingly urban and “cyberpunk” (“I hate that word now,” she admits), the project’s other tracks, with titles such as “Perfect Island,” “Underwater,” and “Lighthouse” have a distinct air of escapism.
“We wanted to create a fictional setting — or maybe more accurately, an exaggerated reality,” says Weird Dane. “Because we think the world we live in is f*cking crazy, and when you pull out a camera and start filming it, the results can be unreal.”
Weird Dane is a veteran of the rap video world as well. Outside of his own music, he’s created videos for underground legends like Wiki, CHXPO, and Slug Christ.
“We made this video with our friends one weekend with 0 dollar budget. The opportunity for epic DIY in 2019 is immense, and the technology is all here. So KALA and I were excited about making something from scratch. Producing the beat, doing the vocals, mixing and mastering, directing and editing the videos… it’s all us.“
For Weird Dane and KALA, Mooncake City is just the beginning. Riding the momentum of a high-octane debut, the two have already started on their next projects, both as a duo and as solo artists. One of those projects is Mooncake Studios, the boutique music and audio production house they launched last month in Shanghai, where they’ll be collaborating with artists and brands as they entrench themselves further into the fabric of the city’s creative scene.
Follow Weird Dane and KALA on Instagram, and listen to Mooncake City on Spotify here:
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