New Releases: Wusuozai, Djang San, Twinkle Star, Hoochie Coochie Gentlemen


Sultry indietronica, Beijing ‘down south’ blues, impassioned power pop, and a film score and live recording from one of the city’s highest working artists – it’s the latest quadruple combo punch of releases from up and comers Wusuozai, Hoochie Coochie Gentlemen, Twinkle Star, and Djang San. Have a listen.

Hoochie Coochie Gentlemen is one of those names that pops up all over in Beijing. Appearing first in 2009, the blues rock outfit have worked the circuit here in the country’s capital since then, building a solid rep along the way, eventually earning them the award for Best Blues and Jazz Musician at the Chinese Golden Music Awards in 2014. The band, whose name derives from an old blues standard by Willie Dixon, provides a mixture of jazz, blues, and folk with a reliance on class and skill. They released their fifth album, Black & White, over the summer, and it’s a dense piece of blues bliss that’s comes at you loose, determined, with even a few tricks up its sleeve. Fermented from the tender yet ultimately optimistic stories of the city folk who kept their head up despite their daily struggles, there’s a resilient spirit beneath the piano driven, harmonica savvy, raspy voiced blues that would fit right in with a Chicago blues bar circa the 1930s had it been run by a Chinese local. Find it over on douban and xiami.


Made up of former Mr. Turtle drummer, Sound Fragment guitarist, and led by the Sagel, a one-time Chinese Idol contestant, Wusuozai, is a band teeming with potential and their hypotonic debut EP, Drunk Island is proof. Indietronica with the soul of jazz – the five tracks EP is an ambient-filled trip hop lucid dream whose greatest asset is its restraint. Where most productions would try to milk the band’s sound for everything it’s got, and turn the dial to eleven, the production here (recorded in both the US and China) manages to focus on the dynamic voice of Sagel (who honed her skills aboard), whose soothing drunk love lyrics drive the trio’s sound – from icy jazz riffs to fantastical eccentricity, to feather-soft ecstasy. An intoxicating mix of influences that leaves you only wanting more. Dip into next year’s emerging talent over on xiami and douban.


One of China’s most recognizable me rock outfits, Twinkle Star, who in just seven years have skyrocketed to success. Originally founded by Zhang Shuai and Meng Meng, the band has gone through many incarnations (at one point they were called Alt Senior) most recently settling with New Pants bassist Zhao Meng joining the fold on vocals. The band’s avid sentimentality is front and center on their latest EP, With You. And while the sap and sugar coated anthems may be a bit much for some, I find it to be a nice contrast to a lot of the ‘whining’ emo rock that’s often found back in the West. Better yet, it finds a nice role model in Zhao Meng, who’s impassioned positivity shines through each song like a beacon of hope and empowerment. Anthemic power pop that’s not afraid to wear its heart on its sleeve, rip into the EP on xiami and douban.

Djang San, the madcap East-West fusionist and jack-of-all-trades, can now add film composer to his resume now. Dreams of Blue Ocean is the soundtrack to Sun Moon Bay, a film about a crew of kids surfing in Hainan, a Chinese island located south of Guangzhou about ‘their hopes and dreams as they face challenges in their lives’. While the documentary, filmed by Jeremy Trylch and Emily Shen, isn’t expected to be drop until early next year, Djang San, being the eager beaver he is, has shared the soundtrack on his bandcamp. Djang San uses quite the array of Chinese instruments here – the pipa, the ruan, a few flutes, percussions, as well of electronics. Will be curious to see how the music plays along the film. If that wasn’t enough, Djang San (+ band) has put out a live recording of the full Djang San experience getting down and dirty in Seoul, Korea where they performed last month. Definitely a livelier vibe. Get (A)live in Korean and Dreams of Blue Ocean on bandcamp and catch Djang San (and many more) in action at the Second Beijing Underground Showcase, Saturday, November 21st at DDC.

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