Tag: Inch Chua

EP REVIEW: iNCH – LETTERS TO UBINEP REVIEW: iNCH – LETTERS TO UBIN

Letters to Ubin

I am listening to the Letters to Ubin EP and smiling to myself because I am thinking of how a critic/observer of the local scene slammed iNCH’s music for being ‘soft’ and ‘not edgy’. Fact is that could not be further from the truth. Perhaps that critic was fooled by iNCH’s public persona! Certainly, there are numerous elements of Letters to Ubin that most casual listeners would consider too arty and indulgent — definitely ‘edgy’!

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LIVE REVIEW: iNCH – LETTERS TO UBIN EP LAUNCHLIVE REVIEW: iNCH – LETTERS TO UBIN EP LAUNCH

Photo by Aloysius Lim

Photo by Aloysius Lim

Back in 2011, in a public Facebook note, singer-songwriter iNCH (a.k.a Inch Chua) criticised Singaporean attitudes toward local music. iNCH even moved out of Singapore (to the US) in order to pursue her musical career. Four years later, back in Singapore, as a packed audience demonstrates their hearty approval, iNCH is moved to tears by a post-gig video filled with expressions of congratulations, love, admiration and celebration for the launch of iNCH’s new EP, Letters to Ubin.

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LIVE REVIEW: XIAO ZAR BO – HERE’S TO THE CRAZY LADIES!LIVE REVIEW: XIAO ZAR BO – HERE’S TO THE CRAZY LADIES!

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Xiao Zar Bo (“Crazy Women” in the Hokkien dialect) is a bi-annual music initiative fronted by iNCH and Esther Lowless, designed to provide a platform to female singer-songwriters to showcase their own works. The rather stately environs of the Singjazz Club delivered a suitable venue for this sold out ticketed (over 80 pax) premiere event. The audience was appreciative of the efforts of the ‘crazy ladies’ throughout and there was an air of community and collaboration about the performances as performers fronted and backed each other seamlessly.

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For the two headliners – iNCH and Esther Lowless – it was an opportunity to share music from upcoming releases in a safe environment. Eschewing the need for a rhythm section, relying more on backing tracks (for iNCH) and copious harmonies and stringed instruments, there was a beatific ambience about the entire proceedings. iNCH went further and shared with the crowd a sensational little secret (which shall remain so till officially announced) and new songs from her much anticipated Letters From Ubin EP. Esther herself played a couple of new songs – “Warpaint” and “Withered Oak Tree” that highlighted the cinematic prog-rock style that distinguishes her music from the rest. Watch out for the new album!

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KindaKim (aka violinist Kim Eun Hyung) set out an astonishing live looper performance complemented by what would be described as commercial-alternative pop songs. Her use of a looper was illuminating – taking occasional to speed up her loops which made her songs quite distinctive in the main. Though self-deprecating about her singing, it fit her songwriting perfectly (one of the main rules of songwriting) and overall, her set was an engaging one.

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Lisa Haryono opened the night with a enthralling lineup of piano-based originals that hearkened to old-school pop compositions. jazz-pop-soul numbers were thrown out effortlessly as Lisa’s gorgeous voice bounced around the walls and into our collective hearts, sending chills down spines. It’s amazing to think that Lisa is already such an accomplished musician (as a session cellist) as well as fronting one of most promising Singapore bands out there (Enec.e), and to add this other musical persona to the list was simply mind blowing. Please record these soulful gems soon, Lisa!

One of the best local gigs in recent memory left me with mixed feelings somewhat. On the one hand, I appreciated the coziness of the affair and being able to savour the wonder of some of my favourite singer-songwriters up close but on the other hand, I would have loved for 500, 1000 or even 2000 people to have witnessed this! So good! But also, the sight of iNCH’s producer Evan Low in a tight-fitting dress was enough to gain him the accolade of Xiao Zar Bo of the night! See what you missed?

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MAGIC BUS! TRAVELING BY COACH TO URBANSCAPES, BEING ENTERTAINED BY #SGINDIE ON THE WAYMAGIC BUS! TRAVELING BY COACH TO URBANSCAPES, BEING ENTERTAINED BY #SGINDIE ON THE WAY

Photo credit: Jensen Ching

Photo credit: Jensen Ching

I must confess that when I first heard about Bandwagon‘s intention to feature bands in the bus on the way to Urbanscapes, I was skeptical. But after the actual experience, I must admit that they pulled it off, despite my reservations. The road trip itself had quite a few unnecessary delays but probably expected. And yes, that was my only quibble!

Photo credit: Jensen Ching

Photo credit: Jensen Ching

The lovely Aarika Lee was the ‘hostess with the mostess’ on my bus (consisting mainly of media folk) and we had a blast there and back. There was quite bit of banter and fun was had with spontaneous open mics where caution was thrown to the wind to make a long coach journey a whole lot of bearable and some.

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Photo credit: Jared Rezel

I must applaud the selection of artists – Pleasantry (above), iNCH (below), .gif and Gentle Bones – and they did themselves and our awesome indie scene proud with intimate performances that were unique (and well improvised), to say the least.

Photo credit: Jensen Ching

Photo credit: Jensen Ching

What about the Urbanscapes festival itself? It was a refreshing time in rarified atmosphere of Genting Highlands with scattered showers for good measure. It was definitely excellent weather for music enjoyment and the likes of our very own Cashew Chemists, reformed Lemonheads (Evan Dando even commented on my Flying Burrito Bros tee), Local Natives and Kimbra (pictured at top) providing primo entertainment!

Thanks to Bandwagon for making this all possible. A parting note – check out the video I shot of iNCH performing “Dear Paramour”.

 

PoPINIONSPoPINIONS

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Inch Chua at SingFest 2010. Photo credit: JY Yang

WHERE ARE WE NOW?

I am often asked about how the current Singapore indie music scene compares to what we had in the past. It’s a valid question, of course. Since the 90s revival and subsequent economic depression, the scene has been growing at a steady pace in the last decade or so.

To assess how far we’ve come, we need only look at two factors. First, the improvement of the technical abilities, musicianship and songwriting capabilities of our artists/bands and second, the expansion of the fan base – the increase of awareness, acceptance and approval amongst Singaporeans for local indie music.

As important as the first factor is – aided by the number of music schools that have proliferated across the island – the challenge has always to build up a fan base at home for homegrown music. Whilst still not ideal, there has been a marked improvement in that area.

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Back in 2010, I recall kids rushing to the stage when Inch Chua opened at SingFest but then walking away when they realized that she was ‘local’. Contrast that to the generous reception of local bands at music festivals today, where bands like The Sam Willows (above), Gentle Bones and others have the acceptance of the audience. Not only that but many artists/bands have rapturous EP/album launches where pundits actually fork out cash to watch their local heroes.

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And what about Inch? She has gone from strength to strength – chasing her dreams in the USA (see above) and elsewhere, and those kids in 2010 are probably cheering her on, whenever she does play back in her hometown.

There is much to be optimistic about but we must not rest on our laurels. We still do not have enough opportunities for indie bands/artists to play on a regular basis.

My wish list for 2015 and beyond?

(1) Venues to have residencies for our bands to develop their own music.

(2) More local bands opening for foreign bands.

(3) A regional touring circuit be established for our bands.

(4) Local bands breaking into overseas markets.

(5) Original music no longer a dirty word to Singaporeans.

There is so much work to be done but these are exciting times for the Singapore indie music scene.

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ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY: INCH CHUA – BUMFUZZLE [REVIEW]ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY: INCH CHUA – BUMFUZZLE [REVIEW]

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Sometimes, as a reviewer, one gets confronted with music that gets so much under one’s skin that it almost becomes nigh impossible for said reviewer to come up with descriptions that will do remote justice to the thoughts and emotions coursing through the synapses.

I have known Inch Chua for about six years now – from back in the day when she fronted indie rock outfit Allura with no small measure of aplomb and dynamism. When the band went on indefinite hiatus, Inch embarked on a solo project which she has pursued aggressively and ambitiously beyond our shores in Los Angeles.

Her sophomore effort – Bumfuzzle (co-produced with Leonard Soosay and Mark John Hariman) – has been percolating through my senses for a couple of months now and in my humble estimation, one of the finest musical works ever produced by Singaporeans.

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INCH CHUA “ARTFUL DODGER” RELEASE [NEWS]INCH CHUA “ARTFUL DODGER” RELEASE [NEWS]

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Inch Chua is back! And already new album Bumfuzzle promises to be one of THE releases of 2013 but before we get to that, Inch has issued the delightful “Artful Dodger” as her opening single. Here’s the press release from Riot! Records.

Inch  Chua’s  Indiegogo  campaign  supporters  were  the  first  to  receive  her  new  music.   The  Los  Angeles-­‐based  Singaporean  artist  raised  $15,510  on  the  crowd-­‐funding  site   to  finance  the  mixing  and  mastering  of  her  highly  anticipated  follow-­‐up  to   Wallflower.     “The  new  album  is  very  different  from  my  last  album  and  ‘Artful  Dodger’  is  a  song  on   the  album  that  I  feel  best  bridges  my  old  sound  with  my  new  musical  direction,”   confesses  Chua.  “The  lyrics  of  my  songs  are  birthed  from  catharsis.  You  could  literally   tear  a  page  from  my  journal  and  you  would  get  a  song  like  ‘Artful  Dodger.”     The  release  of  “Artful  Dodger”  marks  a  return  to  Chua’s  indie  rock  roots,  evident  in   the  single’s  massive  drum  and  aggressive  guitar  sounds.  “It  was  fun  twisting  and   turning  knobs  on  this  song;  there  are  some  cool  funky  sounds  in  there.”

“Artful  Dodger’s”  lyrics  and  music  were  written  by  Inch  Chua.  The  record  was   produced  by  Chua,  Mark  John  Hariman  and  Leonard  Soosay,  and  recorded  at   Snakeweed  Studios,  Singapore.  Assistant  Engineers  included  Hariman,  Chua,  Mindy   Kon  and  Issa  Mel.  Mixing  was  handled  by  Todd  Bergman  at  Repro-­‐Ductions,  and   mastering  conducted  by  Howie  Weinberg  at  Howie  Weinberg  Mastering.

Check out the lyric video below.

“Artful Dodger” is now available from iTunes.