Zhong Ren Koh is probably one of the most talented musicians in Singapore that you have never heard of. Well, to be fair, if you are a hardcore S-ROCK fan, you might remember Zhong Ren playing bass in Basement in My Loft or sessioning as a cellist for Hanging Up the Moon, Victor Low or Alise.
But really, what you should realise is that as Plate (with support from drummer Jason Cruz and violinist/co-producer Yi The Seow) – Zhong Ren (on (vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards, cello, glockenspiel, drum machine!) is one of the more exciting singer-songwriters out there in the #sgindie wasteland. And here’s the evidence: a nine-track debut album (Tear Down the Marketplace) with a maturity and intensity that belies Zhong Ren’s own personal under-stated style and underscores the artistic depth of what can still be achieved in 2015 with indie rock.
The easiest reference point for Plate is Radiohead & perhaps early Muse (especially on the opening tracks “Revolutionaries and “Building With Sticks” but that is only the starting position for Plate). On the atmospheric, cinematic folk of “River”, “Nest” & “Landslide”, Plate echoes the work of Hanging Up the Moon and Leslie Low, plundering the 1970s British electric-folk scene for raw inspiration.
There is a strong melancholic vibe on Tear Down the Marketplace that is fairly relenting – on “Straphanger” & “Expanse” Zhong Ren explores the lower register of his vocals to induce a depressive mood and again, displays the range of his inventiveness – ever restless to find the suitable ambience for the song. It’s difficult not to respond emotionally to what the compositions convey.
Though this album has been out for a while now on Bandcamp (see below), Plate is planning a general release on 31 October with live shows to follow. For more info, follow Plate at https://www.facebook.com/platemusic.