Who? Prague-based Polish-Chinese artist (and former neuroscience student, no less) Ai fen made her solo debut last year, on The Calvert Journal. Her first album, postforever, was released in February 2020, followed by a remix EP, post postforever. With a signature otherworldly voice that ranges from delicate to frenzied and a sound that stretches the boundaries of pop music, Ai fen is a unique presence on the contemporary European music scene.
What? In the video for the pandemic-single Can You Believe?, Ai fen journeys through a forest, reaching a neoclassical temple. There she experiences a series of pagan rituals that centre around nature.
What they say: “The track began with a simple strumming of the guitar and an obsessive repetition of the question: Can You Believe?,” Ai fen says. “It served as a mantra, a backdrop for ruminating on my emotions surrounding the last two years and about what’s to come. Like all of us, I’ve been destabilised by the pandemic. But as the pandemic continued to roll on and on, I began to feel that this destabilisation was merely a revelation of the way things had always been: uncertain, fragile and in need of a faith that’ll hold us together. Not faith in a dogmatic or religious sense but one that moves beyond credos that essentially just exalt our own egos. A faith that puts trust in the surrounding world’s intelligence and embraces the fact that we are part of that intelligence.”
Why you need to listen: The skilful and seemingly effortless way in which Ai fen escalates and dramatises her voice giving the song its sublime, timeless quality. Despite the direct references to the pandemic in the lyrics — “Can you believe, the year we’ve had?” — the single is far from cliché and avoids convention at every turn, instead taking the audience out of the ordinary and into the spiritual realm.