New Music, formerly Yin (音, ‘music’), is a monthly RADII column that looks at fresh Chinese music spanning hip hop to folk to modern experimental, and everything in between. This month, we introduce you to new music from Cacien, Default, NOUS Underground, and more!
We’re just about reaching the mid-point of the summer. If you’re in Shanghai (and many other parts of China), your experience of quite possibly the best season of the year has been limited at best.
With that being said, let us redirect you through the majesty of some excellent new music. We’ve got quite a varied selection this month, with folksy indie rock rubbing shoulders with ambient electronica and grunge music alongside laidback lockdown beats.
As always, don’t forget to check out the latest episode of SoundCheck, where Wes Chen, host of hip hop podcast thePark, and Bryan Grogan talk about their favorite tracks of the month.
‘The Plain’ is Default’s first new music in two years, since the release of their EP Can You Hear the Whistle Blow, a release which signified a new direction for the band, away from the noisy shoegaze sound they had previously been known for.
‘The Plain’ is full of natural imagery. The track seems to sweep around a natural landscape, with the lyrics referencing strong naturalistic imagery like footprints, a lighthouse, and a compass. There are moments when the movement of guitars and chanting backing vocals resemble the indie folk sound of Fleet Foxes, and other moments when vocalist Edine’s transitions sound like the indie pop of early Jenny Lewis with Rilo Kiley.
Henry Robinson, aka Cruel Buddhist, captures the vibe of Shanghai’s lockdown with this collection of daily improvisations and beats released on the Shanghai label Eating Music.
Anyone who has experienced the government-issued rations boxes will recognize the meaning behind song titles like ‘Cabbage,’ ‘Bok Choy,’ and ‘Honeydew,’ while the redolent bass of these three songs gives a sense of being firmly pinned down by the gravity of the city’s situation. Conversely, the song ‘Hwi Noree’ references a character in the Dune universe and is rich in spacey synths that emphasize some brief joyous escapism.
Cacien recently returned to China from New York armed with her debut album, Garlica Princess. The title references the intense energy of Cacien’s style and how people tend to react in one of two ways, either loving or hating it.
The title track sees Cacien dedicate the song to herself and features lyrics like “蒜 (garlic) is everything, I can never get over it.” She also seemingly captures the current zeitgeist on ‘emo,’ where she pours out her feelings of depression. The album, taken in totality, is a strong representation of Cacien as an artist and will surely prove popular.
Xi’an’s NOUS Underground are one of China’s best-known hip hop collectives, alongside the likes of Chengdu’s CDC. Pact is the most famous of the group, and has had a pretty big year, with his EP Story of a Village released last May, followed by collaborations with the likes of Eddie Beatz, Zhang Yanqi, and more.
The music video for the cypher takes place in what looks like a doctor’s office or hospital clinic, which is pretty emblematic of the times that people in China are currently living in. It features strong performances by the likes of Killa4Nia and Cream D.
At first look, we thought that this band’s name might have something to do with School, the rock music venue in Beijing. The band, however, is based in Chengdu, 1,500 kilometers away, a city well-known for its relaxed, laid-back vibes.
The trio formed in 2019, and Ceremony for Corruption, the first of two Maybe Mars releases on our list today, is their debut album, showcasing the band’s noisy grunge aesthetic.
Chengdu-based producer Eddie Beatz invited his friends to make tracks inspired by the color blue. The resulting album is called 也是蓝, which translates to ‘Also Blue,’ and sounds like a play on both the Miles Davis album Kind of Blue as well as Eddie Beatz’s Chinese moniker ‘也是福.’
Many of Beatz’s frequent collaborators, like Masiwei, J-Fever, and 周士爵, make an appearance on the release, as Beatz creates delicious jazzy canvases to layer their lyrics over.
Bohan Phoenix channels his inner Anderson Paak with his funky new single, ‘Take Off, Touch Down,’ which has an excellent little reference to ‘Rapper’s Delight’ by Sugarhill Gang.
Like his previous single, ‘New York Made Me,’ it’s something a bit different from the rapper, as he seems to be exploring various sides of musicality, making us increasingly excited to hear his upcoming debut album.
Lamu Yangzi is perhaps best known for her presence on Chinese short video platforms and her acting chops in comedy sitcoms, but the actress has also taken to music, dropping a couple of songs over the past few months.
The latest is ‘祝你,’ which loosely translates to ‘Wish You Well,’ and sees the singer attending a wedding. The song has strong Chinese characteristics, including some interesting vocal references to Beijing Opera. The track is currently only available on Chinese platforms, but for those outside of China, here’s a taste of the actress’ singing chops:
Henan band Today’s Production released their self-titled debut album this month after a trio of single releases over the past six months. Initially formed by guitarist Zhang Yuhao of fellow Henan group Pumpkins, the band is also made up of The Fallacy’s Wang Xubo, also on guitar, vocalist and bassist Bian Xiaoran, and drummer Li Zheng.
Released on Maybe Mars, the album is a swirl of colorful fuzzy guitars, interweaving vocal work, and is generally light, fun rock music.
Modern Sky sublabel Sound Blanc returns with a new compilation album, called 情调, which can be loosely translated as ‘Sentiment.’ The nine-track album focuses on concepts surrounding love and features contributions from Sound Blanc regulars like WWW and L+R, and excellent Chengdu producer Wu Zhuoling.
Again, this album is not yet available on Western platforms, but you can find it here if you’re in China. If not, you can enjoy this previous compilation from Sound Blanc.
Cover image designed by Haedi Yue
We highlight our top stories each week in an email newsletter that goes out every Monday - hot, fresh, and straight to your inbox.
Don't worry, we don't spam