New Releases: Banana Tree, City Flanker, Before Midnight, Ritual Day

Chinese black metal renegades return after a long absence, one of grunge’s best kept secrets, Shaoxing’s shoegaze torch bearers bring out the synths, and an electronic love letter to Valentine’s Day – it’s time to have a listen to the latest releases to give us a buzz including the newest from Ritual Day, Banana Tree, City Flanker, and Babel Records.

There’s nothing better than being blindsided by a release that seemingly appears out of nowhere. Wuhan grunge torch bearers Jiao (Banana Tree), bring their disillusioned angst to full fruition on their latest EP, the dryly titled Happy Jiao Friends – three tracks (and a fitting epilogue) of raw, down and out rock and roll that feels like a nosedive into the deep end of someone’s unfiltered id. An inescapable drug-addled transformation of one’s psyche and physical body, it’s a dark albeit fun journey that the band captures perfectly with lyrically honesty. No cheap tricks, no guileless hooks – just raw energy spewing forth – the real deal. Xiami/163

Shaoxing shoegaze staples City Flanker continue to stretch their wings on their latest EP – Sound Without Time – which reimagines three of their previous singles as high school prom night slow dance jams as well as provides two new tracks. With a heavy dose of synthesizers and electronic harmonizing, it’s clear the band is looking to incorporate more chillwave elements into their sound and for the most part, it works. Particularly on their newer tracks – while ‘Golden Leaf’ charges full ahead into sensual dancehall territory, it’s the slow burn, keyboard driven ‘The Second Dream’ that shows the band working at the top of their game, creating an wistful airy atmosphere that’s gradually overwhelms. Not a bad sign of things to come from the shoegaze hopefuls. Xiami/163

Once regarded as one of the top Chinese acts of the twenty-first century, black metal outfit Ritual Day return fourteen years after their debut album Sky Lake, which became one of the first Chinese albums released abroad. The newly reformed band (with a brand spanking new lineup) is back with their long awaited follow-up – Devila Grantha and immediately it’s evident Ritual Day is embracing the darkness, as well as elements of Buddhism – likely capitalizing on the success of many metal bands that followed them. Nevertheless, Ritual Day aren’t messing around here – eleven lean tracks of extreme rhythmic black metal that finds a nice balance between it’s old school guitar worship and  sinister vocalized annihilation. Looks like the wait was worth it. Bandcamp

The electronic ballpark continues adding new players to the scene and while Babel Records doesn’t quite have the clout of Do Hits or even some of the newer labels like Genome6.66Mbp (read up on J. Feola’s roundup of the best underground electronic labels) I’m really digging the bubbly, upbeat, laid back vibes they’ve been pushing in their catalogue thus far. Their latest EP, Before Midnight, a special Valentine’s Day release, continues finding solace in the starry-eyed future beats featuring four producers giving their own love letter to the holiday including Lofimaker, Joy Ginger (who tags Ember Island for a bittersweet update of Radiohed’s ‘Creep’), sususu, and Japanese artist Shigge (pf the Fukuoka label Yesterday Once More). Sexy stuff. Bandcamp/Xiami

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