Words by MC Galang and Ian Urrutia
Illustration by MC Galang
Another month, another week—nothing much has changed but the music still keeps coming, thankfully. Listen to our favorite new music from Asia.
Elsewhere, read our feature on using sign language as a visual form of music.
‘Suite pour l’invisible’ – Ana Roxanne (US/PH)
Filipino-American artist Ana Roxanne transfigures fragments of sounds into fully realized concepts, both acute and mesmerizing. There was a moment in her 2019 album, ~~~, which I put on the background and ended up snatching me from writing a story and right into the song’s specific memory. “Para syang bukang-liwayway,” I heard a woman say on closing track “In a Small Valley.” It was a song with such familial openness and conjures similar memories.
Her latest album, Because of a Flower (out on November 13), moves beyond the relationship of space and memory and into the “interwoven notions of gender identity, beauty, and cruelty.” On “Suite pour l’invisible,” Ana Roxanne cultivates a rich sense of self-exploration through meditative solitude structured around ambient moods and sounds, the “fragile balance of voice, bass, space, and texture.” It’s proximate, warm, and touch sentimental in some ways that remain grounded in her personal journey.
‘교각Bent’ – Arexibo (KR)
Seoul-based mixed-media artist Arexibo’s “Bent” is a commanding cut from her producer debut release, 카운터! (Counter!), built on mechanical iciness and baleful urgency. There’s no immediate premise, but it serves as a formidable contrast to its succeeding track, “𓆉)))) 𓆉))),” which deep-dives into the vastness and darkness of what can only be the ocean, or some kind of depthless body of water. Arexibo’s background in visual arts certainly plays a critical role in shaping the narrative of her music: its themes and consciousness. But most of all, how contrast oftentimes foment conflict. “Bent” and “𓆉)))) 𓆉)))” manifest tension sublimely through different means, one that’s immediate; the other, foreboding.
‘Hue’ – August Wahh (PH)
August Wahh’s “Hue” is a brief respite from the shimmering bounce of her 2019 Labyrinth joint EP with Manila-based artist, crwn. The ASEAN Music Showcase Festival alum vocals lounge around honeyed production from London’s Subculture, both elements swirling and melting into each other. Balmy and gentle, “Hue” ascribes to the sacredness of stillness, as well comfort in the commonplace.
‘Knots’ – Hyph11E (CN)
“Knots” cuts and upends spectacularly with its menacing and self-assured sensibilities. Chinese producer Hyph11E makes frantic grime music (her upcoming album, Aperture, arrives on October 16) that provokes action: intense, forceful, physical. It’s exciting, unpredictable, and devouring. God, I can’t wait to hear more from her.
‘Sleepwalking’ – Arthur Tan (PH)
The enjoyment of Logiclub producer Arthur Tan’s “Sleepwalking” is earned. It’s the kind of house record that booms in a room you just stepped in, lingers a bit, and only sinks in after a few times it’s spun. Not the type that draws attention to itself, it does its job of breaking lulls and allows one to give into instinct instead of pressure: to roam—and own—whatever space you’re in, just because.
‘Almond Eyes’ – KIRINJI f/ Chinza Dopeness (JP)
Although this song was released in October 2019, it popped on my Spotify Discover Weekly playlist and has been on heavy rotation for a few days now. I thought it was worth digging into some of the innately interesting facts about the song and the band, KIRINJI, who apparently have been making pop and dance-pop music since 1996. This makes “Almond Eyes” surprisingly difficult to place, as Japan’s history of pop music stretches far beyond traditional forms.
KIRINJI’s approach is a prototype for many producers, especially on YouTube’s thriving Majestic Casual and “beats to listen to while studying” stations. “Almond Eyes” is unassumingly cool, especially when you contextualize the song made by musicians already in their 50s and 60s (the youngest and latest addition to the band lineup is 30 years old), teaming up with rappers for a retro-pop number which may not be atypical (think Bootsy Collins), but still.
‘Candlelight’ – Sunset Rollercoaster f/ OOHYUK (TW/KR)
Diving deep into the communal and personal tragedies of a fictional city ravaged by a calamity, Sunset Rollercoaster’s upcoming album, Soft Storm, widens the scope of the band in terms of tackling bigger narratives that define the current socio-cultural moment. If the first single “Candlelight” is and indication of a definitive starting point of what we can expect from Sunset Rollercoaster’s conceptual release, then listeners are in for a treat.
The sound and scope are bigger in every sense, from the shift to sprawling and life-affirming statements about coping, grief, disassociation, and reformation to embracing stylistically ambitious greyness that distances itself from the more pop-informed anthems of 2018’s CASSANOVA. This time, at least on “Candelight,” both Sunset Rollercoaster and OOHYUK of South Korean band HYUKOH deconstruct familiarity to rebuild something that is both outsized and essential—a bold, risky move that feels more like a natural progression and not a calculated attempt at artistic relevance.
‘For Life’ – Eve Alai x Senara (SG)
After encapsulating the effervescent mood of summer romance on “Pills and Potions,” Eve Alai and Senara return with another deep house banger that’s more than just a jam in a theoretical sense. Their latest track, “For Life,” relights the fire of good old dance music to the forefront, prioritizing poised groove and effortless, instinctive experience over clinical approach for buildup and climax. In a time that sees the pandemic slowly extinguishing our desire to dance the night away and feel good about ourselves, it’s great to have songs like “For Life” get plucked from obscurity and push things forward by validating our longing and yearning for the old normal to be back. Outside the booming, euphoric noise of a club, “For Life” gives the same exact feelings, albeit living in a different time and circumstances—a proof that dance music is here to stay.
‘Can We, Can We’ – Parasouls (PH)
From the first few rounds of listening to Parasoul’s debut single under Lilystars Records, you already know what to make out of them: an indie pop group whose music captures a misfit’s quirky slice of life. But instead of going full Miranda July or Greta Kline, these kids write about an underrated heroine from Dr. Who, and stray away from traditionally charismatic archetypes in their quest to champion someone that channels their frustrations and fears.
With its catchy, inescapable chorus and disarming lyrics, Parasoul’s “Can We, Can We” has the potential to stick it out for the long run. You can hear the self-assured conviction in its melodic punch, the captivating sense of wonder in the arrangement, and the confident wallop in the vocal delivery. It’s a surprisingly a strong debut from a young band that nobody has ever heard of, but whose potential brims with distinctive boldness. Consider me excited for their future releases.
‘Wingbender’ – Fuzzy, I (ID)
For a band whose constantly evolving soundscapes, art-rock eccentricities, and complex experiments sound like a dreamer’s collection of afterthoughts in a blender, Fuzzy, I’s “Wingbender” is surprisingly engaging from start to finish. The song accompanies its barely perceptible sunspot with meticulous madness: a disconcerting psychedelic trip that could have come from any point of the last five decades in music—think Pink Floyd discovering Animal Collective or Battles for the very first time, or the other way around.
The band’s commitment to organized chaos is something that only a rare few could excavate with intriguingly impressive results. On “Wingbender,” they continue to challenge themselves, sonically and thematically, making music that is both expansive and beautiful, even when it verges on doom.
‘Sweet Dreams’ – seoseo (서서) (KR)
Sifting through Spotify-approved indie/R&B crossovers, “Sweet Dreams” might qualify as the perfect alchemy between chill virality and sensual jams. But there’s more to the track than its understated simmer. Dreamy, velvety, and helmed with the retro-meets-modern soul approach, the new seoseo track allows the vocals to be the front and center, while delicately wrapping it with cocoon-like instrumentation.