3 New China Albums to Listen to This Month

By Bryan Grogan, September 3, 2019

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Here are three new homegrown albums from musicians around China on our radar this month.

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1. Floating Signifiers by Shii

We first came across Shii when she teamed up with Nocturnes’ David Carey on Lost Memory Machine for a group of demos earlier this year. While that project consisted largely of minimalist tunes, Shii’s solo work here with Merrie Records is full of glitchy effects, effervescent synthesizers and robust vocals. The singer and producer has professed a love for Icelandic maestro Bjork, which goes a long way to contextualizing Shii’s experimentation with both her music and her image. Floating Signifiers opens with its longest track, ‘Dream 2.’ Keyboard and muffled vocals combine with barely constrained synthesizers to set the tone. The intermingling of these three creates the kind of effect you might hear on an M83 song, with the music ready to explode and soar away into the atmosphere. While lines like “Everyone is weak” may seem like a rebuke, here they sound more like reassurance. Following on from this, tracks like ‘No Light’ and ‘Memory Pops’ are full of deeply emotional vocals and lyrics. These combine beautifully with the bright and bulbous notes, while synthesizers at times replicate the tantalizing sensation of violin strings, to create an album that’s addictive in the way that love and romance can be. 

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2. They Slipped Away From My Mind Just Like This by Dear Eloise

Dear Eloise return for their fifth album with this 10-track effort on Maybe Mars. The husband and wife duo, made up of Yang Haisong and Sun Xia, are in stellar form yet again, opening up the album with ‘Dreams of Mid Summer,’ a fuzzy shoegaze track bursting with romance. On ‘Across The Time’ they play with tonal effects, with the rhythm of the song rocking back and forth on multiple fronts. The combination of Sun’s bright vocals and Yang’s crunching, menacing guitar remind us of the sounds one might hear on an Asobi Seksu record. Dear Eloise present more than a bit of dream and noise pop here, leaving us almost reluctant to use the shoegaze label that has become so proliferate in China of late. The atonal nature of Xia’s vocals on ‘River of Lethe’ drip with a certain amount of apathy, while a bright sliding guitar makes itself known somewhere in the midst of the band’s wall of sound. Near the end of the record, the duo employ an acoustic guitar and a buzzsaw on ‘Escape’ for a track that is as full of sensuosity and thought-provoking sounds as any other on this album.  

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3. Functory 03 by FunctionLab

Functory 03 comes at a special time for Hangzhou label FunctionLab. With a string of excellent records in the bag in 2019, including GG Lobster’s Punk Rock Karaoke and Guan’s Tuning Forks, the label couldn’t have picked a better moment to revisit their growing roster of artists and collaborators. Favorites like Mice and XHANKONKON are again present, bringing spooky, glitch-heavy and deafeningly violent, drum-heavy tracks respectively. Elsewhere, however, we’re delighted to see Zean, Yikii and Laughing Ears join the fray. With her debut album Tidal Effect just released on Beijing’s Ran Music, Laughing Ears’ ‘Polymorphic Reality’ resembles a horrifying game of Tetris, with sounds falling like chunky blocks and interspersed with tempo shifts and the occasional scream. ‘Rivaldo Top 10 Goals’ is a typically quirky tribal track from GG Lobster, that makes use of wild track samples, drums and tribal vocal samples, matching up with the forested plains of the Amazon in Rivaldo’s native Brazil. Elsewhere, Mr.Peña is equally tribal, mystical in his use of drums on ‘X-Akii12,’ while horn samples and thin drum beats add extra intrigue. Where this compilation exceeds the first two in the Functory series is as described above. The wealth of sounds, genres and influences on show make this a stellar listen worthy of playing again and again. 

For more new album releases click here

[Cover image via Maybe Mars/Bandcamp]

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