New Music is a monthly RADII column that looks at fresh Chinese music spanning hip hop to folk to modern experimental, and everything in between. This month, we introduce you to new offerings from Berlin Psycho Nurses, Kirin Trio, and more!
The holiday season is always an exciting and festive time of the year. However, it can also be stressful. As we head into Christmas, this is especially true for China’s music scene, with continued uncertainty surrounding Covid-19 resulting in canceled gigs and delayed releases all over the country.
Even so, seemingly against all odds, Chinese artists released some new tunes in November, and we’ve rounded up some of our favorites to help lift your spirits!
Dalian post-rock heavyweights Wang Wen return with their latest opus — the 12th in their two-decade-plus career. As one might expect, it’s full of the band’s spellbinding and beautifully rendered compositions — soulful, beguiling, and dense in its atmospheric, otherworldly pull.
Whether it’s the horn-heavy playfulness of ‘Black Pill & White Pill’ (which could double as the theme for a ’70s police procedural) or the woozy organ that floats above the swelling, tear-jerking finale ‘Wild Fire,’ each track is assembled with the utmost care.
The album also prominently features Xie Yugang’s vocals, whose gruff and tender yet world-weary tone injects the group’s lush soundscapes with a soaring emotional core. Out in China already, the album will be released internationally with Pelagic Records next week.
It’s been a long wait, but White+, which consists of Carsick Cars frontman Zhang Shouwang and The Gar’s Wang Xu, has finally returned with a double release. Expect fusion indie electronica centered around looping rhythms, woozy guitar, distorted vocals, swirling feedback, and kicking drums.
The band has always been a pleasure to soak in, and their latest is no different. While the first track finds that glossy intersection between dance music and high-minded electronica, the second track feels more like a ’90s club night throwback, which hints at the duo’s more club-minded aspirations over the last few years.
Whatever the case, this is vintage White+, featuring Shouwang’s voice floating in and out like a poltergeist on ecstasy and Wang Xu steering the aural deliberations forward with fervor. Welcome back.
Putting out psych-pop made with meticulous care and woozy charm, Trap The Moon dazzles on their refined and confident self-titled debut.
Breaking free of the swarm of shallow, lackluster, retro-fitted indie pop groups of the past couple of years, the band, led by singer Ye Fan, captures a temperament that’s cozy and inviting, yet always on the edge of consciousness.
The whole album is filled with jazzy detours, wobbly discourse, and expertly-placed elements that give one the feeling of slipping into a warm-hued daydream, which perfectly fits its bedroom recording setting. All in all, a technical and melodic delight.
With the feverish addition of things like a saxophone (courtesy of Li Zenghui) as well as keyboard, flutes, and violin (producer Shen Zhi works magic here), the band members are embracing the madness at the center of their lyrics and sound while exploring the spiritual plight of society and its lost souls with almost nihilistic pleasure.
A much-welcomed addition to the band’s growing catalog that proves they have more than a few tricks up their sleeves.
Young independent singer-songwriter Chainhaha seduces, haunts, and bewilders on her assured new EP Who’s In My Belly?
Tapping into a Bjork-esque world of off-kilter pop music, the singer waltzes between neo-folk, synth-pop, and trip-hop with ease, injecting her world with an assembly line of colorful elements to keep your ears in a state of bliss.
But the critical component is the artist’s graceful and otherworldly intonation — the perfect guide to the EP’s fantastical vibes.
A “newly born circle of covert recluses” hailing from Bortala, Xinjiang, MIIIST’s members prove themselves to be a fine addition to China’s ever-growing and renowned black metal scene on their newest release Let It Ever Be Remembered…, a collaboration with Pest Productions.
Injecting their soaring black metal with a riff-mad old-school heavy metal vibe (shades of Black Sabbath) and a touch of doom, the band plunges into their blackened souls with a cauldron of agonized shrieks, cascading chords, and pummeling drums.
Even as they swim straight into a “sea of falsified symbols,” you can’t help but be awe-struck by the instrumental prowess on hand.
In collaboration with SJ Records, Xiamen indie outfit Kirin Trio returns with their latest EP, Journey of Wind.
Headed by vocalist Zhuang Ying and guitarist Chen Zhenchao, the band pays tribute to the chart-topping tunes and hip hop music they listened to as teenagers, except they’re refining and twisting their pop sensibilities into something that might have played on the radio back in the days.
While their reverb-spilling guitar sound and melancholic touch are still present, the band feels and sounds larger than ever.
One year after their debut, Beijing’s three-piece Kenja Time return with their latest collection of angular post-punk with An Invalid Witness. Looser, swifter, and more unhinged than its predecessor, it can feel both too long and too short at times: Many of its 13 tracks feel like incomplete sketches, burning out before the three-minute mark.
Nevertheless, there is something inspiring in its obtuse structure and wild-eyed jabs of poetic lyricism. Its ramshackle nature hides some truly gnarly instrumentation and keeps listeners on their toes.
It may not set the world on fire, but it certainly makes us excited for whatever Kenja Time cooks up next.
Full of the Beijing A/V duo’s signature atmospheric and pulse-pounding tribal cues and topped off with their esoteric flourish of the strange and beautiful, this might be Zaliva-D’s tightest and most accessible album yet.
Produced by Shanghai-based label SVBKVLT, Misbegotten Ballads is built on the bedrock of left-field industrial electro, and is filled with battle beats, skittish bell chimes, Chinese rhythms, and otherworldly vocals twisted into the ether.
Each track is a divine and surreal pagan trip, giving listeners a sonic glimpse into the mouth of madness.
Hedgehog’s Shi Lu (aka Atom) does double duty for her lead single ‘Killing,’ a brooding and fierce trip-hop-laced track that showcases not only the artist’s voice but also her renowned skills behind the drum kit.
Hailed by many as ‘China’s No. 1 Female Drummer,’ Shi previously worked with bands like Big Wave, Nova Heart, and, of course, indie stalwarts Hedgehog.
Clearly, the multi-talented musician is looking to break free on her own, or as she puts it, “live well… and step over the shit.”
Southern-fried sludge metal out of Guangzhou, Rude Gove doesn’t beat around the bush on their impressive debut, Chirp of Doom, out with Dying Art Productions.
It might be easy to call the band a throwback to a time when psychedelic riffs made bedmates with metal’s more theatrical cousin, but that’d be denying the muscular, musical chops of these cats.
Paired with some bone-scattering fuzz, incapacitating double basslines, and vocals that swing between tight-jeaned falsetto and doomsday guttural screams, they’re a band that demands your attention.
Cover image designed by Haedi Yue
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