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May 032015
 

SongsoftheWell

Now here’s something completely different!

Victor Low (formerly of Concave Scream and The Observatory) has recorded and released an album of short instrumental tunes (mostly under 2 minutes), that he says were inspired by his own childhood and the bedtime stories shared with his young daughter, Ee Shahn.

These ten tracks are delightful and thoughtful experiments into songwriting targeted for children or the young at heart. Mostly neo-classical in tone with acoustic guitars (steel and nylon) at the fore, assorted percussion and the occasional cello (courtesy of Zhong Ren Koh), it’s easy to simply play through the duration of Songs of the Well and revel in its rustic sophistication.

My personal favourites are “Drip Drop”, “Swallow” and “Geckos of Eastwood” – which highlight Low’s focus on naive charm but the arty “Song of the Well” recalls Low’s time with art-rock ensemble The Observatory. It’s an atmospheric ambient song whose origins, Low was kind enough to elaborate on.

“When I was writing the songs in this album. I would often bring my guitar out of my studio to sit in the stairwell where I live, just to get a bit of a natural reverb. This really helped me to ease into the ideas and finish writing the songs (or the main bulk of it) rather quickly. A thought occurred to myself that these songs seem to be coming from “the well”, and it ended up being the title of the album. Ironically the track “Song of The Well” was the only song not written from the stairwell. Instead it was done in my studio, using music boxes, cymbals and effects”.

If there is one obvious complaint, it is that the songs are too short! I mean, once a enthralled listener really gets into the piece, it’s over!! Hopefully, Low will see fit to expand on the artistic success of Songs of the Well to give us fans more in the years to come. Please encourage that possibility by purchasing Songs of the Well.

… still there’s more … 

May 032015
 

CheatingSons

Cheating Sons!

Years in the making but definitely worth the wait. 10 tracks of such instrumental sophistication and erudite witticism that it is barely imaginable that the former cultural desert of Singapore is able to produce an album that absorbs the wondrous legacy of 60s rock and pop so well.

With the songwriting template pioneered by the likes of Roy Orbison, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and the Band the band have also adopted the production values of Phil Spector and Brian Wilson to deliver a unique aural experience that will please rock scholars and casual music fans alike. An additional distinctive element is the band’s ability to incorporate East Asian sounds and melodies into the mix to create a East meets West amalgam that is surprising and pleasing.

Believe me it’s difficult to point out any particular highlights here as every track is an entity to itself but I will say that songs like the ghostly Beatlesque “Mercy of Cain and Abel”, the atmospheric folky “Patriach”, the country bluesy “Blood the Prize” and the Orbison-Teresa Teng channeling “Honeymoon” certainly deserve special mention.

In an amazing year for Singapore rock so far, this eponymous album is a definite standout and a statement of intent that hopefully will bring forth more exciting music from this wonderful band in the years to come.

CDs and digital albums will be available on cheatingsons.bandcamp.com and CDs also at Curated Records and Roxy Records & Trading.

CHANNELS & TERMINALS – FUNDRAISER FOR PLEASANTRY’S NORTH AMERICAN TOUR

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Apr 262015
 

instagramposter-2

This is quite an astonishing line-up of top top #sgindie bands. And all for a good cause – support local!

Pre-sale tickets can be purchased via channelsandterminals.peatix.com.

JAIME WONG: SINGAPORE’S SOUL SISTER | TODAYonline

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Apr 242015
 

So here’s my TODAY interview with Jaime Wong. Now, I hope you figured out that that headline came from my editor! But to be fair, I chickened out from coming up with one, so….

Check out the article and don’t forget that Jaime launches her EP on May 15, 7.30pm at Lepark, People’s Park Complex rooftop. Tickets from http://jaimewongep.peatix.com. You can buy the EP on iTunes (https://itunes.apple.com/album/jaime-wong-ep/id979791050)

Source: Jaime Wong: Singapore’s soul sister | TODAYonline

PoPTV: HONEYMOON BY CHEATING SONS

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Apr 242015
 

The new Cheating Sons single “Honeymoon” has an official music video. Directed by Frankie Pan, it’s otherworldliness contrasts intriguingly with the retro vibe of the song itself. Check it out!

Get the track from Bandcamp!

… still there’s more … 

HOUSE OF RIOT WITH CHARLIE LIM, INCH & THE GREAT SPY EXPERIMENT!

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Apr 192015
 

HouseOfRiot Poster-sm

On 6 June, House of Riot – home to Singapore’s well-loved independent acts, Charlie Lim, iNCH, and The Great Spy Experiment – presents an ambitious live show in homage to made-in-Singapore music, at The Esplanade’s grande dame The Concert Hall.

#sgindie music at the Esplanade Concert Hall? Somewhat unprecedented but surely the potentially record-breaking triple bill stands perfectly placed to do the deed.

Tickets for the Riot show are now on sale at SISTIC, and priced at S$50 for normal admission; S$40 for students and NSFs.

CHECK OUT RAGNAROK FOR ESTHER LOWLESS’ MESMERISING PERFORMANCE!

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Apr 162015
 

Ragnarok

Am not much of a theatre-goer but my main interest in covering Ragnarok has always been the fact that Esther Lowless would be acting and singing her original compositions within the body of the play itself. A unique opportunity to catch Esther in an entirely different creative environment.

According to its press release, “Ragnarok serves to confront its audience with difficult questions about issues of identity, power and illness that have evolved within the global gay community” but what makes the play ambitious is the concept of using Norse mythology and the apocalyptic myth of Ragnarok as an allegorical device. Of course, to appreciate this, one would need to understand Norse mythology to begin with and it’s much more than that hunky God of Thunder in the Marvel movies (and yes, the next Thor movie is sub-titled Ragnarok as well)!

So I reiterate that the purpose of this review is not really to evaluate the merits of the play per se, although I did find it intriguing if somewhat overwrought with the performances uneven. Instead, I focus on Esther Lowless. She plays Hel (in Norse, mythology, a being who presides over a realm of the same name, where she receives a portion of the dead), the bartender and musical performer at gay bar, Asgard. Her role is mainly as a passive observer and commentator (through the music performances) although Hel does have her moments as agent provocateur.

The key challenge for Esther is that Hel is on stage throughout the entire duration of the play! Thus, there is no break for Esther whatsoever! In that respect, she performs admirably combining her acting with musical performances superbly with wonderful new songs that imbue the play with much gravitas and emotional resonance. Some of my favourite moments – when the cast joins with Esther for bizarre singalongs – the play takes on the tone of a cracked musical – unsettling but transcendent at the same time!

There are 3 more performances of Ragnarok. Saturday 18th is sold out but tickets for tonight and Friday night are still available at time of press. Don’t miss this #sgindie music lovers!

Get your tickets from http://www.skinnedkneeproductions.com/productions-ragnarok.html

JAIME WONG’S DEBUT EP IS A GORGEOUS FOLK POP SUITE DEDICATED TO LOST LOVE

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Apr 112015
 

JaimeWong

I first fell in love with the music of Jaime Wong back in 2012 when I mentored her for an afternoon as the winner of the Noise-Timbre Singer-Songwriter Programme. The song that did the most damage was the atmospheric “Skin” and spending time with this down-to-earth easy-going talent was a pleasure. Thus, it was no surprise to me when Jaime won the Noise Singapore Award a year later because once this unassuming young lady is on stage, she tends to draws everyone watching into her melancholy world of broken hearts and lost love.

So I was thrilled to receive her new EP this morning in the mail and instantly fell in love all over again with her music. I guarantee that this four tracks will be on endless repeat once you get hold of the EP (and I wager you would want to). Apart from the shimmering “Skin”, it’s impossible not to be mesmerised by the luscious “Shame on You,” the slightly bouncy “To Lost Love” and the yearning country-folky “2:32 am”.

Yet another winner in an already grand year for Singapore music. Essential.

JWEP cover

 

Jaime’s debut EP will be available for pre-orders this coming Monday, 13/04/15 on iTunes. Pre-order and get an immediate download of “Skin (Wekkit Remix)”, exclusive for digital release.

 

… still there’s more … 

CHEATING SONS – HONEYMOON SINGLE

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Apr 102015
 

CheatingSons

Regular visitors to Power of Pop would be aware that I managed Cheating Sons effectively from July 2011. Fact is I am no longer managing the band so I can say with a clear conscience that their upcoming sophomore effort is worth the years it took to put it together.

Good news is that the first single – “Honeymoon” – has just been released today and you can pick it up at Bandcamp. “Honeymoon” is 60s pop goodness channeled through the sensibilities of Roy Orbison and Teresa Teng and it’s textural complexity will give fans and newbies a good idea of what to expect when the new album drops.

… still there’s more … 

SO HAPPY: 50 YEARS OF SINGAPORE ROCK – OPENING

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Apr 072015
 

SOHAPPYGIG

 

I know when this exhibition was first announced, there was some criticism about the ’50 years’ bit, considering that: –

1. The Quests‘ “Shanty”, the first ever local pop hit, was released in 1964 (!) and

2. when you subtract most of the 70s and the early 80s (when rock music was suppressed by the authorities) fifty years become a stretch

BUT you will appreciate that in order for the exhibition to get the appropriate funding some concessions needed to be made towards the whole SG5o business. Whatever it was called, the fact remains that the funding has allowed the organisers to put together a fitting tribute to Singapore rock, such as it is. Well, this is Singapore so the ends will justify the means.

In any case, the exhibition opens tomorrow (8th April) at the Substation Theatre with three S-ROCK bands viz. The Oddfellows, THE PINHOLES and Riot !n Magenta performing from 8pm.

Support local!

ORIGINALS SING: DEON

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Apr 062015
 

DEON

I first came across Deon Toh as the drummer for Singapore indie rock band Flybar. But when the band split, Deon decided to get up from behind the drums and become a singer-songwriter. I had the privilege of spending time with Deon when he was a finalist in the NAC Noise-Timbre singer-songwriter programme, and I was the designated songwriting mentor. He passed me Letters, an EP of sorts which he rather humbly described as a ‘demo’, although it sounded very good to these ears.

Since then, Deon has gone from strength to strength, releasing a well received debut album, Antiphonic, and impressing overseas audiences at music festivals in Canada and the UK. Deon is in the process of completing the recording of his sophomore effort and will be heading to Canadian Music Week once more in May. But before then, local music fans will get a chance to give Deon a proper send-off at Originals Sing @ Artistry this Thursday 9th April. $10 cover.

Ariane Deborah will kick off proceedings at 8.30pm.

Web http://www.deontheband.com/
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/deontheband
Noisetrade http://www.noisetrade.com/deon
Twitter: @deontoh
Instagram: DEONTHEBAND

POWER OF POP INTERVIEW: EUGENIA YIP (RIOT !N MAGENTA + THE STEVE MCQUEENS)

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Apr 062015
 
Photo by Fandy Razak

Photo by Fandy Razak

I remember the first time Eugenia Yip caught my eye. This is what I wrote in a live review in TODAY, a few years back.

Riot !n Magenta is a relatively new duo consisting of singer/songwriter Eugenia Yip and keyboardist/producer Hayashida Ken and proved to be a totally different proposition. Yip is a dynamic soulful vocalist and managed to coax members of the audience to come to the front of the stage to groove to Ken’s contemporary-sounding beats. What the songs lacked in terms of conventional tunes, Yip make the most of with the range of her voice and her sultry on-stage persona. Certainly, the duo holds much promise for the future.

Now a quintet, Riot !n Magenta have a new EP out – Voices (I reviewed it here) – and will be playing at the So Happy: 50 Years of Singapore Rock exhibition opening at the Substation Theatre on the 8th April alongside The Oddfellows and Pinholes.

But Ginny (as she likes to be called) is at the centre of attention – whether it be fronting R!M or her other amazing band, The Steve McQueens. So I thought it would be awesome to get Ginny to respond to some of my queries and she obliged! Enjoy…

Are the new songs about relationships? Even damaged ones? 

They’re mostly about personal realizations, or things I experience and feel for very strongly. I wrote “Voices”, inspired by the strength of three women I look up to very much. Nothing inspires me more than the giving of unconditional love, even through the toughest of times. The new songs are a little darker, a little older. “Running” was written about the process of letting go of a past made up of regrets, or even happier times that you struggle to forget, because they tend to remind you of what you’ve lost, but in an insanely more painful way. It is about finding happiness from forgiveness, both given and received.

Continue reading »

S-ROCK FLASHBACK! THE GREAT SPY EXPERIMENT (2007)

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Apr 032015
 

An interview with one of Singapore’s finest, The Great Spy Experiment, for the STASIS 10 event. From 2007.

GSE

Do I really need to introduce this band? Suffice to say that GSE is/was the band of 2007. Take it away…

2007 was a good year for GSE – any particular high point that sticks in the mind?

Fandy: The US trips definitely and of course the release of the album after sooooooo long. The album marks a milestone in our otherwise mundane lives as rockstar wannabes. heh.

Saiful: Ditto. But there were also a couple of local gigs which won’t be forgotten for a while, like TPRawks (TPRiots!), Lime Sonic Bang, ZoukOut, Junk Launch, etc. This year we’re starting to see more and more people dancing and singing along at our gigs, and that for me is a huge highlight. We’ve also met some really wonderful people along the way, fans who’ve become friends because of our common passion for music. Yup, it’s been a good year indeed.

What plans does GSE have for 2008?

Fandy: A music video, a concert, several marriages hopefully and a second album.

Saiful: Several marriages?? In one year?? Haha.. Not likely. But the rest, for sure. And if possible, a regional tour for fans in neighbouring countries.

What can fans hope to see from GSE at Stasis 10?

Fandy: The usual champagne fuelled orgy lor.

What expectations do you have for the local scene in 2008?

Fandy: I expect more bands to surface from the abyss, each one better than the one before. I also think there will be more opportunities for bands to showcase with a lot more support from the media and people in general.

Saiful: I’d like to see our local bands break into television. Also, there are a couple of albums due our next year that I’m really looking forward to – I just hope that the general public would show their love for local bands and go out and buy these albums.

Which band are you looking forward to see in Stasis 10 and why?

Fandy: B-quartet. Why? Do i need to say why??

Saiful: Same, but I will say why. Because they’re brilliant.

Now, we understand that GSE will be playing again very soon – in June in fact …

… still there’s more … 

KAMCO MUSIC RE-ISSUES WATCHMEN’S DEMOCRACY LP AND LOVE EP

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Apr 032015
 

Democracy-sleeve-back

It’s a bit surreal to be writing about these KAMCO Music re-issues. Simply because both releases came out more than 20 years ago! It’s seems unreal to think that two decades later, I am able to make them available to the world in a manner that was impossible in 1993/1994. Does the world really need these re-issues, probably not but it’s not about that. Rather it’s more about the historical significance of these releases in the context of my life and that of the Singapore music scene.

For me personally, as a musician who grew up in 70s Singapore when rock ‘n’ roll was suppressed by the authorities, it was difficult to conceive of a local music scene that would accept my original music but thankfully that happened in the early 90s (in my early thirties) with Democracy and Love. That scene now appears to be light years away from where we stand now – and thank GOD for that too! Listening to the music now brings upon me waves of nostalgia and if any of this resonates with you then you can head on down to the various links below and I appreciate your support for all these years.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the kind souls who helped to make Democracy and Love whatever they might mean to folks now – Tony Makarome, Patrick Chng, Ben Harrison, BOSS Studios, Odyssey Records and of course, Eric Khoo.

iTunes

Democracy | Love

Amazon

Spotify

Democracy | Love

… still there’s more … 

RIOT !N MAGENTA – A SOUND REVOLUTION

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Mar 182015
 
Photo credit: Teck Io

Photo credit: Teck

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.

Connect with Riot !n Magenta

Facebook http://www.facebook.com/riotinmagenta
Twitter http://www.twitter.com/riotinmagenta
Soundcloud https://soundcloud.com/riot-n-magenta

IN EACH HAND A CUTLASS’ THE KRAKEN IS A PROGRESSIVE ROCK MONSTER FOR THE AGES

 MUSIC  Comments Off on IN EACH HAND A CUTLASS’ THE KRAKEN IS A PROGRESSIVE ROCK MONSTER FOR THE AGES
Mar 162015
 
IEHAC

Daniel Sassoon, Nelson Tan, Sujin Thomas, Jordan Cheng, Amanda Ling

One of the perks of being a rock journalist is getting advances of new releases and it’s even more satisfying when you get a chance to listen to cutting edge rock music that is made by good friends as well. As regular visitors to Power of Pop will be all too aware, I have been a rabid fan of In Each Hand a Cutlass since the early days and whilst guitarist extraordinaire Daniel Sassoon (Livonia, Electrico) has always been the band lynchpin, the musicians Sassoon has surrounded himself with over several lineup changes have always been some of the best in the business.

IEHAC’s debut A Universe Made of Strings was a powerhouse in its own right but seems almost like a kindergarten school outing when compared to the new album, The Kraken. As dynamic as those individual tracks were, they cannot hold a candle to the cohesive ambition displayed on this astounding work. Helmed by the legendary L.A. producer Brad Wood, there is a consistency running throughout the LP that compels the listener to sit entranced for the entire duration, breathless at the wonder and awe that the music evokes, somewhat effortlessly.

As its centrepiece is the mammoth title track, broken down into four parts, for easier consumption. “The Kraken” is almost a treatise on rock music itself, finding ways to incorporate diverse strands of the best rock styles that have inspired millions over decades. Once again, this is progressive rock in the best sense of that term – not merely a genre identifier but a statement of artistic intent. Equal parts post-rock, prog-metal and psych-rock, this epic number brings the unwary listener across dimensions, a witness to interplanetary warfare and the birth and death of galaxies! One never questions the lack of lyrics for even a micro-second as the music speaks volumes.

If the album only contained “The Kraken”, it would already be worth the price of admission but add to that the power and majesty of tracks like “Ouroboros” and “Heracleion” and the picture is perfect. Essential but you already knew that.

IEHAC launches The Kraken on 24th April 2015 at the Esplanade Recital Studio. Tickets available from SISTIC.

In the meantime, listen to the first single “Satori 101″

Connect with IEHAC online

Web http://www.ineachhandacutlass.com/
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/IEHAC
Twitter http://www.twitter.com/IEHAC
Bandcamp http://ineachhandacutlass.bandcamp.com/

S-ROCK FLASHBACK: FORCE VOMIT – GIVE IT UP FOR THE TRUSTFUND ROCKERS

 MUSIC  Comments Off on S-ROCK FLASHBACK: FORCE VOMIT – GIVE IT UP FOR THE TRUSTFUND ROCKERS
Mar 152015
 

Here’s a review from February, 2003.

ForceVomit

FORCE VOMIT Give It Up For The Trustfund Rockers

Force Vomit viz. Nizam, Dino, Neng & Wan Vomit, requires some explanation for music fans unfamiliar with the peculiarities of Singaporean indie rock. Force Vomit position themselves somewhere between the punk pop of the Ramones (hence the ‘family’ names) and the colloquial Malay brand of Western rock called ‘Mat Rock,’ Force Vomit bring an alternative sensibility to what is very much mainstream Malay rock vernacular. Except that the ‘Mat Rock’ Force Vomit deals in, is more of a 60s variety, incorporating elements of Dick Dale surf rock, the Shadows’ slick instrumental rock and Buffalo Springfield folk rock into their approach.
Make no mistake, this is distinctive stuff and something many outside of South East Asia would be totally unfamiliar with its angles and perspectives. The melodies may be a tad clichéd and at times too common for comfort but Force Vomit attacks its chosen targets with verve, aplomb & yes, tongue firmly in cheek. How else could one describe such passionate guitar dynamics as found in “Liberator,” “Siti,” “Johnny Levitate,” “Aisakos Don’t Die” & “The Kids Don’t WTF”?
Guaranteed to screw up every conception one might have of what modern Western rock may achieve, let these mischievous sonic anarchists thrill, amuse and entertain you.

CHARLIE LIM @ THE ANALOG FACTORY

 MUSIC  Comments Off on CHARLIE LIM @ THE ANALOG FACTORY
Mar 152015
 

CharlieLimBeep

Last night, spent time with Charlie Lim & the Mothership (and twenty plus lucky fans) as the band recorded a live in-studio performance at The Analog Factory. Organised by BEEP Studios, the idea was to provide a unique listening experience, where the music would be crystal clear courtesy of inline earphones courtesy of Aurisonics. Look out for the video to be uploaded soon!

S-ROCK FLASHBACK – THE FIRE FIGHT

 MUSIC  Comments Off on S-ROCK FLASHBACK – THE FIRE FIGHT
Mar 152015
 

It’s certainly heartening to see Singapore Rock (or S-ROCK) finally begin to get its dues in its hometown in 2015. It seems that suddenly everybody in Singapore loves S-ROCK! Well, that’s an exaggeration of course but we have come a long way from 2005, to say the least. But whilst it’s great to see all and sundry jumping on the bandwagon now (including an app by that very name!), I just want to put on record that Power of Pop has been supporting S-ROCK for over 15 years and we will never ever stop! So, here’s your S-ROCK flashback for today. Enjoy!

ff2

THE FIRE FIGHT
Big Music for the Golden Age

“Our vision and mission is such that we want to change people with our music, in a sense to bring people together and to learn how to love. Music is something that engages every individual’s emotions, very directly in fact. In this way, we can have very personal contact with the listener, even without them being in our presence. That’s what we hope our songs can do” – Josh Tan

As a mission statement, I’d wager that there are precious few corporate entities, never mind fledging Singaporean rock bands, that can boast such vision, such singleness of purpose. But that’s exactly what the Fire Fight is all about. Believe it!

Continue reading »

SGMUSO SONGWRITERS NIGHT #03

 MUSIC  Comments Off on SGMUSO SONGWRITERS NIGHT #03
Feb 242015
 

SongwritersNight3

Another great opportunity for artists to get their originals heard is the SGMUSO Songwriters Night. Now a monthly event, the re-launch kicks off on Saturday, 28th February at The Barbershop by Timbre. Featured artist will be Tim De Cotta X The Warriors with the open mic segment to showcase Fym Summer, JAWN, Hell Low and Ciao Turtle.

See you there!