1. Eye by Chui Wan
Following up on what was essentially one of the best Chinese releases of 2017, in The Landscape the Tropics Never Had, is no easy task. Earlier this year Chui Wan escaped to Lisbon, Portugal to record their fourth studio album, Eye, and the lyrics drip with nostalgia and an appreciation for nature.
With 10 tracks to wrap your ears around, the album opens with ‘Sun,’ which irradiates a cluttered brightness via its use of upbeat guitar lines and a strong syncopated percussive beat. We even hear what sounds like a flute and some horns in there for a few seconds. It is a resounding statement of departure for a band who have been so heavily associated with the grey bleakness of industry and noise.
Throughout the album Yan Yulong stretches his vocals, dancing along falsetto notes on tracks like ‘Gentle Binding Love.’ The title track ‘Eye’ experiments with some good old-fashioned ’60s psychedelia, using a taishokoto, as it is known in East Africa (or a Nagoya harp in Japan). Blending together the sitar-like sounds of this stringed instrument with congas and intense droning vocals, ‘Eye’ is emblematic of Chui Wan’s ardent admiration for psychedelic music.
2. Walking in a Boundless Dream by Guzz
Hainan producer Guzz returns with another fascinating, mesmeric album. Continuing his exploration of Asian music, Walking in a Boundless Dream is his second full-length album after An Elephant in the Jungle. Guzz manages to capture a lot of what fascinates about Southeast Asia, with its forests, mountains and breathtaking natural landscapes.
He draws us in via his idiosyncratic use of percussion, as heard on ‘Time River,’ which is a sensuous representation of a floating voyage. Guzz seems to replicate the buzzing sounds of cicadas and insects, while describing the creeping atmosphere of the riverside. Elsewhere in the album, ‘Sky Tree’ relies on woodwind instruments, which are set over a steady drone, allowing the music to float upwards. This album is, quite simply, magical and a must for your next meditation session.
3. Slip B by Slikback & Hyph11E
Part of the first wave of collaborations between Shanghai label SVBKVLT and Ugandan collective Nyege Nyege Tapes/Hakuna Kulala, this release matches two very unique producers in Kenyan Slikback and the Shanghai-based Hyph11E. Locked away together for three intense days, the pair came up with three tracks and one remix each of the other’s music.
The EP opens with characteristic intensity on ‘ISHU.’ Percussion is intoxicating and disorienting, while haunting atmospherics play in the background of the track. It’s a good primer for what is to come, as Slikback’s thumping rhythms combine interestingly with Hyph11E’s penchant for industrial effects, as on ‘SHIMIAN,’ where tribal drums are distorted and garbled. ‘USINGIZI’ offers more of what we might call arhythmic rhythm, with the track breaking down at points into misty feedback and at other times resembling the sound of an angry buzzsaw.
Hyph11E’s remix of Slikback’s ‘RAGE’ offers a fascinating insight into the Chinese producer’s interpretation of, and appreciation for, Slikback’s super intense percussion-based tunes. Similarly, Slikback peels back layers of Hyph11E’s production on ‘Black Pepper.’ We’re excited for whatever comes next for these two fantastic collectives.
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