Raft

Raft: “Liberal” Asian Pop From Japan and Thailand

raft

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Raft is (sort of) a j-pop band with a purpose: to establish and promote “Liberal Music,” where music can be made across great distances and overcome any cultural barriers. With members from Japan and Thailand, these self-proclaimed ambassadors of worldly music make sweet and catchy Asian pop.

From Website:

“We are developing a free music concept named ‘LIBERAL MUSIC’ where the music is not limited by boarder, language and style. A music that attracts anyone, anywhere with combination of rock, pop and all other sorts of music.”

Raft: Website Twitter Facebook SoundCloud

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber
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thruoutin

thruoutin: American-born, Chinese-based electronic producer and multi-instrumentalist

thruoutin

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I’m all for the somber glitches and steady beats of thruoutin, an electronic musician with an eclectic discography all worth checking out. My personal favorite is his most recent release, April’s Contingent of Outlying Territory, followed by 2015’s Service.

From Bandcamp:

“This release is about the exploration to new places, whether physical or within our minds. The tracks were written between January to October, 2016. At this time I was finding new ways to approach writing songs; from a technical aspect I was limiting myself to a single sound source for the material. After an idea had been established I would expand upon it with another sound source to build on the original foundation. In this same period, on a physical level, I had moved house twice as well as traveled to new cities in between. With each movement I felt better about my surroundings and more comfortable with these journeys to new places. The album’s sounds narrate an expedition into uncharted territory. Each song is a chapter that takes the listener along on this mission.”

thruoutin: Website Facebook SoundCloud Twitter

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber
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Frequency Asia

Frequency Asia: The podcast celebrates its first anniversary with an excellent greatest hits collectionfrequency asia

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I’m kicking myself for just finding Frequency Asia, a podcast and label that finds the best modern sounds of Asia. Learn more about them here. Its Vol. 1 compilation from two years ago is an excellent introduction to what the podcast covers, from thrilling guitar rock to dreamy ambient jams and everything in between.

From Bandcamp:

“Frequency Asia has been around a year now, so I thought we should do a compilation to celebrate. Frequency Asia Vol. 1 takes 22 songs played on the podcast over the first 30 episodes and brings them to you on tape or via the magic of the internet.

This is some of the best underground music that Asia has to offer, from psychedelia from Thailand to instrumental hip-hop form the Siberian tundra, to Malaysian noise rock and Indian sludge, this compilation should hopefully have a little bit of something for everyone.”

Frequency Asia: Website Facebook Twitter

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber
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Hanoi Masters

Hanoi Masters: preserving and sharing the sound of the Vietnam War.

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Similar to INFRACom!, Glitterbeat’s Hanoi Masters is a music compilation that aims to preserve and share the sound of Vietnamese music during a specific era. Hanoi Masters is a collection of field recordings of Vietnam War-era songs recorded by Grammy-winning producer Ian Brennan. The songs were recorded live on traditional instruments and capture the mood of a country during and after the devastating war.

From Bandcamp:

“The first volume of Glitterbeat’s new series of releases: Hidden Musics. Each Hidden Musics release will feature un-mediated “field” recordings of lesser-known global music traditions.

“Hanoi Masters: War is a Wound, Peace is a Scar” is a haunting audio document recorded in the summer of 2014 by Grammy-award winning producer Ian Brennan (Tinariwen, Malawi Mouse Boys, The Good Ones). The sepia-tinged songs are sung and played live and direct by elderly Vietnamese musicians using half-forgotten traditional instruments. These musicians all have deep personal connections to the upheavals of the Vietnam War and the album’s mesmerizing mood navigates the blurred line between raw beauty and sadness.

40 years after the end of the Vietnam War, a war these Hanoi musicians still call the “American War”, the wounds and scars of that era are ever-present. “Hanoi Masters” is an album of cautious healing and an unforgettable meditation on conflict, resistance, collective memory, and the longing for what has been lost.

In the liner notes of the album, producer Ian Brennan discusses the experience of making “Hanoi Masters”:

‘We had gone to Hanoi to record veterans from their side. Some were music masters, one of whom had joined the army at age thirteen and whose job it was
to sing to the troops to boost morale and provide solace. Another was a former AK-47 issued village leader who had not sung in over forty years, and proved to be the most dead-on vocally. She did not hide or adorn, but quietly revealed muted emotions that a microphone often can detect more easily than face-to-face interaction. Then, immediately afterwards, she withdrew back into a stoic shell.

The streets of Hanoi are an almost direct inversion of western cities, with hordes of scooters displacing and grossly outnumbering cars. The chaotic ballet of riders, sometimes four or five to a single motorcycle, is offset by the reserve of the
riders. Many are masked to ward off pollution and only once was there witnessed even the slightest reaction to all the incessant horns and traffic violations by others.

Those who dismiss Asian music as without an edge, may have simply overlooked the intricacy. With a whammy-bar technology that dates back to the 9th century, it is fair to say that Vietnamese traditions had a bit of a head start over the headbangers of the 1980’s. A startling revelation was a plucked instrument (the K’ni) that is clasped between the teeth as the local dialectic language is spoken through the
single string. What sounds like an extraterrestrial instrumental to the uninitiated actually contains coded, poetic lyrics. Again, futurist innovators like Theremin, clearly arrived a
little later to the party than commonly claimed.

Let it suffice to say that these artists are a far cry from the lip-synching
karaoke show that we saw on the local cable, with groups of teenagers
cavorting on a soundstage and mouthing the words to K-pop songs—air-Karaoke, if you will—that managed to render something pre-fab even less real.

These elders carry a haunting, but muted sadness that seems only fully revealed through the music that they valiantly keep alive in the face of industrialization, waning regard and interest, and the rapid homogenization and “progress” overtaking their homeland.'”

Hanoi Masters/Glitterbeat: Website Facebook Twitter SoundCloud

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber
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Okamotonoriaki

Okamotonoriaki: mü-nest’s latest release is a remix EP of the Japanese musician’s “Our Happy Ending.”

Okamotonoriaki

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Okamotonoriaki is a Japanese electronic musician and videographer who releases music on Malaysian indie label mü-nest. The original mix of “Our Happy Ending” sounds like the quiet sunrise you find on a long road trip that shares a similar wonder for lonesome peace as Yo La Tengo and Broken Social Scene. This EP includes remixes from recent mü-nest signees Dae Kim, Burnie, and Shuzhen.

From Bandcamp:

“Lonesome can appear to be a tough task to go through in our life. It, sometimes leads us to existence without purpose, find a love one or even death in drastic cases. What comes as a closure from it, can be sometimes harsh or nurture us to be who we are today. And this is what we learnt from okamotonoriaki’s third album, “Happy Ending”.

Our Happy Ending EP consists of three new affiliates of mü-nest, Dae Kim, Burnie and Shuzhen, bringing re-worked versions of the song, expressing different perspective to their happy endings.

Korea-born producer/composer, Dae Kim, captures similar serendipity with the original track. The song is quite susceptible to sappy tendencies and rather pop infused at times. The rhythms are the decorations rather than the element that carries the songs’ momentum, when rather the melodies’ and musical notes create flows and rhythm for the listeners to hold on to. Reminiscing poem subtly lies within the layers of synthesizers.

On the other hand, Burnie, who released his debut album, “Lotus City” last January through 4daz-le Records, offers rather different perspective to the mix. The song introduces itself with a sampled vocals and the poem surrounded by lush synthscapes, collaged narratively. The part that makes this remix comparatively special is when the tastefully constructed beat with well mashed amount of swing emerges into the song. Furthermore, grim yet sentimental distorted ambient guitar shifts its emotion to rather sanguine with xylophones complementing the blend, which shows the Macao producer/DJ’s own closure of the song.

Meanwhile, Shuzhen offers more minimalistic approaches to her epilogue. Classically trained pianist, who arises from Johor Bahru of Malaysia has paved her path to be a composer by collaborating with local artists for variety of different projects. The Johor Bahru composer invigorates her arrangement with subtle soundscapes and the poem. Dramatic tendencies form itself through uplifting yet bittersweet phased chords of piano slowly fading in. When the drums fades out to present contrasting synthscapes, which elaborate themselves to form complex yet sumptuous kaleidoscope of sound which reflects her distinctive feminine sensitivity.

What separates us from one to another is how we define a happy ending. For some, what defines a happy ending would be a success in life, whereas for some, it is simply to get a taste of their favorite meal. Perhaps, the happiest ending possible in our life is in us. To truly understand ourselves and what lies ahead of us.”

Okamotonoriaki: Website SoundCloud Facebook Twitter

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber
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Nasty Wizard Recordings

Nasty Wizard Recordings: the diverse sounds of modern pan-Asian shoegaze, all in one compilation

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I think I found a new favorite label – Nasty Wizard Recordings is a Beijing-based label that specializes in a range of noisy and out-there underground music (self-described by the label as “mostly evil music”). Last year they put out a release featuring HN favorites Chinese Football, so you know they’ve got great taste.

The label’s latest release is a collection of songs from some of pan-Asia’s most beloved modern shoegaze bands.

From Bandcamp:

“This May the gnarliest tape label in China, Nasty Wizard Recordings, is back with their first epic release of the year, a pan-Asian compilation of Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Japan’s shoegaze scenes. We’re talking ground zero for the blistering, reverb-drenched genre that has taken the continent by storm over the past few years! Featuring tracks from Hangzhou, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Xi’an the Asia Shoegaze Compilation Vol. 1 is a must have for anyone looking to get their head lost in the clouds.

With a love for making destructive noises with their guitars and array of electronic effects, Tokyo’s Oeil has been a constant presence in the Japanese shoegaze scene for over a decade, and while the band has been relatively quiet since their widely popular 2014 EP ‘Myrtle’ we were fortunate enough to have them share two of their latest tracks.

Next up it wouldn’t be a shoegaze comp without a bittersweet farewell. The Pillow Man, a trio out of Hangzhou, otherwise loftily known as ‘Paradise on Earth’ didn’t even make it to two years as a band. However that fleeting, affecting touch is captured brilliantly in the band’s few surviving tunes.

We then head down to the Pearl of the Orient aka. Hong Kong where Sea of Tranquility has been creating dreamy shoegaze pop since 2014. The five-piece, with an abundance of piercing guitar noise and pulsating reverb, continues to convey the starry romance of the genre to ravenous listeners.

Finally, we head to the old Qing Dynasty capital of China where Xi’an’s Endless White resides. The young quartet, fresh off their debut EP, relishes in jangly guitar work, wispy vocals, and sublime walls of sound that engulf the band and enrapture your ears — the perfect closer.

Links below to Hangzhou’s The Pillow Man, Tokyo’s Oeil, Hong Kong’s The Sea of Tranquility, and Xi’an’s Endless White”

Nasty Wizard Recordings: Facebook SoundCloud

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber
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The White Tulips

The White Tulips: Chinese noise-pop band’s self-released debut gets a reissue via Qiii Snacks

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Qiii Snacks, one of my favorite labels, is reissuing the White Tulips’ 2015 self-released debut ‘Fondle’, which you can now stream. The White Tulips are from Amoy (also known as Xiamen) and sound like your favorite indie noise-pop band.

The White Tulips/Qiii Snacks: Website Facebook Twitter

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber
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Cambodian Soul Sounds

Cambodian Soul Sounds: tracks, stories, and compilations highlighting Cambodian psychedelic rock & soul from the ’50s to the ’70s.

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Cambodian Soul Sounds is a Stockholm, Sweden-based label that shares compilations highlighting songs and stories from Cambodia’s thriving psychedelic rock and soul scene from the ’50s to the ’70s. The compilations, curated by Richard Rossa, raises funds to support organizations that are trying to preserve and rebuild Cambodia’s cultural life. My personal favorite is Vol. II, which includes what might be my favorite cover of The Beatles’ “Hey Jude.”

From Richard Rossa via Facebook:

“The music scene in Cambodia during the 50s to the mid-70s was swinging hard! Khmer musicians of the era were influenced by western rhythm & blues, rock n’ roll, and music from Latin America. Musicians like Sinn Sisamouth studied these musical styles when traveling abroad, many Cambodians also tuned in these songs on US Armed Forces Radio during the Vietnam War and got influenced by the western sound.

The combination of styles and culture created a truly unique touch to the vivid rock music of Cambodia.

But…It all ended on April 17, 1975, the day the Khmer Rouge took over Phnom Penh. With many others – the artists were executed or sent away to prison camps to die. Cambodia fell into darkness.

During these years pretty much every original recording and master tape were destroyed. Listening to this music would have got you killed. But thanks to vinyl collectors who risked their lives concealing or smuggle their records out of the country there is still a bunch of them out there ready to be restored and archived for future generations to enjoy.

Cambodian Soul Sounds vol 1 is a compilation of old songs I managed to pick up myself when traveling in Cambodia. Even if the recordings presents a charming distorted sound, songs were also really low, but with a lot of high frequencies cutting through, making it somehow unpleasant at loud volumes. As a DJ and producer, I took matters into my own hands and reworked the recordings to give them a warmer and more suitable sound for your earphones or the DJ to blast at maximum volume at the local psychedelic soul party. Just as I do.

I am doing this because I know this music deserves a place in the context I am working in – as a Dj. It will help to find new listeners, promote and raise awareness of Cambodia as a whole. However, with its tragic history, this legacy needs to be treated with respect. I am doing this work to raise funds for project in Cambodia such as the work for music preservation and also to help disadvantaged children. The project is 100% non-profitable and every revenue from these track sales or streaming are going straight into these projects.

With this work, the lost musicians of Cambodia can continue to give aid back to their country long after they passed.”

Cambodian Soul Sounds: Facebook SoundCloud

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber
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Moe Meguro

Moe Meguro: “Crosby, Stills & Nash meets Cap’n Jazz”

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I appreciate any Bandcamp bio that simply states “Crosby, Stills & Nash meets Cap’n Jazz,” yet Moe Meguro go the extra mile and actually pull off the description. The three band members are based around the world and each musician brings part of their home to the blend. My guess: Joseph “Jojo” Brandel, from Yokohama, Japan, brings the math-rock emo riffs; Bernie Gelman, from Austin, TX, brings the hazy drive; and Logan Bean, from California, brings the sunny pop harmonies. Extra points to the band for covering ‘Walls And Bridges’-era John Lennon with “#9 Dream.”

From the band:

“With band members scattered over six thousand miles apart across two continents and a name borrowed from the Japanese Olympic curling champion, Moe Meguro is a melting pot of disparate styles. The 3-piece band consisting of Joseph Brandel and Bernie Gelman on guitars and Logan Bean on drums (with all three members covering vocal duty) convenes once or twice a year to write, rehearse, and record music back on their home turf in the Bay Area, California. Over that short span of time, the band collaborates on crafting intricate, sonically lush music drawing from Beatles-tinged power pop laced with harmonies to hazy shoegaze and a bit of math rock.”

Moe Meguro: Bandcamp Facebook Twitter

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber
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No Party For Cao Dong

No Party For Cao Dong: Taiwanese post-rock for fans of The National, Interpol, and other nighttime guitar rock

no party for cao dong

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As we wait hopefully for new music by post-rock greats No Party For Cao Dong, there’s plenty of great tracks to get acquainted with. Also head over to Beehype for a look at the video for “Shanhai” (山海), one of the more creative music videos I’ve seen in a while.

From Bandcamp bio:

“Beats bouncing between Disco and Grunge, [we’re] often recognized as a indie/post-rock band with rough and sharp tone fusing with softness and gentleness.

Whispering in despair and screaming in hopeless is the vocal, leading melodies and rhythms to unexpected arrangements.

Aside from music, their exotic, passive but romantic lyrics engraves emotions deeply into your hearts.”

No Party For Cao Dong: Bandcamp Website Facebook

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber
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