Here are three new homegrown albums from musicians around China on our radar this month.
1. Little Dragon Palace by Linfeng
Shanghai producer Linfeng returns with a stellar conceptual release, Little Dragon Palace via label JADECRAFT. Based around Western ideas of China, Linfeng packages a lot of mystique that regularly goes hand-in-hand with Hollywood depictions of the Middle Kingdom, for a record that is full of intricate musical ideas, beautifully realised. ‘Little Dragon Palace’ employs twanging electric guitars and prodding drum beats for a scenic depiction of this seemingly secretive palace. Notice, throughout, how song names play on cliches of China, such as ‘Fan in Chinatown,’ ‘Bamboo Dialogue’ and ‘Smog.’ ‘Sid’s Magic Sid’ is one of the more entertaining song titles we’ve come across in a while. The track resides in shadows, with insidious beats playing out a sense of magical realism (a genre of literature often associated with cultural otherness around the world). The conceptuality of the record reminds us of everything from Howie Lee to Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolf and David Lynch films to the books of Eileen Chang. The album closes with ‘Smog’ and ‘Love Me Like This,’ the first of which varies a bit from the romantic oriental idea previous songs summon, trending more towards downbeat and atmospheric electronica a la Four Tet in 2009. ‘Love Me Like This,’ has a tropical lo-fi vibe which brushes us off, pats us on the head and sends us back into the world.
2. Xun Dao Jianzhi Shige Yishupin by Wayne’s So Sad
Taiwanese punksters Wayne’s So Sad return in 2019 with a powerful new record, just a couple of years removed from their previous effort Haishi Ou’er Xiangyao Weida. The artwork and the album title itself plays on the band’s self-deprecating humor, seemingly professing the album to be a work of art (tongue-in-cheek of course). Despite the joke, there’s a reason the band have gained a cult following, both in Taiwan and further afield. The intro sets the scene for the record, with dissonant feedback and drumbeats playing around, before ‘Ruguo Ta Likai Ni, Ni Hui Bu Hui Feng Diao A’ takes the tempo up a notch, with guitars swirling, while making use of the old punk/Greek tragedy cliche – a choral backing vocal section. ‘Fuxinde Jiaohui’ threatens to take the intensity down a notch, before turning everything up once more, with the guitars and vocals speeding across a tightrope at a breakneck speed which threatens at any minute to fall away. ‘Xia Yibu Jiewang,’ which was released as a single earlier this year, is a departure from the preceding songs, slowing down considerably, introducing woodblocks and a reflective atmosphere. The title track provides the outro, with the band channeling the guttural blues vocal stylings of the likes of Minutemen and The Gaslight Anthem (what a contrast that is!).
To listen, click here.
3. AI (love) by Yadae
It’s been three long years since CLVB ZVKVNFT, Duck Fight Goose’s most recent record, came out on D Force Records. In that time a lot has changed. For one, the group has decided to change their name to Yadae, the Chinese pinyin representation of their previous, English name. Their new record, AI (love), also comes via a new label Merrie Records, which recently received funding from ONES Ventures and have big plans for 2020 (more on that at a later date). Yadae here seem wistful, worn-out and exhausted by years of exploring the future, posthumanism, cyborg-listening habits. While, the name of the album (AI - artificial intelligence?) initially summons more of what we would expect from 33EMYBW and Han Han, the duo assure us the record is, rather, about love (in brackets). ‘Shanghai Rain’ opens proceedings, with laidback piano beats and staccato synthesizers, as Han Han’s vocal reverberates in space immeasurable. We’re immediately led to believe, this is comfort. ‘Mixed Reality’ is like a babbling brook of romantic vocals and xylophone keys. ‘Silver Wilderness’ builds on the first two songs, picking up the intensity with more intentional vocals from Han Han, more obvious emotional climbs and drops. We finish on ‘The Dark,’ a stunningly enjoyable 7-minute track, which again begins with piano keys and includes lyrics like “Ni bu shi zhongyao” or “you’re not important.” It’s the culmination of a gorgeous, addictive four-track record.
[Cover image via Linfeng/Bandcamp]