2020 has been a wild one. We don't need to tell you why, but we do need to tell you about what happened. Throughout the year, Mixmag Asia provided both hard news on the state of affairs across Asia and colourful features on veteran musicians all the way through to the shapeshifters that did things a little bit differently this year, as well as some more esoteric stuff meant to offer our readers an escape from 2020. Below you'll find the 20 most-read stories on Mixmag Asia in 2020.
20. KOR opens in Shanghai with a supercharged shiny gold sound system
When KOR opened in Taipei a couple of years ago, we were pretty excited about its shiny gold sound system by VOID Acoustics. The system, which was custom designed by Matt Edgar, CEO of Audio Integration Services (AIS), featured Gold Chrome Air Motions speakers and Air Vantage monitors and was branded the first-ever KHROME system. Naturally, we were pretty excited when KOR announced that it would be opening an extension of its award-winning lounge in Shanghai and with a supercharged version of the now-iconic sound system. After a relatively short shutdown, KOR is now open in Shanghai's bustling Jing'an District at Wheelock Square — it's also the first Taiwanese entertainment brand to ever open outside of the ROC. A couple of months later, KOR has been delivering Shanghai a refined hip-hop alternative to ubiquitous EDM-fueled nightclubs. Think of it as a nightclub, for adults — there is no dance floor, but it's still very much a wild Friday night out. Read the full story here.
19. GOLDIE IS OPENING A PERMANENT ART GALLERY IN THAILAND
Although the man hardly needs an introduction, Clifford Joseph Price (MBE) is an internationally acclaimed British musician, DJ, actor and artist. You might know him better as Goldie, drum 'n' bass don and downright legend. While his popularity stems from his work as a musician and actor, Goldie originally found his calling as a street artist and was a respected figure at the inception of the graffiti movement. This year, he elevated our love for the arts with the opening of a permanent art gallery in Thailand, which opened in June. This makes sense since the artist has been living in Thailand for many years now. Called Aurum Gallery, the space is a celebration of Goldie’s lifetime passion and career as an influential contributor to the art scene, which spans over three decades. Some of the world’s most influential artists in the scene will be joining Goldie in exhibiting and selling their work at Aurum including Vhils, Odeith, Barry Reigate, Mode2, Bio, Pam Glew, Crash and more. Read the announcement that caught the attention of the world here, or skip right to our interview with the legend here.
18. IT'S A WRAP: AGAINST ALL ODDS, KOLOUR IN THE PARK WENT OFF & WAS PERFECTLY UNCOMPLICATED
It probably shouldn't have even happened. In the weeks leading up to Kolour In The Park, something unexpected happened — the world started falling apart. Amid spooks of a looming pandemic coming from all directions and the mass cancellations that ensued, Kolour In The Park not only survived but kept Bangkok dancing for what unfolded as the best year yet. That statement can be subjective, but it really was. Unfurling amid a blaze of chaos in the world around, and considering the run up the event was a "fingers crossed" kind of situation, Kolour was somehow spared any headlining cancellations and went in guns ablaze. So did 4,000 festivalgoers! There was no trace of calamity inside the Kolour bubble as music and vibes peaked at optimum levels, making for one rapturous last dance before lockdown. Read our full review (yes, we were so lucky to have been there) here.
17. UNIVERSAL MUSIC ROLLS OUT A NEW PLATFORM DEDICATED TO UP-AND-COMING ARTISTS IN SOUTHEAST ASIA
Launched in 2013 by Universal Music, Spinnup is a global platform that helps independent artists release their music on streaming platforms like Spotify, Joox, Apple Music and Deezer while keeping royalties for themselves. After a few months of teasing, the distribution service has finally arrived in Southeast Asia early this year, and more precisely in Singapore. Officially launched in May, Spinnup Singapore has been focusing on boosting talent inside of Southeast Asia’s artistic communities and connecting new talent with UMG's labels worldwide. The initiative was also launched as a way to inspire artists stuck at home to make more music by providing them with resources. The move resonated well with our readers, who gobbled this story up. Read it in full here.
16. DESA POTATO HEAD: EVERYTHING WE KNOW ABOUT BALI'S AUDIOPHILE INDULGENCE OPENING IN DECEMBER
Introducing Desa Potato Head. Well, they call it a Desa, but we are inclined to call it a sustainable kingdom that clashes music with art and design. Desa Potato Head is in part an extension of Potato Head Beach Club, expanding the beachfront property times three. But actually, the dichotomy is quite different. While the ideology dovetails with the Potato Head that we know (and love), Desa Potato Head is instead a creative village that is designed to evoke creativity amongst artists from different mediums and disciplines. Designed by Managing Partner — Architect David Gianotten at OMA, the Dutch practice founded by Rem Koolhaas, Desa Potato Head is a sprawling seven-acre open development that weaves sustainability through every touchpoint of every experience, from artist to architect and DJ — that’s the 360° story. Like when Virgil Abloh played, designers built the stage from recycled plastic that was handwoven by local artisans and then they threw a conscious rave with it all (even the drinks were conscious). Soon, this concept will become permanent. From a musical POV, we summarized everything we new was planned for Desa Potato Head. That said, the creative village was set to open earlier this year but was delayed for obvious reasons, so whether plans remain intact remains to be seen. Still, we're hopeful. Find the story here.
15. The Mixmag Asia guide to underground clubs in Bangkok
This is one from the archives and is, in fact, one of our most-read stories of all time. The story had a good year, probably since clubs in Bangkok have been open for a large part of the year. And if you’ve ever been to Bangkok or heard wild and raucous stories from someone who has, you’ll know how easy it is to go out for one drink and wake up two days later next to someone of questionable gender on seedy soi near Khao San Road. Even with things having calmed down in Thailand’s capital since the military took over 2014, Bangkok is still one of Asia’s top party destinations. It’s easy to end up on the wrong side of the tracks, however, but we promise there is a lot more to the city than bucket bars and EDM — there is house, there is disco, and there is lots and lots of techno — it’s just a little hard to find. Follow our little guide the next time you’re bound for Bangkok, and you’ll end up at the right kind of after-party. Find it here.
14. AFTER DARK: DERRY AINSWORTH CAPTURES THE INCANDESCENT ELECTRICITY THAT VIBRATES THROUGH ASIA AT NIGHT
Forget New York, Asia actually never sleeps and is best viewed at night. And after the sun sets, Hong Kong-based photographer Derry Ainsworth heads off, armed and loaded with his camera, roaming the streets and capturing the futuristic aesthetic illuminated by the neon nightscapes of Asia’s vertical cities. His story echoes that of many expats that find themselves in Asia for the long run: six years ago, Derry booked a one-way ticket from the UK to Asia hoping to turn his life upside down. What he found was something that he’d never seen back home — architecture, culture and new scenery. And considering he arrived without much more than a camera, it really worked out for him.The output of that you’ll find in the gallery here.
13. A TV STATION IN JAPAN HAS RANKED THE 30 "BEST ANIME SONGS" OF ALL TIME
Welcome to Japan, the manga capital of the world. Also a subculture that the rest of the world so desperately wants to understand and be a part of, yet is criminally underrated outside of Japan. Despite our best attempts, we’ll probably never fully grasp the significance of Japanese anime to the country's culture as a whole, but we can try — and we can certainly enjoy the music. This year, TV Asahi Network, one of Japan’s largest television networks, put together a list of what it considered to be the “best anime songs” of all time. The list is called ‘Animation Songs General Election’ and ranks 30 of the most popular tunes. The list was compiled through votes collected from over 130,000 anime fans. Check out the first 10 songs from the full list here, and pay special attention to the view count, many of which crush YouTube plays from some of the biggest western artists.
12. DAMAGE DROPS A NEW COLLECTION OF GEAR FOR YOUR NEXT RAVE INSPIRED BY FRANZ KAFKA
Damage is Taiwan’s pop culture provocateur brand from the future and they’ve been shocking us with their brazen collections since their first incarnation as a small shop in Taipei more than a decade ago. The in-house brand belongs to AMPM Studio in Taiwan. Their latest collection is Ungeziefer — or the Vermin Collection — and is lightly inspired by the Franz Kafka novella Metamorphosis. Much like their latest drop, Damage’s past collections have satirized images of memes and explored themes like subversion, human conflict and controversy surrounding the conditioning of warfare within today’s modern society (think anything from the Abu Ghraib prison torture scandal to portraits of Kim Jong-un). Their tongue-in-cheek collections further blend fantasy and futurism with hardware nuances that look toward the future, generating iconic images that have catapulted the brand from being a one-time collaboration to a global phenomenon with a cult social media following. Read our interview with the Taiwanese brand here and check the gallery here to see snaps from Ungeziefer.
11. Epizode Festival confirms its return to Vietnam this year
If there was a ranking for the most drama out of Asia this year, there would be no competing with Epizode. The festival had a rocky year of its own, which boiled down to many transfers of power. Perhaps this is why when the story broke, it created a buzz like no other Epizode story we've ever run before. In June, we announced that the fifth edition of the infamous techno beach festival had not only confirmed that it would be returning to the sun-drenched shores of Sunset Santao beach on Phú Quốc island in Vietnam, but that it would also be extended by one day, running non-stop for 12 epic days and nights. Despite confirming a star-studded line-up (Ricardo Villalobos, Binh, Deborah De Luca, Dubfire, Goldie, Guti, Hector, Loco Dice, wAFF, Jamie Jones, [A:Rpia:R], Apollonia, Nastia, Sonja Moonear, Richy Ahmed, Satori, Archie Hamilton, Agents Of Time and Mr.C.), the festival was cancelled due to the pandemic but the organizers confirmed new dates in 2021 with the same line-up. Read the original announcement that caused quite a stir here, and a special shout out to everyone who took the time to mail us about it.
10. BLACK, WHITE & BRUTALIST: BOLD & BEAUTIFUL SCENES FROM THE STREETS OF TAIWAN
Photography was a big hit this year on Mixmag Asia and what caught our attention about Gregory Garde was his brutalist depiction of Taiwan’s architecture, we knew we had to feature him. To an outsider, the island might look like an inside out shower with monolithic buildings and facades built of weathered concrete tiles — it’s stark and menacing, really. But depending on your point of view, especially if your POV is that of someone who has spent time in Taiwan, you would call the city a masterpiece. Built to withstand extreme elements, the island nation largely escapes much damage with several typhoons battering it each year and earthquakes a common occurrence. Taiwan grows on you (fast), and a highly expressive beauty is found within the walls of this intoxicating island. If techno were architecture, it would be Taipei City — and that’s how Gregory Garde sees it. Flip through the gallery here.
9. THE CURIOUS CASE OF TAIWAN: WHY THE SMALL ISLAND NATION IS THE BEST PLACE ON THE PLANET RIGHT NOW
We've been needing to talk about Taiwan for a long time now and 2020 made it easy. In the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak, Taiwan quickly closed its borders and miraculously escaped relatively unscathed, recording just 736 cases from the onset of the pandemic until writing. Taiwan hasn’t reported a locally transmitted case since April 12, despite never instituting lockdown measures, and has been cast as a success story around the world. As such, life on the island has almost returned to normal: school is in session, restaurants are full and, best of all, Taiwan's nightlife is having a moment. How is that while much of the world is being decimated by the coronavirus catastrophe, people in Taiwan are sipping on spiked bubble tea cocktails and DJs are playing to crowds of 25,000? Maybe it’s not a miracle at all… Read the full story here.
8. 10 of the most influential Nicolar Jaar mixes of the last decade
Another one for the vaults that made a spectacular resurgence this year, perhaps because those at home were listening to a little more music this year and Nicolas Jaar does the healing trick. In an oversaturated industry filled with homogeneous music, ego and ideas, Nicolas Jaar weaves together sounds with textures and eras, leading his listeners on a sojourn of sonic exploration and otherworldly experiences. In our humble opinion, Jaar is one of the finest things to happen to electronic music. He is a master and a marvel as a producer and a live musician, but even his earlier DJ sets are just as intense and bone-chilling. They're for sunrise, sunset, pre-party, after-party, dinner party and....any party really. We've dug deep into his treasure trove of music and unearthed ten sets that we feel are amongst some of the most influential of all time. Find the playlist here.
7. THESE PICTURES CAPTURE THE DECAYING GLORY OF AN ABANDONED BATMAN-THEMED NIGHTCLUB IN THAILAND
For a short time in the 90s, there was a Batman-themed nightclub operating in Pattaya, Thailand. Described as "one of Pattaya’s hottest night-spots at the time", the club was only open for a year-and-a-half before a fire forced it to close. The fire was reportedly caused by a circuit board overload, preventing the electronically-operated doors from opening and leading the deaths of many inside. It’s completely abandoned now and American photographer Dax Ward captured it in its decaying glory. Check out the full gallery here.
6. 26 photos of sound systems through the ages
Is there anything in this world more satisfying than getting blasted with sound frequencies? For us here at Mixmag, obsessed with music and the feeling it evokes, we can think of nothing else. So we compiled a collection of photos offering an intimate look at the evolution of the culture. The gallery starts back in 1950s Jamaica, a fellow by the name of Hedley Jones, who was fueled by a passion for music, developed the first sound system. His "Houses of Joy" as he liked to call them, helped spark an entire culture around these carefully crafted stacks and engineers of today continue to innovate and expand on that original concept. During each decade since the original sound system of Hedley Jones, a new sound system seems to pop up at different locations around the world. London turned into a hotbed for the culture to thrive during the 60s and 70s thanks to visionaries like Jah Shaka, Aba Shanti-I and Channel One, while Downbeat The Ruler pioneered sound systems in the United States. Now sound systems like Mungo's Hi Fi in Glasgow, Dub-Suy's Tower Of Sound in Brooklyn and James Murphy and 2manydjs' Despacio sound system are setting the benchmark. View the gallery here to see sound systems through the ages.
5. Clubs in Singapore are still months away from opening
Unlike many places in Asia like Taiwan, Vietnam and Hong Kong, no one in Singapore expected clubs to open too, but in May the government made an announcement that made an already dismal notion a very grim reality. Singapore announced a three-part plan to lifting COVID-19 restrictions and restarting the economy when its “circuit breaker” expires on June 1. The entertainment industry, which included bars, pubs, cinemas and nightclubs, was the first ordered shut and would be amongst the last to return. Even now, seven months later, clubs are still closed. We talked to a few people in Singapore to understand how they were affected. Read the full story here.
4. 50 NOSTALGIC PICTURES OF EPIC ASIAN FESTIVALS TO REMIND YOU THAT WE ALL WANT A BRIGHTER FUTURE
Festivals were the first to go when COVID-19 unleashed its first round of fury back in January. It started with Art Basel in Hong Kong, followed by Unknwn Fiesta in the Philippines and then Sónar in Hong Kong, and before long before every festival in the foreseeable future followed suit. The entire team at Mixmag Asia has spent years amassing eidetic memories of the many vibrant festivals that have come to define Asia’s rich and diverse festival scene, earning them admirers and imitators all over the world. As the organisers, promoters and DJs who play at these festivals are in the midst of what will likely be one of the most challenging periods of their careers, we extend our support to who need it. This gallery was intended to rekindle memories of festival adventures from around Asia and also to remind people that we all want a brighter future... and to keep on fighting. It certainly did the trick, being one of our biggest stories of the year. Click through the gallery here.
3. 31 photos of banging nightclubs that will make you want to book a flight to Asia
Back in April, we said: "Never again will we be "too tired" to make it out…we miss our nightclubs! We miss smoke machines and sound systems; we miss darkness and bass-driven sweats; we miss DJs and banter and even overpriced drinks from the bar. It's been a wild few months, and we're bracing for another couple more, but as soon as the world stops ending we're going to straight to the club and it's going to take an army to get us out. While we wait for those late nights and early mornings to kick back up again, we wanted to remind you of what awaits and perhaps inspire you to visit somewhere new — when it's safe to do so, that is. From Vault in Bali to Pawnshop in Taipei and Cakeshop in Seoul, these are the bangin' clubs in Asia that will be first on our post-coronavirus to-do list. Peep the gallery here and see you on the dance floor really, really soon."
Little did we know... Check the gallery here.
2. Take a look at these incredible photos from 30 years of Burning Man
What started as an impromptu ceremony with 35 friends has now become one of the world's most celebrated and largest affairs. Drawing close to 70,000 Burners each year, Burning Man is now known to many as the mecca of freedom, happiness, community and music. The festival's annual make-shift metropolis, Black Rock City, acts as a desert paradise adorned with stunning art installations and camps surrounding 'The Man' that burns at over 100 feet tall. Burning Man 2020 might have been cancelled but its surreal memories live on forever, and fortunately, there are pictures to help with that. Take a look at some of the best here.
1. 22 INCREDIBLE PHOTOS OF ABANDONED NIGHTCLUBS FROM AROUND THE WORLD
The party may be over, but with a little bit of imagination, you can go back in time and party in hotspots from the 80s, 90s and so on. At one time or another, these lavish clubs and venues boomed with young people, drinks, dancing and culture. They were a glorious place for people to come and indulge in music. That time might have come and gone, but their memories live on and in some post-apocalyptic structures in all their decaying glory remain. Perhaps this story really resonated with people this year since our own nightclubs feel a little abandoned. Either way, see a photo gallery with derelict structures from around the world here.