Tag Archives: So Laid Back Country China

Favourite Releases 2016

The other day, while sunbathing on the lawn of a Melrose flat, my friend and I began thinking about the diminishing human element involved in post-internet music consumption.

When I was at high school, I basically lived at Slow Boat Records and Real Groovy – music havens where I’d browse for hours, listen to CD posts, purchase records, get recommendations from staff, find out about new releases from posters in the window, pick up gig guides and buy tickets to upcoming shows.

I remember getting up at dawn to bus into town and be amongst the first to hear Stadium Arcadium the day it was released in New Zealand. I remember staying overnight outside the ticket booth, flanked by fans draped in sleeping bags, eagerly waiting for sales to open for their first Auckland show. This was about ten years ago now.

Nowadays, you can be a fan without ever leaving your front door. With the exception of buying The All Seeing Hand’s Sand to Glass on vinyl at the door of their album release show, I bought all this year’s featured albums online, without even talking to a single person.

The internet means accessibility has grown but human contact has reduced. But the creation, sharing and consumption of music is still an immensely personal thing. These albums create the soundtrack to so many aspects of our lives, they speak to our own experiences or the experiences of others and make us feel things more deeply. Let’s continue to feel, express ourselves and connect with others.

I’m so thankful to all these artists for producing these works and sharing them into the world, where they can be shared and distributed in an instant across the globe.

In no particular order, here are Kiwese’s favourite releases from New Zealand and China in the Year of the Monkey 2016.

Header Illustration: Ali Pang


The All Seeing Hand // Sand to Glass

(MUZAI)
Wellington, NZ

The All Seeing Hand finally gave birth to Sand to Glass in December and oh yesyesyes, it has been worth the wait.

In their first album to feature predominantly English lyrics, Sand to Glass showcases Marks’ politically pertinent wordsmithing, encased in industrial metal clanking by drummer Ben Knight (Rogernomix, Unsanitary Napkin) and those trademark, turbo charged electronic power ups from scratch master Alphabethead.

It is perhaps their most ‘pop’ record to date, if The All Seeing Hand could ever be considered so, with tracks like Lizard Brain and Swarm standing out as previously released singles and indicating a shift away from the more abstract compositions of Mechatronics (2013) and Fog and Debris (2014) and towards a tighter sense of songwriting.

Listened to this on repeat while biking through the smog of Chengdu, the soundtrack to this environmental apocalypse.

Favourite track: Dog Eat Dog


Hu Yang //  Xu Huai Ruo Gu

(Be Sure)
Beijing, CN

My friend Liu Xing introduced me to Xu Huai Ruo Gu earlier this year and I was immediately hooked. Released digitally on the Berlin/Shanghai techno label Be Sure, which is home to brilliant offerings of mixtapes from artists such as Art’s Difficult (ELVIS.T) and Shanghai techno queen MIIIA.

Formerly known as NiChiFanLeMei, this Mt. Emei born Beijing-based producer creates a kind of brutalist, no nonsense techno – all muscle, no fat.

Possibly my most listened album of the year, suitable for furiously bike riding to a destination or scrubbing the kitchen and getting that shit clean as hell.

Favourite track: Restricted


Orchestra of Spheres // Brothers and Sisters of the Black Lagoon

(Fire Records)
Wellington, NZ

FIRELP430 Death And Vanilla - EP LP SLEEVE

Brothers and Sisters of the Black Lagoon is a psychedelic serving of tunes, many which have been part of the Spheres mind-melting live set for the past few years.

Their knack for combining the everyday with the otherworldly is evident throughout the album: Let Us Not Forget, an eerie prayer of reminders before leaving the house, the intensely danceable South East Asian inspired jam Anklung Song and their fast-paced Zombie Zombie cover Rocket #9.

Bubbling with sounds both organic and electronic, voices both chanted and spoken, influences both local and extraterrestrial, Brothers and Sisters of the Black Lagoon is a tasty, special brew from my favourite band of Wellington weirdos.

Favourite track: Anklung Song


Duck Fight Goose // CLVB ZVKVNFT
押打饿《未来俱乐部》

(D-Force Records 大福唱)
Shanghai, CN

Duck Fight Goose have teamed up with producer Lv for this smashing record on D-Force, their first release in four years, the soundtrack to interplanetary cyborg dancefloors.

CLVB ZVKVNFT is bursting with imagination and inspiration, combining elements of breakbeat, acid house, synth pop and techno into a cohesive string of 12-tracks. Busy yet uncluttered, frantic yet disciplined. A triumph.

Favourite track: 《马》


Unsanitary Napkin // Patriotic Grooves

(Zero Style, Always Never Fun, Limbless Records)
Wellington, NZ

FASCIST VOLCANO
SPEWING
MOLTEN SHIT

Patriotic Grooves is a fast and furious fuck you from Wellington punk trio Unsanitary Napkin, formed in 2015 and fronted by guitarist/vocalist Hannah Salmon a.k.a. artist Daily Secretion, who is well known for her zines, gig posters and album art in collaboration with other Wellington-based bands.

The 12-tracks of the album are punctuated with broadcast radio beeps and sound grabs from white, male New Zealand politicians and media identities. Incredible, machine-gun-like drumming from Ben, who forms a blistering rhythm section with Rupert on bass.

As the album’s defining image of Donald Trump being annihilated by a rainbow beam from a winged vagina (the sticker version shaped like a sanitary pad) would suggest, Patriotic Grooves is comprised of vaginal blasts of anarcho feminist anger directed towards the chauvinistic and conservative peaks of society.

Brief and intense.

Favourite track: Feminine Odour


iimmune // Abnormal

(D-Force Records 大福唱片)
Beijing, CN

Melodic, dramatic and emotional. Thoughtful compositions reminiscent of Four Tet and Aphex Twin, Abnormal is the beginning of Bobo’s metamorphosis from film scores to dancefloor ready techno.

Keep an eye on his electronic label Prajnasonic and stay tuned for next year, when the bass will drop.

Favourite track: 鲸鱼-


So Laid Back Country China // Sin Cristales

(Self-released)
Wellington, NZ

“I’m too busy drinking / all of the time”

In September, I found myself sitting in the bath tub of a five star hotel in Auckland, up to my tits in hot water and drowning in anxiety. Like my mind was smashing itself into the ground, stuck in a violent wash cycle of negativity, trapped underwater in a swimming pool covered by an immovable tarpaulin. I felt like I was going to rip my own face off.

Sin Cristales brought me back to earth, having articulated such emotions to great effect. Grateful. xx

Favourite Track: Ballad of Calm Arms


Yue Xuan // Entrance & Exports
岳璇《Entrance & Exports》

(Mo Records)
Beijing, CN

Entrance & Exports is a remix of Yue Xuan’s beautiful piano album In & Out from 2015. Bringing together producers from around China such as MHP, Broken Thoughts, Hong Qile, iimmune and Cvalda onto one impeccably well-crafted compilation (which was initially available as a free download on Douban), the remixes span Minimalist, Post-Rock, Drum & Bass, Techno, Glitch, Drone, Hiphop, Experimental, Ambient and IDM, bringing a whole new electronic take on the original.

Entrance & Exports and accompanying national Remix Tour is a fine example of how this young composer is utilising the resources and connections around her to produce something new and exciting.

Favourite Track: Nine of Swords (Cvalda Remix)


Mermaidens // Undergrowth

(Flying Out)
Wellington, NZ

Mermaidens have come a long way since those first acoustic demos four or five years ago, with Undergrowth released in March establishing them as a staple of the Wellington indie scene.

Enchanting mermaids conjuring “dark witch rock” from the dense scrubland is as psychedelic as it sounds – lurking with hidden dangers, the title-track Undergrowth gradually flows from a slow and dreamy creek into a thrashing, rocky river, a structure many of the songs take on the album. There’s certainly something of the occult about these mermaids, whose reverb drenched vocals often take form in first or second person: “I’m a corpse on the beach / I’m a thing / send me out to sea,” pulling the listener deeper into their imagined natural world.

The undergrowth is a mysterious place barbed with the grit and sharpness of gorse, as well as the strength and unruliness of deep roots. Look forward to new material in 2017.

Favourite track: Under the Mountain II


DOC (Dalian Obscure Club) // Northern Electric Shadow
DOC 《北方电影》

(D-Force Records 大福唱片)
Dalian, CN

There’s something in the water up in Dalian…

I hadn’t even heard of the Dalian Obscure Club until copies of Northern Electric Shadow turned up on CD and vinyl at NU SPACE.

The power of crashing waves, the fluidity of rising tides, the delicacy of swirling rockpools – this is understated, beautiful ocean-inspired math-rock. A fresh breeze of sea air!

Favourite track: 加百利布吉 Gabey’s Boogie


Males // None the Wiser

(Fishrider Records)
Dunedin, NZ

A burst of sunny South Island power-pop. The long-anticipated follow up to their debut MalesMalesMales in 2012, None the Wiser is full of so many bright, catchy riffs and uplifting falsetto parts that wearing sunglasses should be listed as a prerequisite for listening. A set of wonderfully crafted guitar songs.

Favourite track: Chartreuse


The Fuzz // The Root of Innocence
法兹乐队《童心之源》

(Maybe Mars 兵马司)
Xi’an, CN

This upbeat, chorus-soaked indie rock record is possibly the most Maybe Mars-y Maybe Mars release to date – you just know Yang Haisong has been here.

The audience were quietly bopping along when The Fuzz came to Chengdu on their enormous album release tour in early 2016. Then when Sijiang from Hiperson came out to help them sing《控制》, the crowd exploded with cheers and turned into a sea of moshing bodies, it was beautiful.

Favourite Track: 《控制》


Peach Milk // Finally EP

(Self-released)
Auckland, NZ

Peaches and cream are my favourite kind of lollies. So perhaps it is inevitable that I would be into this new young Auckland producer, who dropped her first EP earlier this year. Peach Milk’s music sounds like her name would suggest – sweet and smooth.

Look forward to her sound evolving in the new year.

Favourite track: Heretic


yourboyfriendsucks! // Episode 1
yourboyfriendsucks!《第一季》

(QiiiSnacks Records)
Guangzhou, CN

Six-tracks of candy-coated indie-pop from our Cantonese speaking friends yourboyfriendsucks! Opening with a tribute to Just Like Honey by the Jesus and Mary Chain, how can I not love this? Surprisingly clean production for QiiiSnacks Records (formerly Full Label), known for their DIY lo-fi recordings.

Perhaps the biggest travesty of 2016 is the dissolution of ybfs!, as the lead singer Zoey has moved to Europe to study. Episode 1 is in fact the final episode. Boo!

Favourite track: Stay or Stay Away


Higher Brothers // Higher Brothers Mixtape
海尔兄弟 // 《海尔兄弟》

(Self-released)
Chengdu, CN

higher-brothers-mixtape-cover-art

“来嘛来嘛来嘛差一位 ~ ”

Perhaps I’ve included Higher Brothers Mixtape here more for their impact rather than my own personal taste, but their skyrocket to fame and influence on the local scene this year is certainly noteworthy. If Fat Shady put Chengdu hip-hop on the map, Higher Brothers CDC rappers Masiwei (马思唯), Dz, Psy.P and Melo, have dabbed themselves to the top and become one of Chengdu’s, if not China’s most iconic hip-hop acts.

This 19-track offering is a searing blast of arrogance and attitude delivered in a mix of lightening fast Chengduhua and American slang. Whether or not elongated trap beats are your thing, or that each track repeats the chorus about five times, tracks like 《野猪儿》 and 《尴尬》 have attained anthem-like status and established hip-hop as the biggest sound in Chengdu.

Now managed by Asian hip-hop agency 88 Rising, Higher Brothers have taken Chengdu hip-hop to an international level of “worldwide shit.” As collaborations with international artists such as Harikiri, Charlie Heat, Bohan Phoenix and J.Mag roll in, I look forward to their sound maturing more in future.

HIGHER.

Listen on Xiami.

Favourite track: 《尴尬》


Commended:


Singles:

  • CA1XR //  爱在一方(Future Disco V.I.P)
    Chengdu, CN

  • Cut Off Your Hands // Hate Somebody
    Auckland, NZ

  • Womb // Feeling Like Helium (demo)
    Wellington, NZ

  • Hiperson // 追和等
    Chengdu, CN


Next year we can look forward to…

Debut record from Chengdu indie babes The Hormones, the sophomore album from South Island songstress Nadia Reid, something trippy from Beijing no-wave masters Chui Wan, minimal techno stylings from atmen, the debut record from Kunming electro-punk wastrels South Acid MiMi Dance Team, potentially music from new Maybe Mars signees Lonely Leary and Dream Can  perhaps even something from those mysterious Dunedin-based creatures Elan Vital and Kolya

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Favourite Releases 2015

From Wellington stoner country to Beijing glitch hop, 2015 was packed with awesome releases from both New Zealand and China. Here are fifteen Kiwese favourites!

Illustration by Ali Pang.


With Knees of Honey in Goodbye Canyon by So Laid Back Country China

(Wellington, NZ)

So Laid Back Country China (or 很放松乡村中国) is a four-piece band fronted by Harriet Ferry and Michael Keane, former members of beloved Wellington folk/country hooligans Big River Chain and John the Baptist.

Originally meant to be an EP, With Knees of Honey in Goodbye Canyon, is a slow-release trip into wide open country spaces, at once soothing and hair-raising in the sparse layering of instrumentation and vocals.

Favourite track: Open Eyed
https://solaidbackcountrychina.bandcamp.com


No Need For Another History by Hiperson
《我不要别的历史》 海朋森

(Chengdu, CN)

Rejoice!! Our long diet of Hiperson demos streamed off Youku was finally supplemented this year, with No Need For Another History released on Maybe Mars in April. Recorded by China’s post-punk overlord Yang Haisong, Hiperson have re-recorded well-loved tunes such as《他打定主意做一个游客》He Made Up His Mind to Be a Tourist and 《门》Entrance, alongside new material that reasserts their guitar-driven, sharp tongued sound.

Those distinctive stabbing staccato vocals from Chen Sijiang, alongside puns such as “这是通往剧院的大路!” yelled in tandem with guitarist Ji Yinan, in my opinion make Hiperson one of the most lyrically talented bands in China today. Check out the Kiwese interview with Hiperson earlier this year.

Favourite track: 《幕布》The Curtain https://hiperson.bandcamp.com


TANGO by She’s So Rad

(Auckland, NZ)

THIS ALBUM IS JUST SO GREAT!!!

TANGO is a joy from start to finish – really tight songwriting and jangly pop melodies led by the band’s Anji Sami and Jonathan Toy. Nominated for Best Alternative Album at this year’s NZ Music Awards, lost out to UMO’s Multi-Love (also excellent).

Favourite track: Better Off On Your Own https://shessorad.bandcamp.com/album/tango


Chinese Football by Chinese Football

(Wuhan, CN)

China’s national football team is unlikely to score points anywhere, but Wuhan’s delightful indie-pop band Chinese Football are winners!

This year Chinese Football released both a self-titled EP and a self-titled full length album, the latter of which I am rating here. Sparkling TTNG-esque math rock riffs, endearing vocal harmonies and brightness. Forever destined to be compared to American Football, Chinese Football’s music would indeed be suited to cruising around the sunny Midwest.

Chinese Football play Chengdu’s Little Bar on 8 January and Chongqing’s NUTS on the 9th. Yay!

Favourite track: 400米

https://chinesefootball.bandcamp.com/album/chinese-football


Carb on Carb by Carb on Carb

(Auckland, NZ)

Aucklandite indie-emo-pop power duo Carb on Carb released their much anticipated self-titled album back in February, what a pearler! James and Nicole have been busy touring the USA this year, making a lot of new friends and forging their own American dreams.

If you are in the market for odes to beloved pets, sweet riffs and breakneck drum rolls, this is where it’s at. Added 2015 bonus, James released the God Bows to Math + Carb on Carb China Tour Documentary in September, which premiered on Kiwese! Good times!

Favourite track: Phenomenal Ladies https://carboncarb.bandcamp.com/album/carb-on-carb


Mù Chè Shān Chū by Howie Lee
《木屮山出》

(Beijing, CN)

Fresh release from the inimitable Howie Lee, just out this month on Alpha Pup. Beijing blazzzze – Mù Chè Shān Chū is packed with those East Asian samples, clicks and tweaks Lee has become known for. Featuring fresh takes on tracks Sinka and Shang from last year’s also excellent Eastside Sampler Series. Future kungfu swag.

Space Epic by Terror of the Deep

(Wellington, NZ)

‘Cos it makes me feel – – – ~ – – –

– – – ~ – – – so unreal!!’

Oh man. I fucking love Terror of the Deep. Their music makes me imagine walking up Riddiford Street with sunglasses on, blue skies, and a hop in my step. Flax and toi toi. Newtown. Space Epic has a much lusher, texture than TOTD’s previous spare and crunchy bass-guitar-drums sound, with the addition of Tom Watson on keyboard and trumpet. Picks up where Permanent Weekend left off, with a re-recording of ‘When the Planets Align.’

Recorded by OOS’s Dan Beban at Pyramid Club and mixed into the galaxies in 2015. A journey through space, to Neptune and beyond… 

Favourite track: Saturn

https://terrorofthedeepnz.bandcamp.com/album/space-epic


Demos on Douban by South Acid MiMi Dance Team
南方酸咪咪领舞队的小样寄在豆瓣上

(Kunming, CN)

Image from South Acid MiMi's Douban.
Image from South Acid MiMi’s Douban.

South Acid MiMi (Shishi, Weilin + Yixiao) are such rad bitches. Straight outta Kunming, this freaky disco punk trio is leading crowds to the dance floor. I saw one of their early shows in January when I was randomly in Kunming and it was the most refreshing thing I’d been to in ages. They sound like… Grimes? Iggy Pop? Karen O?

These bizarre, addictive beats from three keyboards, vocals, a laptop, LED light poi and various bottles of spirits. South Acid MiMi are gearing up to release an album with Ruby Eyes Records in Beijing next year.

Stay tuned for a Lady Lazer Light x Kiwese x South Acid MiMi production very soon!!

Favourite tracks: NUNUDUGU, Lucy in the Sky With Dolphin, Love is Pain, Disco 女孩, The End, so many!!
http://site.douban.com/southacidmimi/


Seed (single) by Mermaidens

(Wellington, NZ)

Mermaidens are Scrumpylicious incantation creators. Seed is a mean tune. Sounds like discordant fuzzy kelp scum, the three-piece creating a bubble of noise that scares off even those freaky fish with lightbulbs on their head. Look forward to more next year.

https://mermaidens.bandcamp.com/track/seed-single


Loop by Stolen《循环》 秘密行动

(Chengdu, CN)

Stolen (pinyin: mìmì xíngdòng) tore shit up this year. I saw them play a countless number of times around the country, bursting with energy at every gig. After signing to Beijing’s new D-Force Records, they had the opportunity to professionally record in Taipei, producing a more refined collection of their excellent free demos.

Dark, chilling, insanely danceable – with Loop and a huge national tour under their belt this year, Stolen have raised the bar even higher. While one hears Joy Division or Kraftwerk when listening to Stolen, their newer material is more electronic beat based, scatty tech rhythms. The boys have been writing new material up in the mountains, so anticipate more from them next year!

Favourite track: A Glossy Flirt
https://mimixingdong.bandcamp.com/album/loop


Womb by Womb

(Wellington, NZ)

Wellington woodland dream folk. Womb is the solo project of Charlotte Forrester, womb companion of Haz Forrester, who she used to play with in Athuzela Brown. This is really gorgeous music. The echoey vocals remind me a lot of Grouper, while the sparse guitar phrasing in ‘Sounds of Our Voices’ definitely brings Electrelane to mind. Sonorous Circle label mate Sean Kelly mixed and mastered these five lovely tracks with some Seth Frightening magic.

Favourite track: Cosmic Dreaming
https://w–o–m–b.bandcamp.com/


People, Society, Money by Fatshady
《人.社会.钱》谢蒂

(Chengdu, CN)

fatshady
Image from Douban.

Fatshady is the biggest rapper in Chengdu. He entered the hip-hop lexicon several years ago with his track 《明天不上班》, empowering audiences to bunk off work in style. He raps completely in Chengduhua, garnering immediate appeal by opposing the bland, standardised Mandarin of TV, radio, school, officialdom…

While the beats are pretty simple (as if ‘shab shabba Ranks’ could come in at any moment), the rapping is second to none. While I can only understand half of his lyrics, his music speaks to my friends unlike any other artist I’ve seen – because he is using their language. There is no one else doing it quite like Fatshady. Out on C.D.C.

Favourite track: 坝坝球
https://site.douban.com/fatshady


 A. Cushion Plant and B. Gold in Quartz by Team Cat Food 

(Auckland via Wellington, NZ)

February saw a Team Cat Food double release. As with everything these guys have released, I love it. Mellow and vibey electronic textures and beats, with i.ryoko and Seth Frightening featuring on each side. Churrrr.

Favourite track: Cushion Plant, Ponderosa
https://teamcatfood.bandcamp.com/


A Million Farewells by Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes

(Shanghai, CN)

Well, this is epic. Shanghai’s famously un-Googleable Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes have released this noisy emotional outpouring on Genjing Records. Former So So Modern drummer Daniel Nagels joins ‘Tom’ – Xiao Zhong of Pairs, ‘Katie’ – Sharon Cee-Q with her dreamy vocals, and Samuel Walsh on bass.

‘My Life is Over’ will have your ears ringing, while other more dream pop/shoegaze tracks act as a welcome counterpoint. Beautiful stuff. Vinyl release through Genjing and Tenzenmen, or you can stream it on Bandcamp.

Favourite track: New Day
https://genjingrecords.bandcamp.com/album/a-million-farewells


Elixir by Totems
(Auckland, NZ)

Elixir is certainly the most mature and cohesive Totems release to date, with nine tracks that flow seamlessly from start to finish. Jungle/drum & bass/echoes of his old trap sound that are equally suited to both chilling and raving. Released in December with Cosmic Compositions, Elixir has already had several plays at Kiwese HQ, also known as my lounge. Chur chur!

Favourite track: Echolocate
https://cosmic-compositions.bandcamp.com/album/elixir


And one more…

Multi-Love by Unknown Mortal Orchestra

(Portland, OR via Auckland)

With only one kiwi member, UMO are arguably not even a NZ act. But they get nominated at the NZ Music Awards and also get funding from NZ On Air so whatever. Multi-Love is the follow up to 2013’s II and it is just really fcking awesome!! More groovy and melodic than their previous two albums, with the addition of a keyboardist/back up vocalist.

Favourite Song 2015: Can’t Keep Checking My Phone


…Where it at?

Mirror in Mirror by Skip Skip Ben Ben 

(Taipei / Beijing)

Ben Ben’s new album has been released in Taiwan on Re:Public Records, and I’m eagerly/impatiently waiting for it to come out in the Mainland on Maybe Mars… Check out the preview below. NEED.


 

Many of these artists have released their music on Bandcamp for the criminally low price of ZERO DOLLARS. Koha where you can! Support independent music!