Yin (音, “music”) is a weekly RADII column that looks at Chinese songs spanning hip hop to folk to modern experimental, and everything in between. Drop us a line if you have a suggestion.
Taking a break from our regularly scheduled coronavirus reporting to return to the core function of this column: introducing new music. If you are looking for coronavirus content, click the following to learn about reactions to the outbreak from Chinese rappers; cartoonists; Kris Wu; memelords; drone operators.
Some music fans have already grown weary of the way the virus has hijacked all conversations, though. In a recent post (link in Chinese) pithily entitled “No one wants to listen to your disaster relief music,” a writer for the WeChat account Chorus complains that they “physically, involuntarily reject this ‘moving’ music,” enumerating multiple beefs with the wannabe “Live Aid” efforts put out in recent weeks by certain pop stars on the scene.
Kris Wu, Yang Mi and Roy Wang Join Star-Studded Music Videos for Workers Battling Coronavirus
The author pulls no punches in their analysis, comparing the rallying Wuhan tunes that have come out thus far unfavorably with the charitable efforts of pop singer Han Hong, who instead of hitting the studio bought 10,000 face masks for the Wuhan relief effort. Chorus writes:
“Do those infected with the virus want to hear it? Does this music have any effect on them? Do front line doctors want to hear it? Please don’t bother them […] The songs you write are really awful. The lyrics are purely fake and empty phrases, the melodies are vulgar and sensational, with little thought put into them, which is the most unforgivable point. Disaster relief songs can be written, but they should be written at the right time and in the right way.”
The post then quotes an interview with Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, who was in NYC on 9/11 and has worked with young musicians in disaster-stricken Fukushima prefecture. He says:
“My most hated term is ‘the power of music.’ Whenever there’s a disaster, media loves talking about the power of music, how music cures, how music empowers. I find this kind of ‘universal cure’ concept very unpleasant. When New York was under terrorist attack [in 2001], I was comforted by music. But it’s not that music itself has a physical function of ‘comforting’ and ‘curing’; using music to pass on energy, express concepts, etc, is what I hate the most. The Nazis once used Wagner’s music as political propaganda, oppressing the Jewish people. Music can have dark energy; this is something I’ve found alarming since I was a kid. What one finds ‘moving’ in music is usually a personal and accidental misunderstanding […] If one makes music with the mentality of ‘curing others’ and ‘passing on energy,’ it is quite arrogant and frivolous. There is nothing more shameful than that.”
So, anyway, here are a couple of fresh releases. Two labels on our 2010s Best Of list are out with new music that channels the darkness of the day without explicitly offering either a reference or a solution. Above you have a re-release of Beijing duo Zaliva-D‘s excellent 2018 long player Sky Singing, repackaged with new artwork by label boss ruò tán and reloaded with five bonus tracks showcasing the slower-BPM side of Zaliva’s mist-dripped digital incantation routine.
Sky Singing was initially released on Shanghai label SVBKVLT, which just got the “Label of the Month” nod from Resident Advisor. Click your way over there to read a remarkably in-depth feature including interviews with Hyph11e, Swimful, 33EMYBW, Gooooose, Zaliva-D, and others.
SVBKVLT crew, shot by Jedi Zhou for Resident Advisor
Here’s a 90-minute mix accompanying that piece, put together by erstwhile Shanghai underground club scene linchpin Blaise Deville:
And here’s a preview of SVBKVLT’s first 2020 release, for Italian multi-media artist Matteo Zamagni. EP0001 won’t drop in full until March — and we can look forward to remixes from Gooooose, 33EMYBW and Zaliva when that happens — but in the meantime here’s a sample of the whole vibe, which is pretty on brand for the KVLT:
You might also like:
RADII Mix: New Tunes for Year of the Rat
Yin: Barren Solstice Ripper from ruò tán x Zaliva-D
Yin: “Into the Void” with Fuzhou Doomsday Droner O0
We highlight our top stories each week in an email newsletter that goes out every Monday - hot, fresh, and straight to your inbox.
Don't worry, we don't spam