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Yin: Wheel-of-Life Rhythms from Taiwan’s Sabiwa

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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.

Launched less than a year and a half ago, London-based label CHINABOT has swiftly made itself an indispensable arbiter of fresh, fascinating, and challenging sounds from across Asia. Little of the label’s output to date has actually come from China — as I understand it, the name “CHINABOT” is a reference to the tendency of Westerners to flatten out Asia’s sweeping cultural diversity into one ethnic/national category. But the label’s inaugural compilation, Phantom Force, featured a few RADII favorites (e.g. Taipei’s Sonia Calico), and Chinabot’s latest is a full-length for Taiwanese musician and performance artist Sabiwa:

 

The album caps off an incredibly strong year for CHINABOT — highly recommend Singaporean producer Fauxe’s I K H L A S and Thai artist Pisitakun’s SOSLEEP for further listening — and it sees the label continue its promotion of artists who use the tools and timbres of drone, electronic, and industrial music to ponder the big questions. SOSLEEP, released in August, was made as the artist’s response to his father’s death, mixing Thai funeral instruments in with industrial and electronic textures. And on 輪 迴 (lunhui; “reincarnation”), Sabiwa considers the other side of this cosmic coin, likewise mixing temple chants in with aggressively digital noise and a liberal dose of ASMR-triggering water/breath sounds (been hearing a lot of that this year).

In the liner notes we get a bit of exposition from the artist, who explains:

Those are the words of the singing I recorded in Taiwan and I use in the tape, it’s a funeral ceremony. It’s basically about the circle of life. With this album I left my previous form to transform in to something new. It’s like jumping into the void and not knowing what will be next.

Stream/buy the album here, and spend more time with CHINABOT’s back catalog here.

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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.