Here are six new homegrown albums from musicians around China on our radar this month.
1. Continue? by Chinese Football
It’s been a while since we’ve heard from Wuhan’s math rock band Chinese Football, but at the end of March they graced the internet with a five-track EP. The second album of the ‘game trilogy,’ Continue? serves as a follow-up to their 2017 release Here Comes a New Challenger and expands on the narrative of the hot-blooded teenager protagonist who is repeatedly confronted with a choice: to continue or walk away. Angsty but optimistic, the heavy indie influence feels like the Chinese cousin of Scott Pilgrim Versus The World with the title track starting out strong and slow. Halfway through, ‘Adventure Island’ takes on a more complicated riff with calculated, stumbling guitar scales that only reinforce the adolescent affiliation. The album acts as a teaser for their upcoming Hong Kong show with American Football, the red white and blue-striped emo rock legends who inspired their band name.
2. Bay Park Serenade by Cheesemind
Following the release of their limited lathe cut vinyl for Record Store Day, Cheesemind dropped their first full-length EP at the end of April, and boy, is it dreamy. Starting off as a two-piece act back in 2012, musicians RabbitQ and Chen Zhenchao drifted apart to finish university, and eventually regrouped in 2018 to release their first independent single in six years. Now, they’ve grown in size and partnered up with Qiii Snacks records to release five seaside ballads that resonates with their Xiamen roots. The opening track starts with floating guitar chords, a radio alarm and chattering in Japanese before bubbling into an upbeat, surfside melody that’ll have you longing for a boardwalk stroll. Plucky bass and airy vocals transition into noisier, grungy fuzz over a slow, summery pace before petering into a seasonal ballad, making this album top of our picks for the sunny days ahead.
3. Folding Knives by Swimful
If you feel mildly attacked listening to Swimful’s newest release, then you’re probably onto something. The album title of the heavy electronic release from Shanghai-based label SVBKLT was inspired by a dream Swimful had, in which he was throwing knives at his doppelganger on a street he used to live on. The opening track ‘Plain’ reeks of Stranger Things weirdness, evoking some nostalgic video game soundtrack-esque creepy awesomeness. Its abrupt ending opens the door for an even eerier intro of ‘Are You Telling Me A Sad Story?’ with a distant sounding percussion styled like a lullaby. ‘Aura’ simmers down with a sound that brings Blade Runner to mind, before transitioning into ‘Agony’ – a straight up down tempo dance track. The remaining three songs resolve whatever anxiety was induced before, concluding a heavily saturated and lucid EP that we’re happy to get behind.
4. Vanilla Villa by Sunset Rollercoaster
The latest release from Taiwan-based Sunset Rollercoaster checks in at just over seven minutes, a snack of a soundbite that’s as complex as it is concise. In three distinct scenes of summer, the tri-track EP moves effortlessly between improvisational funk, indie rock and bossa nova and showcases the six-piece band’s impressive range. The opening track is lush, layering the tropical sounds of rainsticks with Latin-leaning acoustic guitar, and it quickly establishes our expectations for a instrumental-heavy record. ‘Vanilla’ shifts gears, however, and steers us straight into a sun-drunk, lyric-forward indie ballad. The record closes with the funky ‘Villa,’ the ‘80s-influenced rhythms of which are sway-worthy and warm. Their decision to close with a 15 second fade-out provides the listener with a thoughtful transition back into reality, waking us up from a brief sepia-toned dream. Produced, recorded, mixed and mastered by Yuchain Wang at Mori Sound, each of the tracks on Vanilla Villa deserves a place in your summertime arsenal.
5. Transpacific Slop by Cruel Buddhist
Wisconsin-raised and Shanghai-residing DJ Cruel Buddhist (Henry Robinson) has released a whopping five albums in the last two years. Transpacific Slop is the latest addition to his rapidly growing discography, a chill-hop record he describes as a “wavy soundtrack for the onset of summer.” Across its 13 tracks, Cruel Buddhist cultivates soundscapes and curates headspaces that are individually distinct but held together by the characteristic sounds that populate his brand of low fidelity beatmaking. His mastery of texture and innovative sampling allow for novel takes on the lo-fi genre, and the thread he weaves throughout the record is both a nod to bygone grooves and totally cutting-edge. Expect rattlesnake samples and erratic jazzy beats that allow for shameless head-bobbing for the entirety of the record’s 30-minute duration. Signed to Shanghai label Eating Music, Cruel Buddhist will be touring these tracks throughout 2019, and it’s been said his instrumental live performances are a treat of their own.
6. Love is Medicine by Joy Ginger
Chinese producer Joy Ginger once again teams up with Beijing-based Babel Records to create Love is Medicine, the title of which makes us think it’s a more romantically optimistic follow-up to 2017’s Love is Illusion. This future-pop/electronic crossover record charts its own territory with its six diverse tracks speaking to Joy Ginger’s versatility, ranging from the broody and sensual ‘Blossom’ to the experimental ‘I’m Down,’ a haunting oracle of a song that combines an ethereal choir with eerie samples from everyday life. Though a master of pop and hip-hop, as heard on ‘Flouxetine’ and ‘Body in the Air,’ Joy Ginger doesn’t seem to be aiming for mainstream dance hits, choosing instead to push boundaries with unexpected texture and intentional negative space. The front-line presence of Australian pop rapper PRINCI only adds to the record’s mature and sultry feel. Ahead of the game and intelligent, Love is Medicine is everything but bubblegum.
[Cover image via Cruel Buddhist/Bandcamp]