New Music, formerly Yin (音, “music”), is a monthly RADII column that looks at Chinese songs spanning hip hop to folk to modern experimental, and everything in between.
It’s the end of the year, and what a year it has been for Chinese music. We’ve had some fantastic releases this year across a spectrum of genres, and we are honestly a little sad to say goodbye to 2021. (For a full round-up of some of our favorite musical moments of the year, check this out.)
In December, we discovered a ton of new releases and found ourselves struggling to narrow down the selections for this article. From alternative pop to ultra-short experimental post-rock, there’s a little bit of everything in here.
As always, don’t forget to check out the latest episode of SoundCheck, where Wes Chen, host of hip hop podcast thePark, and Bryan Grogan talk about their favorite tracks of the month.
Made up of Dutch producer Jay Soul and Shanghai-based musician Yehaiyahan, AM444 have made some of the most memorable tracks to come out of Shanghai over the past 10 years.
The duo began making music together around a decade ago, and this new track, “Don’t Fool Me,” is ostensibly a nod to the 10-year anniversary. The song, which was created across borders, is a lovely bilingual track that hugs close to the group’s tendency for subtle, soulful trip hop music.
Known for their running musical releases, like Wandaerland, Hubei group Hualun’s music also lends itself well to movie scores, as heard in the indie epic An Elephant Standing Still from late director Hu Bo.
Their new album, WUHAN WUHAN is made for a documentary film of the same name by Zhang Qiaoyong, which focuses on the responses from ordinary people during the Covid-19 outbreak in the city.
The RADII team met with Kirin Trio in their hometown of Xiamen earlier this year and watched them mess around in their rehearsal space. The group spoke about their love of shoegaze and dreampop music and how they are keen to explore new genres.
On “The Bus Beneath Starry Night,” they’ve done just that, adopting a psychedelic approach, with what sounds like a djembe drum in the rhythm section, making for a relatively new sound for the band.
Inspired by a phrase coined by Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi, Guangdong experimental post-rock group Zhaoze return with a concept album of sorts. Known for their earlier one-track album, Birds Contending, they have something completely new up their sleeves this time.
Termed by the band as a mini-album, the 10 songs on Summer Insects Talk About Ice all clock in at around 32 seconds each. There is a bonus 11th track that rounds out the mini-album for a total length of five minutes and 25 seconds.
Initially a quiet drop, Nova Heart’s new track, “The Night Keeps Going,” came out on Chinese streaming site Netease two days before Christmas. It’s been a hell-of-a-long time since legendary indie musician Helen Feng has released anything under the Nova Heart name, and it does initially appear that the track will be part of a bigger release.
Following the single’s debut, the track was remixed by a trio of producers, including Shanghai-based DJ MIIIA. For now, the song is only available on Netease Music. You can find it here if you are in China.
Three years after their excellent first compilation release, S!LK return with their second, a 12-track affair with a bunch of returning artists, like label founder Puzzy Stack, Negative808, and NoMercy.
The record is something of a survey of China-based producers who create drill, dancehall, and bass music, with a smattering of British and Irish producers, including Real Tears and Clu, thrown into the mix.
GG Long Xia teams up with Chengdu singer-songwriter Tomoya for the second single release from his upcoming album, 54088, which is set to be released next month by Modern Sky.
The track shows GG Long Xia’s further evolution as a pop artist as he continues to experiment with the hyperpop genre of alternative, electronified pop music.
Part of Mexico City-based label Infinite Machine’s 10th anniversary, Laughing Ears again teams up with the electronic label after her 2021 album Blood.
The song’s title is somewhat mysterious, though 30°N cuts through China at multiple points. The track is tough and taut as everything from Laughing Ears, with roaring, horror-inspired sounds reverberating throughout.
Intrigued by the potential of a combination of cello and drum, audiovisual musician Sheng Jie (also known as gogoj) teamed up with friend and drummer Shen Jing for the album Parallel Weaving.
The pair collaborated completely online, with Sheng Jie sending Shen Jing improvised parts of her playing the electronic cello, which Shen Jing then improvised drums on top of. The end result is a heavy, chaotic cacophony of sound. Two of five tracks from the collaborative album are currently available on Bandcamp.
One of China’s favorite electronic producers and DJs, SHAO teams up with guitarist Wang Wenwei for eight experimental tracks recorded over two years, from 2019 to 2021.
Inspired by legendary director Akira Kurosawa’s late magical realist film Dreams, the album takes the concept of dreams and attempts to set them to music, resulting in a fabulous array of Zen tracks.
Cover image compiled by Sabina Islas
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