SINGAPORE WRITERS FESTIVAL 2015: ISLAND OF DREAMS – IN EACH HAND A CUTLASS + I AM DAVID SPARKLE

Island of Dreams

Alright, here’s the concept – let’s have ‘crossover’ events with music for the Singapore Writers Festival 2015. All perfectly logical – after all songs have lyrics.

Now, let’s stretch that further and have the opening event a concert featuring two of Singapore’s leading INSTRUMENTAL rock bands!

Yes indeed, that’s the way to do something completely different and with In Each Hand a Cutlass (left, above) and I Am David Sparkle on board, one can be sure that the music will be up to the task.

Luckily for Power of Pop, we get to quiz the bands and they get to write some words to – hopefully – offer some clarity about Island of Dreams.

How did the organisers set out the task assigned to you regarding Island of Dreams?

Sujin Thomas (IEHAC): We were approached at first as a potential band to write the theme song for the Singapore Writers Festival and later commissioned to do the job.  I think the organisers decided on an instrumental band because we offered that element of songwriting without words. What was cool was that they left the creative process entirely to us to work out. 

Daniel Sassoon (IEHAC): We definitely appreciate the creative freedom given to us, although the track is ultimately a commissioned piece. We shared our ideas and vision of what the song was meant to capture – namely, the spark of inspiration that ignites the whole creative process, and the birthing of new worlds as a result. They saw where we were coming from and liked the demo, and gave some feedback; we tweaked it a little when recording it, and off we went to Snakeweed Studios.

I Am David Sparkle: Expressions of life’s liberties.

What was the main challenge in coming up with a set that would be suitable for the theme assigned to you?

Sujin: For the theme song itself, we had to think outside of our familiar realm, that is, to steer away from the technicalities and mood shifts of our own tracks. We kept in mind that we had to create an instrumental song that could not only be catchy and engaging but also be palatable for mainstream listeners. Our set for the gig is made up of a range of songs off our second LP, The Kraken, with a few tracks from our debut album, and of course, the theme song. Again, we kept in mind that the audience at the gig may not all be familiar with our stuff so we’ve curated a set list that will offer them an easy introduction to the band, with a few fan favourites thrown in the mix for good measure. Basically, we plan to blow their minds to bits.

IADS: Aggressive discipline and barbaric control.

What is your interpretation of Island of Dreams – what does it mean to you?

Amanda Ling (IEHAC): Dream factory, through the mind, to the hands and out to the world.

Daniel: I imagine this island as a safe space in the middle of the ocean, which carries certain danger and the unknown that lurks in its depths.

IADS: No disguise can deface evil, that stains the primitive sickle blood red.

As an instrumental band, how do you convey your ideas effectively, without the use of words?

Amanda: Music is a universal language that can be understood through its emotive nature of the mood, tempo, instrumentation set by the musicians. The dynamics of each element interplay with each other and the wordless nature provides the listener with a vast possibility of interpretation through their imagination. 

Nelson Tan (IEHAC): Most of the time I go with the flow. If I feel that it sounds right, I would go for it. I also try not to focus too much on the technical aspect of my bass playing but more like let the song develop into the way I feel is right. Many a times I’ve tried to introduce more advanced ways of playing only to find that grooving with the drummer prevails over tapping demisemiquaver notes over a 3 octave B harmonic minor scale in major 3rds using both hands at 300BPM. Sometimes less is more for most of the time. 

Daniel: I didn’t even understand that, but that’s why Nelson’s got that music degree!

IADS: Oppression ruled by bloodshed.

Besides the music itself, are there any other aspects of your performance that will go towards an interpretation of the theme?

Daniel: We should be having some background visuals and mood lighting that would enhance the atmosphere; but we’ll leave that to the professionals to come up with all that good stuff. We’ll just focus on playing as best we can.

IADS: Seizing all civil liberties.

Island of Dreams will be held at the Victoria Theatre on 30th October.

Tickets available from http://www.sistic.com.sg/events/swf2015c 

Listen to In Each Hand a Cutlass’ “The Paper, The Pen and the World Began” – the theme song of the Singapore Writers Festival.

SINGLE REVIEW: LOWLY – FIRE

LOWLY

Good melodies with interesting arrangements – hooks that stick in your head and convince you to listen again. This is what a lead track should sound like.

Danish band Lowly releases their debut EP Sink Way Into Me on October 30th (via Bella Union) and based on the mesmerising “Fire”, one would reasonably want to hear more.

It’s all about that memorable chorus with its singalong backing vocals and the insistent choppy piano driving its presence into your synapses. Does the trick for me!

LISTENING BOOTH: THE HIGH LEARYS IGNITE THE PSYCHEDELIC ROCK REVIVAL WITH NEW SINGLE

Screen Shot 2015-08-13 at 5.54.05 pm

Nothing wrong with going all retrodelic like (as someone once described the music of Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians) if the music is as good as Perth band The High Leary’s new single “Letters to Alice”. Evoking the glorious mid-60s psych-rock majesty of bands like Pink Floyd, The Doors and Deep Purple, “Letters to Alice” will appeal to fans of modern day psych-rock revivalists like Temples and Tame Impala. “Letters to Alice” will be released on 4th September but you can preview the track now streaming at Soundcloud.

… still there’s more … 

KAMCO MUSIC PRESENTS: FAERYVILLE OST – AN INTERVIEW WITH COMPOSER ALEX OH

AlexOh

Tzang Merwyn Tong’s Faeryville is a dystopian teen movie, a stylish coming of age film about youth making sense of their idealistic dreams in our increasingly surreal world – a fictional manifestation of very real issues prevalent in the Post 9-11 world. The movie features an original score composed by Alex Oh.

Oh is one of Singapore’s most prolific and versatile film composers. His philosophy to scoring is telling the story of the film through music. In his career, he has scored many award-winning features, ranging from comedy, family-oriented, action films like Taxi!Taxi!, My Dog Dou Dou, Imperfect, It’s A Great Great World to darker films like Bait 3D, Rule Number One and The Maid . He was nominated for Best Original Music Score from Asian Television Awards in 2004 for the TV Series, The Frontline.

Oh’s music score complements the movie perfectly with its edgy synthesiser ambience and choral nuances providing a contrast between innocence and danger. Also included is the dynamic driving “Baptism of Fire” which feature Jessel Yam and Alan Chan on guitars, Meryvn Lim on bass and John Ho on drums.

Read below what Oh thought and felt about working on Faeryville.

As the film’s composer, you’re probably one of the first few people to have seen Faeryville, edited and cut. What are your thoughts when you watched the first cut of the film?

Faeryville turned out beautifully. It has lots of depth. I like the characters, the Nobodies, Laer, Chloe, Belle, Fraternity members. There are debates on whether society is becoming or has already become dystopian. I like how Tzang uses the film to address certain issues we are facing in our society. In that aspect, I think he is successful in bringing these to light, as many will find after watching the film that they can relate to it someway or another.

Do you have a philosophy bout your music scoring?

I try to find where the heart of the movie is. I will watch the film with the Director and talk about it. I want to understand the film from his/her perspective and hear what he has to say. Why he/she wants to make the film? What is it about? What is it the story that he’s telling? Once I have an understanding about the film, I will let the film speak to me. I do not want to come with any pre-conceived ideas.

Continue reading “KAMCO MUSIC PRESENTS: FAERYVILLE OST – AN INTERVIEW WITH COMPOSER ALEX OH”

PSYCH-ROCKERS TREASURE FLEET PARTIES LIKE IT’S 1969 WITH THE SOUNDTRACK ALBUM FOR SUN MACHINE FILM!

Photo Credit: Katie Hovland
Photo Credit: Katie Hovland

Gotta hand it to Chicago’s Treasure Fleet, not only did they release two albums within six months of each other in 2012 (the excellent Future Ways and Cocamotion), the band also expanded their horizons by producing a film – Sun Machine – which premiered last year at London’s prestigious Raindance Film Festival.

The soundtrack, available for pre-order now and out February 10th on Recess Records, is a timeless sounding psychedelic rock opus that might very well have been produced in 1969 for all we know! The music of Treasure Fleet is an absolute joy for classic pop-rock (The Who, Pink Floyd) lovers and will definitely appeal to fans of like-minded indie rockers Temples, Pond and Tame Impala.

Thankfully, Isaac Thotz (singer-songwriter) was cool enough to share with us everything (and we do mean EVERYTHING) we needed to know about Treasure Fleet and Sun Machine. Set your controls for the heart of the sun…

What is the motivation behind playing music that some might (erroneously) consider ‘dated’?

What’s funny is I don’t even think of it like that. I remember being a kid in the 80’s and the popular music that was coming out then, I didn’t like the tones and the production, and so I thought contemporary music sounded very dated, just like 70’s haircuts and brown plaid couches looked very dated to me then. And looking back now that music still does sound dated. But that’s always the case in art and pop art that people are going to trend toward certain conventions as a fad. Today there are conventions in popular music and underground music that sound very dated to me. In mainstream pop music, certain inflated acoustic drum and guitar tones are in. Anthemic choruses are in. In underground rock excessive unnatural reverb on vocals is in. In hip hop spastic hi hat sampling is in. Those sorts of production choices all sound very “dated” to me right here in the moment. In terms of our music sounding of a different era, I just have my natural biases and preferences. I like 90’s hip hop drum beats and tones better than today’s. I like the Beatle’s song structures. I like the four piece rock band arrangement. I like the mellotron. I don’t mind trashy rock drums, but I dislike poor singing. I love harmonies. Those are just my own personal biases. But then to get to the motivation of how we want to produce our music-I think we just want it to sound “timeless”. I think there are bands that try to sound much more of a particular era than we do-most often it’s the current era. We don’t approach it like that. Rather, we like to try and make something where people will hopefully go “when was this made”…”where were these guys from”. There’s definitely a starting point from which we’ve taken ideas, basically it’s been from the start of rock and roll. But that’s just a starting point, and we’ve always tried to pull ideas from all eras since. If some of those ideas seem old, it’s because they are. But others are very contemporary, and as I said, the goal is to make the whole thing seem timeless at some point out in the future.

Continue reading “PSYCH-ROCKERS TREASURE FLEET PARTIES LIKE IT’S 1969 WITH THE SOUNDTRACK ALBUM FOR SUN MACHINE FILM!”

2014 IN MUSIC

JPNSGRLS-Cornfields

Only one contender for PoP Album of the Year. JPNSGRLS epitomizes the best hope for the continuing history of Rock ‘n’ Roll even as the tsunami of prefabricated pop threatens to wipe our beloved music off the face of the earth. Nothing remotely hipster-ish about Circulation and thank GOD for that! Find out why below!!

Continue reading “2014 IN MUSIC”

POWER OF POP INTERVIEW: RALEGH LONG

Ralegh Long is a UK singer-songwriter who likens his music to cult artists like Epic Soundtracks and Robyn Hitchcock. Long was in Singapore recently and we got together with him to talk about his musical roots, influences, being an artist in the internet age, EP releases, and also the future. Listen below via Soundcloud.

Official Site

NELSON TAN + AMANDA TEE: DOUBLE EP LAUNCH

Two for the price of one, you might say. This coming National Day, Nelson Tan and Amanda Tee will be holding a joint launch for their new respective EPs at Hood Bar. CDs will be on sale at the door; $20 for both EPs or $15 each.

Listen to Nelson’s latest single “Time” (ft. Amanda Tee)

Listen to Amanda’s new single “I Can Feel You”

RSVP

LISTENING BOOTH

LISTENINGBOOTH

THE PHARMACY “Anna Bella”

Country-folk for stoners? Am digging this from this Seattle-based trio. Full length album – Spells – coming out on 12th August. Check ’em out on Facebook.

A MILLION BILLION DYING SUNS “The Garden”

Ten years later the garage revival is still going strong, isn’t it. Cali-based AMBDS imbues its garage sound with enough psych-rock elements to keep things interesting. Debut album drops in September. Listen at Soundcloud. (No embed allowed for some reason)

D.S. BRADFORD “Oceans”

Proudly stated to be made in the suburbs, the spirit is indeed willing at least. Bradford does well to craft the song together but it does sound clunky in parts. No denying the intent! Single will be available at iTunes from 1st July. Connect at Facebook.

still there’s more

#SGINDIE

So let’s take a look at what’s hot in the Singapore indie music scene right here and now.

On the heels of Gentle Bones’ exciting and appealing brand of pop, we have Kai who has produced an EP of clearly radio-friendly tunes that should have no problems winning more than a few #sgindie fans. Kai himself is an accomplished beatboxer and also a member of the acapella group Vocaluptuous so one is guaranteed of superior vocal quality, which is indeed the case. I personally find “Goodbye” and “Better” (though its chorus is reminiscent of “Falling Slowly”) interesting and both should offer pop fans a couple of earworms and hooks. Definitely a promising start!

More #sgindie to check out…

Continue reading “#SGINDIE”

HOT BUZZ: ELECTRICO – DEMOS

Electrico is back in the saddle and recently posted sneak peeks of new material over at their official Soundcloud page. Three songs – “With You”, “Live in the Night” and “Easy Go” – are reminiscent of the band’s early days, chock full of melodic hooks and powerpop vibes. The band has promised a new release later this year. Personally, I can’t wait. Check them out!