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November’s Best New Music: Zhong Feifei, Bohan Phoenix and Chiptune Chaos from Shift+Alt+M

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china.wav, 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 November in the RADII offices, featuring hip hop producer Lu1’s gorgeous new single, Beijing-residing rockers Run Run Run and Congolese-Chinese singer Zhong Feifei’s first-ever solo release.

Xia Lang — Codex

21-year-old Beijing-based composer Xia Lang’s debut collection Codex is a wonderful concatenation of aural experimentations that touches on ambient music and IDM while making reference to a bunch of other genres.

The young producer ostensibly takes inspiration from artists like Fishdoll, the Eating Music affiliate who plays around with electrified soul music. It’s a strange point of reference, but is perhaps due to both artists’ willingness to experiment with sounds. The music is tantalizing, just a tad too intense for a film score, with string instruments mixing with minimalistic synthesizers.

Meng Meiqi — “Mute”

Former Rocket Girls 101 C位-holder Meng Meiqi continues to make pains to move out of the shadow cast by the group, the first formed by the uber-successful Produce 101, a Chinese re-imagining of a popular Korean talent show.

“Mute,” the first track from Meng’s upcoming EP of the same name, is an electronic, dissonant affair with frequent melody changes and a stylish and vibey music video that sets out her apparent intention to lead at the vanguard of a new group of young Mandopop stars.

Shift+Alt+M — Shift+Alt+M

This is special. Two members of southern China’s indie scene — Cheesemind vocalist RabiQ and yourboyfriendsucks alumni Space — combine for an altogether ethereal musical experience.

The pair use chiptune music (8-bit video game programmed sounds) on a Nintendo Switch to create hyper pop tracks that are then overlaid by RabiQ’s restrained, calming vocals.

City Flanker — “500 Days of Summer”

Just a few months after the release of their album, The Journey to City Flanker, which saw Shaoxing band City Flanker go full-on synth rock, eschewing their shoegaze sound in the process, the group return with a new single, “500 Days of Summer.”

They don’t let up an inch on “500 Days of Summer” leaning into the sunny sound of synthesizers and dream pop on the Zooey Deschanel movie-referencing track.

Leah Dou — GSG Mixtape

Leah Dou, the daughter of musical pair Faye Wong and Dou Wei, returns with her third album and first in three years. The lead single off that record, “GSG,” dropped at the end of October, alongside a gorgeous animated music video made by Alex Gamsu Jenkins.

The track bears similarities to the jazzy trip hop of Swedish group Little Dragon, with Dou’s vocals sounding eerily like Yukimi Nagano’s. The record also features Dou’s contribution to Bi Gan’s trippy 2018 film, Long Day’s Journey Into Night, and a contribution from singer-designer Victor Ma. You can find it on QQ Music now.

Run Run Run — RUNRUNRUN

With a couple of new members, in the form of Birdstriking’s Xiao Wen (who takes up synthesizer duties) and Bedstars vocalist Zhao Kai, Beijing-based psychedelic band Run Run Run return.

Only, they’re not particulary psychedelic any more, there are moments of the tropical terror that fed the band’s first record, Hoon, at play on this self-titled follow-up, but otherwise, the album is very much based within Beijing, making use of tongue-in-cheek references to tech, as well as an intoxicating motorik guitar line.

Berlin Psycho Nurses — Berlin Psycho Nurses

Changsha outfit Berlin Psycho Nurses dropped the teaser to their first and self-titled album last month, “Here Comes the Gangster,” and we were impressed. That track was, in many ways, a tame affair compared to the rest of the album.

Reference, for example, “Fraud” which is rip-roaring, sprawling affair. “Battle Song” is a track that exists somewhere in the rarefied air, with soaring atmospherics, and The Stooges-referencing vocals. The debut album in full is a fun, raucous time from the young band.

Higher Brothers — “Empire”

Carrying on their taste for braggadocio, Higher Brothers’ new single “Empire” is an ode to international exchange rates, diamonds and, for Masiwei, parking his Ferrari at Hong Kong party street, Lan Kwai Fong, at 3am in the morning.

Not exactly ground-breaking for the foursome, then. Perhaps more interesting, while all members of the group have released solo albums over the past 12 months, KnowKnow and Masiwei again take the lead on this track, with Psy P and Melo splitting about 45 seconds of air time between them.

Related:

Empire Building: How Higher Brothers Took “Made in China” Trap International

Jasmine Sokko — Made in Future

One of the finalists on short-lived Chinese variety show, Rave Now, Singaporean artist Jasmine Sokko is famed for wearing masks to cover part of her face. This month she dropped her second EP, Made in Future, which bears strong similarities to the quirky singing style that made New Zealander Lorde famous.

Undoubtedly, Sokko has a unique, intriguing voice. As an example, check out her collaboration with Sichuan rapper Vava on “Girls,” where she takes aim at male-dominated spaces, with lyrics like, “Who assigned a price to our worth?/it’s outdated/We will stride out of the barriers/and soar into our own horizons.”

Click #15 — “B Funk for Summer Troops”

Fans of the funk band, Click #15, and their appearance on The Big Band Season 1, might remember this track, which the group performed on the rock music variety show in 2019.

Following on from the release of their EP, The Funky Experience 2, “B Funk for Summer Troops,” is an interesting blend of catchy synthesizer, guitar and drums, alongside kitschy lyrics referencing their time on the show.

Related: 

“China’s Prince” is Bringing Funk Music to the Masses With His Band Click #15

Akini Jing — “生生不息”

This, theme song for Pema Tseden’s latest movie, Balloon, is performed by Yunnan-born Akini Jing. Her work has been bound up in AI and robotics for a while, and she also made an appearance on Sisters Who Make Waves earlier this year.

She’s currently out on tour with China-based promoter, Say Yes, at the moment, as Balloon makes waves around the country, thanks to endorsements from the likes of Xiao Zhan and Fan Bingbing.

Related:

Tibetan Director Pema Tseden’s “Balloon” Deconstructs China’s Stringent Birth Control Laws

Bohan Phoenix — “when i mmhmm”

This new one from Bohan Phoenix is short and very sweet. Lyrically the rapper talks about being “on the way,” calls out his haters and pays homage to his life on the road, metaphorically for now, perhaps (but get a load of him spinning around in a convertible here.)

Bohan leads us out a lovely sung portion, where he says, “when I mmhmm, get out the way.” The track makes great use of space and unorthodox instrumentation (sounding like taut plucked strings or woodblocks). It’s great.

Zhong Feifei — “B.U.R.N”

This one has been a long time coming. Produce Camp 2020 alumni Zhong Feifei accompanied the release of her first single, “B.U.R.N,” with an apology that it took so long. For her fans, however, it was worth the wait, with the general reaction one of surprise at the musical decisions Feifei made on this release.

While BD Associate Roland Wen opines that the track too closely resembles Kanye West’s “Fade” (a fair assessment considering the similarities between both songs’ bass lines, which are positioned at the center of both tracks), we’re somewhat disappointed at the lack of sung vocals from Zhong, but excited about where this heady mix of hard-hitting hip hop music will take her next.

Related:

Congolese-Chinese Singer Zhong Feifei on Going from Counter Terrorism Student to Pop Idol

GO$H — Oh My Gosh

With all the chat centered around GO$H affiliate GAI for the past few months, as he did the circuit on a bunch of different variety and reality show, the Chongqing-based label quietly (or not so quietly) dropped a collaborative album, Oh My Gosh.

Whether that is a Jamie XX-referencing title or not, the record gives space to the group’s younger names, like Wang Qiming, who was runner up in this year’s The Rap of China, as well as 小艾EYE, alongside the likes of label OG, Bridge, who appears on pretty much every track.

Related:

Get to Know China’s Biggest Regional Rap Crews Ahead of “Rap of China 4”

Lu1 — “Paperback”

Taken from the hip hop maestro’s upcoming EP release, Intro, Lu1’s “Paperback” is a beautiful partly spoken, partly sung minimalist poem dedicated to love.

Intro is set to be released at the end of December by Chengdu-based hip hop label Mintone Records. If “Paperback” is anything to go by, the record will continue Lu1’s detailed and intimate play with understated beats.

Bryan Grogan
    Bryan is RADII's 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.