Our beloved rock music is much more than the number of Instagram likes or Youtube views or Spotify plays. It is all about heart and soul.
Regular visitors to Power of Pop will be aware that my definition of “pop” is pretty wide. But of course, in the context of modern pop (read: vacuous) , that definition becomes somewhat irrelevant for my purposes. Also, if I say “rock ‘n’ roll”, most people will think of the 50s (read: dated) and so, sometimes I need to be uber-specific and say “country-folk-pop-rock” to describe the type of pop music that I love. Hope that clarifies. From that perspective, I wanted to share very specifically, the bands and artists in Singapore whom I feel fit that particular bill and hope that you’d discover some new music to love as well.
CHEATING SONS – JEFFERSON (LIVE)
Though still unreleased, this country-folk masterpiece always resonates with me whenever the band plays it – which in my view is not often enough!
Pick up the new Cheating Sons album from Bandcamp.
HANGING UP THE MOON – THE DIVERS
Sean Lam (aka Hanging Up the Moon) somewhat resists any attempt to associate his wonderful music with that of the past (which I appreciate) but seriously folks, this gorgeous music is highly evocative of early 70s folk-rock. And what is the problem with that??? Beautiful.
Available at iTunes!
S-Rock Will Never Die
This past weekend has been a eventful one for yours truly as my many different roles in Singapore music rather converged into one hectic three-day sequence.
On Friday, I was the singer-songwriter-mentor performing two sets at MAAD Sounds whilst helping Maricelle and Ming See as best as I could with their own short sets. In an intimate setting, I delivered few of my ‘oldies’ and a couple of new songs (Follow Your Heart, I Lost Myself, Less Than Home) and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Then I had to pay special attention as Maricelle and Ming See played three songs each. Still work to be done before they ready for the Noise showcase in March. Thankfully, there’s still time.
On Saturday morning, I attended the Singapore Music Forum and had the pleasure of witnessing the continuing growth of Inch Chua, she was astounding in her delivery of two new songs. Certainly working in LA has improved her skills by leaps and bounds. So much more to expect to this talented young lady. As for the Forum, I was rather disappointed that most of the time was spent with panel speakers trying their best to sell us their products – ‘tooting their own horns’ (I will not even bother to go into detail) and hardly any time given to Singapore music itself. That’s all I am going to say about this…
In truth, I was feeling rather depressed and discouraged after the Forum and was thankful that I could forget and focus on Ming See and Maricelle as they played a couple of songs at OOOM. Maricelle was less nervy than the night before and the performance was better for that. Ming See played a beautifully haunting Reminds Me of You which underlined why I think that she is a songwriter with tremendous potential for depth and substance. I believe that you can catch part of these performances (and more) on Okto in February.
Then it was off to the first day of The People’s Party (with Desiree) – a solid mix of local, regional and international acts, with each accorded due respect. I was particularly struck by Monster Cat’s powerful display of nuance and dynamic and was impressed by their calm assured stage presence. The band is certainly ready for bigger things. I also liked Metronomy’s rather atonal and quirky style (very XTC and Wire influenced) although the standard (jaded) disco beats spoilt it for me somewhat – I am getting so tired of that rhythm now. But the prize for the best performance of the 1st day clearly was won by The Jezabels. The Sydney quartet simply blew the audience away with singer Hayley Mary channeling Belinda Carlisle, Chrissie Hynde and Kate Bush, there was something special going on here and some transcendental moment brought me to tears. A band to watch, no doubt!
Desiree and I took some time off The People’s Party to interview The Naked and Famous (courtesy of Universal Singapore). I found the band down-to-earth – they were pleasantly surprised when I could name a couple of NZ bands (the others in the room had probably heard of) and generally found that ‘cool’. Nice touch! Pity I had to miss their performance…
When I finally got to 2nd day of The People’s Party (after piano class), I caught the kids grooving to psychedelic rockers Unknown Mortal Orchestra, which I found strange as the band did not utilized the overused disco beat. The last Singapore Rock band of the Party was the wonderful In Each Hand A Cutlass and it was heartening to see the crowd totally get into IEHAC’s intense instrumental rock. There is still hope for you, Singapore music fan!
I decided to miss TNAF and Bombay Bicycle Club in favour of Lunarin’s launch of The Midas Sessions at the Pigeonhole and definitely there were no regrets on my part. After all, these were people I knew and loved and music made in our very midst. The band played most of the new album and the intimate settings suited the gorgeous ‘chamber’ music to a ‘t’. I was particularly tickled by Linda’s comparison of Singapore Rock to a cockroach. No matter what the challenges may be, Singapore Rock will always survive. That alone was worth being seated right in front of the band savoring every second. Make sure you got hold of the album!!!
And that for me, was the perfect way to end the hectic weekend – with a positive affirmation of Singapore Rock. In the final analysis, even if the government or the record labels or foreign interested parties ignore us, WE will still be hear making our music for ourselves and whoever is interested enough to listen to…
The Midas Sessions
Let me put a personal perspective on this review. I was fortunate enough to open for Lunarin (Linda Ong, Ho Kah Wye & Loo Eng Teck) last year at an acoustic performance at The Library @ Esplanade. The trio was augmented by Natalie Soh (violin) and Victor Ong (cello) and the set list included new songs and re-interpretation of tracks from Chrysalis and Duae and in truth I was enthralled by how gorgeous and magnificent these chamber pop songs turned out to be. After the gig, the band mentioned an intention to record an EP of these acoustic songs and I was so enthused that I almost felt that I had to bully them into recording a full-length album.
So… it is really a special feeling to finally be listening to this wondrous album. Not as hodge-podge as its origins might suggest as the old and new material blend together as a coherent whole. The organic sounds and timbre of the acoustic instruments mesh so well together that one would never imagine that Lunarin was equally deft at loud metallic noises! Certainly the success of this album indicates the breadth and depth of Lunarin as songwriters and artists. Shorn of the wall of metallic sound, these songs breathe and shine so brightly that anyone listening in cannot fail but be engaged.
Amongst the new material, the likes of Ghost, Right of Sleep and Wednesday cut right through to catch the listener’s attention with Right of Sleep’s hook-laden approach making it the perfect choice for lead single. If only Singapore radio would shake off its irrational prejudice against local music, I am certain that Right of Sleep would soon become a staple. Anyone familiar with the two previous albums would be rather astonished to hear the fresh incarnations of Zero Point Red, Midas and Coralline as almost independent entities distinct from their metallic cousins. In fact, Zero Point Red clearly stands a fair chance of being the second single off The Midas Sessions. A definite highlight is the live version of the acoustic rendition of the epic Serpentine which retains its majestic quality whilst adding hitherto unknown deeper layers to its widescreen ambitions.
A breathtaking achievement that belies the hard work and effort behind the scenes, The Midas Sessions is a worthy addition to the burgeoning Singapore rock canon.
Check out the music video of Right of Sleep below.
Lunarin launch The Midas Sessions on Sunday 15th January 2012 at 8pm at the Pigeonhole. Admission is FREE.
Let me make this clear – the Singapore (English) music scene will live or die by its ability to produce good original music. Not by how well bands reproduce Top 40 material. That is why I was so encouraged by the wonderful acoustic performance by Lunarin yesterday afternoon at the Library @ Esplanade.
Halfway through the set, Linda Ong shared with the packed audience a story about how she was stood up by a national radio executive when the latter had agreed to meet her to discuss radio airplay relating to Lunarin’s 2006 album Chrysalis. There was a defiant tone in her voice as she declared that she would never again “beg” anyone to listen to the music of Lunarin again.
Heavy but light-hearted.
Metal is probably one of the most misunderstood rock genres. Associated with dark themes, metal often gets religious groups all riled up but really, a metal performance is no more “satanic” than a rendition of the Faust opera! Ultimately a metal concert is a show, with dark theatrics thrown in for good measure, with the contributors no more “satanic” than the Faust opera performers.
PoPTV – Talkin’ the Line spoke to Linda Ong (Lunarin) about the new release Duae and the album launch coming up on 1st October at Playden, Arts House.
Talkin’ the Line is presented jointly by Power of Pop and Walk On Music.
Interview conducted by Kevin Mathews, video produced and edited by Patrick Chng.
A special PoPTV – we focus on the meltgsnow album launch tomorrow, 25th September at SCAPE Labs.
(Answers by Linda Ong)
Now that Duae is out and the Baybeats performance history, what’s in store for Lunarin in the months ahead?
We are busy planning for the album launch on 1 October 2010. It will be our first full length concert in 4 years, so we are really excited about it and hope to put up a good show!
Going forward, we have a bunch of b sides that we have been really wanting to record and release but haven’t had the time. We will probably be working on those with a view of releasing them later in the year.
LUNARIN Duae (Aging Youth)
Back in 2006, I had these words to say about Lunarin’s debut album, Chrysalis –
Lunarin is a goth rock trio from Singapore consisting of Linda Ong, Ho Kah Whye and Loo Eng Teck. Sure I realize that this album is distributed by Universal but the Singaporean angle must qualify Lunarin as an “underground” band. The Chrysalis is the kind of moody, atmospheric, dark rock album that the likes of 4AD have been releasing for years. There is a prog-rock edge to many of the tracks that border on pretentious but the fine instrumentation and Linda’s delicate larynx more than compensate. There are some keyboard passages (especially Shiver) that would not be out of place on a arty film score which add to the overall ambience of The Chrysalis. It seldom gets more exotic than this, boys and girls.
It’s always encouraging to witness the sheer range of popular music we have in our S-ROCK scene. Last night (13th August) at Home Club, local music punters got a first hand glimpse of this very fact. That Friday the 13th Show functioned as a pre-launch (somehow I can’t beat to use the word “soft” in relation to Lunarin) for its excellent sophomore album, Duae.
The poster speaks for itself I guess. Save to say that since it was printed, Zero Sequence has had to withdraw. Instead, ZS’s Simon Yong will be playing a solo set backed by three of the ZG guys. Go figure 🙂
We are Singapore. As we celebrate our 45th year of independence, there remains a gnawing suspicion that we have traded our souls for prosperity. Lunarin (viz. Linda Ong, Ho Kah Wye & Loo Eng Teck) is composed of three working professionals who have chosen to pursue and develop their musical gifts in the maelstrom of personal, familial and professional responsibilities.
It’s here! Lunarin’s lead single Zero Point Red off the upcoming Duae album is available as a free download. The track is sheer muscular fragility as sinewy metallic strings mesh with Linda’s angelic larynx. Check it out here.
In addition, the second Duae trailer has been posted. See below.