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New Music: Tapes for Charity Mixtape Presents an Eclectic Selection with an Eye on Wuhan

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New Music, formerly 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.

While we published our Spotify playlist of chill self-isolation songs this week, this double cassette release from Beijing label nugget records, Guangzhou label Qiii Snacks Records and Beijing-based producer thruoutin is just as good if you’re searching for mellow vibes.

Add to that the fact that the triumvirate are pledging to give proceeds from the sale of these cassettes to the Wuhan Small Animal Protection Association (which helps to feed and rescue pets in Wuhan whose owners could not return to the city) and we have a win on all fronts.

nugget records is a relatively new cassette label, devoted to physical releases, formed by David Carey of bands Nocturnes and Lost Memory Machine, and his girlfriend, artist Jen Rao, in 2019. They combine a love for obsolete physical release formats (e.g. numerous cassette releases and that time they released a VHS with a music video on it), with a delightful aesthetic. They also produce the cassettes, design the labels and source distribution, making it an uber-DIY project.

Thus far, they’ve linked up with thruoutin for a reissue of the producer’s records Fine Valley Pass and Apricot Station, as well as releases from jangle rock group MF Machine and David’s side project with electronica-pop artist Shii, Lost Memory Machine, among others.

Related:

Cassette Store Day: How China Celebrated an Event You Didn’t Know Existed

Cassettes and other physical releases have enjoyed quite a bit of popularity in the underground indie scenes around China. Notable proponents of the format include the Rose Mansion Analog label, formed by like-minded members of bands Hot and Cold, The Offset: Spectacles and Soviet Pop, as well as the South China-residing members of labels such as Qiii Snacks Records and Boring Productions, as well as Hong Kong label Sweaty and Cramped.

The Tapes for Charity double album features a fantastic mix of artists, with the indie side combining key Beijing groups with a wider circle of DIY bands and artists from labels such as Qiii Snacks, Boring Productions, Letter Records and Wild Records (of Wuhan). The electronic side was put together by thruoutin and is similarly diverse, with the producer drafting in musicians from all over China, and outside of the country as well.

 

One of the standout tracks on the indie side comes from Lost Memory Machine, made up of David Carey and Shii, whose ethereal vocals add an eerie quality to the track. Elsewhere the twee-pop stylings of Fujian band Cheesemind and their vocalist Riubi Qiu and jazzy Guangzhou group Power Milk stir the proceedings.

 

Highlights on the electronic side come from the ever-wonderful West By West, with a slow-burning opening track, as well as Xie Yugang (frontman of Dalian post-rock group Wang Wen), who gifts us an excellent and well-paced ambient song. Lastboss closes the electronic side with the gentle “Closing Credits,” which sounds like a cross between Aphex Twin and Bon Iver.

The cassettes sold out in just three minutes upon release at midnight CST on March 27. nugget records are planning a second wave of physical releases, but until then you can listen to tapes for charity over on Bandcamp.

Bryan Grogan
    Bryan is RADII's Culture Editor. He is a Shanghai-based writer and editor with an interest in health, technology, science, the arts, culture and everything in between.