Here are three new homegrown albums from musicians around China on our radar this month.
1. The Sound of Walking: Hexi Corridor by Namu Label
Having been recognized by the Chinese Golden Melody Awards as one of 100 recommended albums to listen to from 2019, this record is based around the sounds you might encounter in the Hexi Corridor, an important historical route in Gansu province. The Sound of Walking shines a light on the musical stylings of minority cultures living in the area, taking stock of their fascinating intangible cultural qualities. The album opens with the aptly named ‘Intro’ from Beijing-based American producer and multi-instrumentalist thruoutin. Playing and interspersing the sounds of birds, wind, percussion and a peculiarly tough, thick stringed instrument with magic editing skills, the track does exactly what it says on the tin, preparing us for what is coming next. The album is immediately very diverse, with six different musicians entering the foray throughout its 10-track run. The guttural and sparse Chinese singing style on Wang Yue’s ‘Xian Xiao·Kaipian Ci' contrasts greatly with the more atmospheric, vast spatial characteristics of Bai Jin Hua. The latter’s contribution is markedly impressive, as the vocals of a 65-year-old woman from the Yugu minority placed within gorgeously edited ambience create very forgiving, clean tracks.
To listen, click here.
2. Ruyi Lane by White Elephant
Nanjing band White Elephant bring their debut album on Beijing-based indie label Maybe Mars. The record is named after the red light district in the capital city of Jiangsu province and offers interesting and emotional insights. While the band began life with a more raucous sound, on Ruyi Lane they open proceedings with a slow, taught piano that plays over the sound of conversation and life. Spoken-word vocals and a spine-tingling high-pitched, high-paced guitar enter on second track, ‘Mouth.’ The record continues to be a slow-boiling atmospheric and almost ambient piece, with Kaliening’s vocal acting as a metronome of sorts, narrating the action while keeping the music centred and steady. ‘Mrs Tang, Please Dance for Me Again’ takes the already slow pace and introduces a violin before Kaliening’s vocal becomes faster, more irritated and the guitars begin to swirl around, plucking and strumming unorthodox sounds into the air.
3. Extinct Melodies From The Canto Club by Fauve Records
Having begun life as an online radio station based out of Hong Kong, the Fauve collective managed to raise enough funds to begin their own label. With the radio station now seemingly taking a back seat to the label, the folks with Fauve Records have already released a pair of records under the Extinct Melodies title, the first called Extinct Melodies From The Jungle Zone and the second by the name of Extinct Melodies From The Canto Club. Both are retrospectives of sorts, with Extinct Melodies From The Canto Club focusing around a bygone era of “party people with shoulder pads, big hair, white Rolls-Royces, panama hats” in the Fragrant Harbor. We get off the ground with Romain Fx’s super funky edit of a Cantonese track called ‘Big Ball.’ There’s much to love on this opener, including a tight, infectious rhythm with what sounds like cowbells surrounding the female Cantonese vocalist. Midnight Runners edit of ‘Do it For Love’ enters next and it is piano soaked pop given a house makeover, an excellent tribute to the legacy of disco-infused Cantopop. Closing out the record with a trio of Romain Fx edits, this album is the ideal party starter; tropical, fun and funky and has us pining for the humid heat of the Chinese south in Summer.
[Cover image via Fauve Records/Bandcamp]