Review

Taipei to Hualien Nightbus, Phambinho with Hojo on NTS

NTS

Radio Show

August 10, 2021

K-Pop, C-Pop, Chopped n Screwed

Taipei to Hualien Nightbus, Phambinho with Hojo on NTS

Words by:

Miles Ginoza

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Published on:

12 December, 2021

You are riding on an overnight bus, lights twinkling in the distance. It’s too dark to make out much of the passing scenery through the window, save the silhouettes of fences or the outline of fields in the distance. Traveling alone—especially in this context where you are a passenger among strangers being pulled along by an anonymous bus driver—offers space for quiet reflection. Moving through the night, it is easy to put on headphones and let your thoughts wander, recalling fond memories or thinking about the people close to your heart waiting for you at the end of your journey.  

These sentiments are the inspiration behind Taipei-based DJ and organizer Hojo’s guest mix for NTS resident Phambinho’s August radio show. Hojo offers his ideal soundtrack for “an overnight bus from Taipei to Hualien, passing through townships and by the sea.” The hour-long mix traverses chopped and screwed Kpop, ambient drone, emotional piano pieces, and syrupy sweet Cpop ballads. Hojo meanders back and forth between sections of pitched down Asian pop and passages of introspective ambient with a sense of fluidity that mirrors the winding roads that traverse the rural expanses and rocky cliffs of Taiwan.

Hojo sets us off on this journey with a chopped and screwed edit of Taemin’s “If I Could Tell You.” The vocals take on a soft, velvety quality when pitched down, and the added reverb and echo effects make the track feel expansive. The lyrics are full of yearning. Taemin repeats, “If I could tell you.” And yet, he can’t bring himself to do it, to tell the subject of the song that he loves them. As we travel into the night on this overnight bus, the departure feels bittersweet, haunted by a love that remains unspoken. 

As the glow of streetlights overhead begins to fade and we leave the city for the countryside, an ominous ambient track by Ludu flows in. It is dark, not quite a growl and not quite a screech, but a continuous drone. It flows into another instrumental track by Mong Tong 夢東 and then another by Sangam and Kid Smpl, but the transitions are so seamless that it feels like one long passage. There are stretches of these dreamy instrumental passages scattered throughout the mix that give it a feeling of spaciousness. Traveling through the night along the Taiwanese coast, the ocean opens up to us, illuminated by the gentle glow of the moon, as we drift in and out of sleep. 

To travel through this darkness as a lone traveler is to occupy a state of liminality across multiple resonances: caught in the space between destinations, between past and future, between consciousness and sleep. Hojo embraces these states of ambiguity, offering sweet Kpop edits as a treat here and there but never dwelling on them for long. At first, this felt frustrating because I wanted to relish in the sweetness of chopped and screwed Kpop, but as I continued to listen, I came to understand this as a lesson in impermanence. If depression is a longing for the past and anxiety is a fear of the future, what does it mean for us to observe the past and future without attachment? To be still and witness these emotions without regret or longing. To simply allow each moment to breathe and take up the space it wants to, rather than trying to cling onto these moments after they pass. 

I have noticed that I tend to gravitate towards music that slows me down. This mix is a reminder to hold space for past memories without dwelling on them, to center gratitude in reflection. It is, perhaps, a difficult lesson. Of course, it may feel easier to cling to something that has already happened than look towards a future that does not offer any promises. But when we reach the final track of the mix, a beautifully chopped and screwed edit of Seventeen’s “Same dream, same mind, same night,” the relief of homecoming quiets all thoughts of the road behind us. The sweet melody and rich harmonies are so heavenly I want them to last forever, but I remember to stay present and appreciate the moment. The familiar lights at last come into view, a smile forming at the thought of returning home to the ones you love. A warm embrace at the end of the night bus from Taipei to Hualian. A cozy bed for a weary traveler.