Clockenflap Music Festival
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Dan Deacon performs during Clockenflap 2014 in Hong Kong.

20 Hong Kong acts you shouldn’t miss at this year’s Clockenflap festival

Ellen Loo, Ocean Lam, Miss Yellow and Huh!? are among 20 of Hong Kong’s best acts appearing at Clockenflap, and they’ll bring an eclectic mix of techno and funky house, reggae, rockabilly and indie rock

The focus at Clockenflap tends to be on the big-name overseas headline acts, which this year include the Chemical Brothers and M.I.A from the UK, George Clinton from the United States and Sigur Rós from Iceland. But the three-day festival, at Central Harbourfront from November 25 to 27, is also the leading annual showcase of Hong Kong’s musical talent, particularly if you’re looking for something a little outside the mainstream. Here are 20 local acts you shouldn’t miss from this year’s line-up.

Ellen Loo (Friday)

Probably the best-known Hong Kong artist at this year’s festival, Ellen Loo got her big break as half of Canto-folktronica outfit at17, alongside Eman Lam. After a period as part of Eason Chan’s touring band, the Canada-born guitarist has forged a successful solo career with her unpredictable, minor-key, plangent, thoughtful compositions, many of them these days in Putonghua.

Huh!? (Saturday)

Anyone who remembers Hong Kong’s indie-pop wave of the 1990s will be getting warm, fuzzy, nostalgic feelings at the surprise appearance in the line-up of Hong Kong’s most over-punctuated band, Huh!?. The band made five albums of their sensitive, mild-mannered indie pop before splitting up in 1997; Clockenflap will be their first gig in the two decades since.

Juicyning (Sunday)

Five-piece outfit Juicyning play an unusual, sophisticated form of indie rock with strong influences from blues, jazz and soul. All graduates of the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, their engagingly wistful, beautifully crafted songs come with offbeat and comical but sincere and emotional half-sung, half-rapped lyrics.

Ocean Lam (Saturday)

A stalwart at Clockenflap, as she is on decks around the city, DJ Ocean Lam spins reliably excellent techno, tech house and deep house. Also a producer, she plays a hypnotic and somewhat minimal, but also warm and engaging form of techno, and is an enjoyably self-effacing, ego-free presence.

Miss Yellow (Sunday)

Full-on energy is what to expect from DJ Miss Yellow. The former TV presenter and actress has dedicated herself to music for a decade now; the result is energetic DJ sets of nagging, jittery electro and techno spiked with breaks and even hip hop.

Tfvsjs (Friday)

Intricate and experimental, intense and doomy, emotive and wistful: the vocal-free nature of the Great Unpronounceables of Hong Kong’s math-rock scene makes them an adjective lover’s delight. Produced by Mino Takaaki from Japanese math rock legends Toe, and sounding like it, Tfvsjs (don’t ask) interweave multiple guitars and drums to create wilfully complex but still organic-sounding music.

GDJYB (Saturday)

Proving that there is a trend for unpronounceable acronyms among the experimental local rock bands in this year’s Clockenflap line-up, GDJYB (from a Cantonese dish, since you ask) play offbeat, quirky, intelligent indie math rock. Their songs have a yearning, elegiac feel, underpinned by jazz-like, improvisational twists, turns and corners, and lyrics that blend two languages and possibly don’t make too much sense in either.

I See the Light Before Our Planet Explodes (Friday)

Yet more inconveniently titled alt rock comes in the form of I See the Light Before Our Planet Explodes, re-formed in June 2016 from the ashes of revered Hong Kong post-rockers Elf Fatima, who were at it for nearly two decades. ISTLBOPE play experimental, psychedelic-tinged post-rock with an intriguing hard-rock influence: expect contemplative interludes spliced with scorching, soaring guitar noise.

Sensi Lion (Saturday)

Exploring the, um, obvious links between the cultures of Hong Kong and Jamaica are Sensi Lion, almost certainly the world’s only Cantonese-language reggae band. Like King Tubby’s eastern children, they play a big, wide-open, echo-heavy, dub-influenced style of reggae; their Cantonese name, suan ni, refers to the legendary Chinese dragon-lion who, ahem, likes smoking.

Uptown Rockers (Friday)

Blending an unlikely, eclectic mixture of electroclash, electro house and some really quite random rock tracks, DJ trio Uptown Rockers ought to be cheesy as hell but are actually a great deal more fun than three middle-aged blokes dropping Franz Ferdinand ever ought to be. Long-term Clockenflap favourites, they always look like they’re enjoying themselves every bit as much as the crowd.

Ashwin Khosa (Friday)

One of our city’s more successful musical exports, DJ and producer Ashwin Khosa was born in Hong Kong but got his big musical break in New York and now lives in techno’s global ground zero, Berlin. Expect techno and tech house with a poised, spacey, somewhat loungey twist.

From movies to installation art, Clockenflap is more than just a place to hear great music

Cliche Showcase (Saturday)

Hong Kong’s most reliable purveyors of house, in particular disco house and nu-disco, French-staffed, Hong Kong-based event promoter and label Cliche Records has been putting the groove back into the city’s nightlife since 2012. Here it presents a double-header of DJs Sunsiaré, half of the Fragrant Harbour Sound System, and Stephen Andarakis, part of DJ trio Sweet Talk.

DJ Helen Ting (Sunday)

A deep love of contemporary African music shines through Helen Ting’s DJ sets. Playing deep, soulful house with an all-pervasive Afro influence that manifests itself in upbeat melodies and complex percussion, the Hong Kong DJ is a regular at Dragon-i, MO Bar and Ozone.

The Boogie Playboys (Friday)

Hong Kong’s leading rockabilly band and one of the genre’s very few Cantonese-language exponents, The Boogie Playboys, also organisers of the city’s annual Dirty Boogie Rockabilly Festival, play a back-to-basics, back-to-the-’50s form of rock’s pivotal forerunner. Expect sharp suits, quiffs and a blast of twangy, reverb-laden three-chord rock.

Fantastic Day (Saturday)

With a name taken from a Haircut 100 song, Fantastic Day aren’t shy about their influences. Their music combines engaging harmonies and a take on offbeat pop that references everything from upbeat British ’80s shamble-indie to ’90s shoegaze, and ends up sounding like every type of indie band from Aztec Camera to The Wedding Present.

K-Melo (Saturday)

Deep, soulful funky house with a sophisticated vibe is what to expect from K-Melo’s DJ set. Signed to Japanese underground label Jazzy Sport, his smooth sounds blend retro with contemporary, and take in influences from acid, hip-hop, trip-hop, disco and jazz.

Janette Slack (Friday)

Janette Slack’s musical journey has taken her from Hong Kong to the world and back again. A former long-term resident of London, where she had a seven-year residency at legendary fetish club Torture Garden, the Hong Kong-born DJ and producer plays spacey, propulsive house with breaks, hip-hop and acid influences.

Bass Music China (Sunday)

Clockenflap regulars Bass Music China are nothing if not eclectic; the China-wide collective includes DJs and producers specialising in everything from grime to garage to reggae to dubstep to drum and bass. Expect the emphasis in their festival set to be firmly on the last of these.

Casey Anderson (Saturday)

A journey into urgent and hypnotic but organic and warm deep house and techno is what to expect when Casey Anderson performs. The American-born DJ plays a dark but bouncy blend of electronic styles, with a grounding in old-school electronic music and funk.

Magnetic Soul (Sunday)

The bass will be turned up to 11 for Magnetic Soul’s Sunday set. Hong Kong’s leading drum ’n’ bass collective has brought some of the biggest names in the genre to the city, but here showcases its local talent, accompanied by MCs R-Vee and AJC.

Get the full line-up for Clockenflap 2016