A grizzled, burly, and sprawling psych-rock album that leans into its artists’ affinity for prog rock spells, free-wheeling avant-garde breakdowns and roaming grassland folk music, Hai Qing and Li Xing’s collaborative release Utopian Daymare (out on Merrier Records’ sub-label Little Soul) is one hell of a trip. There’s an almost manic quality to the way the Inner Mongolian artists Hai Qing and Li Xing (known for his role in Red Scarf) throw everything in their arsenal at the wall, from reed-based sheng flailing to discordant guitar riffs pitted against free jazz saxophones. But what’s most satisfying about their concoction is the rustic rock and roll soul that permeates throughout the (arguably long-winded and yes, meandering at times) album, finding solace and offbeat beauty in the pairing of Hai Qing’s dusty-eyed frontiersman voice and Li Xing’s endlessly imaginative instrumentation.
A fizzy blend of math rock intracity, indie pop aplomb, and refined indie rock tropes, Guangzhou’s Right Lane Convergence radiate good vibes on their first full-length LP. Without tipping over into unhinged stop-start rhymic mayhem, Convergence coast on arrangements a bit more delicate, a bit airier, and in many ways, a bit more unpredictable (they’re not one to leave out a funk-laced instrumental jam) leaving you feeling slightly tipsy. Undemanding yet full of pep and a willingness to layer on a bit of spice (and distortion if the opportunity emerges), Right Lane Convergence rest charismatically at the intersection of pop and rock, reminding listeners it’s okay to add a little perk to your step across the city.
Consisting of a ragtag team of seasoned Beijing musicians (Macondo, Rhonda, C60, Hazemaze) – Paths treads along the scenic indie rock, following in the footsteps of bands like The Mars Volta, incorporating a melancholic and tormented poetic tongue with indie rock grooves and post-punk angst that seesaws between intensity and tranquility. Conjuring up imagery of decaying flowers and nuclear fallouts, the band’s EP takes it’s name from the oldest song of the world – the sound of water – whose chilling, rippling effects filter throughout the four-track release, leaving a trail of tormented rock and rollers relaying the story of our demise to a subterranean pub cluttered with lost souls.