New Music, formerly Yin (音, “music”), is a monthly RADII column that looks at Chinese songs spanning hip hop to folk to modern experimental, and everything in between.
Here’s a rundown of the songs that have soundtracked the month of August for us here at RADII, from “shanzhai” club remixes and groovy psychedelia, to the launch of another Mandopop supergroup.
This sprawling 28-track release from Shanghai electronic label Genome 6.66Mbp highlights some of the best that Chinese underground club music has to offer. Taking its name from “shanzai” (山寨) — a Chinese term for “knockoff goods” — all tracks on this release are edits, remixes, or blends of music by artists on labels like Shanghai’s SVBKVLT, Hangzhou’s FunctionLab, Hong Kong’s Absurd Trax, and more.
From Dirty K‘s refix of ”围城“ (“Siege”) by singer-producer ChaCha (aka Yehaiyahan), to Howie Lee’s remix of Limp Bizkit, the compilation runs the gamut from UK garage and grime, to gabber and footwork. The release is available as a name-your-price download on Bandcamp, with proceeds going towards Impact Lebanon or the US’s National Bail Fund Network.
Shanghai-based producer and DJ Gigi Lee is known around the city for playing at techno clubs like Celia, at various rooftop parties, and for linking up with the likes of local promoters SHFT. She released her first single “Be My Valentine” earlier this year, and is back with another song this month.
This time, “请你请你请你戴上口罩” (which translates as “Please, Please, Please Put On a Mask”) makes the global outbreak of Covid-19 its focal point. She layers lightly sung vocals and rap over a mellow beat, for an inviting, enjoyable track.
The name of this EP sounds like something that Bob Dylan might sing, via Woody Guthrie, and is not particularly in keeping with one of the best shoegaze bands in China. That’s the first clue that the Beijing-based group, who brought us the excellent California Nebula back in 2017, and Life In A Vacuum in 2019, are onto something new.
It’s certainly a departure, with the group opening the four-track EP with “Words In Coma,” a song that revels in atmospheric instrumentals, robust guitar lines, and powerful vocals from singer Edine. As we get deeper into the EP, on tracks like “Can You Hear The Whistle Blow,” the differences with their previous work become more obvious, with the group swerving towards a dreamy indie sound, with folksy elements. It’s a surprising record, but also a very pleasing one.
Set to drop on Bandcamp on August 29, the debut release from Charity — of Genome 6.66Mbp affiliated rap duo Vroskii — is styled as his hello to the world, hence the name. The record shows off his range as he flirts with our emotions throughout, pulling us in on the seductive opener, “NIC3 TO MEET YOU (Intro).”
The largely unspoken opener (there’s a brief vocal sample at the end of the track), gives way to “5%,” which shows off Charity’s vocal chops as he meanders through breathless lines. Other standout tracks on the mixtape include the trap-infused “Rihanna,” as well as the raucous, screamo song “DONT PLAY.”
The third and fourth tracks off of legendary Wuhan punk group SMZB‘s upcoming album vary widely. “把全世界喝大” (“Drink Up the World”) is the funkier of the two, with accordions and a female vocalist propping up the track.
Meanwhile, “Emma the River Dolphin” sees singer Wu Wei open with folksy-sounding English vocals about Emma, a dolphin, and pollution in her river, accompanied by delicate pizzicato strings and high-pitched whistles. That track is online on Chinese music platforms only for now, but will be available on Spotify and Bandcamp soon.
One of a few beloved acts from Beijing label Maybe Mars returning with new music this month. Birdstriking’s “Love of Nightmare” sees the group play around with layered vocals against characteristically sunburst guitar melodies.
The group have remained active in spurts over the past few years, with single “一体” (“Yiti“) dropping near the end of 2019, as well as their collaborative release with psychedelic band Gate to Otherside, Bird to Otherside, out in early 2018. We’re still holding out hope for a longer release from the band heading into early 2021.
This gorgeous tape (and online) release from showering timing comes out on the excitingly active Beijing-based tape label nugget records (who also just opened a new cafe, performance space, and recording studio called nugget cafe in Beijing.)
It’s the group’s debut album, with Sun Xiao, the lead singer of Poshangcun (坡上村), leading the charge. It’s bright, positive, and laid-back, and sure to make your summer drinks that much more enjoyable.
This group, named for the popular Hong Kong-based gangster video game of the same name, released a slew of demos back in 2018, cementing them as one of the most exciting new bands in China. Made up of members of psychedelic bands Chui Wan, Boiled Hippo, and Deadly Cradle Death, their new music is very much groove-based, taking elements of psychedelia and fusing it with a funky, jazzy approach to create sounds that would not feel out of place in a tight and tension-filled video game.
This is, in essence, their first proper release, made up of four tracks and coming out on excellent Beijing indie label Spacefruity Records (which also released Boiled Hippo’s last record). It doesn’t necessarily disappoint, but the intriguing and sliver-thin guitar lines audible on their breakout track, “Spider” are sorely missed.
It’s been a while since we’ve heard anything from Beijing-based future beats and garage label Babel Records. They returned this month with a seven-track compilation album called Urban Diving, featuring some of their better known collaborators Joy Ginger and Luxixi, as well as some new faces.
Defying the name somewhat, “✝BLACK METAL” by catAKU — the opener on the compilation — is a standout, fusing garage rhythms with airy synths and vocal samples. Similarly, Joy Ginger’s “Haruko Akagi” is a side of the producer we haven’t seen a lot of before, as he adds pace and urgency to his typically idiosyncratic vocal-oriented beats.
At the end of August, Lil Yachty and Dough-Boy released an unnaturally catchy music video for their new song, Mama.
For Yachty, maybe “unnatural” is the wrong word — who else would come this clean with bubblegum beats and pop-friendly hooks?
But for Dough-Boy, the style marks a marked change: the Hong Kong rapper is known for a grittier sound and more serious lyrical approach.
“I want to make an album that can provide a bit of positivity which has been missing in the world for the past year,” he told Time Out Hong Kong in a recent interview.
Lil Yachty Teams Up With Hong Kong’s Dough-Boy For a Song About Loving Their Moms
BonBon Girls 303 are China’s newest girl band phenomenon. Born out of wildly popular Tencent-produced variety show, Produce Camp 2020 (创造营2020), the girl group consists of the seven highest placing contestants on the show.
Shot in a slick pastel-colored classroom and a glittering, neon-lit room decorated with arcade games, the single incorporates a variety of styles, with the girls alternating between singing and rapping.
The official video got 3.8 million views on Chinese video platform Tencent Video and 237,000 views on YouTube within a day of its debut. In comments posted on both platforms, netizens seem most impressed by singers Curley Gao, Nene, and Liu Xiening.
BonBon Girls 303, China’s Newest Girl Band Phenomenon, Drop First Music Video
One of several bands that took advantage of their appearance on reality TV show The Big Band to release new music — along with fellow contenstants Rustic, Queen Sea Big Shark, and Wutiaoren — Beijing noise rock legends Carsick Cars return with their first new music in six years.
There’s certainly an anthemic quality to this track, with the guitars, bass and Zhang Shouwang‘s vocals racing towards a characteristically noisy, rip-roaring ending. Whether or not this anthemic quality appeals to you, it’s good to have one of China’s best and most experimental rock bands back in business.
We’ve only heard the first track from this new collaborative release from Shanghai label SVBKVLT, “JAC,” but if it’s anything to go by, we’re in for a zany, unpredictable ride for the record’s remaining seven tracks.
The upcoming record sees Gooooose (aka Han Han, also of Duck Fight Goose and YADAE) link up with Berlin-based DJ Scotch Egg, who came to China to record with SVBKVLT in January of this year. The album features one song with Ugandan vocalist Swordman Kitala, as well as a remix by Kenyan producer and Nyege Nyege Tapes member Slikback, and a remix by audiovisual artist Seven Orbits with Italian producer TSVI.
Beijing’s Merrie Records return with their latest compilation release, which brings together arguably some of the young label’s best artists. The record opens with a collaboration between France-based P. Murk and Hiperson vocalist Sijiang Chen for a gorgeously mellow boat ride, reflecting the imaginary voyages taken by the musicians during the travel lockdown brought on by Covid-19.
Other standout tracks on the release come from Guangzhou multi-instrumentalist and one-man band Smelly Hoover, who closes the record with a lightly-strummed track about how we aren’t weird enough, as well as a lovely scattered and electronified track from Beijing-based MimikBanka.
Header image: 编号223, courtesy Maybe Mars
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