The 10 Best Examples of Chinese Instrumentation in Hip-Hop/Pop, according to GZ Tian
patten’s label Kaleidoscope has introduced the world to talents like Karen Gwyer, Sculpture, and ALAK since its inception in the latter half of the last decade. Earlier this year the label entered a new phase with the introduction of a new EP series called 50/50. The gist of the 50/50 series is that one vinyl record will house two EPs – one on one side, the other on the other – by two different artists. Unlike conventional split EPs, there’s no defined interpretation enforced upon the pairing, and any connections that you might find between them are there through chance alone.
The first 50/50 record featured EPs by Vanilla Hammer, a mainstay of the Kaleidoscope label responsible for some strange and unusual electronic music. He offers up ‘Diss Patches’, a collection of fizzing electronic tracks with rubbery and, surprisingly, somewhat danceable rhythms. On the other side is Manchester’s Aldous RH, who writes songs that veer between outsider funk, psychedelic haze, and labyrinthine prog-pop.
In keeping with the 50/50 format of the release, both artists have contributed mixes to our Dummy Mix series, and both have answered the same set of questions. Once again, if you find similarities between the two, that’s purely through chance and coincidence.
Where are you right now? Are you sitting comfortably?
Vanilla Hammer: “I'm in Bexleyheath right now. I just came over for a rare catch-up with friends and fam, chilling.”
Aldous RH: “I'm mellow, sitting in the evening cool of East Los Angeles relaxing with friends.”
What are the songs that you chose for the first 50/50 split EP? Is there anything that unifies your tracks, stylistically or conceptually?
Vanilla Hammer: “I made the tracks when I was feeling extra frustrated with the many moronic, sadistic, selfish, ignorant, offensive people and situations that we seem to have somehow accepted as normal. So they're unified by that background frustration. Sometimes I ended up making something hopeful, or some kind of peaceful head-space, other times I was going for something more aggressive or like some kind of anti-anthem to get people going. The same as with ‘Retreat', my last EP, which was more about disappearing and getting away from everything, except this one's about the fact that you can't really avoid all that stuff, however much you try, so you just have to build yourself up to handle it while you're in it, instead of trying to separate yourself by living in the wilderness somewhere.”
Aldous RH: “The tracks featuring on the EP were all written/recorded in about a week around April-time 2014, when I'd come back to England after a few months away living in New York and ended up living with my parents again after years living elsewhere. I think they have a very specific sound and a lot of continuity – moreso than anything I've put out so far. Sort of like a small concept record, lyrically it all concerns that exact period of time – having unexpectedly and rather fancifully fallen for someone days earlier, being back in the countryside with my family again, no job, feeling reverted to a child in a funny way. I think they manifest my experience being so far from home and coming back into normal life feeling kinda lost and back to the drawing board. It's almost like a coming of age record – kinda realising that adult life can be vague and daunting but also staying optimistic. It came together so quickly, I pretty much found a palette of sounds and ran with them. I'm still fairly happy with the moment in time they represent.”
What's going on in your Dummy Mix?
Vanilla Hammer: “This mix is really like a look at my state of mind when I'm making stuff. You know, if you took all the sounds, moods, and experiences that left some kind of impression on me, all the events, frustrations and worries of life, as well as all the inspiration, happiness and beauty, then overlap it all on top of each other so everything is in the same little packet of information, then this is more or less what you get.”
Aldous RH: “This mix is kinda all over the place. There’s some jazzy/old stuff. Herbie, Stevie, and Bloodstone bringing deep melodic grooves, and John Baker being my favourite BBC radiophonic pioneer. Some random cuts from me, couple atmospheric electronic bits, and then a song I wrote out of complete frustration and upset – having had two bikes stolen in the space of a month (Stolen Bike Blues). Then two tracks with some pretty great guitar riffs from Todd [Rundgren]’s Utopia, and Alex Calder’s Mold Boy.”
What's your favourite YouTube video right now?
Vanilla Hammer: “It's a short documentary entirely filmed in the lift of a block of flats. It's really clever the way they managed to just catch people completely in isolation – literally just the person standing there in this non-space with nothing to hide behind. It's really intimate, and also quite brutally invasive, but the people end up talking about their most personal stuff with this weird guy with a camera in the lift. A real snapshot of humanity, and the condition we're in.”
Aldous RH: “My friend Ignacio funnily turned me onto this after we were watching Vennu Mallesh’s It’s My Life for the millionth time (which is as far as you can get from this really, but nonetheless another favourite). What can I say about this video? Just the best – the dancing is so incredible and it’s shot so brilliantly. The track alone is so minimal and ahead of its time, the clothing, the moves, it’s just perfect. The opaque bus, the tasteful parkour. This video has it all.”