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.
We’ve probably predicted the end of summer a few too many times already, but as the temperature begins to cool, the urge to lean into soothing, folksy music is strong. While not folksy, Eating Music producers Sdewdent and tingting are embracing autumnal vibes on their new collaboration, something that has us pining for orange sunsets.
However, some of our favorite musicians in China are trying to prolong the summer. We saw a couple of club night-turned-music labels drop releases this month. We also have a collection of remixes of Howie Lee’s enjoyably bright album Birdy Island.
While we continue to wait for the changing of the seasons here at RADII, check out the latest episode of our podcast SoundCheck and read about some of the best releases of the month.
An enjoyable, scaled-back depiction of the cool that accompanies the approach of autumn from Sdewdent and tingting, two producers from Shanghai-based instrumental hip hop label Eating Music.
We are given both an instrumental version of the song and the whole lyrical version. The former provides us with a closer listen to the piano and production methods employed by Sdewdent.
Two of China’s best young hip hop musicians team up once again on this track, which is driven forward by the powerful vocals of the artistic duo.
“现实的生活” or ‘Real Life’ is backed by lo-fi beats and piano to create an air of sadness, with this track part of their 11-song joint album 幸存者的负罪感, which roughly translates to ‘Survivor’s Guilt.’
Medusa is likely China’s biggest underground queer party. Founded back in 2016, the folks behind the party have finally converted the event into a label, with this release from co-founder Michael Cignarale the first from Medusa. The original album version of the song is full of queer house energy and attitude, with Cignarale singing, “I put on this dress, and she takes me over.”
There are also remixes from HUAN HUAN and Knopha, which add a different flavor to Cignarale’s energy. HUAN HUAN buries Cignarale’s vocals ever so slightly, adding a touch more ambiance and existentialism, while Knopha’s version plays with the tempo, creating a slow, tropical atmosphere.
Speaking of club nights that have launched their own labels, Love Bang is another staple of Shanghai nightlife that started releasing its own music in 2021.
Energy is Love Bang’s second release, bringing together nine producers to interpret their concept of energy into music. Stalwarts of these Love Bang parties, founder Heatwolves, Vorbi, and Graphic Violence are joined by Beijing-based producers like Luxixi and Loooooongish Cat.
At 18 tracks, Silent Speech’s release Law of Instability/Orderly Chaos is laden with diverse offerings, which can be gleaned from the band’s liner notes, which reference influences like Umberto Eco, Allen Ginsberg and Ludwig Wittgenstein (and precious few musicians).
There’s a hell of a lot to unpack on this release from Silent Speech, and you should listen to the whole thing, but some of our favorite tracks are “To the Forgotten,” “Rise Like Sunset,” and “My Other Self 2.”
Naohai have been around for years, plying their trade among punk circles in Shanghai and around the country. This year, however, they’ve seemed to be more active in live music circles while also launching their first full-length album, The Crowd, on Beijing alternative label Maybe Mars.
If you’ve ever heard or seen Naohai play live, you know the power that the group brings to their performances, and that power is captured here from the outset, with the first track, “Virgin Killer,” a maelstrom of guitars. “Star Sailor” is among the most intriguing tracks on the album, at eight minutes long and dwelling in a more atmospheric, psychedelic zone than you might be used to from Naohai.
Howie Lee’s Birdy Island is a thrilling fusion of electronic music and traditional Chinese music that received global acclaim from a range of alternative music publications earlier this year.
Building off the success of that release, Lee is dropping five remixes of tracks from the likes of Peruvian club group Dengue Dengue Dengue, Japanese artist and musician Foodman, and more. Currently, only one of those remixes is available on Bandcamp, but the whole album of remixes is set to drop on October 22.
Kunming producer Dizkar has released a plethora of tracks with Mintone Records in 2021. This remix from Chinese producer Tsunano injects a bit more electronified funk than we’re used to from Dizkar.
The track is part of a foursome of remixes that producers are doing with Dizkar’s music. Other producers set to be part of the project are vampoleez, JahWahZoo, and Knopha.
Combining elements of punk with noise rock, Kenja Time is a trio unafraid of playing with expectations, as they start Impossible at Night with a somewhat twee guitar-driven instrumental track before launching into dissonant punk rock.
The second track on the album, “In the Light,” sounds like an adaptation of lyrics and music by fellow Maybe Mars band, Hiperson, while tracks like “Sealed Container” and “No More Parties” ought to be straightforward punk rock songs, but each comes with its deformation or twist.
Cruel Buddhist is often a prolific producer, but we haven’t heard much from the Shanghai-based musician this year. “After the Storm” is a pared-back track written during the battering that Typhoon In-Fa gave Shanghai in the summer.
The music drips with a sort of comfortable acquiescence, with a lingering feeling of sadness in the bright beats that Cruel Buddhist employs.
Former shoegaze stalwarts City Flanker return with a new single, “Dive.” The last time we heard from the group, they had released their album The Journey to City Flanker, which shed the band’s heavy guitars for synthesizers.
Here we have a lot of the same, as the group dives a bit further into their recently acquired dreampop persuasions, with the track dripping with romanticism.
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