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Yin: Crisp Coldwave from Kunming Duo Cephalosis

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Yin (音, “music”) is a weekly RADII feature 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.

Button up, things are getting frosty in Kunming, the so-called City of Eternal Spring, where coldwave duo Cephalosis has just released their debut album Voluntary Ambition. Formed in 2016, the band put their first missive out last summer in the form of a standalone single called “Hide”, and are now back with a more rounded out statement of purpose. Voluntary Ambition, released by Taihe sub-label Ruby Eyes, is nine tracks of vintage cold, ruggedly constructed and studded throughout with unexpected, slightly off-putting chord switches and off-kilter vocal deliveries.

While the album isn’t on any Western streaming services at the moment, it comes accompanied by this spooky MV for album closer “World Tour”, in which the duo finds a deserted, despondent wood and goes full Blair Witch House therein:

Nice. I’m usually pretty critical of comparisons between 1984 and contemporary China, but if we’re talking about the appropriation of ice-cold, motorik-driven synth and drum machine darkness, I’m here for it. “World Tour” in particular stands out for its bleak minimalism, punctuated by a chirpy 808 clave reverbed out of this dimension. I can also recommend the doom-drenched mid-album track “Autumn&Alcohol”, which throws a bit of metal influence into the band’s otherwise rather straightforward industrial synthwave package.

Find the full album on Xiami, and keep checking back on RADII for more from Ruby Eyes Records, which has an ambitious 2019 release schedule planned.

Cover image: Cephalosis live at YUE Space, Beijing (photo by Live Beijing Music)

Josh Feola
Josh Feola is a Shanghai-based writer and musician, and RADII's Culture Editor. His coverage of Chinese music and art has appeared in The Wire, Dazed, Artsy, LEAP, Tiny Mix Tapes, and more. He's been active in China's underground music scene since 2010 via his booking platform pangbianr.com, and is a former member of Beijing bands Chui Wan, SUBS, and Vagus Nerve.