New Chinese Music: Summer Jams from Chestnut Bakery, Cola Ren, and More

June brings everything from bittersweet indie pop rave ups to queer dancefloor burners

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5:40 PM HKT, Mon June 24, 2024 4 mins read

This month brings an exciting spread of new music from everyone from established cult favorites like Chestnut Bakery and Liu Ge, to newcomers like Fujian indie pop whiz kids Puppy’s Bone and Guangzhou-based producer Cola Ren, who burst onto the scene last year. As the music scene readies itself for a wave of venue closures, it’s inspiring, as always, to see musicians getting their work out there for posterity in official releases — Editor.

Chestnut Bakery – Sun Melting, Rain Drizzling

While Chestnut Bakery are far from prolific, the Shenzhen-based band has garnered cult-like status in the shoegaze and dream pop scene in China, amassing legions of fans both at home and abroad from their light-footed, emotionally-ripe Galaxie 500-evoking sound. Nearly ten years after their debut, the band returns with a new EP — Sun Melting, Rain Drizzling — which finds singer Rye and company tapping into their well of nostalgia-driven melodies. Dialing back the reverb, their latest seems more inspired by the neo folk resurgence here in China, restrained yet crafted with grace and lush production that swells with emotion, slowly pulling you under its spell.

Cola Ren – Forest Drone

Guangzhou-based producer Cola Ren returns with her latest batch of humid grooves and lushly assembled melodies on Forest Drone, released with Munich-based electronic label Qeone. Like the artist’s debut EP Hailu from last year, there’s a fluidity to the rhythms in play here — a mix of downtempo, ambient, breakbeat, and techno — allowing textures to weave in and out of their sonic world at ease. The results are refined, delectable, and inviting. And in case you missed out on Hailu, you can now jump headfirst in Hailu Remixes, a compilation of remixes from a cast of top-notch musicians including Xiamen/Shanghai’s Knopha, Seoul duo Salamanda, and UK producers K-LONE and Al Wootton.

Zhang Xingchan 张醒婵 – No, no!

Essentially a calling card for the magnitude of paths singer Zhang Xingchan will have laid in front of her soon enough, No, no! is an audacious and beguiling debut. The multi-talented Wuhan-based musician, whose previous credits included singing for alt-pop outfit trigger, has drawn comparisons to a wide range of avant-pop touchstones, from Japanese icon Ringo Sheena, to Mando pop singer Wu Qingfeng, chamber pop trailblazer Sufjan Stevens, and indie pop genre-smashers Iruka Porisu. Xingchan is a singular talent with a deft command of melody, a rich lyrical touch, and a jukebox-like musical sensibility that seamlessly weaves between noise, jazz, electronica, alt rock, and pop with the pep of a kid in a record shop. The album’s fragmented nature might turn some off, but for those willing to take the leap, it’s heaps of fun.

Alone Together – Today I'm getting a bob

Emerging Shanghai noise pop band Alone Together burst onto the scene with their big-hearted, swoon-worthy debut EP, Today I'm getting a bob, released with freshly-minted Shanghai label Tears Collection. Yuck-invoking, Sarah Records-aspiring indie pop that hits that jangly 90s alt rock sweet spot with a bullseye, there’s nothing particularly original about Alone Together, but boy does it sound good to the ears, crafted with a keen awareness of what makes the genre so endearing. The perfect summer break-up album.

Liu Ge 刘舸 – My Loneliness is Like a Snake 我的寂寞像一条蛇

Liu Ge — the wiry frontman of cult favorites The Molds — brings his bedroom pop sensibilities to the forefront on his solo debut My Loneliness is Like a Snake 我的寂寞像一条蛇, released with SpaceFruity Records. With a retro touch that would feel right at home in a low-budget Wes Anderson film, or better yet, in a smoke-filled KTV room, and a lo-fi veneer that’s snug and light, yet never trite, it’s amazing what Liu Ge can pull off with the bare minimum: a keyboard, drum machine, guitar, and of course, his signature rustic voice.

Seippelabel Vol. 11 – China Ambient Compilation

Seippelabel continues its comeback tour with their first compilation in six years: China Ambient Compilation. An extensive, eclectic, and exhaustive collection of ambient artists in China, it features a staggering 23 acts working within the genre, from household names (if your household is into Chinese electronica and post rock) like Night Swimmer and Xie Yugang (of Wang Wen fame) to more obscure (yet equally immersive) artists like Kagami Smile and fenni. It’s the perfect introduction not only to the growing pool of talent here in China but also to the genre itself, showcasing how versatile ambient music is by touching on its various styles and offshoots including drone, experimental, modern classical, field recordings, and post rock.

Puppy’s Bone 小狗的骨头 – Best Friend Forever

It’s time to find that perfect summer jam, and sticking nicely up top at this very moment is this earworm of a track: “Best Friend Forever” from up-and-coming Fujian indie pop band Puppy’s Bone. The track, released with indie pop imprint SJ Records, gets an appropriately endearing and DIY music video, showcasing the band goofing off in their local park. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve replayed this song in the past two weeks.

Enema Stone – Ride It

Paying tribute to all the divas that came before them, Enema Stone, the ever-provocative Queen of Medusa Records — the queer-focused electronic label based out of Shanghai — returns with her latest neon-soaked, glitter-bombed dance-pop electroclash single “Ride It.” As the name implies, it’s a raw, steamy unbridled window into the deviant pleasures of its star — and with the help of producer Michael Cignarale, it’s another surefire summer jam.

OctopusVillain 八爪恶霸 – 八爪恶霸的意外接触

Electronic singer-songwriter duo Octopus Villain, consisting of Beijing’s Galatea and Jiabao, take pleasure in the wrapped musical landscape that lies before them, with only their idiosyncrasies to guide them. A fuzzy concoction of electro pop, R&B, idol music, and electronica, their latest EP, Octopus Villain’s Unintended Meeting 八爪恶霸的意外接触, released with Merrie Records, is made with DIY aplomb yet infused with intrepid pop gusto, keeping listeners on their toes while bewitching them each step of the way.

CNdY x Xi Hong 西红 – Fist of Thorns 荆棘拳

Long-standing electronic group CNdY, not afraid to bend their sound to new trends or delights, teams up with rising Beijing rapper Xi Hong for Fist of Thorns, released with Seafood Market Records. Chaotic and abstract, the alchemy between the two distinct acts — CNdY and their techno-rooted and richly-designed electronica, plus Xi Hong’s more stream-of-conscious and irreverent yet pointed poise — unfolds like an underground jam session that spills over into a lucid dream. The EP features a slew of top-notch guests including Taiwanese singer PiNkChAiN, Popogo, and Baohan.

Banner image by Haedi Yue.

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