Tag Archives: Avant Garde



More avant-garde/speculative fiction/fantasy than outright scifi, Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster is a triumph of imaginative allegory. There is a strong message running through the narrative that somewhat loses steam in the third act. The set-up though is well conceptualised.




Noise for noise’s sake

With Singapore indie pop music on the ascendancy, it is important not to neglect alternative music that embraces more artistic and esoteric values. Whilst the success of indie pop in Singapore will still be judged by the usual key performance indicators like number of digital downloads, ticket sales, radio play, Facebook likes and Twitter followers, this form of so-called art-rock deserves to be embraced on its own terms – art for art’s sake. In that respect, local art-rock collective The Observatory has taken the lead in not only organizing its own gigs but also curating music events that aim to expose Singapore audiences to new sounds viz, the Playfreely series of 6 shows and MOHA! in 2011 and for this year, the 3 day event Playfreely II, MoE (as part of the Transitions tour).



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“And now for something completely different…” – Monty Python

Three days of workshops, a panel discussion, deejay sets, and three intense sessions that bring together musicians from diverse genres and backgrounds to experiment in spontaneous group composition. This is what one can expect from Playfreely+ to be run over this coming weekend.

Playfreely+ is presented by The Observatory, in partnership with Ujikaji. Supported by the National Arts Council of Singapore, norsk jazz forum, Music Norway, Mackie, Electronics & Engineering Pte. Ltd.

Continue reading PLAYFREELY+ 2014 [NEWS]


The legendary John Cale is back with a new album – Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood – and “Face to the Sky” is the second single. This weird official video rather fits the rambling non sequitur themed track. Sufficiently avant garde in sound and vision, the video is a good indication that Cale is still artistically vibrant in the twilight of his career.

Buy “Face the Sky” from iTunes.



Think of the invasion of the avant garde into rock n’ roll and it’s difficult not to think of atonal, droning white noise that the likes of the Velvet Underground experimented with in the mid-60s. But surely avant garde is a concept and not a sound so when indie rock bands like The Bastards of Fate appropriate this term to put a tag on their idiosyncratic music then it bears closer investigation.

Continue reading THE BASTARDS OF FATE


FINAL FANTASY Heartland (For Great Justice)

Don’t be confused. Final Fantasy is the name singer-songwriter-multi-insturmentalist Owen Pallett chooses to record under. Yes, he is a big fan of the video game, naturally. Pallett’s music is not easily described or pigeon-holed but I guess if I had to, I would define his music as experimental, avant garde, neo-classical, electronic pop. Mostly, it is challenging songwriting and arrangements of the top artistic order.




London, England:

Lou Reed has finalised details of the digitally re-mastered edition of his seminal 1975 album “Metal Machine Music.”  Reed will release the ground breaking album in the UK on April 19th on his independent label “Sister Ray” in the following three formats – double gatefold vinyl in quadraphonic sound, audio DVD and Blu-ray.

The album coincides with Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Trio UK concerts at the Cambridge Junction (April 17), Oxford O2 Academy (April 18) and London Royal Festival Hall (April 19, part of the Ether Festival).

Lou did the digital re-mastering from the original multi-tracks with the help of world-renowned mastering guru, Scott Hull. This is a new and improved re-mastered version, and is different from all previous releases on the RCA, Buddha and Sony affiliated labels. Further info about the Metal Machine Music Re-mastered –http://www.loureed.com/metalmachinemusic/

Full details of “Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Trio” European Tour – www.noblepr.co.uk/Press_Releases/lou_reed/lou_reed_MM3.htm

Says Reed, “The out of print “Quad” release has been replicated for all formats, including a perfect vinyl version playable on your stereo turntable with the original rear sections moved to the center of the front left/right speakers. It’s worth getting a turntable to hear this. We worked from digital transfers (95k 24bit) made from the original analogue masters. The original label supplied us with these files and photo copies of the analogue reels including copies of Bob Ludwig’s mastering notes.”

Although the Metal Machine Music album will be reissued just in time for Reed’s Metal Machine Trio UK concerts, MM3 will not perform music from the legendary album, but instead will perform music loosely based on, and inspired by, the 1975 album.  Please visit www.loureed.com for further details.


EXTRA LIFE Made Flesh (Loaf Recordings)

Brooklyn’s cracking music scene is no stranger to the zany cross-pollination of myriad soundscapes and influences. So it’s pretty much a given that the smugly inventive and wildly distinctive Extra Life (no bloody reference to video games) hail from there. Formed in 2007, the indie experimental quintet comprises head shrinker Charlie Looker (composer-guitarist-vocalist who was a core member of legendary brutal chamber sextet Zs),   violinist Caley Monahon-Ward (Snowblink), bassist Anthony Gedrich (Stats, Ocrilim), drummer Nicholas Podgurski (Yukon), and saxophonist/keyboardist Travis Laplante (Little Women).

If John Coltrane, Morrissey, Philip Glass, Swans, Converge and a couple of chanting Benedictine monks  were all jamming together in the same fucking studio, the cacophony could rival the strange aural panache created by the classically trained Looker and his tight posse in Made Flesh, their sophomore album.

Building on the critical success of Secular Works, their debut album in 2008, the latest album is a contradiction that somehow sounds more unnervingly visceral while being more accessible compared to their earlier material. Helmed by art-metal producer Colin Martson and Monahon-Ward, the eight track album fuses wryly soulful acoustic ballads and bleakly heavy industrialcore dissonance which explores heady themes of power, masculinity, lust, death and spirituality.

My standout tracks in this 38 minutes sonic assault were Black Hoodie and the epic finale The Body Is True. Black Hoodie led by Looker’s cherubic vocals and accompanied by soothing lullablysque melodies, was an infectious indie pop ditty paying homage to the humble shroud that emo kids seek refuge in. The schizophrenic 11 minute doomantia lament The Body Is True, was the perfect juxtaposition of polished choirboyish vocals, dramatic chamber acoustics with feral rhythm section, smatter of psychedelic glitches and climaxes with gang vocals ala Converge’s Wretched World .

(PJ Benjamin)

Extra Life’s Made Flesh from Loaf Recordings will be released on March 2010. For more details, visit http://www.l-o-a-f.com/.



KUAN On/Standby EPs (Kuan)

Named after a Buddhist term that symbolizes wordless contemplation, Kuan, is a Dayton, Ohio based quartet comprising bassist Bryan Wright, drummer Brett Nagafuchi and guitarists Charles Heck and Paul Larkowski who deliver more than meditative mantras in their latest offering On/Standby, a two-disc ep of aural textures and hues seamlessly pulping math-rock, avant-garde jazz and post-punk into a raucously beautiful mess.

On showcases the prowess of the band’s current line up in almost forty minutes of feverish tight-arsed instrumentation in six tracks while Standby is pretty much a bonus disc consisting of material recorded in 2007 as a trio before Wright’s foray into the set-up.

Imagine yourself stuck in a decaying city enveloped by broken glass and burned out buildings but amidst all that squalor, a bewilderingly joyous soundtrack is heard and you can’t help but dance your way into destruction. That’s quite possibly the best way to describe Kuan’s sound to neophytes, despite concerns of how everything might fall apart at any minute, the wicked intuition from the technically astute musicians creates aural bacchanalia for anyone who listens to them.

Distortion and melodies, the forte of this band – is obvious right from the effervescent opening track G from On, the joyously angular banter between guitarists Heck and Larkowski is ably supported by Nagafuchi’s primal drumming and subtle assaults from bassist Wright. Antiquated Moog synthesizers so often the instrument of choice for Detroit techno heads and musically inclined stand-up comedians, steals the limelight in J as Wright and Larkowski channel George Harrison’s obsession with psychedelic sitar licks, into one hella of a bopping tune. My favourite track is K, the album’s finale, a resonant interplanetary rock epic that glows with a gluttonous surfeit of clever aural manipulation and destined to even make twinkling purple Martians gyrate. Standby pales by comparison to the riveting On (could have been a mistake playing it after the latter).  But the disc still has elements of their trademark sounds, and clearly encapsulates the evolution of a promising trio to a mean quartet.

Kuan is essential listening for connoisseurs who dig the intricate sonic landscapes painted by bands such as Battles, Explosions in the Sky, Slint, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, 65daysofstatic, Mogwai, Aphex Twin and Tortoise.

(PJ Benjamin)

Official Site




KELLARISSA Flamingo (Mint)

Arty-farty pop is a law unto itself. That is, if Larissa Loyva’s (a.k.a. Kellarissa) first release under the Mint label, is anything to go by. Employing austere piano/keyboards/guitar accompliments or cheesy drum synths, with melody lines that range from bubblegummy to atonal to ethnic, Kellarissa never fails to subvert expectations (the last track is a traditional Finnish song!). Not an easy album to assimiliate into any form of mainstream consciousness – one particular track (Virta Vie) combines a low machine hum with hymn-like reverie – Kellarissa is very much an acquired taste but for music lovers who enjoy the challenge of embracing pop as art, then Flamingo may just be right up your alley.



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THE SCALLIONS Sounds of Vinyl and the Past (Self-released)

What to make of this? 30 minute instrumental album that is available either on vinyl or download only. Deliberately obscure? Avant garde power pop? Honestly, even when taken as an instrumental album, Sounds of Vinyl and the Past is rather difficult to understand and appreciate. For me its always about melodies and this is just a collection of sounds and noises without direction or tunes.

Sorry guys, I just don’t get it. Or maybe that’s the entire point.


Official Site





The dynamics of Paul Damian Hogan The Third is an interesting one. Paul Damian Hogan has a myriad of roles (vocals, piano, prepared piano, melodica, glockenspiel and the chord organ), and he is joined by Kiku Enomoto (violin), John Hadfield (percussion), Joshua Myers (bass) and Matthew Hough (electric guitar).

This was an album I was quite amused by. At the initial listen, I was a bit confused because it seemed like a mish-mash of vocals, instruments and sounds. Upon further listening, I found myself liking the album more and more.

The thing I like about the album that sets it apart is the experimentation with various sounds and the use of a variety of instruments. The vocals added a whimsical element, which added dimension to the music when coupled with a variety of instruments and sounds.

Throughout the album, I found myself trying to figure out the lyrics of songs. Many times, I was too distracted by the sounds and instruments to listen to the lyrics of the song. In that aspect, it was a bit too messy for my liking and I wasn’t able to catch whatever messages they were trying to convey through the album. It did, however make me wonder about the messages Paul Damian Hogan The Third might have wanted to portray through the album.

The Hut has a few really nice tracks, such as The Book from 1935, Song and Modern Ruins. The fusion of lyrics, instruments and sounds worked to their advantage, especially on those tracks. It felt like I was taking a journey through an audio circus, which was both exciting and quirky.

The strength of this album is that it sounds very whimsical, and very much like an organised mess. It’s a bit hard to tell what to expect when it comes to the album, which makes it worth the listen.

(Rebecca Lincoln)




LOKAI Transitions (Thrill Jockey)

I admit that I’m not one to be drawn in by music without vocals, but after listening to Transitions on repeat, I found that Transitions manages to hold more weight after your initial listen. In the case of songs with lyrics, it encourages you to seek and form your own opinions about the music based on the lyrics of the song. With the absence of lyrics, there is a heavier reliance on how the song makes you feel rather than being one based on life’s experiences alone.

Upon closer listening, I found that the songs were carefully crafted in such a way that one cannot help but imagine there being patterns in the songs. There was a certain flow in the songs that seemed to take the listener on an emotional journey through the minds of the musicians.

While listening to the album, there were times where I felt disjointed or loneliness creeping in. The carefully arranged layering enticed listeners to form their own opinions about the songs and to let their imaginations run wild about the nuance each songs had.

I enjoyed the journey I went on while listening to Transitions. It’s an album that is open-ended, limited only by one’s perspective towards different types of music.

(Rebecca Lincoln)





Sycamore is David Daniell and Douglas McCombs’s first album, documenting their journey as musicians together. They first met while touring as members of Die Donnergötter band in 2006, where collaborations were discussions and albums were traded. Their musical collaboration began shortly after, when Daniell moved to Chicago.

I was genuinely surprised when I heard the first track of Sycamore. As I listened to the album, it dawned on me that the beautiful thing about the album was the multiple layers that made up the various tracks. Each time I listened to the album again, it stirred up different feelings for me.

The interesting thing about the album is that you can’t immediately form an opinion after listening to it once. Unlike most other albums where opinions can be formed after listening once, Sycamore has many layers to it, each bringing about a facet to the album. I found myself fascinated trying to form opinions about what the musicians could have wanted to portray through the music. With every revisit to the album, I find myself forming fresh perspective into the creative processes and journeys of the duo as musicians.

Sycamore is indeed a gem waiting to be uncovered. I find myself thrilled to discover new details I hadn’t noticed before with every listen.

(Rebecca Lincoln)

Check out David Daniell’s Myspace page.