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china.wav, formerly Yin (音, “music”), is a monthly RADII column that looks at Chinese songs spanning hip hop to folk to modern experimental, and everything in between.
Here’s a rundown of the songs that have soundtracked the month of October in the RADII offices, featuring sea-adjacent indie rock, a Mandopop star collab with a virtual K-pop group, and a dolphin and The Beatles inspired track from our favorite Yunnan trio.
Kirin Trio — who hail from the islands of Xiamen (formerly known as Amoy) in southeast China — have dropped their first full-length Dreams Come True, an ode to their hometown and to island life in general. One of the more prominent in a group of lo-fi, indie rock groups residing in and around the Fujian city, Kirin Trio have continuously captured the vibe of Xiamen’s hazy, summery music scene excellently.
Among the highlights on the record, “Orange” sounds like it’s sung from a stage, while “Sunset at Sunset” uses a warm, iridescent guitar line to support vocals full of longing.
Trippy Yunnanese trio South Acid Mimi team with Beijing-based saxophonist Wang Ziheng for this haunting track. With a name referencing The Beatles classic “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” the song is appropriately off-kilter, though it’s no cover.
Lyrics include “Close your eyes, Lucy in the sky with dolphin,” so not a huge amount to grab onto there. The spaced out nature of the vocals, harpsichord-like keyboard line, and an outro consisting of freeform sax make for a song that is on the one hand extremely catchy, on the other hand an intoxicating sonic experiment.
A year after their debut album release Hoon, Beijing-based psychedelic group Run Run Run return with the first two singles from their forthcoming self-titled record. On the first track, “Dictated H,” the group adopt a rambling punk sound, with frontman Xiao Dou’s vocals switching between straight-up cutting spoken word and reverberating psychedelia. The music video for the track sees him reading from a book about 美发帅 (beautiful hairdressing).
The second track, “Run,” which is available on label Maybe Mars’ Bandcamp page, is more in keeping with the group’s previous output, featuring their penchant for mesmeric, slow-building guitar-driven sounds.
Amazingly this is Hyph11E’s first full-length album since 2017’s Vanishing Cinema. In the meantime, the producer has been making waves working with the likes of Ugandan artist Slikback, as well as performing on stages at CTM in Berlin and Sonar Hong Kong. In doing so, she’s firmly established herself as one of the leading lights in Chinese electronic music.
Aperture is a layered, insidious exploration of dark spaces and of the nexus’ between sonic zones. The 10-track record gathers pace at moments, while at others it dwells in chaos.
Ever since finding out that Changsha-born artist Zuho had signed on to make a record with Eating Music, following the eclectic Shanghai collective’s music camp in 2019, we’ve been waiting anxiously for the release of his first full-length record.
Now living in Shanghai, Zuho (aka Kian) is one of the more interesting young producers making instrumental electronic music at the moment. His fondness for the saxophone, as well as his interest in found sound sampling, make for an album full of hidden (hiding) gems.
Emoviolence or screamo band Bennu is a Heron is another group from Guangdong on our list this month. First track “Intro” is a tantalizing teaser for what is to come on Hate/Love, a blistering race through nine dissonant emo cuts.
Bennu is a Heron may sounds familiar for fans of essential Guangzhou indie label, Qiii Snacks Records. That’s because the singer of the label’s other screamo band Die!ChiwawaDie!, Jinbo, is on vocal duty here too. A highlight of ours from Hate/Love is “A Good Ending,” where we hear Jinbo go from near balladeering at the start to throat-tearing roars by the end.
Lexie Liu has joined forces with League of Legend‘s virtual K-pop group K/DA for their new single “More.” Liu joins the line-up of computer game characters as the voice of Seraphine, teaming up with American singers Madison Beer and Jaira Burns and (G)I-dle performers Miyeon and Soyeon in lending their vocal talent to the slinky pop track.
The group’s new EP All Out is the long-awaited follow up to “Pop/Stars,” their debut song from the 2018 LoL Worlds — essentially an advertisement for the game’s K-pop skins. For Liu, who posted on Instagram that it was “such an honor to be a part of this,” it’s another slick production following the release of her new video “Jia Ren 佳人” last month.
Beijing label Merrie Records (formerly D-Force Records) return with the third in their four part compilation series. This five-track release sees contributions from Beijing improvisational group Juju Band, who play with irregular, hard to define rhythms. Also on-board is Yunnanese artist FEI, whose track “Plastic Lover” is a standout thanks to some sensuous vocals that combine gorgeously with a glitched out melody.
Also of note is a collaboration from Chinese post-punk heroes Chen Xi (of Snapline) and Xu Bo (of PK14), who appear as LOBI, an act they formed back in 2015. The pair play with splashy synths and atmospherics, in amongst more traditional acoustic guitars. Wang Wenying and Wu Zhuoling close out the release with a pair of mellifluous tracks.
We’ve heard from Kala before. Part of husband-and-wife duo Kala and Weird Dane, she provided vocals to the pair’s “Tunnel Song” at the end of 2019. Here we have her debut solo record, which features a strong emo rap flavor and introverted lyrics.
The album was written earlier this year during the highpoint of the Covid-19 outbreak in China, when many were stuck indoors. “At night time you can’t stop thinking about reality and the things you can’t escape from,” says Kala of the feelings that drove the record. “You think about your hopes, your fears, how you’re going to do better when you wake up the next day.”
What a fantastic name. The Ruby Eyes Records affiliates from Changsha in Hunan province drop the first track from their eponymous upcoming debut album (if you have a name this good, why not use it twice).
The song is an excellent combination of restrained vocals and guitar lines, a thrilling story resembling the plot of a movie, and moments of sheer exultation.
Recorded across Chinese cities, Shanghai Qiutian’s new record Home: Revolution involves input from the folks with Taiwanese math rockers Elephant Gym and Mino Takaaki from Japanese math rock outfit toe.
The first single from the record, “Barcelona at 5am,” is a hypnotic blend of strings and drums, with the hint of what sounds like scattered wood blocks in the background. The full album will drop in January, so keep your eyes peeled.
Formerly based in Beijing, now based in California, husband and wife duo Alpine Decline have finally returned with a new song. Part of their upcoming album, For the Betterment of Well People — which features involvement from long-time collaborator Yang Haisong of PK14 — the track is an exultant ode to escapism, to journeying, and starts with the distorted sound of an airplane taking off.
In accompaniment to the release of the song’s music video on WeChat, the duo wrote:
If we tell you to quit your job, sell your shit and disappear it’s because we did this and it set us free. If we tell you to climb over a mountain and wander into the wilderness it’s because we did this and it set us free. If we tell you to go to the desert and blindfold yourself and take two rocket boosters of LSD it’s because we did this and it set us free.
Dalian post-rock legends Wang Wen are back. Recorded before Covid-19 hit, this new album is a mass of many different textures. There’s some woodwind, tinkling keys in there, electrified notes and a constant sense of intrigue, best exhibited in a car chase in “The Ghost.”
It follows then that the album should be named 100,000 Whys. Inspired by a Rudyard Kipling poem, the liner notes proselytize the need to stay curious, to ask questions and to voyage. Argentinean visual artist Manolo Gamboa Naon also provides a stunning, colorful album cover depicting tree-covered hills, reminiscent of the karst peaks in southern China.
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