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 run-down of the songs that have soundtracked the month of July for us here at RADII, from dark psychedelic wanderings to star-studded hip hop collaborations, to the underwhelming return of a group of Chinese rock legends.
Following on from the Hangzhou band’s excellent 2018 debut Smoke a Haiku Cigarette on Beijing label Spacefruity Records, Dolphy Kick Bebop’s latest release Briefvisit comes courtesy of WV Sorcerer Productions.
This outing is a bit more somber, more spiritually inclined than that first EP, with the opener, “The Garden is Here: A Spiritual Suite,” a fantastic example of that nature; the almost 14-minute track is packed with drones and freeform horns, as well as ethereal vocals. The record is currently available in digital form on WV Sorcerer Productions Bandcamp page, but will also come out on vinyl on September 23.
The fantastic Chengdu band return with their third album on Beijing label Maybe Mars. Fronted by the excellent eight-minute single “Spring Breeze” and another eight-minute epic in “Our Ballad,” Bildungsroman is a musical achievement for one of China’s best bands.
Bildungsroman, takes its name from the word that’s used to describe a coming of age novel. This name has a double meaning for the album, as it sees the group ascend to new heights, while the story of the album itself is a journey of self-discovery for the protagonist played by charismatic vocalist Sijiang Chen.
Meet Hiperson, Your New Favorite Band
The two former EXO members link up in the wake of Luhan’s collaboration with Kris Wu on single, “Coffee” in April. Both Luhan and Huang Zitao took part as judges on the variety show Produce Camp 2020 earlier this year, thrilling fans of the pair.
This catchy track speaks to the trials of being too sensitive in an increasingly unforgiving world. There are also some lyrics for fans of the pair’s former pop group EXO, with Huang Zitao rapping, “We finally made another song, the happiness in the past cannot be forgotten.”
We’ve been fans of Xi’an musician West by West for a while, ever since her debut EP, 哪呢 appeared in 2018. That release reminded us of the pared-back, minimal qualities of fellow singer songwriter Wang Shengnan’s self titled album from 2017. Combining gorgeous vocals with a pleasing, and often surprising, palette of electric sounds, that EP promised of a bright future.
On this her first full-length album, she follows up on that promise with a pleasing set of 10 atmospheric, otherworldly songs. Her voice, strong as ever, cuts through the haze of carefully constructed electronic fields.
Another debut here, this time from Shanghai-based producer Beat Lament on Shanghai label Eating Music. Dim Sum Beattape is a gorgeous throwback to an era of instrumental hip hop when samples were proliferate.
The collage nature of the record makes for a scrapbook effect, combining the producer’s wide array of interests. Most of the songs on the beat tape are two minutes or less, with each making use of sharp, singular hooks, perfect for an indulgent listen.
First impressions of this record come courtesy of artwork featuring Anish Kapoor’s “My Red Homeland,” the amazing red installation by the British Indian artist. However, the second album from Zhejiang group Railway Suicide Train is awash with a variety of musical references.
Featuring horns at certain points, hazy, effect-laden guitars at other times, and a strong percussive presence through the record’s eight songs, Continent is a grim and dirty journey through psychedelia for listeners.
Known for his work with high-profile Chinese rappers like Higher Brothers and Bohan Phoenix, British Jamaican producer Harikiri brings together a trio of friends, Higher Brothers’ Masiwei, Phoenix and Sudanese rapper J. Mag, for his latest EP release, 339.
You can hear the three rappers on the first four tracks of the EP, while instrumentals with just Harikiri’s production are also available over on Spotify. Vibey, romantic and perfect for some summer fun.
One of the highest profile groups to appear on the first season of The Big Band, long-term underground favorites Hedgehog came out on the other side of the hit TV show with plenty of new fans and a lot of expectation. It’s hard to say that this record lived up to those high hopes, as the group continues to produce watered down versions of their earlier, edgier indie rock.
Among the lesser tracks here, “Sky Roar, When We Light Up” stands out, with Zhao Zijian adopting a sinister style of vocals, before soaring guitars lift the track. The album as a whole feels like the group are experimenting with new styles, jumping back and forth between effects, without exactly settling on anything concrete.
Wild Records, the Wuhan label that is the home of emo rock groups Chinese Football and Shanghai Qiutian, are back with the latest release from Guangdong group YouCeHeLiu.
Hard-hitting, fun and a bit funky, the four-track EP leads with the math rock infused “Concept of Home,” with vocal interplay between singers Li Jiahong and Lin Xujie adding layers of warmth to the six-minute track. The second track “In the Twist and Turns” is delightfully DIY, with unrefined production to open, before it breaks into funky guitars.
Newly-formed and Shanghai-based Faraway Neighbor released their first, self-titled EP this month, with five tracks that run the gamut from synth pop to coldwave and dark wave.
Featuring RADII’s Life Editor, Mayura Jain, on vocals and Peter Isachenko on synth and production duties, the album flows from brighter opening songs, “Trial Run” and “Diagnose” to the darker, more atmospheric and clouded closing tracks, “Tomorrow’s Haze” and “Dark Entries.”
The latest release on Beijing electronic label Out of Fashion Boys comes courtesy of Japanese producer Wrack. After a stint on Mexican label N.A.A.F.I. near the end of 2019, the producer continues his cross-border collaborative work, this time dropping into China.
The 3-track dembow-infused record was set to come out in mid-June, but is now available on Bandcamp.
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