One of the most perplexing team-ups in recent Chinese musical history is also one of the year’s finest surprises. Avant-garde poet renegade Zuoxiao Zuzhou – who’s almost emotionless off-key singing has always fascinated me to no end – joins up with longstanding producer Huzi (known to old-schoolers as the guitarist for Pet Conspiracy) and rising Xiamen rap star lows0n, whose offbeat persona and aesthetic has made her one of the year’s breakout artists. And yeah – it’s as madcap and endearing as you’d expect, capitalizing on the strength and peculiarities of the three acts (the production is really something too) as well as offering some head-spinning moments of levity and satire, turning the albums (you better believe its overstuffed) into something of a party – a purely hedonistic sound.
Evoking the romance and splendor of the traditional Chinese landscapes – think the ones envisioned in scroll paintings – Beijing’s Huzun bring majestic allure to those images on their sweeping debut ShanXing. A pristine concoction of Xinjiang world music, post rock grandeur and transcendent ambient music – the band led by singer Da Jin (don’t be surprised if you hear echoes of Dolores O’Riordan in there) shoot for the stars – weaving a tale of ‘love and loss of the homeland desert, grasslands, and pine forests’ through intersecting high octave vocals against tranquil whispers, reverb-flowing guitar and thundering drums. It’s epic in a rustic sense yet it’s rock and roll spirit marches on.
Lo-fi dream pop crossed with dance punk grooves – Chengdu’s Deep Water came out of the gate swinging on their seductive debut Diving out on Ruby Eyes Records. Between the leader singers hypnotically stoically smoky vocals, the buoyant yet submerged electronic elements, and some slick guitar riffs and soul-cutting basslines, the duo have crafted something that equal parts sultry and playful; dark yet gentle. Disassembling the endless faces of this crazy thing called love – from the good to the bad to the plain ol’ boring – it finds solace through the ups and downs, keeping its eye on the light at the end of the tunnel. Or as they say, ‘a comforting whisper to those who can’t sleep at night’.