HOUSE OF RIOT: INCH, THE GREAT SPY EXPERIMENT & CHARLIE LIM – SINGAPORE ROCK COMES OF AGE!

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Well you turn when I talk/Run when I walk/Rise when I fall/Burn when I shiver/Smile when I frown/Go when I come around/You twist when I shout/In when I’m out/There when I’m here/Why do I bother?/Laugh when I’m down/Whine when I make a sound

I didn’t realise how much I would be affected by The Great Spy Experiment’s swan song performance until I sang along to “The Great Decay” and I lost it – the tears rolled freely and all the precious memories flooded into my mind.

One of many emotional high points of House of Riot’s ambitious concert to put Singapore indie music where it belongs – in the mainstream. How else to describe a concert at a packed out Esplanade Concert Hall where I failed to recognise the majority of the audience? This was no longer an underground movement, this was a Singapore audience doing something never done before, paying hard-earned money for SINGAPORE acts playing at arguably one of the best (and most prestigious) concert venues on the island!

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iNCH opened the night, resplendent in a cape playing familiar tunes (“Chefalo Knot”, “The Artful Dodger” & a spine-tingling “Dear Paramour”) and a couple of new tunes (“Lyre Lyre, Hearts on Fyre” was particularly affecting). It was clear that the enormity of the night’s achievement was also weighing on iNCH as paid an emotional tribute to those who had been supporting her music since 2009. It was a victorious comeback for the petite singer-songwriter, with a new EP due in September.

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Hard to believe that the GSE are no more but all things must pass and surely, there could be no better way for this Singapore indie rock institution to say goodbye! It has been eight years since I first thrilled to their music and tonight the songs seemed stronger and grander – from “Late Nite Request” to “Class ‘A’ Love Affair” – it was an emotional farewell. It was a proper Singapore rock send-off in a venue more suited for classical music, which in itself was so symbolic. An unforgettable performance from a beloved S-ROCK band. Thank you and love always – Saiful, Fandy, Mag, Khai and Song!

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And finally, Charlie Lim  – surely, the brightest hope for Singapore rock. Backed by the Mothership, Charlie played tracks off his hit new double EP Time/Space with aplomb and finesse. Personally, I favour the folk-rock majesties of “Light Break In” (kudos to the string section of Lisa Haryono, Josh Wei and Kim Eun Hyung), “Choices” and “Bitter” where Charlie’s heartfelt lyrics are expressed in rustic tones but my new favourite “I Only Tell the Truth” (this time with Charlie on keyboards) also provided a memorable ‘lump-in-throat’ moment. Triumphant!

The audience stayed behind as Riot chief honcho Mike See took time to appreciate everyone who played a part in the magnificent venture. It was heart-warming to see a primarily mainstream audience giving a standing ovation to a group of Singapore indie artists (and I include managers and crew into that description) and receiving the deserved recognition that has for so long been denied. Mike rightfully described the success of the event as historical – those of us who remember the scene of a decade ago would have never imagined the scenario which unfolded before our very eyes. But tonight on June 6th 2015, Singapore rock came of age.

… still there’s more … 

 

CHARLIE LIM’S TIME/SPACE IS A GLIMPSE INTO THE FUTURE OF SINGAPORE ROCK. AND IT’S LOOKING GOOD. DAMN GOOD.

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There is no sense of the where and when listening to Singapore singer-songwriter Charlie Lim‘s double EP Time/Space. It simply is.

The music of Time/Space is the honest expression of a young man coming to terms with life issues and a burgeoning musical talent. Taken as a whole – 8 tracks and two bookends – Time/Space is a polaroid shot of where Charlie is, and from an artistic perspective, it is looking very very good.

From the outset, with the ragtime-infused “Blah Blah Blues”, it’s clear that Charlie is not interested in cliches and limitations on his music but will go wherever his muse takes him.

“I tend to make my mountains out of molehills” he sings plaintively before he vamps on the chorus – “Itʼs not that hard to sing about being hurt/
Itʼs kind of lucrative to write a love song/Because everybody else just canʼt get enough” – an ironic comment perhaps about his own persona?

Personally, Charlie always hits home with his ballads – wonderful melanges of folk, soul & indie pop that never fail to send chills down spine. “Choices” is the first one – where Charlie’s sweet larynx combines with guitar patterns and trademark cutting lyrics – “I can take complication/If I can comprehend/But I can’t deal with ignorance/Even if you think it’s bliss” – to produce an overwhelming emotional resonance.

This leads us to Charlie’s magnum opus “Bitter” – the rollercoaster ride of ‘feels’ as Charlie shares some of the most poignant lyrics – “Was I trying to cash in the fantasy without the reality check?”, “Embrace the silence when thereʼs nothing left/You got no room for demons when youʼre self-possessed” and of course, ” Was I spoilt for love/Have you had enough/Wait out the danger/You donʼt have to ask/This maudlin moment/Will soon come to pass”. Sheer bloody genius.

Incredibly, Charlie offers two potential “Bitter”-killers, so to speak, here with “Light Breaks In” and “I Only Tell the Truth”.

The former is a early 70s folk-inflected stunner where Charlie slays with guitar and voice. And when the string sections moves in, I challenge you not to feel that lump in the throat moment before the tears well up. Fuckin’ gorgeous with sentiments to match – “Pour out all your sorrow/Were you waiting for a sign/Only breathing just a little/And calling it a life”. Beautiful.

The latter is the closing track and yet again is another melancholy masterpiece as you listen to the airplane pilot giving instructions for landing. Wonderfully arranged and primed for the kill once Charlie gets to the heart-breaking chorus – “But I won’t catch you if you let go/I’ll pick apart the things you let fold/If that’s what you want I guess we’ll move on/I’m sorry” – and for anyone who has lived through the death of a relationship, these words take on massive proportions. For me personally, I have broken down more than a few times when feeling the intensity of the emotions that Charlie is conveying here. All too real. And when the “Outro” hits, its hard to describe as the sad lonely piano plays out to the sound of children.

But then, it’s over, and I press play again and let the magic of Charlie Lim wash over me once more.

Time/Space will be released on June 6th at the House of Riot concert at the Esplanade Concert Hall. Tickets available from SISTIC