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.
It’s been a busy couple of months for Shanghai hip hop label Eating Music, and May is no different, as they dropped a pair of new releases this month. Similarly, another Shanghai label, Genome 6.66Mbp, has been busy, with a new single and a four-track release in our mix of must-listens for May.
In more RADII-centric news, we’ve launched a new podcast called SoundCheck. Every month RADII culture editor Bryan Grogan and Wes Chen, the host of long-running Chinese hip hop podcast thePark, come together to talk about some of the best new music of the month, and some of the most pressing music stories of the month. You can find that at RADII’s SoundCloud account or listen below:
TOW is made up of Yang Fan and Liu Ge, both pioneers of Beijing’s underground music scene. Yang is best known for fronting Ourself Beside Me, while Liu Ge fronts The Molds, a psych country western combination with a particularly ironic and sarcastic bent.
This new record is incredibly seductive, with Yang Fan’s hushed vocals, and the band’s use of space excellently accentuating the impact of their musical experiments. It’s also bright and bouncy, at times.
While TOW formed in 2016, they’ve ostensibly split in the time since putting together this EP, which is a shame.
Kaishandao is the musical alias of Kristen Ng, who is based in Chengdu in Sichuan province. Kristen has been involved in the Chinese music scene for years, both releasing her own music and organizing tours and writing through her Kiwese imprint.
This record, her debut EP, is an exploration of the concept of home, in people, places and spaces. It’s filled with well-placed samples, while Kaishandao says in the liner notes that the record is “Foraged sounds and temporal collisions. A therapy cassette sent through a drum machine. Chopped platters serving percussive micro aggressions, distorted audio residue and beat up guitars in the boot. Overlapping timelines, birds in flight, slow-burning fires.”
Sleeping Dogs have been busy over the past twelve months, releasing their EP Space Puppy on Space Fruity Records. On the other side of this project, nehcetep, is the alias of Pete Chen. He’s based in Guangzhou and is considered pretty lowkey, and has been involved in a bunch of different labels including Qiii Snacks Records, as well as Groove Bunny Records, the label founded by Endy Chen.
This release comes out on Eating Music and has been in the works for a while, with Pete Chen and Sleeping Dogs coming together back in 2019 to make a set of edits of demos that the group were working on at the time. It’s a delightful listen and was worth the wait.
A collaboration between one of China’s most interesting producers and one of the country’s most interesting fashion designers. Rui Ho, is a Guangdong-born producer, who ordinarily lives in Berlin but moved back to China last year at the outset of Covid-19.
Ho teams up with Sensen Lii, who has become known for his alien, Lovecraftian designs, to create the soundtrack to Windowsen’s 2021 Fall/Winter Couture and ready to wear show at this year’s Shanghai Fashion Week.
China Designers: Sensen Lii’s Brain Births Alien Couture
With the release of their second compilation album, Out of Fashion Boys founders Luxixi and TsingLung attempt to capture “the dizziness when fighters get rocked, [which] pretty much resembles the numbness after five or six Vodka shots.”
This new release has been almost six months in the making, when the pair first communicated the theme of the record to producers who appear on Punch Drunk. It features the likes of Hong Kong producers Alexmalism, ASJ (A Spiritual Journey) and Kelvin T, as well as Shanghai-based phenom Laughing Ears and founders of French label Abîme, Ytem and Chams, each of whom contributes their own interpretation on the theme.
Beijing Label Out of Fashion Boys Brings Boxing to the Club on “Punch Drunk”
This one comes via Eating Music. Released on the label in the wake of Cocoonics’ wu… /HA!, TingTing’s CHONG ER follows similar strands to that previous EP, with TingTing diving deep to tease out parts of her own personal story.
Translated, “Chong Er” means “Darling” in English, with TingTing ostensibly treating the music as a mirror of sorts, as she looks inward. With strong intentional vocals, and idiosyncratic jazzy beats, supported by the inclusion of producer Sdewdent on several of the record’s tracks, it is a gorgeous, introspective effort.
Yen Tech’s second album Assembler drops today (May 28). The man behind Yen Tech is Nick Newlin, a Korean American producer, dropped his debut album, Mobis on SVBKVLT back in 2016. Where that record reveled in dystopia, Assembler is no different, as he, in the words of his label: “blends futuristic production, meta-science fiction, and anthropic critique into a dizzying array of next scenarios.”
Yen Tech has said in previous interviews that his approach to music revolves around building worlds, creating language and contexts. The approach is incredibly powerful. On the title track of this album, “Assembler,” we hear an array of vocals meandering in and out of each other at a dizzying rate. The music is certainly not ambient, but there’s an intrinsic atmospheric quality to this deconstructed club music, as it establishes imagery and scenery successfully, becoming a story in and of itself.
ShuShu teams up with Shanghai-based producer Swimful for the first track of their second EP, Sweet Verses Dying Like Roses. Released via Genome 6.66Mbp, the overall vibe of the single, “Something You Don’t Need to Know,” mirrors the type of music that cloud rappers like Billionhappy and Charity SsB have been releasing over the past year or two.
“Something You Don’t Need to Know” opens with keys that sound almost like they’re played on a harpsichord, while the vocals are romantic and lathered in autotune. The full album comes out on June 18th.
“But I Still Love You” dropped in May, with 100% of the proceeds for the song and video going to the charity #hate is a virus. The song is timely, of course, with violent crime against Asian Americans rising, and with May Asian American Pacific Islander Month.
The track reflects Bohan’s attitude to conversations around racism which he has been engaged in over the past two years. He has repeatedly approached these conversations with a humanistic ear for conversation, and a willingness to talk things through by putting his thoughts into his music.
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