Indie music has endured a bumpy ride this turbulent year. In China, the indie-music scene has bounced back in the second half of the year, but as the pandemic surges on across the world, shows, concerts, and music festivals have remained largely out of the question. Without live performances, platforms such as Bandcamp have become the saving grace, allowing fans to keep up with new releases from the safety of their homes.
As we look to the next year, we wanted to take a retrospective glance at what the indie music world has churned out over the course of 2020. We invited Chengdu-based rock darlings Hiperson, Vancouver-based electronic music producer Yu Su, and Japanese rapper Kawabe Taigen (aka Ill Japonia)—all of whom we’ve featured in the past year—to share some of their favorite Asian releases of 2020. While these hardly cover the depth and breadth of indie sounds that have come out of the region this year, their recommendations do offer an overview of how much the contemporary Asian indie music scene has matured, and we’re sure some of these gems will find a spot in your playlist.
或许插上高速网络的翅膀，独立音乐圈子才得以在糟糕的 2020 年苟且。疫情不断拉扯着人与人之间的社交距离，线下活动难以启动，今年年初至今，俱乐部、音乐节甚至厂牌停摆的现象屡见不鲜。虽然国内音乐场景在下半年有所好转，但纵观全球，音乐场景还依然萧条。缺少了与乐迷真人见面的机会，音乐人的收入只能从 Bandcamp 等线上音乐平台获得零星的慰藉。如此捉襟见肘的情形的确令人堪忧，而音乐人的坚持则在当下显得更加可贵，我们依然能在互联网上看到音乐人以各种形式延续着音乐的创作，是一件幸福且幸运的事！
带着 2021 年的美好祝愿，我们邀请了 Neocha 杂志曾报道过的三组亚洲身份音乐人，来为我们分享这一整年他们听过的亚洲地区曲目。2020 年，他们纷纷收获了各自的新作品，成都海朋森（Hiperson）乐队时隔五年发行的叙事概念长专《成长小说》，让线下演出和实体专辑都一票难求；居住在加拿大的开封电子音乐人苏玉（Yu Su）在年末刚刚发行了个人首张全长专辑的先行曲目，以母亲河《黄河蓝》为命题尝试更多美妙元素；日本说唱歌手 Kawabe Taigen (aka. Ill Japonia) 在十余年音乐生涯过后推出自己首张专辑，也为远在英国的东方厂牌 Eastern Margins 打响第一枪。尽管这份推荐并不代表所有优秀的亚洲音乐发行，但绝对能为你提供新鲜的声音，一起来看看！
This year, we released Bildungsroman and held a successful China-wide tour, so it’s been quite a fruitful 2020. But with the pandemic, we had to get used to the constant sense of uncertainty and learn how to make decisions on the fly. We’re lucky that everything has turned out so well. This year, we’ve also found a lot more direction with what we want in the future, which is to connect with listeners who come out to support our music. We’re not going to reveal too much about 2021—we just see it as the year after this one, but we’ll of course be synthesizing our experiences from this year into new sounds, planning more shows, issuing some re-releases, and putting out new releases!
The albums we’re recommending all have their own unique sonic textures. Listeners who are interested in a meandering, exploratory listening experience will enjoy these the most. Contemporary music designed for the present moment are works that we believe should be cherished, and for every listen, they take on new meaning and new context.
2020年海朋森也做了《成长小说》的发行和巡演，是非常充实的一年。因为突发的疫情，很多事项必须在变动的环境里做出决定。我们很幸运一切较为顺利。在今年的巡演里我们更清晰地感受到了来听音乐的人们所怀着的联系和连接的愿望。2021 年具体的计划虽然不适合现在讲，但对于我们来说，它正是紧接着 2020 的一年，是要把在 2020 感受到的东西转化出来、变成新作品的一年。一些活动、再版、新发行的计划已经在酝酿了。
Railway Suicide Train – Continent
Vocalist Chen Sijiang: The album as a whole isn’t driven by electric-guitar riffs, but by vocals and rhythms. There’s also a lot more clarity than their past albums, which was a pleasant surprise.
Bassist Wang Minghui: I love the airy percussions, ambient sounds, lyricism, and the way they use melodies. It breaks loose from the structure of traditional rock music. Their avant-garde approach has given this album its own distinctive brand of beauty.
Hotkey Killers – Wo Zui Zhen Gui De (My Most Precious)
Drummer Wang Boqiang: Their melodies just make sense, and it’s easy on the ears. There’s also an unrelenting power to their vicious guitar riffs, which they combine with rhythmic bass and post-punk drumming to give the album life. The lyrics are straightforward, but they meditate deeply on life and the world at large.
鼓手王博强: 他们有逻辑又喜耳的旋律和不失力量且狂暴的吉他 riff 加上稳定带有律动的贝斯以及后朋克式的鼓组，让整体充满生气。歌词虽表象却不失对生活对世界的思考。
Uncle Hu – The National Moment
Guitarist Liu Zetong: This is bedroom pop at it’s finest. With his clever arrangements, he’s managed to overcome the limitations of his recording equipment. The work is expressive and lucid. With its Neil Young-style melodies, No Wave-style guitars, and progressive-rock-style choruses, the album truly shines.
吉他手刘泽同: 这张卧室录音，在局限的环境里，用编曲去弥补了一些在录音条件上的限制，而且能很好的表达呈现作品的概念；比如一些 Neil Young 式的旋律线条、些许 No Wave 式的吉他演奏、循序渐进的合唱等，这些都是这张 EP 非常闪光的地方。
My tour dates for the entire year were canceled, but it almost feels like it was meant to be. The festivals I looked forward to the most were the ones where I’d be sharing a stage with Andrew Weatherall. His sudden passing was devastating. With nothing else to do, I ended up spending the first few months of the years putting the finishes touching on my debut album. As for the rest of my time, I’ve written music for others, which includes remixes and a short-film score. Other than that, I’m taking my cooking account on Instagram more seriously. I’ve even started developing all kinds of new recipes.
I hope to kick off 2021 by officially releasing my new album and launching bié Records, a label I’m working on. My new album will be released on limited-edition clear vinyl in China, and it’ll feature a special remix of a track by Knopha. Releasing my own work in China is an adventure all on its own, and I can’t wait for people to hear it.
As for my recommendations, I hope everyone can listen with an open mind. That’s all I ever hope for, for anyone, with any style of music.
全年的巡演一下被取消了，其中有几场原本计划与 Andrew Weatherall（英国著名 DJ）同台，他的突然离世真的很令人伤心。没有演出的前几个月里，我完成了自己第一张全长专辑，然后就是帮别人混混歌，做做视频配乐之类的工作。也坚持在做 ins 上的美食账号，认真开发着新的食谱。我希望用个人全新专辑以及 bié Records 厂牌（苏玉策划音乐厂牌）开启新的一年。同时，新专辑还会在国内推出限量版透明黑胶（Lathe Cut），另外附赠了音乐人 Knopha 的特别混音曲目。首次在国内发行自己的作品是一次全新的尝试，但已经等不及和大家见面了。
Mong Tong – Ancient Mars
I literally discovered this band while compiling this year-end list! For those who know me well, they know what song I’d choose to be played for my funeral—Pink Floyd’s live version of “Echoes” that the band played at Pompei. I was unfamiliar with Pink Floyd when I first heard the song, but the track touched me. I still don’t know much about Pink Floyd, but honestly, this song is probably the closest that humankind can get to outer space without boarding a rocket ship. The reason I’m mentioning this Pink Floyd song is because Taiwanese band Mong Tong brings me a similar feeling to “Echoes.” Just like how Pink Floyd played in Pompeii, I wish I can see Mong Tong play live at the Copán Ruins, or maybe at the Hanging Temple of Hengshan.
对于那些非常了解我的人来说，他们或许知道我会选择哪一首歌在我的葬礼上播放 —— 那就是 Pink Floyd 在庞贝古城现场演绎的歌曲《Echoes》。当时在听这首歌的时候还不知道 Pink Floyd 的来头，但足以震彻魂飞。我对 Pink Floyd 不算太了解，但老实讲，这首歌可以带人类通往最接近外太空的地方。而之所以要提到 Pink Floyd 的这首歌，是因为台湾这支夢東乐队带给我的感觉和《Echoes》很像。这支乐队是我在编辑这篇推荐时才发掘的！Pink Floyd 能在庞贝古城里演奏，我倒希望能在科潘玛雅遗址或是在恒山悬空寺上看到夢東乐队的现场！
Mogambo – Cobra
A release from Siamese Twins Records, a fairly new Bangkok-based label run by musicians and DJs of Thai, Indian, and Japanese backgrounds. This EP is produced by one of the label owners, Sunju, alongside multi-instrumentalist Jerom Doudet. It’s brimming with mystic, 90s-inspired, ambient soundscapes and slow-burning psychic trance, which is all built upon a foundation of amazingly authentic tribal root. The remix EP also just came out featuring a piece by me and another one by Benedikt Frey.
Eating Music – Dreaming with Friends
Eating Music is one of the most thoughtful independent label and music communities in China, and they have a very diverse and genre-fluid taste. They have put out some amazing music. This all-female compilation in particular really sums up the kind of sounds they represent in China’s very active and exciting music scene. My favorite track is Plague by Cocoonics.
L8ching – Mint
I first heard about Chi-Ching Records when my friends were talking about some cool skater boy on the Netflix dating show Terrace House, who was spotted wearing a shirt of theirs. Although they’ve been making waves in the streetwear world, it’s important to recognize that it’s an amazing music label. I recently started chatting online with the label founder Chenying, and we’ve become good friends because of our mutual interests in music, film, and food! I don’t know much about L8ching but this single has the perfect amount of Stone’s-Throw-y groove and nostalgia, blended with a hint of Taipei’s breeze.
Wang Ziheng – We, The Fire Are One
I don’t know much about China’s improvisational music, sound art, drone and outside of my friend Simon Frank’s project. So coming across this recently was a big, big surprise. And it turned out the artist, Wang Ziheng, played sax on one of Gong Gong Gong’s tracks. I like how he doesn’t call himself a free-jazz saxophonist. He just sees himself as someone dabbling in noise and improvisational music. I’m amazed by the sentimental, melodic qualities on top of everything else. This is one of the most outstanding collections of dark, haunting, spacial, and complex soundscapes that I have heard in a long time, and his bonus tribute to Japanese punk rockers Zuno Keisatsu brought tears immediately. The original is such a classic.
除了我的好朋友 Simon Frank 的项目以外，我对国内的即兴演奏、声音艺术、沉没音乐（Drone）、噪音音乐场景实在不怎么在行。不过最近听到的这张王子衡的专辑带给我很大惊喜。前段时间，我记得王子衡还在工工工乐队的《DÌXIÀ BEIJING 地下北京》专辑中演奏了萨克斯的部分。他并不习惯称自己是一位 Free Jazz 萨克斯手，而更愿意称自己是搞试验和噪音的，这一点我蛮欣赏的。我被他音乐中那种感性的旋律特质所折服，他的声音似乎可以凌驾于任何事物之上。可以说这是我长期以来，听过最棒的集合暗黑、诡谲、空间感和各种复杂音景的专辑。同时在专辑的附赠曲目中，你还会听到王子衡致敬日本经典摇滚乐队頭脳警察（Zuno Keisatsu）的段落，令所有情绪一触即发。
2020 is a tough year, and it’s made a lot of things transparent for everyone. I suffered myself. My mental state was really unstable. Not being able to play shows and seeing people in person disrupted the balance I try to strike between input and output. However, it allowed me to rethink and recognize what I love and why I love it. Rediscovering old music that I used to listen to was like revisiting my roots and the foundation of my identity. It reminded me why I’m still doing music. These artists I chose were musicians I listened to when I was really down during the first lockdown in London in April. It was music that healed and uplifted my spirit.
In April, I made a ‘healing’ mix for NTS Radio, which includes songs from the EPs I chose here. The mix is me using these artists’ music to rehabilitate myself as a human and musician. Hopefully, they’ll help heal your spirit also.
今年四月，我在 NTS Radio 制作了一支带有治愈感觉的混音带，其中包括了三首我在此篇文章中推荐的音乐。这支混音带中，你会听到我用这些歌曲构建起一个疗愈的空间。希望这支混音带也能治愈你的灵魂和内心。
Foodman – DOKUTSU
Foodman is my sauna buddy, soulmate, and my number one human inspiration. His latest release DOKUTSU has the perfect balance of 4/4 kick dance music mixed together with his trademark “Hentai” rhythms and sound designs.
FUJI||||||||||TA – iki
FUJI||||||||||TA’s approach to making music is unique and incredibly “physical.” With this EP, I feel like I can hear his movements, breath, and spirit. It transcends the genre and limitation of new age or ambient music, ad it helped me learn how “playing or making music“ can be such an organic, and physical part of your daily life.
制作人 FUJI||||||||||TA 挺不一样的，因为他的音乐带有一种独特的 “体感” 美学。我能通过这张 EP 感受到他的动作、呼吸甚至是灵魂深处的独白。其远远超出了 New Age、Ambient 等音乐类型的界限，让我领悟到原来 “创作和演奏” 可以与身体融合在一起，让一切自然而然地流淌在生命之中。
Ralph – Selfish
I mentioned wanting to heal my spirit through music, but I also want to uplift, to recharge myself so I have the energy to fight back against all that’s happening this year. Ralph’s music has not only helped me survive this year but also elevated my chakra.
Shaka Bose – NAGOMI
His EP NAGOMI is the essence of what I mentioned earlier. Usually, trap and bass music resonates around the first and second chakra, but this music resonates with all seven chakras. I swear that Shaka Bose is the real-life version of the Dark Knight and Paladin from Final Fantasy. He came to visit me in London just before the first lockdown. We talked about music, life, spirituality, and also how much video game and video-game music means to our life and music creation.
印度哲学的观念中，共有七个轮脉存在于体内，分布于人体的不同部位，掌管并负责着身心系统。一般的 Bass 和 Trap 音乐只能打开人体的两个脉轮，但这张专辑将我的七个轮脉全部打开。我敢说釈迦坊主（Shaka Bose）绝对是一个狠角色，他就是活在现实生活中的黑暗骑士或帕拉丁（电子游戏最终幻想中的角色）。在疫情传播开之前，我和这哥们儿在伦敦见过一面，我们聊了聊音乐、人生和精神层面的事情，以及电子游戏和原声配乐是如何影响我们的人生和创作的。