Laneway Festival Singapore has announced the instalment of a fourth stage at this year’s event. Set up with local collective Syndicate, the stage brings together a new genre of local and international electronic DJs and visual artists, including Australia’s JPS, Singapore’s Mean, and visual artist Brandon Tay accompanying duo Kiat & Kane on stage.
If this doesn’t signal the death of rock ‘n’ roll, I don’t know what does then. Clearly, the Laneway Singapore organisers found it commercially viable to install a fourth stage and then feature electronic artists rather than rock acts. Whilst I am pleased for Syndicate and how this is a feather in their cap, it’s certainly sad to see that one of the biggest festivals in Singapore (and an Aussie one at that) will barely feature any rock ‘n’ roll music.
The year is almost done but .gif (viz Weish & Din, above) probably delivered one of the best ways to see out an amazing 2015 for Singapore music with its debut album, soma. Here’s what the dynamic duo thought about what the year was all about…
I am listening to the Letters to Ubin EP and smiling to myself because I am thinking of how a critic/observer of the local scene slammed iNCH’s music for being ‘soft’ and ‘not edgy’. Fact is that could not be further from the truth. Perhaps that critic was fooled by iNCH’s public persona! Certainly, there are numerous elements of Letters to Ubin that most casual listeners would consider too arty and indulgent — definitely ‘edgy’!
People often think that pop music needs to divided into different genres and generations and never the twain shall meet. But artists never think that way. It would be fair to describe Swedish-born Berlin-based electronic music producer and DJ Axel Willner (aka The Field) as part of the modern day pop scene & fail to appreciate the fact that Willner is inspired and influenced by music from all genres and all generations. Critics may have labelled The Field under the ‘minimal techno’ genre but throughout his career he has resisted been pigeonholed to such an extent that he has utilised different monikers (Eg. Cordouan, James Larsson, Loops of Your Heart, Porte and Hands) to escape the straightjacket of critics’ and fans’ limited expectations.
As part of the effort to promote The Field’s performance at Neon Lights Festival at 6.15pm, we had an email exchange with the forward-thinking artist.
Labelling herself as “electronic progressive goth”, Jet Noir is not too far from the truth. Her sound and vision is true to her artistic intent. Nothing is out of place on this darkly invigorating single. Her sensual spoken word verses segue seamlessly into slinky refrains as images of flickering horror flash before your eyes. Yet there’s an inclination to slow dance your way through this electro piece mesmerised by its insistent beats and arrangements – “The grayness is coming/It’s walking the streets”.
The perfect single for your Halloween predilections, if so inclined.
There are three remixes to consider as well, each one delivers a different perspective but at its core, “A Cold Day in Hell” remains arresting.
Her E.P. The Hall of Ghosts is coming soon.One to keep an eye out for.
It’s always exciting to check out Toro y Moi’s latest project. The American recording artist and producer (and graphic designer), whose real name is Chaz Bundwick, has come a long way since rising from the chillwave movement and forming a close musical relationship with Ernest Greene from New York band Washed Out, around 2009.
Across his three albums, Bundwick continues to push his personal musical boundaries while sticking to his signature chill vibes and fuzzy vocals. And it’s no different for his forth project, What For?, a 10-track album released by Carpark Records, which could easily be mistaken for a 70s dreamy pop rock piece – but a more modern and polished version.
His latest work launches the listener into a rocky ride with blues rock influenced numbers (“What You Want”, “The Flight”). It gradually elevates one into a dream (“Ratcliff”, “Lilly”) before reaching a dance climax (“Spell It Out”, “Half Dome”), and ends the journey by bringing the listener back down to earth with trudging drums (“Yeah Right”) and apt lyrics: “Let’s hang out soon, I’ll give you a call.”
But the graphic designer in Bundwick never strays too far away and fans can still enjoy his signature deep groovy beats and filtered soft vocals (“Buffalo”, “Spell It Out”).
By now, it’s clear to everyone that the man is not much of a lyricist. Bundwick continues to keep his lyrics simple in this album, letting his keys and drums do most of the talking or singing.
Azliah recently completed my WRITING ABOUT ROCK MUSIC course. Find out more from KAMCO Music.
Does life have to make sense? Does music need to feel complete? Or is it the inherent contradictions that make music the life-affirming force it can be?
Did anyone expect a new New Order album? Hooky out, Gillian back? In case you are not keeping score, Hooky (bassist Peter Hook) announced in 2007 that New Order was over and that he was leaving. Eight years later, Barney Summer and the rest of the gang (Stephen Morris, Gillian Gilbert, Phil Cunningham & Tom Chapman) has somewhat taken up the challenge to prove Hooky wrong.
And whilst the end product is a sublime dance-rock album of the kind that the original New Order are considered the pioneers of, Music Complete is not really New Order, any more than Electronic or Bad Lieutenant were New Order. The name itself is meaningless – without Hooky’s bass, this is most definitely not New Order.
However, in the final analysis, it makes no fucking difference, does it? With all the electro-pop acts vying for attention in the modern rock wasteland, the old masters have come back from the dead to show the young upstarts how it’s done.
There’s no doubting Summer’s way with a melody (and dodgy lyrics) but it is in the rhythm and the beats that Music Complete excels – big beats, techno, house, disco all mashed up into a heady mixture. “Restless”, “Tutti Frutti” and “Stray Dog” (with Iggy Pop on vocals) all rise like cream to the top but it is in the final number “Superheated” that Music Complete well and truly soars with one of the finest New Order tracks since the glory days of the 80s. “Superheated” is five minutes of sheer electro-pop bliss. Close your eyes and it’s the mid-eighties again.
In my preparations for week 3 of WRITING ABOUT ROCK MUSIC, I had to conduct research on electronic music subgenres and re-discovered my love for 90s UK Techno. Interestingly enough, after Synthpop had tipped over into saturation in the late 80s, I had sworn off electronic music but the discovery of Aphex Twin (above) re-ignited my interest in all things electro again.
Compared to the popular electronic dance music of the modern era (viz. Trance, Hardstyle and House), 90s UK Techno seems to be an artistic expression and not merely serving as pure dance music, with exponents of the genre dealing with both electronics and sampling very creatively.
With that firmly in mind, I put together 40 of my favourite electronica tracks with a bias towards 90s UK Techno viz. Chemical Brothers, Orbital, The Prodigy, Future Sound of London and of course, Aphex Twin. This, to me, is what electronica is all about – so, please enjoy and share!
Love X Stereo‘s “We Love, We Leave” gets a music video that visualises its conceptual thrust perfectly. The video itself is ambitious, arty and yes, sexy – leaving a throbbing mess that usually comes as a result of conjugal action. The song, already a powerfully appealing single in its own right lifts off when set to these tempting visuals. Kudos to all involved. Don’t feel guilty if you enjoy it too much…
Whatever the genre, nothing gets more attention in a song than a powerful, distinctive female voice. Dedicated music fans should be familiar with Eugenia Yip from her vocal antics with jazz-rockers The Steve McQueens. However, Ginny (as she likes to be called), also fronts electro-outfit Riot !n Magenta, ably backed by Hayashida Ken (synths), Khairyl Hashim (guitar), Sulaiman Supian (bass) and Ritz Ang (drums).
R!M have been somewhat under the radar despite having played Baybeats 2011, launched a debut EP – R3B007 – at Esplanade Recital Studio in 2013 and even opening for CHVRCHES last year. But no doubt that will all change with the release of the new EP, Voices.
The four tracks available on Voices reveals a mature sonic agenda that continues to channel a strong trip-hop-soul vibe that highlights Ginny’s idiosyncratic vocal stylings and melancholy lyrics that emphasise the damage that relationships inflict on humans.
“Love is not supposed to be a chore” (“CTRL”) and “I can’t unhear the things but you said it” (“Told You So”) – words that put the songs in perspective, heartfelt emotions hard to ignore. Supported by pristine electronic beats and ambience, it is so easy to be swept away by the music on this EP. Not to be missed.
A band that lives up to its name! SF outfit Echodrone finds a nice balance between 90s shoegaze and new millennial electronica, covering the gamut from driving rock to ambient textures with equal intensity. Consisting of Brandon Dudley, Eugene Suh, Jim Hrabak, Mike Funk & Rachel Lopez, the quintet has been active since 2005 and latest album – Five – finds the band in an assured place creatively, bringing together the pleasing elements of soaring guitars, pummeling rhythms and hypnotic motifs to produce a work that hits all the right buttons.
We got in touch with Echodrone to find out more about what the band are about.
What are the records that inspired your sound?
I think you can see a wide variety of influences in our music
Just downloaded the new Thom Yorke album – Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes – via BitTorrent. And it was totally legit. Yorke has, in the recent past, condemned streaming sites for exploiting artists and thus it was interesting to find out that Yorke is using a BitTorrent site to sell his album. The digital album is US$6 and the bundle comes with 8 tracks and one video (of single “A Brain in a Bottle”). The single and video are available for free – as a teaser presumably for the album. Check it out at https://bundles.bittorrent.com/
When I told DARKSIDE (Nicolas Jaar & Dave Harrington) over the phone that I thought new album Psychic sounded like traditional rock, they were rather amused (and bemused, I suspect). And whilst, it is true that their improvisational performance style was somewhat experimental, it was not difficult to hear the echoes of Pink Floyd (Harrington did a fair Gilmour impression) and other psychedelic space-rock acolytes in the duo’s well-received set at the Ground Theatre *SCAPE on Sunday, 6th April.
Psychedelic flourishes. Alt-folk quirkiness. Excellent mix between technology and organic sounds. Welcome to the modus oprandi of Bibio!
Watch the trippy video for “Dye the Water Green” below.
Michael Robinson (Director) – To me the video for “Dye The Water Green” held a certain identifiable quality linked with a sense of possibility and exploration – when there is a new place to go, another bend around the corner to uncover, or a different vista coming into view.
Off Bibio’s 2013 album, Silver Wilkinson. Listen below via Spotify.
Underworld’s Karl Hyde has been in the music business since 1980 and Edgeland is Hyde’s first solo album!
Having fronted Underworld through different genres within the electronic music sphere – before making the big time in the 1990s with techno dance music – it’s refreshing to consider Hyde’s musical approach to his debut solo work.
On Edgeland, Hyde takes his new role as singer-songwriter seriously with a clutch of well-crafted pop-rock songs which exploit his electronic music background to the hilt. The result – memorable melodies, thoughtful lyrics and fresh song arrangements/instrumentations and a worthy addition to the essential listening pile for 2013.
Outstanding tracks include “Angel Cafe” with its ‘found sound’ percussion and heavenly atmospherics; “Your Perfume Was The Best Thing” with its chorus synth hooks and textured harmonies and “Cut Clouds” with its ambient stylings and fragile demeanour. Brilliant.
Sat & Sun 09 & 10 Mar | 8pm University Cultural Centre Dance Studio | $15
An hour-and-a-half long audio-visual showcase featuring original electronic music by EML members.
Our contemporary environment has been evolving at a tremendous rate and while many struggle to find meaning and purpose in the ever changing environment, some attempt to solve this quandary through the creation of a persona. They view this persona as a safeguard, a comfort zone, and a form of self-empowerment.
Faces, masks, identities – how many do we have, and how real is each one?
Persona is an enhanced audio-visual performance tracing the path of an android and her quest for the perfect persona. She escapes the laboratory where she was programmed to be the perfect alter-ego, and instead travels through the diverse landscape of electronic music – a rendered universe of constructed identities and originally composed music.
Developed by humans as part of a research project in the name of scientific recognition and reputation, it is symbolic of the struggles of the creator and the created over control.
Is the creation of a persona the answer or the problem? Is it the end or the beginning?
There are numerous landmarks achieved with this, the debut album of synth-pop combo, Depeche Mode. Released by Mute Records, it was a rare genuine indie album for its time. Speak and Spell contained also many songs which were amongst the first electronic numbers heard on the airwaves e.g. “New Life”, “Just Can’t Get Enough” and my personal favourite, “Dreaming of Me”. The use of synthesizers instead of the usual guitar, bass and drums instrumentation was so refreshing back in 1981. But what made the music of early Depeche Mode so memorable and timeless are the brilliant songs. Pop songs filled with hooks that captured the imagination of the post-punk generation, and taking Kraftwerk’s uncompromising electronic agenda to its logical conclusion. The album was also the only Depeche Mode LP with then-prinicipal songwriter Vince Clarke (who’d go on with further success with Yazoo, The Assembly and Erasure). Martin Gore would come to the fore in Clarke’s absence, turning the outfit towards the darker material it would become world famous for in subsequent years. Three decades later, thanks to the post-punk revival, Speak and Spell is as relevant as it ever was. Essential.
It’s no secret that I have been incredibly wary of the current wave of the Post-Punk Revival, believing that it is mostly warmed up leftovers from a special musical epoch now 25 years old. But of course, there is an exception to every rule.
This Portland-based band started life as a spiky noisenik outfit and released a debut album in that vein in 2003 viz. Chrome Rats vs Basement Rutz. However, in 2005, Chromatics would undergo radical changes to its lineup with Ruth Radelet (vocals), Johnny Jewel (producer/multi-instrumentalist), and Nat Walker (drums/synthesizer) joining, with guitarist Adam Miller the remaining founder. The result was a sophomore release – Night Drive – that having taken electronica fully on board, with strong hints of the Post-Punk Revival. The track “Tick of the Clock” gained recognition after it was featured on the Drive soundtrack.
Which set the stage for the latest album – Kill for Love – released earlier in 2012, and in my humble estimation, one of the best albums of the Post-Punk Revival era, let alone 2012. Right from the opening cover version of Neil Young’s Hey Hey My My (Into the Black) – the haunting “Into the Black” (video below), it is obvious that Chromatics is not interested in sounding like the rest of the sheep copycat hipster bands out there in the modern rock wasteland.
“Kill for Love” may superficially recall the 80s with its New Order/Depeche Mode references but there is a distinct attitude especially in Radelet’s languid vocal delivery. Miller’s guitar work helps songs like “These Strings Will Never Look the Same” and “Dust to Dust” escape the usual hipster cliches by channeling a hybrid of older sounds coupled with the now-traditional dance pop styles. Not only that but the band’s penchant for emphasizing soundtrack designs in songs like “Broken Mirrors” and “The Eleventh Hour” keeps the aural experience intriguing always.
More thoughtful (and less trippier) than its predecessor but Kill for Love demonstrates that it is possible for uncompromising intelligent and artistic bands to make challenging original music during these fallow years.
You can also listen to Kill for Love in its entirety at Soundcloud!
Swedish House Mafia invades Singapore for the first time on their farewell tour!
(Midas Promotions Press Release)
Sweden’s own Swedish House Mafia is a rousing group of DJs and house producers that are dance floor favorites all over the globe, and for good reason. The crew of electronica powerhouses Axwell, Steve Angello, and Sebastian Ingrosso exploded onto the music scene in 2010 with their first album Until One featuring mega hit singles “One” which achieved international success, hitting #7 on the UK Singles Chart and #3 on the US Dance charts, and “Miami to Ibiza” which charted at #4 in the UK, and became the groups first #1 hit on the US dance charts.
It’s hard NOT to be impressed by what you hear when you listen to Little People – the moniker of UK based downtempo electronic musician Laurent Clerc. He returns with his second full length album We Are But Hunks Of Wood on Youth & Progress Records. As “Aldgate Pattern” demonstrates (with colorful and intriguing music video to boot), Clerc is a wildly talented electronic artist with amazing insight into blending the right sounds together. Can’t wait for the new album.
Harlan began as a solo project of musician/conceptual artist John Norris that has fine art origins – Norris conceived Harlan originally as a recording project that would coexist with a body of paintings for his Master of Fine Arts Thesis Exhibition. Night Loop is the electronic outfit’s third album and this video of “You’re A Teenager” is suitably disturbing and arty at the same time. Review of Night Loop to come.
FACT. Any band worth its salt transcends genre and style. UK band Hot Chip is commonly labeled as a electronic band and whilst it certainly uses synths/electronics to play its songs, it’s the way the band mixes and matches forms and styles to create something distinctively its own that marks Hot Chip out as one of the greats.