Yin (音, “music”) is a weekly RADII feature that looks at Chinese songs spanning classical to folk to modern experimental, and everything in between. Drop us a line if you have a suggestion.
As we head towards the end of 2017, we’ll use Yin to take a look back at some of our favorite China releases of the year. I recently made the mix below for US music site Tiny Mix Tapes, which handily includes some of the most interesting, strange, enticing, exhilarating, or otherwise quality electronic music to come out of “greater China” this year. Find an annotated track list with artist name, location, label, and buy/stream links under the Soundcloud embed if you want to enjoy at home.
1. 蟑螂合唱團 IPIS – “忘了我是誰 (Sonia Calico Bootleg)”
This remix/bootleg by Taipei producer Sonia Calico is a freebie up on her Soundcloud, along with two others in the same vein, in a collection called “bye bye summer bootlegs 2017”. Sonia, co-founder of the UnderU label and a close affiliate of Beijing-based label Do Hits, is a central figure in Taiwan’s underground club scene, which you can read more about here.
2. Hyph11e – “Unknown Number 未知”
Hyph11e (pictured up top) is a rising star of the Shanghai producer scene and a key figure behind the youthful Genome 6.66 Mbp label, which recently celebrated its one-year anniversary. This is from the Vanishing Cinema EP released by SVBKVLT, a seminal incubator of underground club sounds in Shanghai — buy/stream that here. It was announced a few days ago that Hyph11e will represent China next year at CTM, an art and music festival in Germany famous for amplifying new waves of underground tastemakers — great to see more young artists from China carrying the underground cultural torch overseas.
3. thruoutin – “Exploring the Interior 探索内部”
This is a cut from an early 2017 EP by longtime Beijing resident Brad Seippel, aka thruoutin, mixing his trusty pipa with a more diverse range of club-ready beats and bleeps. Buy/stream the whole thing via the Bandcamp page of Beijing label RAN Music, and check out Brad’s own imprint, Seippelabel, for more compilations of fine China tunes.
4. Lujiachi – “竹林”
Another Taipei representative, Lujiachi is one of that city’s more prolific artists, with ample solo material and side projects including the doom/drone/kraut duo Scattered Purgatory, and LUDU, a collaboration with Lonely God label runner Jon Du. This bit of solo dark ambience was included in the inaugural release by CHINABOT, a label launched in June by London-based artist Saphy Vong with the intention of shining a light on interesting and innovative new tunes from throughout the pan-Asian sphere. Buy/stream here.
5. David Boring – “Brian Emo”
Introducing some guitars to the mix is David Boring, a delicate but often brutal post-punk band plying their trade in Hong Kong. I think these tunes have been recorded for a while, but they were finally collected and officially released as the album Unnatural Objects and Their Humans in March. Buy/stream here.
David Boring at School Bar, Beijing
6. ST.OL.EN – “Copy Shop”
Wrote about these young bucks from Chengdu in last week’s Yin column. Grip this EP via iTunes here, or stream on Spotify here.
7. 33EMYBW – “Medusa”
Also covered Shanghai producer and multi-instrumentalist 33EMYBW’s newish solo project (as well as her singular fashion sense) last week. Buy/stream her debut EP Medusa via D Force Records’ Bandcamp page.
8. Nang Band – “The Belt and Road, Sing Along”
This one’s a palate cleanser of sorts, sampled from an awesome Xinhua-produced rap-rock tune extolling the virtues of China’s One Belt One Road infrastructure building initiative. Not sure if this sleeper hit is commercially available anywhere, but you can stream it on YouTube.
Bugged Out: The Humanoid Machine Music of Shanghai Artists Han Han and 33EMYBW
9. Damacha – “松松松松松”
This beast of a beat by Shanghai-based producer Damacha came out near the beginning of the year, as part of the Chinese New Year mix that Beijing label Do Hits does annually. After the many, many listens I’ve clocked between the comp’s Jan 27 release and today, I have to conclude that “松松松松松” is the standout track for me on Do Hits Year of the Rooster. Buy/stream here.
10. Howie Lee – “A Junkie’s Whispering”
Speaking of Do Hits — their strongest release this year (in my opinion) was an EP by label co-founder Howie Lee, who’s steadily grown an international following and has diverted part of it to his hometown scene (as well as some of his comrades in Taipei, where he spends about half his time with his wife, artist and producer Veeeky). Howie’s actually set to unveil a very big international collaboration in the next week or two; we’ll fill you in as soon as that happens. In the mean time, buy/stream Howie Lee’s Homeless EP here, and read more about Do Hits in this Bandcamp Daily article from March.
“I don’t think about creativity, I just copy”: Howie Lee on Passive Creation and the Chinese Dream
11. Lawrence Lek – “You Never Render The Same River Twice” + “Hui Neng”
Another outlier here: this interlude comes from artist Lawrence Lek, perhaps best known for his video essay Sinofuturism, which he described to me earlier this year as “not a manifesto for the future, [but] more like a conspiracy theory to understand the present.” Lek’s latest video is Geomancer, the tale of an AI satellite that falls to earth during the Singapore centennial (in 2065) and sets on a mission of self-discovery. Lek composed the soundtrack himself, and recently released it at an event in Shanghai (which we’ll write up soon) via pan-Asian-diaspora experimental electronics label Eternal Dragonz. Buy/stream Geomancer OST here.
12. Sonia Calico – “Butterfly Spy”
Another one from Sonia Calico (see #1), also released on CHINABOT’s Phantom Force compilation (see #4). Buy/stream here.
13. RMBit – “Enter the ether_p2”
This comes from the latest release by play rec, a new-for-2017 label co-founded by Chinese experimental music pioneers Wang Changcun and Xu Cheng. After launching with some compilations and solo releases from each of the founders, last month play rec put out the debut release for RMBit, a collective of multimedia artists and producers that grew out of the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou. In fact, this crew came from the same department/orbit that has produced some of China’s most interesting and innovative young visual artists, such as Lu Yang, but RMBit is one of the only outfits producing interesting work on the audio end of that spectrum. Buy/stream here.
14. Faded Ghost – “The Tide”
This is a cut from the second release by Faded Ghost, a solo project by Shanghai singer and producer ChaCha, who’s better known internationally for her more hip-hop, dub, and trip-hop leaning work. Moon Mad was released in April by Shanghai’s SVBKVLT (see #2), and I wrote it up on Radii earlier in the year. Buy/stream here.
Yin: BBC-Featured Shanghai Vocalist ChaCha Gets Deep on “Moon Mad”
15. Chui Wan – “Sheep’s Shadow”
Last but not least, here’s a soft hit from Beijing’s Chui Wan, who released their third studio album, The Landscape the Tropics Never Had, via Maybe Mars Records in September. A warm, vaguely psychedelic touch to end what is otherwise a fairly cold and metallic mix. Read some backstory on another cut from the album here, and buy/stream here.
Cover image: Hyph11e
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
Thousands of earthlings have signed up for our newsletter, and you should do the same