Emerging Chinese singer / songwriter Diner Liu is the latest artist to follow bands such as STOLEN and Re-TROS to make a breakthrough in the West.

Born in China but also living and studying in Hong Kong and London, like Fifi Rong who collaborated with YELLO, Diner Liu is a cross culture kid.

In 2021, she released her eerie alternative rock driven debut EP ‘Inevitable’ on China’s leading independent music label Modern Sky. The second EP ‘Cassini’ sees her working with Berlin-based Mancunian Mark Reeder and his long time studio partner Micha Adam.

Having been inspired by ‘Blue Monday’, Diner Liu’s post-punk sound has been embellished by pentatonic textures and a greater use of electronic dance elements, hence the invitation for the NEW ORDER connected Reeder to be at the production helm. Influences range from PJ Harvey to traditional Chinese music with Patrick Cowley sitting in between.

With a greater but not exclusive use of synths, it is fitting that this sophomore work was conceived around the 2017 Cassini–Huygens space research mission to the planet Saturn. At the conclusion of its mission, the probe deorbited and burned up in the gas giant’s upper atmosphere. Written in London, Beijing and Berlin, Diner Liu was inspired by the mission’s parallels to her own personal health; having suffered from an extremely rare disease called LGESS, she eventually lost her uterus before she was 24.

Despite her mental and physical battles dealing with the situation, she saw that her life journey and music career were only just getting started. So just as the Cassini probe eventually burned up around Saturn, she saw a new chapter beginning, realising that “starting a family might not be the ultimate goal of my life.”

The best track on ‘Cassini’ comes with the rhythmic  ‘大星’ (‘Big Star’) which takes on a wonderfully cosmic air that comes dressed with Guzheng, a Chinese zither that even SPANDAU BALLET once used on the experimental ‘Innocence & Science’ from 1982’s ‘Diamond’ album.

Meanwhile, the colder ‘Cassini’ title song is a steadfast slice of Sci-Fi electro featuring Mark Reeder’s trademark synthbass pulse over a bangy offbeat, with the hypnotism enhanced by the enigmatic vocals as the closing mutant metallic textures provide the cerebral sensations.

The remainder of the EP offers variations on modern post-punk augmented with live guitar and drums.  ‘Athena’ musically recalls JOY DIVISION but proceedings are progressively paced up into an exotic throbbing trance while with synthy swoops and a tinkling motif, ‘Circle Of A Down’ captures a mysterious Middle Eastern flavoured vibe from Diner Liu’s angelic tones contrasting with the inherent sense of foreboding. The percussion-less ‘Exile’ is shaped by six string and ivories, but the downbeat doom of ‘Midnight Panorama’ takes an unexpected turn into dreamy electro which is reminiscent of Kid Moxie.

With a stylistic blend and commentary on the uncertainties of life, its extinction and its rebirth, this EP captures a dark romantic consciousness as all good gothically inclined journeys should. Life can be fulfilling outside of the expected conventions.

‘Cassini’ is released by Modern Sky and available now on the usual online platforms




Text by Chi Ming Lai
12th September 2022