A recent i-D magazine documentary, china’s youth breaking through the great firewall, has brought some well-deserved attention to China’s underground electronic music scene. The 15-minute video, part of i-D’s Global Street Style series, is mostly set in Shanghai, which is indeed where the majority of the most interesting and forward-thinking electronic music is being made and played in China right now.
If you want to dig around some more in this scene, here is a (by no means exhaustive) rundown of six of the best young electronic music producers and DJs based in China today. Most of them are in Shanghai — there are also many producers and DJs scattered across other parts China that we hope to shed some light on in the future, but in the mean time, here’s a starter kit:
Swimful makes deliciously ethereal grime, that initially aggressive genre of music that was born in London in the early-2000s but has now gone global. Often using squeaky, pitched-up vocals and bubble-gum pop sounds, Swimful is one of a number of grime producers extending the parameters of the sound, but also drawing on the uniquely Chinese musical influences around him.
Hyph11E is based in Shanghai, and like Swimful saw increased attention after a release on Shanghai label SVBKVLT. Her productions, however, are very different — brasher and weightier. Contorted vocal samples and heavy drums mean her sound is focused on darkroom club experiences, and her general sound also draws inspiration from fellow Shanghai-based producer and DJ Tzusing.
SCINTII’s productions fall somewhere quite nicely between the reverie of Swimful and the violent intensity of Hyph11E. Also based in Shanghai, SCINTII often makes use of her own vocals, which are layered over complex drum patterns producing an experimental sound that seems to draw as much on older stalwarts like Portishead as it does new forerunners like Klein.
Osheyack is another artist who saw increased attention after a release on SVBKVLT. His productions are industrial sounding, full of broken glass, crashing hunks of metal and rolling 4×4 drums. His live sets are no less fierce.
Dirty K is a Nanjing-based producer, and one of the most interesting and able of producers engaging in contemporary club music experimentation in China right now. His standout release came on another Shanghai label, Genome 6.66Mbp, who have also been instrumental in the increased attention to what is going on in club music in Shanghai and China.
A big release for Zean in 2017 was on yet another Shanghai label, Push & Pull, which also has a presence and a co-founder in Tokyo. Zean’s beats draw more strongly on UK-inflected sounds than most of the other producers here.
Puzzy Stack is one of the most well-known young DJs in China, and definitely a fixture in Beijing, where he can be found playing most weeks in the city’s main nightclub, Dada. His sets jump across the spectrum while leaning heavily on more melodic club tracks. He also runs the clubnight series S!LK with fellow Beijinger Yesen.
Luxixi is another DJ keeping the Beijing scene alive, not just with her approach to her DJ sets — in which she invariably plays only the newest sounds from around the world — but also with her exciting clubnight series THUVDR, which has brought over artists like Sinjin Hawke, Zora Jones, and Air Max ’97.
Kilo is one of the team in charge of Shanghai’s Genome record label and party series. In addition to his role at the label, he’s also a great young DJ with a focus on blending experimental club sounds with grime.
At 16 years old, Gouachi is the youngest person on this list. Underage DJs aren’t that unusual in China, where there aren’t really any ID requirements for clubs (others on this list, like Puzzy Stack, got their start DJing in clubs around the same age). In a recent interview with Sixth Tone, Gouachi talks about jumping over the wall surrounding her house to sneak out to a nightclub for the first time, and then mentions taking a slightly different trajectory after convincing her parents to sign her up for a DJ course. Now her globally informed electronic sets can be seen at Shanghai clubs ALL and Elevator pretty regularly.
Illsee is another young DJ based in Shanghai who seems to have grown up with and inside the now shuttered club The Shelter, which last summer morphed into a new club called ALL and has taken most of its crew with it. Illsee actually works at ALL now, and her heavy electro-industrial sets can be caught there regularly.
Naaah is one of half of Push & Pull, the label behind Zean’s latest release (see above). The Englishman not surprisingly plays no-nonsense, UK-heavy sets, full of UK Funky, Garage, Grime, and onwards.
Cover image: Kilo Vee (via 247tickets)
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