Yin: Chinese Vaporwave Sampler

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11:22 PM HKT, Thu October 19, 2017 2 mins read

Yin (, “music”) is a weekly Radii feature that looks at Chinese songs spanning classical to folk to modern experimental, and everything in between. Drop us a line if you have a suggestion.

Yesterday we covered Vaporwave‘s quick uptake in China, and how its fluid, geographically and temporally ambiguous aesthetic has been transmogrified into, among other things, smartphone cases:

As Adan noted in that article:

The music is largely defined by its own fleeting nature, building homes in esoteric corners of Soundcloud and Bandcamp, shrouded in Japanese characters and A E S T H E T I C S. It’s been described as the first style of music free of a geographic origin, having been birthed directly out of the anonymous, flickering womb of the internet.

While Vaporwave’s sound and vibe do strive to be placeless, it was in fact pioneered in the West. One strangely common feature of Vaporwave’s visual expression is the presence of Chinese and Japanese characters, a quality I’ve always found kind of old-school orientalist. A quick Google for “Chinese vaporwave” will land you on the Bandcamp for Chinese Hackers, a project apparently based in New York that uses Japanese Kanji in its album/track titles. I’m inclined to agree with this guy:

Which begs the question: is there actual Chinese vaporwave? Are musicians here actively involved in a genre that cops so much from Chinese visual culture?

The answer is: not really. The artist I associate most with weird internet music in China is Bloodz Boi, a rapper/producer from Beijing who’s curated bedroom trap and net-damaged electronic music for years via his Digital Freedom and Fresh Meat event series, among other projects.

Bloodz Boi has certainly dabbled in the Vaporwave aesthetic, at least for some of his album art:

But his work sits much more comfortably in the Cloud Rap category, an internet microgenre for another day. I asked Bloodz, who’s about as fluent in weird digital cultural trends as anyone in Beijing, about Chinese vaporwave, and he said:

I also asked Howie Lee, whose Do Hits label skates around the visual aesthetic of Vaporwave at times, and whose recent videos definitely touch on similar territory:

“I think everything’s vaporwave nowadays, I’m not really into this word,” Howie told me, reasonably enough.

If you dig a little deeper though, it’s there. Hangzhou-based producer Eton Woo, who plays in the shoegaze band Self Party, makes some very vapor sounds via his solo project, miniton. Here he is slowing down a vintage hit from Hong Kong actor and singer Aaron Kwok (a ripe subject for Vaporwave appropriation as he never seems to age):

A little more digging got me to meiyu (美玉; “beautiful jade”), a solo artist based in the glittering high-rise jungle that is Shenzhen, admittedly a city more cyberpunk/Sinofuturist than Vaporwave.

Like Eton Woo, meiyu’s primary musical outlet is a shoegaze band, the excellent Gatsby in a Daze. He’s made a quiet solo practice on the side, though has virtually no online footprint outside of a few tracks on Chinese streaming site Xiami. I had to get in touch with him and personally upload the file for this (thoroughly vapor) music video, so it can be considered a premiere of sorts:

Lovely. To play us out, here’s a DJ set meiyu did for London-based net radio station NTS last year, which gives more insight into his headspace and incorporates more of his own tunes (otherwise they’re only to be found on the Chinese internet… which somehow precisely fits the whole Vaporwave thing in my opinion):

How’d we do? Got some deep-net Chinese Vaporwave that we missed? Do you take issue with us playing the “cultural appropriation” card on non-Chinese Chinese Vaporwave? Hit us up in the comments.

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