Here are three new homegrown albums from musicians around China on our radar this month.
1. Hoon by Run Run Run
Born of the ethnic melting pot that is Guizhou province, Xiao Dou of Run Run Run has been creating psychedelic vortices for quite a few years now. Guitarist and vocalist Dou was raised on the erhu, a two-stringed traditional Chinese instrument. More so than many bands active in China today, Run Run Run capture the terrifying claustrophobic sensation of the tropical, forested regions in the South of the country. Recorded over the course of a few weeks, Hoon gives the impression of a deeply improvisational album, although Xiao Dou says that this is only partially true. ‘Repercussion’ employs repeated musical phrases, chanting and high-pitched guitar notes, reminiscent of phenomenal psychedelic band Moon Duo from the US, and recreating music we might associate with Eastern mysticism. ‘Fireball’ makes use of fuzzy guitar, noise and distortion to create a wall of sound, while the percussion and bass carry the rhythm of movement, with the song as a whole giving the impression of scenes very cinematic. The mood is lighter on ‘Curtainfall’ as the band play with a pair of bright, dueling guitars on what feels like a brief interlude and respite from the intensity that went before.
2. Underwater/Fantasy by StrawberryPapa
A purer match of artist and label is hard to imagine as instrumental hip hop wizard StrawberryPapa and hip hop, boom bap curators Eating Music Label collide for this beautiful aquatic album (with no less than Knopha on mastering duties.) From the outset, on ‘Rainy Street,’ we’re treated to a barrage of sensuosity, as pizzicato Spanish guitar combines with the sound of lashing rain. Elsewhere, the producer gathers us for a trip beneath the ocean on ‘The Whispering Sea,’ which shifts between dream-like rhythmic passages and the trundling sound of underwater movement. The sound of old school instrumental hip hop, in the vein of legends of the game, Madlib and Bonobo, is clearly audible on tracks like ‘Bill’ and ‘Bae,’ while StrawberryPapa is unafraid to mix things up with jazzy vibes as on ‘Ocean’ and the aforementioned Spanish guitar, as well as the presence of a harp on ‘Foolish,’ if we’re not mistaken. Each of the 13 tracks is short and easily digestible, imparting wildly different vibes and using the influence of jazz, underwater video game sound aesthetics as well as a wide range of instruments and samples to create a sound that is fantastically mellow and just what your beach holiday has called for.
3. Default Beings by Theory of Convergence
The third release in as many months by Merrie Records, Theory of Convergence’s Default Beings is about as different from 33EMYBW’s Dong 2 and Daytrip Dormancy’s Night Flow as one could hope for. While the first single on this album, ‘Life is Illusion’ dropped all the way back in May, we have to say we weren’t bowled over by what we felt was the sound of some pretty average progressive metal. With that being said, now that we’ve heard the full product – equipped with crunching, swirling guitar, melancholic country music lyrics and witchy vocals – we are much keener. Taking ‘Falling Apart’ as an example, there’s something not quite atypical about the way Theory of Convergence construct their songs; the gentle way the guitar rises and falls during the chorus reminds us of traditional indie music song structures. Make no mistake, this is heavy rock, but the way the instruments interact with each other allows each song to leave a distinct impression. ‘White Box,’ begins with gently plucked guitar licks, like Led Zeppelin at their softest. The standout track on the album, however, is the nine-minute closer ‘Hope,’ which is a maelstrom of pounding percussion and swooping vocals, before a fantastical overdub combines with piano and violin, while vocalist Joan returns to close out what is a very weird and experimental album.
[Cover image via Eating Music/Bandcamp]