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Hong Kong's New Music Wave

There’s a whole raft of exciting talent emerging across the city’s scene, in every type of genre imaginable - join us as we sit down with Hong Kong's rising music stars.

Written by
Arthur Tam
Mark Tjhung


Think HK music is all ballads and boredom? You’d be wrong. We’ve uncovered 23 of the most promising new singers and bands that you need to listen to right now. Your new favourite artist is waiting… By Mark Tjhung and Arthur Tam

Rising R&B star

If you’re into: Brandy, Justin Lo
Label: Universal Music 
Latest Release: AGA (2013)
Upcoming Release: New single out beginning of June
For more:
Recommending Listening: <<問好>> Greetings (below)



Mysterious electronica

If you’re into: Brian Eno, Aphex Twin, Hammock
Label: unsigned
Latest release: Sit under the Chair (2012)
Upcoming Release: Shadow of My Sea
Recommended listening: Forest Piano II (below)
For more:
Upcoming show: Wed Jun 11, Hidden Agenda

Given the paucity of electronic music in Hong Kong, the beautiful, eerie, atmospheric creations of Cam Huang – aka La’Bridge – are a wonderful breath of fresh air. Formerly a guitarist in a post-rock band in her native Guangzhou, Huang started her solo project after arriving in Hong Kong, crafting tunes that draw on elements of minimalist techno, post-rock and ambient electronica. “I want to show my imagination through music,” Huang tells Time Out.

Despite being completely sans vocals, La’Bridge’s music is often inspired by quite specific social issues, ranging from China’s growing pollution (Mongolia) to the acceptance of homosexuality (Only Flowers Know). However, Huang is not forcing her commentary down listeners’ throats. “What you imagine from my music may not be the same as what I imagine,” she says. “I want people to imagine for themselves, and not just what I imagine.” Indeed, there’s plenty of room for that in the music of La’Bridge. MT


HK-centric Math-folk

If you’re into: American Football, TTNG
Label: unsigned
Latest release: none
Upcoming Release: Debut album, Sep 2014
Recommended listening: Burn It Down (below)
For more:
Upcoming show: Street Music Series, Sat Aug 16, HKAPA

This three-girl math-folk outfit of Soni Cheng, Soft Liu and Heihei Ng are bringing something genuinely different to the scene, with their quirky musical take on Hong Kong life. Hard at work on their debut album, coming in September, GDJYB tell Mark Tjhung about the message in their music…

So, GDJYB – tell us about the name!
Liu: It stems from the dish gai dan jang yuk bang (a traditional dish made of steamed egg and pork). Our objective is to talk about social issues and the feelings of the city, but in a funny, quirky way. This name takes something traditional and adds something special.

Your math-folk concept is quite distinctive. Where did that come from?
Liu: We all love folk music but we just thought maybe too many people were already playing it. So one day we were just joking ‘ah, let’s make math-rock folk’. Then we thought it would be a better way to deliver our message – folk is always trying to describe the social or political issues, but with HK society becoming more complicated, we found that math-rock folk, and the varying tempos, patterns and melodies, matched this message. 

How have you gone about fusing the two genres?
Liu: We have done a lot of experimenting. Math-rock is really quite different to folk music, so we were trying to use very folky chords and guitar.
Ng: The tempo and groove is about math-rock.
Cheng: We’re trying to do different kinds of song – one with 20 percent math, 80 percent folk, another with just a folk guitar rhythm but with math drums.
Liu: We are still exploring, testing the proportions. 

You’re also fusing English and Cantonese a bit, too… 
Liu: We use Cantonglish and write down the bits and pieces of Hongkongers’ daily life. The problems Hong Kong is facing today are very complicated. The languages which can best represent Hong Kong are not only Cantonese and English, but also Cantonglish. And by using a world language, that is, English, it can take our music to different corners of this continent. 

Would you say that all of your songs are very much about some kind of commentary on HK?

Ng: Sometimes, but we are not very obviously talking about the political. For example, we have a song called Philip the Buster, which actually stems from a filibuster. We are just trying to twist the language we are using, 
we just don’t want to be too direct.



Dreamy pop pairing

If you’re into: 
Mojave 3, Beach House, Marissa Nadler
Label: none
Latest release: Pasha (2013)
Upcoming Release: none
Recommended listening: Baffling (below)
For more:

While they’ve been around for a few years, the dream-pop duo of vocalist Shadow and programmer Nookie only released their debut, self-titled album in autumn last year, with eight tracks swimming with thick textures, misty vocals and an overriding air of beautiful bitter-sweetness, and that draw heavily from the kind of classic dream-pop goodness you would find from the likes of Mojave 3, married with the kind of freaky haunting quality Coco Rosie are known for. Their tracks are mainly in Putonghua, with smatterings of English and German, and float from blip-heavy arrangements – like in Baffling – to mysterious, hazily walled liquid creations, such as Desolate. A rare Hong Kong dream-pop gem.MT


Space rock, dark and loud

If you’re into: Spacemen 3, The Jesus and Mary Chain
Latest release: ANWIYCTI, released Jun 12
Recommended listening: Many But One (below)
For more:
Upcoming show: Thu Jun 12, Hidden Agenda

Pronounced ‘an-wic-ti’ and standing for A New World If You Can Take It – a reference to Roswell whistleblower Philip J Corso’s alleged close encounter of the third kind – this four-piece are at the forefront of the new noise rock scene. In ANWIYCTI, there are no guitars – just drums, three basses, and impenetrable dams of growling, spacey sound, which bring together elements of psych-rock, shoegaze and post-rock, which all nods to the heady days of 80s alt-rock. MT



Screamy, arty, post-hardcore

If you’re into: Fugazi, At the Drive In
Label: none
Latest release: none
Upcoming Release: Debut EP, end of 2014
Recommended listening: Melody 1 (below)
For more:

Art, noise and experimental rock all come together in this four-gent band. Even before they played Clockenflap last year, Ponyboy had started to make a name for itself around the scene as a band to watch, with their complex rhythms, screamy vocals and contrasting influences – from toys to grotesque movies – culminating in a sound that’s simultaneously raw, distorted, clean and cerebral.MT


Uber-hip poppy shoegaze

If you’re into: My Bloody Valentine, Ride
Label: Imagine Imagine Imagine Records
Latest release: none
Upcoming Release: 
Debut album Screw Age, Oct 2014
Recommended listening: Ride Into the Sky (below)
For more:
Upcoming show: Thu Jun 12, Hidden Agenda

If there’s one thing Hong Kong’s music scene needs, it’s more girl-fronted hip rock bands – and in Murmur, a four-piece with Blythe Cheung on vocals, co-founders Julvian Ho and Gavin Yip on guitars, and Monsha Wong on drums, we’ve got one with significant promise. Jangly guitars, dual guy/girl vocals and an optimistic brightness are all hallmarks of Murmur, and taken to a new level by the infectious quality of their melodies. MT


David Boring

Raw, frenetic alt-rock

If you’re into: Joy Division, The Hives
Label: none
Latest release: DEM.O (2014)
Upcoming Release: TBC
Recommended listening: I Can’t (below)
For more:
Upcoming show: Thu Jun 12, Hidden Agenda

“A bunch of self-hating, sociopathic, suicidal freaks interested in making noise that you will feel uncomfortable with.” That’s how David Boring describe themselves – and while we can’t speak to the first three of these, we’re not entirely sure about the last point. For this rock quintet’s music, while admittedly dark, belligerent and in-your-face, marries shades of shoegaze, post-punk and psych-rock into a raw ball of goodness that’s only just starting to make its mark on the Hong Kong scene. MT

Yoyo Sham

Hipster folk

If you’re into: India Arie, Lisa Hannigan, Tanya Chua
Label: True Color Ltd
Latest release: 2/2 (EP, 2012)
Upcoming release: Debut album, coming later in 2014
Recommended listening: Someone Without a Story (below)
For more:

The rich and rounded dulcet tones of Yoyo Sham’s voice have cut to the hearts of hipsterites looking for a deeply emotive and thoughtful songstress. 
After a few EPs, Sham is finally going to release her long-awaited debut album that highlights her raw, urban folk sound. She explains to Arthur Tam why she’s opted to pursue her career in Taiwan and how she hasn’t forgotten Hong Kong…

Hi Yoyo, it’s nice speaking to you. For people that don’t know you, how would you describe yourself?
I’m an independent singer-songwriter from Hong Kong, living in Taiwan, who also works as a backup singer for pop concerts. My most recent involvement would be a charity concert series named Project WAO, which featured Sandy Lam, Tanya Chua, A-Mei and Na Ying. 
What is the story behind you and your music?
I want very much to occupy myself with only what I love. It so happens that what I love is singing, and that perhaps is how I fell into it. Right now I’m busy working on my upcoming album.

You’ve released two EPs, both in Putonghua. Are we ever going to hear you sing at all in Cantonese?
I do have two Cantonese songs on my upcoming album. Maybe it’s because I started writing songs when I was in Beijing, which is why I’m more comfortable in Putonghua. I find writing in Cantonese extremely difficult.
Why have you chosen to pursue your career in Taiwan instead of Hong Kong?
I don’t consider that I have ever really left Hong Kong, even though I moved to Taiwan in 2010. I went to Taiwan to pursue my solo projects and that decision was based on my impression of Taiwan’s indie music scene. I believed it would be more likely for me to meet like-minded musicians and find more varying venues, which would help me develop my music and gain experience. But I’ve never stopped working as a backup singer in HK’s pop music scene for say… Eason, Joey or Khalil. I also come back to do my solo performances. 

What do you think about Hong Kong’s music scene then? 
HK’s pop music scene is about supply and demand. I believe it is the responsibility of the supply to provide possibilities and the demand to recognise their power to shape the scene. That is how things will grow and develop.

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