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 Halloween, and that means one thing! Scary music. Alas, we have only one release this month that we could genuinely term as frightening music, but the thematic and stormy nature of the tracks that we’ve been listening to in October is not to be beaten.
This month has been great for new tracks, from twee indie rock from Guangzhou band Nouvelle to the orchestral majesty of Fishdoll’s latest tracks.
Also, don’t forget to check out the latest episode of SoundCheck, where Wes Chen, host of hip hop podcast thePark, and Bryan Grogan, talk about their favorite tracks of the month.
Guangzhou-based act Nouvelle has been making excellent music for some years now. Having signed on with Beijing indie label Maybe Mars over a year ago, they’ve been working out some new tracks.
“Baby, Don’t Be Too Sweet” is the second single from the band this month, following on from “Activist,” and has a particularly indie twee sensibility about it. The band has always been slightly reminiscent of groups like The Cribs and others from the noughties, and that’s captured here in the chanting style of vocals that Wu Jiawei employs on this track.
This new release off of Ruby Eyes Records is utterly absorbing. Beijing-based band SWARRM has been around for a few years at this point, founding around 2017, and has made impressions at underground rock venues in the city thanks to their swirling, experimental instrumental rock music.
Hymn of Lies is the band’s second album, and the nine tracks present here represent a journey. The dark, gloomy, and sometimes frustrating sounds that resonate from tracks like “Park” and “Silence” are intimidating but confident.
Chinese-Australian musician Rainbow Chan teams up with pan-Asian label Eastern Margins for her new track, “Idols.” Featuring layered, resonating vocals against a catchy drum beat and swirling sound effects, the song is deeply personal, dealing with love and family.
The track is the first from Chan’s upcoming EP, Stanley, which will further explore Chan’s impressions of familial dynamics, while also peering into her memories of Hong Kong. If this track is anything to go by, we’re excited.
Another new Maybe Mars band, but a touch more mysterious than Nouvelle. Vladimirs have dropped a pair of singles this year, each of which can be bought on Netease Music or listened to for free on the label’s Bandcamp page.
While both are excellent, gritty tracks, there’s no inkling as to who is behind the band. Many have guessed that it is Yang Haisong of iconic rock band PK14 singing, but, alas, we are still unsure. We’re hoping for a more prolonged release this year, and perhaps we’ll find out the identity of the mystery band members.
We’re extremely into the musical voyage that Yikii is on. Her latest album, Crimson Poem, is a darkly intense summation of her style, combining layered vocals (a la early Grimes) with eerie, oppressive soundscapes.
Taking inspiration from horror video games and Japanese culture, Yikii has released a LOT over the past few years, notably with Shanghai label Genome 6.66 MBP. This album was deservedly featured by Pitchfork earlier this month, garnering a score of 7.7. Listen to it; it’s scary, aesthetically very pleasing and full of creepy auditory imagery.
This is the debut album from youngish Chengdu band Fayzz and does a fantastic job of showing off what the band is about. Mixing the intricate rhythms of math rock with the stormy atmospherics of post rock, CONNECTION is a voyage.
It’s also fun, opening with some audio of a group of friends playing Street Fighter V. But it is the more profound, more nostalgic moments that stay with you, as the group takes us on a trip through the concrete jungle of Chengdu, retracing paths and forging new ones.
Kafe.Hu has had a big year. Having stormed to a top-five finish in The Rap of China, his star exploded among music fans around China. He also released his track “经济舱,” which translates to “Economy Class,” which, for many, was their introduction to the musician.
Now he’s back with a new track called “Gotya,” a laid-back jazzy affair that relishes in the luxuriance of that style of music. It’s not available on Western streaming sites at the moment, but if you are in China, you can find it on QQ Music now.
One of the most exciting musicians in China today, Fishdoll, returns in November with her latest album, Moonsense. However, the first two tracks from the record are currently available on her Bandcamp page, and they are wonderful.
“K’un” is a stunning orchestral track with hallmarks of an introspective and weird Disney soundtrack, with Fishdoll ever so slightly layering vocals above the strings and keys that move the song along. “Remember It’s Just a Dream” is similarly orchestral, but the inclusion of more vocal play and synthesizers make for a jazzier track.
If you’re familiar with Jiafeng’s music, you’ll know that he’s fond of playing with expectations. On his new track, “AI NI AI DAO,” he does just that, blazing a trail across a variety of music genres to create an intense collage of sound.
On the Bandcamp page for this song, he gives us suggested terminology for this music, calling it ‘deconstructed pop.’ Still, it feels like a deep exploration of hyper or experimental pop, as he carves out elements like punk, screamo and electronic and accentuates them magnificently.
Two of Hong Kong’s most fascinating experimental electronic musicians team up here for their newest release on the Shanghai-based label Genome 6.66 MBP, which just celebrated their fifth anniversary.
The first two tracks on the record are intense. On “QQDBT,” Laujan and Jason Cheung from feted Hong Kong band David Boring join the pair, while SVBKVLT regular Osheyack remixes “No.1 Sweetheart.” The rest of the album features appearances from fellow Hong Kong producers Alexmalism and ASJ and Shanghai-based cloud rapper Billionhappy.
Cover image compiled by Sabina Islas
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