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New Music: Hard-Hitting Punk, Ambient Sounds and Lay Zhang’s Batman-Inspired Pop

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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.

The month of February was a bit of a slow one for releases in China, largely thanks to the nationwide Spring Festival holiday. It was also a month in which Bandcamp was blocked in the country.

Related:

Bandcamp Has Been a Haven for Chinese Indie Music. Now it Appears to be Blocked

Nonetheless, there’s plenty to be excited about in terms of new music, with aggressive punk music out of southern China, some gorgeous experimentation by the good folks at Hualun, as well as some excellent and intense remixes of Indonesian group Senyawa’s new record from some of China’s best producers.

AIDS Art Troupe — AIDS Art Troupe (Live Recording)

A misleading moniker for this Guangdong punk band, AIDS Art Troupe stumbled on their name after finding inspiration from the fierceness of Sex Pistols. The DIY group have documented the story of their unlikely beginnings on their WeChat account, which you can see here.

The tracks are short, sharp and full of intensity, fun and funky at other times (see: “Cheers”), with the music actually recorded live at a food market in Huizhou in sunny Guangdong.

Hardcore Raver in Tears — ”水果湖 (Fruit Lake)“

Our favorite irreverant Chinese electronic rock band Hardcore Raver in Tears return with this 12-minute track, “水果湖,” made for an art project by Hubei artist Gong Jian.

A purely instrumental track, “水果湖” whirs and travels with synthesizers seemingly tracking out a passage. Something a bit different, this ambient track is gorgeous.

Hualun — Scene III

Speaking of bands from Hubei province, Hualun return with the latest in their new sonic series Scene. Based around subtle instrumentation and composition, the third in the series is fascinating.

With three songs, the release clocks in at around 19 minutes long. Driven by piano and synthesizers, the music feels — as ever with Hualun — that they are giving voice to the power of natural sounds, unleashing and harnessing some force of nature for moments at a time.

Senyawa — Alkisah (CN Edition)

Released by 44 different labels across the globe, Indonesian duo Senyawa’s new record Alkisah was blasted into the Chinese music scene courtesy of Qiii Snacks Records and WV Sorcerer Productions.

While Senyawa’s exquisite avant garde experimentalism is mind-bending in its own right, remixes by artists such as 33EMYBW, Zaliva-D, Li Jianhong and Torturing Nurse give voice to some of the strangest and most wonderful musical minds in China, through their interpretations.

GAI — 烻 (Yan)

Not quite an album, but rather a collection of songs that GAI released throughout 2020, this “new” record dropped at the beginning of February.

The release exemplifies where the previous Rap of China champion is at right now, experimenting with a diversity of musical styles, with film soundtrack-style ballads and what feels like a lot more sung vocals than we’re used to.

Li Daiguo — Xiao Gong

Avant garde musician Li Daiguo’s new record comes courtesy of WV Sorcerer Productions. The Oklahoma-born, China-based artist’s upcoming album is a celebration of the sacred, a Bacchanalian combination of analog machines and traditional Chinese instruments.

Take for example, “wo xiang gen suoyou yudao de ren shi yixia,” a slow-building track that makes use of twanged strings, percussive elements and disorienting analog sounds to create a heady, hedonistic sound.

Key L, Kafe Hu and Kung Fu Pen — “Chinese shh!”

A collaboration of 3 Ks, Key L from Sup Music out of Changsha teams with one of the finalists of 2020’s Rap of China Kafe Hu, as well as Kung Fu Pen, also from Sup Music.

Incorporating Chinese rhythms, this track is pretty fierce, with a great beat by Kafe.

Lay Zhang — Producer

The Mandopop star’s fifth solo album dropped at the beginning of February, featuring nine tracks. The lead track on the album “Joker” begins with Lay voicing the words “Why so serious?” — a reference to Heath Ledger’s depiction of the Batman character.

Lay Zhang was one of the busiest men in entertainment in China last year, setting up his own show, releasing music and starring in huge variety shows.

Laughing Ears — Blood

Influenced by the story of Fenrir, the monstrous Norse mythological wolf, as well as the artist’s uncle, who took his own life last year after many years battling alcoholism, Blood sees Laughing Ears team with Mexican label Infinite Machine for the first time.

We hear the development of the Shanghai-based producer’s sound continue, as she plays more with bass rhythms and continues to draw out alien environments, making for an aural exploration that is also suitable for the dance floor. Check out this incredible mix that she made exclusively for RADII.

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.