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.
I know, I know, been a lot of post-human/cyberpunk-inflected bops around this column of late. Last one for a while, I promise, but couldn’t let you get into the weekend without seeing the latest output from Beijing label Babel Records, who are having a hell of a summer.
Here’s a brand-new MV for a single off the debut album of TRUETRUE — according to the director and Babel label-runner Sid Chan, it’s “a story of AI trying to save the human race by testing ‘minerals’ on human test subjects.”
We loaded up with minerals, minerals / Like we holding those alchemical rituals / And we dressin’ up like Biblical criminals
No rapper in the game today has better described the feeling of being in a club like ALL, for real.
TRUETRUE is the duo of Chuchu Wen, a classically-trained musician from the southeastern coastal city of Wenzhou, and Eliot Lee from Macao. The two met at the New England Conservatory of Music, and now work remotely as Wen continues to live in Massachusetts. Their style leans toward slow-BPM vocal-driven pop, but their debut album ALCHEMY, released earlier this month, is suffused with enough deftly-placed classical chill-out elements to set it well apart from whatever the idol group du jour is churning out, or the rest of Babel Records’ roster for that matter.
For another taste, wrap your brainwaves with the smooth, synthesized flutes and brassy low-end careening around Greek-language shout outs to Babylon on the album’s sultry second track, “Mandragora”:
In an interview with Chinese-language music blog Wooozy, Eliot Lee explains why the remotely collaborating duo chose to release ALCHEMY and their 2017 debut EP, ASTROLOGY, on Beijing’s Babel Records:
What we do should not strictly be called electronic music. In many people’s eyes, electronic music must have the sound of a hardware synthesizer, but we use plugins and soft synths. So we are positioning ourselves as pop music. But we also felt that among pop labels in China, only the Babel family had something newer and more in line with our aesthetics. So we chose them.
At that time, [Babel compilation] “Summer Hotel” was quite good. It was quite a pioneering release for China, and I liked the sound of it — not too outside the mainstream, not too experimental. It felt like it had the potential to become a trend within mainstream music. It was also close to our idea [for TRUETRUE]. There has long been a market for this kind of music abroad, but domestically,
Chinese music has basically not changed since Jay Chou. So it’s definitely different from the Chinese mainstream music market, but I think it’s a good trend.
Buy/stream ALCHEMY here, and spend more time with Babel Records’ front-to-back solid catalogue of future-conscious electronic and pop music at the label’s Bandcamp page.
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