The best of Beijing's electronic music scene in 2016 so far

Top releases in the first half of 2016

Ah… time flies. Now that we’re halfway through 2016, let’s take a look and a listen back at some of the hottest sounds to ricochet around our skulls so far this year. Beijing is blessed with a thriving electronic music scene which shows no signs of slowing. This list will keep you stocked on fresh sounds from the underground until December, and remind us of some of the big moves this city’s made as it steps up to its role as a true global sound capital.

5. Ran Groove Vol 1

The first on this list is also the newest. Ran Music, a DIY label launched last year, recently put out Ran Groove Vol 1, which they plan to be a monthly compilation series emphasising ‘smart grooves and beautiful melodies’ from Beijing-based producers. Our favourite on Vol 1 is the penultimate track, turned in by live electronic music trio Hielektromen. They’ve been playing out quite a bit this year, fusing the dancefloor expertise of Be Stupid resident DJ Kaize with live flourishes on guitar from Liu Ge, leader of garage punk veterans The Molds.

4. Do Hits Vol. 4

Beijing’s Do Hits crew has had an epic year so far. Their Motherland event in March was one of the live highlights of 2016, bringing an eclectic mix of artists from the US, Australia and China together for not only an edifying and fully lit showing at Yugong Yishan, but a full tour that spread the young upstarts’ gospel across the nation. Do Hits’ fourth compilation sees them digging deeper than ever into China’s nascent talent pool of bedroom producers, unearthing young unknowns and showing off the latest moves from pros like label co-founder Howie Lee. They say: ‘The iconic Do Hits sound is evolving so quickly that you can hardly predict what they have in store for you, except that they will always guarantee a mind-blower.’

Catch Do Hits on Friday 2 at Dada when they host Dalian producer Jeanie, one of the few female members of their nationwide entourage.

3. Swimful - PM2.5 Remixes

OK, so Swimful is based in Shanghai, as is his label, Svbkvlt. But this recent followup to his January album PM2.5 features remixes by our own Howie Lee (see above) and Kai Luen (aka Soulspeak, see below), so we’ll count it. Swimful has an experimental but compelling style, floating freely between various niches within the current zeitgeist of UK bass music. This remix album allows a host of producers – about half in China and half outside – to pick up free-roaming elements within Swimful’s diverse sound and develop them further, to universally banging effect.

2. Kai Luen - The Hollow Ghost

The runner-up on our list is also a Svbkvlt release: the first album that veteran Beijing beat producer Soulspeak has released under his given name, Kai Luen. The Hollow Ghost is a great record to jam in headphones, but it really must be experienced live to reap its full effect. Armed with an arsenal of pads and keys, Kai Luen has owned a handful of Beijing venues in the few times he’s played this material out live. This year has been a big one for him, as he’s stepped out from behind the shadows – as Soulspeak, he’s been best known for collaborations with DJ Wordy and J-Fever – with slots at Boiler Room’s Beijing launch in April and Stones Throw’s 20th anniversary showcase in May, where he shared the booth with the legendary label founder and fellow Los Angeleno, Peanut Butter Wolf.

1. iimmune - Abnormal

Our number one pick in the first half of 2016 is somewhat of a curveball. Abnormal is a ragtag chorus of an EP released by Beijing producer iimmune. It was released on D Force Records, the newish label run by social network Douban, which also released iimmune’s full-length album Ocean last year. Abnormal mixes iimmune’s parallel interests in IDM, techno, Classical, experimental and rock music – he’s also the guitarist of post-rock band Glow Curve, a festival circuit favourite signed to Modern Sky – and while it might not be the most danceable selection on this list, it’s definitely the hardest to classify, and in our book that makes it the most intriguing. Check out iimmune’s excellent event series Yixi to see how his music works in the club setting; his next event is on Friday 8 at Dada.

  • 4 out of 5 stars