Beijing label Maybe Mars is or was home to P.K.14, Joyside, Snapline, and other key names in China’s churning indie-rock ecosystem. Among their current flagship acts is Hiperson, a quintet out of Chengdu. The Sichuan provincial capital, a recent boomtown right at the heart of China, is far from the cultural heat and noise of Shanghai and Beijing, but it’s got its own thing going on. Hiperson are the most visible of the city’s indie bands, and their fifth album in as many years should further raise their profile.
The basic formula of restraint and release, and tenderness balanced with abrasion, within a spacious, cavernous mix, remains in place on Bildungsroman. Their song structures and arrangements, however, have become often more ambitious and complex. There’s more to discover in each track now, even at their most sparse. A key advantage for Hiperson is singer Chen Sijiang, whose delivery shifts between solemn spoken word, oratorical exclamation, and earnest song, capably carrying vulnerability and conviction throughout. Album opener “Sprint Breeze”, and “Our Ballad”, arguably Bildungsroman’s centrepiece, demonstrate this well (watch their respective videos here and here).
Chen’s lyrics – distilled and evocative enough to lose little in translation – afford a vivid sense of where young China’s head is at in these days of great change. Potently poetic words, breathtaking even in certain passages, carried by the carefully controlled force of the band behind her, reticent until it’s let loose to soar.