[Singer/producer Low Leaf performs at Yuyintang this weekend]
Greetings and salutations Shanghai. There's more nails in the coffin of our local music scene after last weekend's The Boys shows got canceled due to pressure from the powers that be. From Olympics, to Expos, to just plain random roundups, it seems every year or two the man checks in on underground touring acts with extra vigor and we are currently in the midst of those watchful eyes. While Shanghai still has larger promotion groups like Split Works importing quality musical acts with proper permits and guanxi, this climate is tough for the regular Joe promoter who puts on small shows.
Another casualty is the Rat On group who hold court at Harley’s bar. They've had to cancel their next two months of rock gigs. China is by no means some evil overlord with a mission to seek and destroy all the rock n’ roll inside the great wall, as most countries have laws for obtaining proper licenses for foreign acts. If you travel into Canada from America and customs notices all that rock gear in the back of the van you can be charged around 400 USD for every member of the group.
The problem is that China could arguably benefit greatly from more music exchanges and these crackdowns discourage independent promoters from risking two months of their salary to import an act. If history is any judge, the calm will come after Chinese New Year and the underground can keep on keepin' on. Luckily this Friday we have the talented Los Angeles singer and producer Low Leaf at Yuyintang live house. The promoters have assured me the show will go off without any intervention so let’s keep our fingers crossed. Now I’m going to share some music from Low Leaf along with a review of the new album titled Thirty Hours from local singer ChaCha of AM444 who teamed up with Tokyo-based producer Hamacide on this digital release.
Los Angeles has no soul. The town is nothing more than EDM knob turners with fake-breasted blonde girlfriends driving BMWs. To my surprise hidden amongst the suburban sprawl and Hollywood hills is a heartfelt electro soul scene where singer/songwriter Low Leaf lays down roots. Combining electronic beats with the organic instruments such as guitar, piano, and harp, Low Leaf is among one of the most genuine and innovative musicians to come out of America in the past few years. Her self-released digital album dropped in 2012 and she's since put out a couple vinyl 10” EPs along with a cassette before her full length album AKASHAALAY dropped last year on 12” vinyl, cassette, and digital. The 12” LP is wicked sweet with intricate artwork and lyric inserts and was re-mastered specifically for wax.
AKASHAALAY is an album dedicated to Low Leaf’s Filipino heritage and combines hip hop, soul, and blues seamlessly. Earlier in 2014 she got a chance to play the Malasimbo Festival in the tropical gardens of Puerto Galera, Philippines, perform with artists such as Roy Ayers, Lonnie Liston Smith and Robert Glasper. She has the musical prowess to share the stage with those masters too, being classically trained in piano and self-taught in harp, guitar, and beat making.
Also in 2014, she collaborated with legendary producer King Britt for an experimental single that shows off her a darker side. King Britt is one of those jack of all trades producers whose unique solo work blends elements of jazz, afro-funk, and broken beat, but he also does studio work for artists like De La Soul and Digable Planets. Check out this special free track "A Light Within" the two produced for the Fresh Selects label in Los Angeles.
Low Leaf + King Britt – "A Light Within"
While Low Leaf came from the DIY scene it appears she has outgrown the limitations of doing everything herself and many are already sizing her up as the next Lauren Hill or Erykah Badu. Time will tell if Low Leaf sweeps the Grammy’s but one thing is for sure she’ll do it her own way. Check out my favorite song "Set Me Free" from her latest album AKASHAALAY and take the opportunity to see Low Leaf in the cozy Yuyintang venue Friday because the next chance you get might be in a stadium or arena.
Low Leaf – "Set Me Free"
Another multi-talented vocalist causing trouble is Shanghai’s very own ChaCha, who is one half of the group AM444 and is involved with multiple solo and collaborative projects. She has a new digital EP album titled 30 Hours that was produced with Tokyo-based beatmaker Hamacide and features a remix from Yosi Horikawa [https://yosihorikawa.bandcamp.com]. The album starts off strong thanks to a beat from our favorite producer Hamacide. Hami is formally based in Shanghai and now buys soiled underwear from vending machines on the streets of Tokyo. ChaCha then lays down some of the sweetest sounding Mandarin I’ve had the pleasure to put on repeat, and I put my beloved 103.7FM Love Radio on mute for once. Only on ChaCha radio, Only on ChaCha radio…
I asked ChaCha to give a few words about the album;
“The most inspired part of this EP of course is Hamacide's music, it always gives me different space of imagination. We start off a track call Annie Gun, I'm just so much in love with the name itself. Annie sounds like a soft and beautiful girl, but together with Gun, gives me such a weird feeling, this track's name made me want to make a song of it, so I asked Hamacide. He said there is actually a lady called Annie Oakley, a good shooter from US a few hundred years ago. Hamacide make this track with two samples put together, one called Annie, one called Gun, then I just got very inspired by the name, so we made our first song Annie Gun for the EP.”
After "Annie Gun" the album continues with a more subtle nuance and if you’re not careful it will have you melting before the track "Qídài Xiāngyù’s" end. On the final original track "Míliànzhe Tā" you get haunting layered vocals with mellow instrumentals building into an atmospheric vibe that fits together like an origami sparrow. The final track is a remix from famed Japanese producer Yosi Horikawa, who you might remember from his Sub-Culture visit back in October. Horikawa operates on the next level of audible design and humanity itself, creating stunning soundscapes from field recordings of enchanted Japanese forests, oceans, and mountains. I love that little guy and he does not disappoint on the remix of Annie Gun to round out this solid EP.
Look out for more ChaCha sounds with new AM444 material featuring artwork by Idlebeat’s Nini Sum and two music videos. Also look out for another ChaCha album with Yunnan rapper/producer Tang Ren Ti and Beijing rapper Xiao Lao Hu aka J-Fever, to be released around April of this year. Boom. If ya don’t know, now ya know. Now enjoy this piece titled "Thirty Hours".
Hamacide + ChaCha – Thirty Hours
See you Friday at Yuyintang for Low Leaf and look out for ChaCha on her upcoming Red Bull Music Academy tour with Yosi Horikawa, Daisuke Tanabe, and more troublemakers.