New Music: Howie Lee, CHILLGOGOG, Field Cooperative, and More

Welcome cool weather with psychedelic epics, synth pop, and … desolate black metal

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5:23 PM HKT, Tue October 31, 2023 3 mins read

New Music is a monthly RADII column that looks at new Chinese music, spanning hip hop to folk to modern experimental, and everything in between.

Foreign touring artists are coming back into China at full steam, but that doesn’t mean local acts are slacking off. This month’s picks come from veterans and newcomers, based not just in Beijing and Shanghai but also Nanjing, Wuhan, and beyond. From Howie Lee and Liú Pī’s jazz-inflected electronic improv, to Default’s nostalgic, folky rock, and The Illusion of Dawn’s howling black metal, these new releases are perfectly suited — each in their own way — for dropping temperatures.

The Fallacy 疯医 – The Fallacy 疯医

Two years back, Xinxiang post punk band The Fallacy invited experimental saxophonist Li Zenghui into the fray, pulling back on the refined synthesizer veneer and English vocals of their earlier work. And while their first album together, See You On The Other Side Of Darkness, saw the band just beginning to shed their skin, their latest, aptly titled The Fallacy, finds them making good on that promise. Li Zenghui’s presence isn’t just decorative here — acting more as an apparition, an abstract accomplice to the album’s moodier theatrics. Starker in its edges and unrestrained in its temperament, this is The Fallacy’s finest work to date.

Howie Lee 李化迪 + Liú Pī 刘㔻 – Walking on Thin Ice 如履薄冰

Electronic music guru Howie Lee teams up with jazz percussionist virtuoso Liú Pī (known for his work in avant jazz outfit Dreaming Julie, among others) for the spellbinding EP Walking on Thin Ice. A fragmented, improvisational piece of electronic jazz that’s alluring in its frigid ghostly framework, the duo liken their “instinctive collision” to that of a bonsai tree forming or the audio equivalent of calligraphy — spacious, splintering and elemental, moving outwards in ways most unorthodox yet graceful.

CHILLGOGOG – That White Building

CHILLGOGOG — the Shanghai-based duo of life partners LATENINE6 and FunkeeCookee (who run the labels Delivery Music and Eating Music, respectively) — allow their dreams and ambitions to unspool on their buoyant and transporting debut, That White Building. Embodying a DIY attitude in both its production and aesthetics, the EP’s five tracks billow between bubbly dance floor rhythms, supple synth pop, and slick future pop. Throughout, there’s a feeling of welcoming exuberance, with the duo inviting friends, producers, and singers to join in along the way. It’s a party you don’t want to end.

Default 缺省 – Home Stories 家的故事

Beijing’s Default continues to reinvent themselves — shedding their reverb-soaked shoegaze roots and aiming for something more tender, earthy, and harmony-based. Their new single ‘Home Stories’ off their just-released LP 共同的土地 captures childhood nostalgia and memories with warmth and delicacy, unfolding like a hazy daydream that’s been lodged deep within your heart. Better yet, the hazy, sun-kissed music video is a wonder.

The Illusion of Dawn 黎明的幻象 – In Extremis

Wuhan-based black metal outfit The Illusion of Dawn — a pioneer of the genre in China, with twenty years under their belt — return with their first album in eleven years, In Extremis. Leaning into the genre’s more depressive and harrowing tendencies, the band knows how to throw listeners into their oppressive worldview, capturing a sound that’s haunting and soaring in equal measures, with a singer quite literally grasping at life. Emotionally eviscerating in the best possible way, The Illusion of Dawn hits new heights before plunging straight off them.

Field Cooperative 野外合作社 – Homeless

Nanjing indie rock outfit Field Cooperative have racked up one award after another over the past few years (including the Abi Deer Music Award Rock and Roll award) for their sprawling, rustic blues-ridden, psychedelic-fueled poetic realism. For their latest EP Homeless (their first release since their definitive album Typhoon 台风 dropped five years ago), the band took inspiration from the chants of Central Asian Hazaragi singers in a Youtube video and ran with it, leaning into their instrumental rock chops to orchestrate a epic, cosmic opus that takes from elements of world music, electronica, and prog. Evoking everything from Yes, Jeff Beck, and (of course) Pink Floyd, to even Ennio Morricone scores and Wim Wenders soundtracks, it’s grandiose stuff.

ReJianBeiShaShou 热键被杀手 – Hong Lan Jian Ge 红蓝简歌

Noise rock daydreamers ReJianBeiShaShou are in fine form on their new EP 红蓝简歌, deepening their evocative lyricism whilst expanding their musical palette in new and enticing ways. While last year’s full-length LP You Leave Me Alone had ample amounts of angst and sensitivity, aesthetically it never quite hit the highs of their earlier work. Perhaps the band was adhering too much to what had come before them, as well as trying to fit into the image of their label at the time. But here their sincerity, simmering rage, and existential anxiety ring loud and true, with the EP unfolding like a short story with each chapter told in a different pose. Welcome back.

A Fishy Tale 有话 – As The Words Drop 话音刚落

Much in the vein of Zhejiang psych explorers Railway Suicide Train and YePeng, Guangzhou’s A Fishy Tale don’t so much shed their indie shoegaze roots as subvert them, dragging them into a neo-psychedelic world — one that spans aspects of alt rock, folk, krautrock, world music, and more. While bookended by tracks of supple tranquility, the meat of the band’s debut EP, As The Words Drop (produced by and featuring the instrumental talents of Shen Zhi, a member of the two aforementioned bands), crackles with a malignant energy, one that takes hold of your psyche. As the band states, “every raindrop has a thunderous sound” — prepare to get soaked.

刘一纬 Liu Yi-wei – 暮​光​夜​寻 Twilight Diaries

Beijing-based producer and electronic musician (known to most under his techno moniker Far Infinity) expands upon his contemporary classical soundtrack work in Twilight Dairies. Originally conceptualized with various modern dance tropes over the past seven years, for this album Liu Yi-wei has created several densely rich vignettes — ambient soundscapes laced with classical music that form “cinematic flashbacks” — strong in their visceral pull yet distant all the same.

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