New Music, formerly Yin (音, “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 music from Hedgehog, Jiafeng, Cephalosis, and more!
If you have been living in China over the past month or so, you’ll know that life in the country is currently a wild combination of Covid-19 lockdowns or fear of impending lockdown.
In Shanghai, in particular, the citywide lockdown means that we’ve been unable to sample any live music whatsoever since (at least) the beginning of April. But hey, we stumble onwards.
To kick off May, we’ve got a motley crew of excellent new releases from old favorites and new flames.
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.
This well-known Xiamen-formed group returns in 2022, promising their first full-length release is on the horizon. The first song off that album is called ‘Spring Wish.’
It’s a typically stormy affair from the shoegaze-leaning band, as guitars and a tremendous sense of expanded space bloom alongside lyrics that sing of love and optimism for continual regrowth and rejuvenation.
These Beijing-based rockers return with their new EP just a year after their most recent album, Ants Corrupt Elephant, which came out in March last year.
The five-song effort revolves around love at night, with the band talking about how sensitive emotions can be in the evening time. This lovelorn idea is born out on ‘Face Mask Tragedy,’ which speaks to the distance between lovers caused by the need to wear face masks in this modern world.
Experimental pop producer Jiafeng’s new single ‘History of Flying’ is a gorgeous blend of strong underlying guitars and layered autotune vocals, creating a glossy, weightless song that gives the listener the feeling of levitating, or flying, if you will.
The track is quite a bit less shocking than ‘Ai Ni Ai Dao,’ as Jiafeng continues to explore his love for various forms of pop music. While that previous track exulted in surprising twists and turns, ‘History of Flying’ feels more cohesive.
Ruby Eyes Records’ Cephalosis have been making delicious coldwave music since being founded in Yunnan back in 2016. Yunnan, which is well known for its mild climate, may not seem to be the ideal place for coldwave to flourish, but Cephalosis have proven time and again that their brand of music is frostily addictive.
This World is Love of Sacrifice is, according to the EP’s liner notes, a lament for the dead. From the opening track, ‘Ashes,’ the gloomy quality of the vocals at play certainly sparks a somber feeling, while synthesizers throughout the EP create kaleidoscopic effects against the solemnity.
Xi’an musician West by West embraces bitterness, indifference and coldness of life on her latest album, Hot Water Music (or 苦水音乐 in Chinese). The 10-track album is her first since 2020’s self-titled debut LP and features the likes of Howie Lee, Late Troubles, and WiseFake.
The album is currently only available on Chinese streaming sites, and you can listen to it on Netease. If you’re not able to access Netease, you can get a taste of West by West’s music in this MV:
Bohan Phoenix’s first single from his upcoming debut album this summer is an ode to New York, a city the bilingual rapper calls “a second home.” The track starts with a rare singing turn from Phoenix, and delights in sunny horns throughout.
The track certainly feels celebratory, as Phoenix prepares to release his debut record with Warner Bros. and in the aftermath of playing a halftime show at New York’s own Barclays Center during a Brooklyn Nets game.
Hedgehog’s 10th studio album explores the explosion of information in these modern times through natural metaphors, specifically the use of crows to transport messages through the air.
The band is easily one of the most popular rock groups in China at the moment, and rightfully so, after honing their craft for almost two decades. While the group’s fan base was somewhat split after they appeared on mainstream TV, and that fan base is once again split with the release of this new record, it seems clear that Hedgehog continue to move to their own beat.
The latest collaboration between this pair of burgeoning pop superstars again comes from their forthcoming collaborative album 永无止境的告别 (Never-ending Farewell).
The pair has gained quite a bit of popularity over the past few years, with Chace appearing on The Big Band with his three-piece band Mandarin and teaming up with hip hop superstar Vava. On the other hand, Jing made an appearance on Sisters Who Make Waves, and her emphasis on cyborg aesthetics has captured the imagination of music fans around the country.
Quite possibly the most famous rapper in China right now, Masiwei continues to stay busy, releasing a steady stream of music. He also appears to be maintaining the musical link with his fellow Higher Brothers, despite them not releasing any music under the moniker since 2020.
Features on the album include all three of the other Higher Brothers on ‘Brothers,’ Gali on ‘Atlantis,’ Tia Ray on ‘Like Me,’ and more. Humble Swag continues Masiwei’s trend of balancing bad boy image with heartthrob, and with some pretty nice production in places, it’s certainly worth a listen.
‘Blackouts’ is the group’s first bit of new music since their 2018 EP Departure, and it’s a welcome addition to our earholes.
The group, from China’s Anhui province, are experts at building and elongating emotionally driven instrumental sections, and ‘Blackouts’ is no exception, with the excellent atmospheric track plumbing the depths of buried emotions.
Cover image designed by Haedi Yue
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