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Yin: New Year Tunes from Howie Lee and Eating Music

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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.

China may be back at work this week, but New Year celebrations technically continue through Lantern Festival next Tuesday, so it’s not too late to sneak in a few new releases that have trickled out to kick off the Year of the Pig.

First up: Howie Lee’s Socialism Core Value III. As the name makes transparent, this is the third in Howie’s series of albums that riff on the Chinese Communist Party’s Core Socialist Values, buzzwords like “harmony” and “dedication” that one sees on red propaganda banners all over the country. The Socialism Core Value series — stuffed with samples of traditional Chinese music and throaty military choirs — is a sort-of heir to Lee’s Do Hits label’s two-year strong tradition of releasing Chinese New Year-themed albums. Speaking to Howie about the series last year, he told me that his goal with it is exactly as it seems:

I’m very surprised that a lot of young people actually don’t really know about the core values. So I’m just trying to emphasize them. — Howie Lee

Yin: Howie Lee on “Socialism Core Value II”

If you’re looking for a bottom-line recommendation to catch the wave, I recommend “Ancient Hero Xiao Gei Gei” (古代英雄箫给给), a track co-produced by Do Hits members Alex Wang and W.Y. Huang that’s also featured on RADII’s exclusive Pig Year Mix.

Moving on to a different kind of “party” entirely: Shanghai-based lo-fi beat connoisseurs Eating Music took the opportunity on February 1 to celebrate both the Spring Festival and the label’s completion of one lap around the sun. Eating with Friends features nine tracks by producers from the US, Ireland, South Korea, Indonesia, Morocco, Japan, Taiwan and China — a testament to Eating Music’s big-tent approach to shared passion across international lines.

They write on their Bandcamp:

Going through the embryo stage with many supports, we have later grown to accomplish many wishes as we planned…  As we celebrating one of the most important Chinese traditional festivals – Spring Festival and looking forward to the future, one of the integral customs is we sitting at a table with families and friends, eating, drinking together as well as listening music together. Eating Music here sharing our hard works and sending our best wishes!

Lots to love here for boom bap purists and fans of funky backpacker beats. My personal highlight is the comp closer by Chengdu producer Eddie Beatz, but the whole thing is well worth repeated spins in oversized, over-ear headphones if you’re into this sorta thing.

You can download Eating with Friends for free, but throw the label ten bucks and you’ll receive a pair of bamboo chopsticks emblazoned with a Chinese couplet relating to the label’s name — pretty on-brand merch if you ask me.

Learn more about Eating Music in our profile of label boss Cookie Zhang from last year:

Artist, Entrepreneur, and Vinyl Visionary Cookie Zhang Wants to Change China’s Taste in Music

You might also like:

Watch: Howie Lee and Teom Chen Render Digital Afterlives in New Video “Tomorrow Cannot Be Waited”

Eating Music Record Label Drops First Official Compilation

Cover photo: Eating Music Bandcamp

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.

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