Five Favourites: Sui Zhen

Set to release her upcoming third album in September, Melbourne artist Sui Zhen has recently captivated our ears with latest single ‘Perfect Place’. Inspired by how we exist in the digital age, the track flows with glitchy, playful beats and twinkling, ‘80s-inspired hooks alongside Zhen’s quirky, honey-sweet vocals. An instantly infectious slice of sparkling alt-pop.

We think one of the best ways to get to know a new band/artist is by asking them what music inspired them to write in the first place. We caught up with Sui to talk about her ‘Five Favourites’ – five albums or tracks that have influenced her songwriting techniques, or simply take her back to a specific feeling or time. Read about her choices here…

Strawberry Switchblade – Strawberry Switchblade 
This album has been a staple in my record bag since it was gifted to me by a friend in Koenji, Tokyo. I love how the songs are naive and saccharine but sad and melancholic underneath, expressed in a synth-pop style with layered reverberant vocals reminiscent of an upbeat Cocteau Twins. My favourite is the banality captured in ‘Who Knows What Love Is’ – it’s totally nostalgic for a crush that once was. It reminds me of the first time I smelt the pages of Dolly Mag, peeling back the ‘Sealed Section’ section. I enjoy the instrumental arrangements and danceable aspect of this kind of pop music and love to mix this in a set to get people feeling warm and fuzzy.

The Eurythmics – ‘Love Is A Stranger’
It’s really difficult to choose songs by Annie Lennox – my Mum loved her music, so her solo albums Diva and Medusa hold a very special place in my heart, but for me it would have started with The Eurythmics – ‘Love Is A Stranger’. I don’t know how many times I have listened to this song, particularly the part “And it wrenches you up and you’re left like a zombie!” when her voice is wild and so expressive, but the beat remains hard, driving yet restrained. The hooks feel so natural – it’s the kind of songwriting I aspire to make someday. I also love how the track just fades out. Like, seeya my job here is done.

Antena – Camino Del Sol
I think the first moment I properly was able to hear how I could complement my songwriting style with drum machine beats came with listening to Antena over and over. Prior to that I experimented with electronic production based on the music I enjoyed hearing at clubs, but couldn’t work out the best approach when I would go to work on something. An audience member told me to check Isabelle Antena’s music because they thought it would be a good reference point, but I couldn’t easily find it at the time (mid-2000s). It wasn’t until I started record shopping in Japan that I was able to connect more with the ‘neo-folk’ synth-pop of Antena and other artists like Anna Domino and Scribble. The bossa nova style guitar over a thumping kick is something I have carried into my productions thanks to this band.

CAN – ‘Future Days’
This is literally my go to take-off music. I listen to Can or Dunkelziffer when flying, there’s something about krautrock that settles me and helps me when drifting in and out of sleep. I find the stream of consciousness flow and spontaneity in the music so dreamlike and also very comforting, grounded in unfiltered expression. Emotion is throughout, but not the centrepiece, and I like that. There’s a free kind of optimism to this track too which makes it so listenable. 

Sugar Cubes – ‘Deus’
I absolutely slammed the Sugar Cubes in my teenage years. I had exhausted Bjork’s back catalogue from way too many listens and moved into her previous work and found I enjoyed it more on repeat listen. It had a bit more space, was a bit looser, less intensely emotional and uncomfortable. I love the pairing of male & female vocal in this track. I don’t listen to Bjork at all these days, even though at the time I thought there was no better artist. I remember trying to sing like her in the shower and Mum making fun of me for trying to do that iconic guttural thing. It was definitely around this time, aged fifteen, I subconsciously decided to pursue music.

Massive thanks to Sui for taking the time to discuss her choices. However, as she found it difficult to pick just five, we’ve also put together a little playlist of all the songs that she felt have impacted her work in some way – listen on Spotify now!

Losing, Linda, the upcoming album from Sui Zhen, is out 27th September via Cascine. Watch the video for latest single ‘Perfect Place’ below:

Photo Credit: Agnieszka Chabros

PLAYLIST: June 2019

Whether you’re loving this “heatwave” or loathing the humidity; we’ve got some fresh new music on our June playlist to quench your listening thirst. Take some time to scroll through our words and make sure you hit play on the Spotify link at the bottom of the page…

Friedberg – ‘Go Wild’
Indie-pop quartet Friedberg have been on my radar since I played their desert-rock debut ‘BOOM’ earlier this year and I am just as into their latest offering. Scritchy synths and some classic reverb all mixed into ‘Go Wild’, which is out now via LGM Records. (Tash Walker)

The Paranoyds – ‘Girlfriend Degree’
I’m loving the slacker-grunge sound of ‘Girlfriend Degree’ from LA newcomers The Paranoyds. Speaking about the track, the band explain: “[it’s] a call to arms, a reminder to be a supremely self-loving woman, to just do you. It’s cool to be a girlfriend or wife or whatever, but there’s so much more to being a woman than that.” Couldn’t agree more girls! The band’s debut album Carnage Bargain is set for release on 13th September via Suicide Squeeze. Check out the accompanying video too. (Kate Crudgington)

Sleater Kinney – ‘Hurry On Home’
We cannot wait to see legends Sleater Kinney in February!! And this incredible latest single from the Olympia band fills us with excitement for their upcoming album The Center Won’t Hold, out in August. (Mari Lane)

Witching Waves – ‘Best Of Me’
The latest single from trio Witching Waves, ‘Best Of Me’ races with a jangly twang and punk-fuelled energy. Alongside fast-paced hooks and raw, impassioned vocals, I just can’t get enough of its visceral power. Witching Waves’ latest album Persistence is out now via Specialist Subject Records, and we cannot wait for them to headline for us at The Finsbury on 12th July, along with Milk Crimes, Finish Flag and Hubert’s Friend. (ML)

Scrounge – ‘Purpose’
Q. Will there ever be a day when us GIHEs girls don’t rave about the brilliance of South London duo Scrounge?
A. NO.
Their latest track ‘Purpose’ is equally as formidable as their previous singles and we urge you to see them live if you can. (KC)

ARXX – ‘Iron Lung’
Q. Will there ever be a day when us GIHEs girls don’t rave about the brilliance of Brighton duo ARXX?
A. NO.
We had such a laugh with Clara & Hannah on our radio show last week (listen back here) and they treated us to an exclusive acoustic version of ‘Iron Lung’, but we love it in it’s full fury too. (KC)

Nova Twins – ‘Devil’s Face’ 
Georgia & Amy never fail to fill my ears with cathartic, addictive, abrasive sounds and this latest single is no different. Their distorted bass lines and furious vocals make my heart swell, and I can’t wait to catch the duo live again at The Sebright Arms in September (get your ticket here). (KC)

Gaffa Tape Sandy – ‘So Dry’
Bury St. Edmunds band Gaffa Tape Sandy have now shared a new single taken from their upcoming EP Family Mammal. Propelled by an angst-driven scuzzy energy, ‘So Dry’ blasts out jangly melodies alongside luscious harmonies, creating a massively infectious summer delight, with a fierce, gritty edge. Of the track, the band explain: “We don’t really like arguing as a whole, but expressing yourself is very important, so we like to think of this song as us raising our voices anonymously at the people who make us mad as hell”.
Family Mammal is out 9th August via Alcopop! Records. (ML)

Show Boy – ‘Like That’
Following his last infectious offering ‘Video’, Show Boy’s latest single blends hyper-real production elements with introspective songwriting. An impassioned UK Garage-tinged pop anthem, ‘Like That’ perfectly juxtaposes catchy summer beats with heartfelt reflective lyricism, that will stick in your ears on first listen. Of the track, Show Boy explains: “It’s about the confusion and panic felt when you realise you have more affinity with a past snapshot of yourself than the person you currently are”.
Surreal
, Show Boy’s upcoming EP, is set for release next month. (ML)

Haiku Salut – ‘Going Back’
Haiku Salut are an instrumental trio from the Derbyshire Dales, consisting of multi-instrumentalists Gemma Barkerwood, Sophie Barkerwood and Louise Croft. Between them, they play accordion; piano, glockenspiel, trumpet, guitar, ukulele, drums, and melodica. Their music is a truly delightful, immersive experience and their dreamy electronic soundscapes continue to distract me from whatever I’m doing. ‘Going Back’ is one of the double A-side singles taken from their forthcoming album The General due out on Secret Name 2nd August. (TW)

Sui Zhen – ‘Perfect Place’
Taken from her upcoming album Losing, Linda, ‘Perfect Place’ is the latest single from Melbourne-based artist Sui Zhen. Inspired by how we exist in the digital age, the track flows with glitchy, playful beats and twinkling, ‘80s-inspired hooks alongside Zhen’s quirky, honey-sweet vocals. An instantly infectious slice of sparkling alt-pop. Losing, Linda is out 27th September via Cascine. (ML)

Joviale – ‘Ride Away’
Influenced by the likes of Billie Holoday and Nina Simon, Joviale’s music inspires a dynamic mix of pleasure and pain. This is her second single, taken from her upcoming EP Crisis which is set for release on 6th of September via Blue Flowers. (KC)

Rachel Chinouriri – ‘Mama’s Boy’
Full of neo soul and heavy on the bass… this song just feels full of summer. (TW)

Jeannel – ‘Everything’s The Same’
Berlin based Jeannel has the most gentle haunting vocals filled with so much emotion. (TW)