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New Music: Eastern Margins, J-Fever, Sonicave and a Whole Lot More

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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.

Summer is gradually coming to a close, and it feels like we’re at a seasonal midway point, between the unrepentant physicality of summer and the more cerebral winter months. This is reflected in our musical choices this month, with gorgeous funky releases from Faithfull and a powerful collaboration from hip hop triumvirate J-Fever, Eddie Beatz, and Zhou Shijue.

On the flip side, we are treated to some cooler existentialist digging from Prettybwoy by way of SVBKVLT, and some even colder post punk from Chengdu group Sonicave.

It’s been a great month for music, with at least one, maybe two, of the year’s best albums dropping in August.

Also, 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.

Eastern Margins — Redline Legends

London-based collective Eastern Margins has been doing some remarkable things over the past couple of years. Having launched their own record label in February 2020, this is their first compilation. It shows how far their network and interests reach, including sounds such as “Indonesia’s Funkot, Vietnam’s Vinahouse, Filipino Budots, Malaysia’s and Singapore’s Manyao & more.”

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Exclusive Mix: London-Based Collective Eastern Margins on Powering Parties with Asian Sounds

The record revolves around hi-NRG music, which has grown and evolved in club circles around Asia. We are treated to a couple of tracks from two of our favorite artists from China: GG Long Xia (formerly known as GG Lobster) teams with Japan-based musician Numb’n’dub on “LUV TIL I DIE,” while Jiafeng puts a nightcore spin on “Useless Cuteness,” off his 2020 release Emotional Dance Music.

Faithfull — Rare Vision

Something a bit funkier here, from Faithfull via Shanghai label Eating Music. Combining inspirations that ostensibly span California’s ocean monsoon and the Yangtze River Delta, this release is immediately imbued by warmth on opener “Prelude.”

 

“Soul Trash” is a standout, as its jazzy beats are cut together with keyboard notes to create a vibe that is distinctly laidback, retro, and aspirationally 1980s. Perfect video game music or sunny Sunday afternoon jam.

Hualun — Scene IV

Hualun from Hubei province has been working on this four-part series since the beginning of 2020, with this, Scene IV, being the last entry. Similar in that regard to their previous seven-part wʌndərlænd series, each of which feels wonderfully cinematic and absorbing.

 

The group recorded Scene IV in Shenzhen earlier this year, and the collection of four synthesizer-heavy tracks was released with Katuktu Collective over on their Bandcamp page.

Charity SsB — “Fang Fei”

One of the most-talked-about musicians of the past year, Shanghai creative Charity SsB’s music blurs the barriers between various genres, fusing club music with hip hop to create emotional, cathartic songs. He’s, without doubt, one of the most exciting musicians working in China right now, following the release of his mixtape NIC3 TO MEET YOU last year and a spate of singles since then.

This latest track from Charity SsB, “Fang Fei,” goes deep as he sings about his soul and a significant other. The music itself is laidback, relying on some vocal manipulations and a steady, soulful beat to create a short and sweet song.

Sonicave — “Cab Driver Suicide”

This four-person, all-female post punk band from Chengdu has dropped three singles over the past few weeks in anticipation of their new album, Absurd Times.

Playing with the concepts of Martin Scorsese’s seminal movie Taxi Driver, “Cab Driver Suicide” is urbane and dark, full of elaborate vocals and coldwave references that tinge the incessant drum and bass guitar lines.

J-Fever, Zhou Shijue, Eddie Beatz — “女人啊” (Woman)

Three of China’s most creative hip hop artists, J-Fever, Zhou Shijue and Eddie Beatz have teamed up for a nine-track collaborative album, 心愈频率 (Xin Yu Pinlu, which translates roughly to Heart-Healing Frequency).

The record taken together as a whole is gorgeous, full of beautiful production choices, and pared back to allow J-Fever and Zhou Shijue’s idiosyncratic vocal timbres and expert lyrical pacing to flow organically.

You can hear the entire album over on Spotify:

Prettybwoy ft. IIII — “Destination” 

Prettybwoy’s debut album Tayutau drops on Shanghai label SVBKVLT in mid-September, with this track, “Destination,” a primer for what is to come. The Japanese producer speaks to the album’s intention in the liner notes, discussing how the album will explore his national identity — particularly in reference to his music, which is only released with labels outside of Japan.

This is his third release with SVBKVLT, with two previous EPs to his name on the label, 2016’s Solstice and 2017’s Genetics, as well as several compilation appearances. “Destination” is a shimmering, vocally-driven cinematic track that helps establish curiosity in the listener for what is to come.

XZT ft. Yu Zhen — “兵临城下” (Soldiers Approaching the City)

XZT is one of the three members of the Shanghai-based hip hop trio Straight Fire Gang, each of whom has been spending a lot more of their time on solo projects recently.

Related:

Where There’s Smoke, There’s Straight Fire Gang: The Shanghai Hip Hop Trio Blazing Their Own Trail

On this track, he teams up with Yu Zhen, a label mate of his Straight Fire Gang colleague Feezy on W8VES. Yu Zhen has been making literal waves with her outspoken defense of women’s issues online. This track is full of the fear of mediocrity, as both XZT and Yu Zhen speak to the work they’ve put into honing their respective crafts and the work yet to be done.

Bryan Grogan
Bryan is RADII's former culture editor. He is a Shanghai-based writer and editor with an interest in culture stories with a social bent. He once correctly guessed all 151 original Pokemon in seven minutes for an online quiz. He also correctly guessed all 100 second generation Pokemon in eight minutes for an online quiz.