Monthly Archives: March 2009

mosaic highlights – the cinematic orchestra

cinematic

sorry for how long it took for this review – been really busy these days. the last concert i caught at the mosaic music festival was the cinematic orchestra last friday evening. of the three gigs i attended, this was the one in which i had the least expectations, since i wasn’t very familiar with the band. at the same time, however, i was curious how the delicate arrangements and thoughtful instrumentation on their studio work would translate to a live show. in a way, the live setup didn’t help them very much – the vast expanse of the stage became a living room which band members entered and existed, so i couldn’t help but sense a certain lack of cohesion in their performance. there were moments, though, that were truly uplifting, like their more impacting rendition of “to build a home”, which left little trace of the gentleness of the original in its firmer and more soulful delivery. but as a whole, this wasn’t so much an evening when i was swept off my feet (as i secretly wished) as it was a chilled end to a hectic week, and for that, i have no complaints whatsoever.

mp3: cinematic orchestra – to build a home

mosaic highlights – battles

battles-live

najeeb’s picture of john stanier’s lone cymbal standing tall sums up quite nicely wednesday night’s battles gig. stanier, previously of hardcore band helmet, pounded away at the drums with clinical proficiency and profuse intensity, providing the rest of the band an unshakable foundation upon which all the other sounds could build upon. and build upon they did, twiddling each knob and plying every sample with a genuine playfulness and stunning coherence. however, the drum set as also the highlight of the evening for the wrong reasons, its flimsiness at the start clearly giving stanier a hard time, as he struggled through the first couple of songs trying to get the adjustments right, and having to leave the stage to get some weights to stabilize the battered drums. while the question goes out as to whether more help should have been rendered to him, his untiring work ethic and the rest of the band’s diligence in doing everything themselves certainly held the gig together. regardless, once the drums were secured that little bit more, the band blistered through the rest of the set, starting with the rousing “tonto”, which sounded so much bigger and alive than i’d ever heard before, making for one of the freshest and most vibrant gigs i’ve caught at the esplanade concert hall since tortoise quite some years back.

mp3: battles – tonto

thanks again to najeeb for the stellar photo!

mosaic highlights – of montreal

of-montreal-live1

the first gig i caught at this year’s mosaic music festival in singapore was of montreal on monday. as some of you know, i’ve been a longtime fan of the elephant 6 bands, although i must admit i’m less familiar with of montreal, apart from their fantastic 2007 album hissing fauna. that’s probably why, with the exception of “id engager” and what must have been the most telling cover of bowie’s “ziggy stardust”, most of my favorite moments from the gig were songs from that album, especially the set closer “a sentence of sorts in kongsvinger”. the concert itself was complete with costumes and bizarre characters from dreams you’d never admit to having, playing out like a pantomime as the music kept rolling. as part of the audience, i vacillated between appreciating the songs, admiring the spectacle, and simply enjoying myself. with “a sentence of sorts”, everything came together, especially with the well-timed burst of confetti that bestowed on me the solar fever the band was spreading. what a night indeed.

mp3: of montreal – a sentence of sorts in kongsvinger

thanks mykel for the smokin’ photo!

music alliance pact (march 2009 issue)

musicalliancepactmaplogo2

ah, i can’t believe it’s march already. as always, we mappers have an exciting issue lined up for you, boosted by the additions of new members soundnation from france and all scandinavian from denmark. the singaporean column this month is helmed by brian koh of local band leeson, who recommends the post-hardcore band a vacant affair. go check it out!

AMERICA: I Guess I’m Floating
4 ViernesGlacial Change Of Pace
Viernes are an electronic rock duo from Florida who’ve managed to capture a thrilling loud/quiet/loud aesthetic akin to Grizzly Bear. Glacial Change Of Pace – a MAP exclusive – brings together hard-hitting psychedelia with gorgeously subdued lulls, and vice-versa, in a seamless display of sonic movements and emotions. Look out for their debut album Sinister Devices in the near future.

ARGENTINA: Zonaindie
4 Lola Arias & Ulises ContiTe Voy A Vencer Por Knock-out
Lola Arias is a writer, stage director, actress and singer. Ulises Conti is a composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist musician. They started working together in 2003, making music for several theater plays. This wonderful pop-rock love song is from their debut album, El Amor Es Un Francotirador, which comprises the original music from a play with the same name that was directed by Lola and Alejo Moguillansky. The translated title of the song here is “I’m going to beat you by knockout”.

AUSTRALIA: Who The Bloody Hell Are They?
4 Leader CheetahBloodlines
Festival State four-piece Leader Cheetah are the less manic, more soulfully melodic reincarnation of now-defunct Pharaohs. Their music is layered folk-rock twang meets brooding pop – think Neil Young’s moody younger brother in stormy weather. Bloodlines reminds me of Interpol circa the jangling guitar, tonal shift glory days of Turn On The Bright Lights. The vocals of singer Dan Crannitch are mind-addlingly beautiful and dark, especially when met with the surge of harmonies in the chorus. Leader Cheetah’s debut album The Sunspot Letters is out now on Spunk Records.

BRAZIL:Meio Desligado
4 Black Drawing ChalksBig Deal
Any fan of Turbonegro, Queens Of The Stone Age and others bands who make dirty and fast rock’n’roll will love Black Drawing Chalks. Describing their sound as “music to drink and fuck to”, they come from Goiânia Rock City and have one of the most incredible shows I’ve seen on the Brazilian underground.

CANADA:I(Heart)Music
4 Amos The TransparentLemons, aka (BigFishLittlePond)
Ottawa may be Canada’s capital but it hasn’t produced much in the way of great Canadian music. Amos The Transparent are the exception to this rule. Their debut, Everything I’ve Forgotten To Forget, featured contributions from members of Stars and Broken Social Scene, and sounded like those two other bands. Lemons, aka (BigFishLittlePond) is taken from their about-to-be-released follow-up EP and finds the band inhabiting similarly stunning territory.

CHILE: Super 45
4 VapourboatFull Trains Of Dead People
Vapourboat is the Scottish project of Chilean-born Nico Carcavilla. His songs are composed entirely in his bedroom, inspired by the genius of Otis Redding. Perhaps it is this influence which makes Carcavilla sing like a man who has lived it all, when he is actually just starting. Being only 14, his songs incorporate instruments such as ukuleles, accordions, guitars and keyboards, and the Neutral Milk Hotel-esque arrangements end up developing into sad, long walks that owe their intensity to Beirut.

DENMARK: All Scandinavian
4 KellermenschAll Time Low
Their name is inspired by Fjodor Dostojevski’s novel Notes From Underground, they’re heavily influenced by the German expressionist movement Die Brücke and the Esbjerg-based Danes are musically related to both Tom Waits and metal acts like Tool. Their eponymous debut album is stunningly original and a massive contribution to the already vibrant Danish rock and metal scenes.

ENGLAND: The Daily Growl
4 BlacklandsCome Sad Light Of Dawn
This month we return to folkiness, mainly because if I don’t cover Blacklands soon, main man Al Murphy will have moved to New York and his music will no longer be ‘England’ for MAP. It’s lovely sepia-tinged fireside acoustic pickings. Come Sad Light Of Dawn is a gorgeous song, conceived in Berlin, executed in a cottage on a desolate Yorkshire moor. You may be able to tell.

FRANCE: SoundNation
4 SliimyTrust Me
Sliimy may be best known for his cover of Britney Spears’ Womanizer but the 20-year-old is a talented artist in his own right, with his high-pitched vocals and pop sensibility reminiscent of Mika.

GERMANY: Blogpartei
4 Five! Fast!! Hits!!!Keep My Name Out Your Mouth
Five! Fast!! Hits!!! have been an institution in Munich for years. No month without at least one gig, until now. Singer Raffi is moving to London while Amadeus, the true head of the band, will pay attention to his other projects such as Elektrik Kezy Mezy. Their melodic, hectic, eclectic and energetic shows will be missed.

ICELAND: I Love Icelandic Music
4 Ólafur ArnaldsHimininn Er Að Hrynja, En Stjörnurnar Fara þér Vel
Ólafur Arnalds is a talented 21-year-old musician, part of the new generation of classical composers. He hails from the suburban town of Mosfellsbær, just outside Reykjavík. He has toured extensively around Europe and North America with a live string quartet and last summer he supported Sigur Rós on some European shows. The song here – translated as “The sky is falling but the stars look good with your dress” – is on his Variations Of Static EP which shows off his crackling electronics and sounds.

IRELAND: Nialler9
4 David KittMove It On
The opening track from Kittser’s sixth album The Nightsaver displays the same solid thread of songwriting and homemade invention he has always been able to produce regardless of the style inherent within thanks to his distinctive voice and ear for a tune. The album, which was recorded at the top of a winding staircase somewhere along Dublin’s Grand Canal, may turn out to be his best yet.

ITALY: Polaroid
4 Death In Donut PlainsOver And Above
Death In Donut Plains is the solo project of Enrico Boccioletti from Pesaro. He plays evocative electronic music with a wide range of inspirations such as Aphex Twin, Fuck Buttons, M83 and The Radio Dept. He has created some lovely covers of Liars, dEUS and Good Shoes but his latest EP has a lighter and more pop touch, in a sort of Postal Service mood.

MEXICO: Club Fonograma
4 Juan SonMermaid Sashimi
Mermaid Sashimi is the first solo album by Mexico’s most prolific contemporary vocalist, Juan Son. After the breakup of his highly celebrated band Porter, he expands his already singular vision with much confidence and complete freedom, delivering what’s arguably Mexico’s best production in a while. He has the sensibility of a story-teller and the thirst of a scientist.

NEW ZEALAND: Counting The Beat
4 The VerlainesYangtze Cod And Chips
The Verlaines were one of the bands to define the Dunedin Sound, releasing a number of classic recordings on the iconic Flying Nun Records label between 1981 and 1996. They returned in 2007 with a well-regarded album Pot Boiler and are about to release a new politically-inspired record called Corporate Moronic. Songwriter Graeme Downes has fire in his belly as you can hear on this song about the unlikely subject of a free trade agreement between NZ and China.

NORWAY: Eardrums
4 The ElectonesRight Foot From Left
The Electones make beautiful experimental pop almost without creative boundaries and its foundation rests heavily on 60s-inspired folk and jazz. They are musical cousins to artists such as Múm, Psapp Sigur Rós and The Accidental. The Electones’ debut album If You’ll Be Null, I’ll Be Void will be released on Beatservice Records on March 23 and the band will also be a part of Birdsongs, Beesongs – the upcoming, free Eardrums compilation.

PERU: SoTB
4 ResplandorSolar
Resplandor are probably better known abroad than in Peru. Formed a decade ago by Antonio Zelada and Luis Rodriguez, the band’s shoegaze dream pop sound has seen them play with The House Of Love and The Radio Dept. Their most recent album Pleamar was produced by Robin Guthrie and opener Solar is the best song on it.

PORTUGAL: Posso Ouvir Um Disco?
4 CorsageDried Up, River Blues
Corsage are an indie band from Lisbon who brought out their first EP in 2004. The following year they recorded a cover of a Scott Walker song, Angel Of Ashes, for a tribute release to the British musician by Portuguese bands. In 2007, they were featured in the compilation Novo Rock Português (“New Portuguese Rock”) and one of their songs was selected for the soundtrack of a Portuguese soap. Last month they released their new album Finito L’Amore, where you can find this month’s track, Dried Up, River Blues.

ROMANIA: Babylon Noise
4 GrimusBackseat Driver
Grimus are an indie/alternative band from Cluj. They formed about four years ago and their debut record Panikon was declared Romania’s best album of 2008 by several musical/cultural communities. Although influenced by the likes of Placebo, Muse and Interpol, they manage to create a unique style and sound. On top of that, these guys are great live on stage – you not only get a performance, you’re in for a show.

SCOTLAND: The Pop Cop
4 We Were Promised JetpacksShips With Holes Will Sink
We Were Promised Jetpacks ought to be one of the biggest stars of this year’s SXSW. They mix sweeping, sonic brilliance with a melodic accessibility that has made them Glasgow’s most talked-about band since Frightened Rabbit. Indeed, they have followed in the footsteps of their city chums by signing to FatCat, who will release their debut album These Four Walls in June. Until then, here’s a teaser from it to whet the appetite.

SINGAPORE: I’m Waking Up To…
4 A Vacant AffairConnecting The Dots
A clean, clinical and almost methodical country like Singapore can only boast the undercurrent of a disenfranchised youth who find different ways of breaking the status quo. A Vacant Affair almost does that, not by being cynically political about the culture here, but by embracing the emotions that come along with it. A post-hardcore band that shares influences with the likes of Underoath and Deftones, they bring it all out in the fantastic debut album closer, Connecting The Dots. AVA steer the listener into a swimming plethora of swirling vocals and guitars as they finally explode into an extended outro that acts as a buffer between you and this crazy, mixed-up world.

SOUTH KOREA: Indieful ROK
4 PavlovThe Lioness
If you’re looking for some rock’n’roll you should definitely listen to Pavlov. If you’re not, you probably should anyway. Not a big fan of the genre myself, I gave Pavlov a chance after being told to think of them as AC/DC and The Hives with a frontman who looks like Jarvis Cocker with Tourette’s – and it was not something to regret. Everything they’ve recorded has something special to keep you listening and when the last song has finished it’s hard not to play everything all over again.

SPAIN: El Blog De La Nadadora
4 BedroomJapanese Girl
Even in Spain there are still lots of people who don’t know the powerful secret that Bedroom hides. Folk, torch-songs and traditional music join together around the presence of Bert, the engine behind Bedroom. His debut album LaCasaDinsLaCasa surprised us last year – now it’s your turn to listen to Japanese Girl and discover why.

SWEDEN: Swedesplease
4 Two White HorsesGood Times Are Gone Forever
Good Times Are Gone Forever by the brother/sister duo Two White Horses may be about growing up and realizing childhood is over, but it’s hard not to think about the song more in the context of our present global meltdown. I love Lovissa’s voice on this track as well as the fuzzy chug-chug guitar.

To download all 24 songs in one file click
here.

#170 kingsbury – back in the orange grove

kingsbury

i love taking my time with things. it sometimes gets frustrating for others, but for me nothing beats having that time and space to breathe and find my own footing. i also love music that takes its time to develop its mood, atmosphere, character and ideas without rushing to follow a particular formula or fit within a certain genre. i’m reminded of these personal preferences of mine when i listen to the music of kingsbury, especially in their most recent ep lie to me, a record that glows in full recline, intricately crafted and subtly ornamented. in the second track “back in the orange grove”, that quiet confidence is exuded not only in the carefully layered instrumentation, but also in the verses of reminiscence that look back longingly for a home laden with nostalgic memories whilst looking forward in resolving not to return, proving to be in music and words by far the sweetest ache.

mp3: kingsbury – back in the orange grove

lie to me, as well as their previous works, are made available for free download on their website. do check it out, and drop in a donation if you like what you hear.

#169 with dylan in the movies

watchmen

after a thoroughly satisfying steamboat dinner with d and s (thanks for the treat) i headed down to catch watchmen with s. we arrived a little late, but in time for the opening credits screened to the soundtrack of bob dylan’s “the times they are a-changin’”. while the song’s original revolutionary message was somewhat decontextualized, it still fit quite well to the semi-historical sequence of events. as it turns out, dylan’s songwriting was to appear two more times in the film, first with hendrix’s classic cover of “all along the watchtower” and at the closing credits, an almost unrecognizable version of “desolation row” by my chemical romance, which provided a really jarring end to a film too high on action and too low on cohesive interpretation. i’m still undecided about how well these songs fit in the soundtrack, just as i’m unsure about how much i really enjoyed/disliked the film (the saving grace, really, is jackie earle hayley’s performance as rorschach), but one thing i’m certain about is the timeless legacy of dylan’s songwriting, which remains ever so relevant and moving today as it must have been back then. here they are, in their original versions, by the man himself.

mp3: bob dylan – the times they are a changin’

mp3: bob dylan – all along the watchtower

mp3: bob dylan – desolation row

i’m waking up to … interviews the o’darling

odarling

last week, i featured a song from the o’darling‘s ep released last year. right now, they’re busy working on their debut full length album, but the darlings they are took time off on sunday morning yesterday to catch up with me over an email interview. so here’s the full interview, anchored by lead vocalist jennah barry with the rest of this six-piece toronto-based band in tow as they share with us their thoughts on places, their music, and a little glimpse into that upcoming album. enjoy!

Hi everyone! Thanks to Daylight Saving, we’re exactly 12 hours away from each other. First up, thanks again for taking the time for this interview! Would you like to introduce yourselves, and tell us a little about how the band got together?

Jennah: Hi!! I’ll go around the room so it feels like we’re all in the same place. Chantel Emond, she’s one of our lead singers, she also plays percussion. Ida Maidstone is another lead singer who also plays glockenspiel and piano. Olivier Clements is the trumpet and flugel guy. Jennah Barry (hi! I’m typing) lead singer who plays glock, piano and accordion. David Barry (my brother) guitar. Colin Nealis plays the upright bass.

We were all friends at school who played music together. We all went on a trip to Victoria BC last summer for some band bonding.

It’s so nice everyone’s here. I understand you’re all from Toronto? What was it about Victoria BC that attracted you there for the summer? And how’s the scene and environment there different from Toronto?

Jennah: Actually! We met in Toronto but none of us are from here. Ida, Olivier and Colin are from Victoria, Chantel is from Winnipeg and Dave and I are from Nova Scotia.

Colin: The pacing of life is much more desirable in Victoria.

Jennah: Colin is our big, friendly giant. He likes things calm.

Chantel: Victoria was a success and we played 5 nights a week.

Jennah: I guess that’s kind of the difference from Toronto. There was room for us there! Toronto is so saturated. Plus, Victoria has the ocean…and trees! We like Toronto a lot; it’s huge and incredible, but very different. It just makes us work harder.

Haha! Toronto sounds a lot closer to Singapore then, and Victoria a place most Singaporeans would love to go to instead. It sounds like the perfect place to get more inspiration. Anyway, by the time you made the trip to Victoria, the EP was out already, right? How did you get started on the EP? I’m particularly interested in the songwriting process for a big group like yourselves.

Jennah: The EP was completely unrehearsed and very impromptu. We weren’t really a “band” yet, I guess.

Chantel: It was kind of like dating…You don’t know what the deal is, till you really know.

Jennah: So, we recorded the whole album live at our school.

Chantel: There’s a brand new studio there and we used it!

Jennah: We think it turned out pretty nice. Hence A Nice EP. Haha. After we recorded it we had this big CD release party and sold it in little paper cases for 3 dollars. We’ve actually sold quite a few for them being completely handmade.

As for the songwriting (how it’s going right now), the girls bring in the bare-bones of a song and then we all write and finish it together. We jam out the songs and everyone makes up their own part and then we perform it and see if it works. We’ve only had minor trainwrecks … Haha.

The impromptu parts are what I really love, especially at the end of “Wood Waltz”. Interestingly, quite a bit of the EP sounds very measured and calm too, which I feel balances the more spontaneous sections perfectly. I know you mention the EP being completely unrehearsed and impromptu, but was there a particular “sound” you were aiming for, and did that change along the way through recording?

Jennah: We definitely had nothing in mind for our sound.

Olivier: The EP created an aesthetic for the band.

Jennah: We all have very different influences but we understood where each other was coming from right away. It would have been impossible to analyze it! We let the music take it’s own course.

Ida: It was good that we were open minded about it because if we had a specific idea of what we wanted the band to be it wouldn’t have sounded the same.

Colin: Everyone has equal input and no one’s the leader. I think that’s what makes us unique. I think it comes across in our sound.

It sure does! I love how it all comes so naturally. Can we expect something different from the upcoming full length album, from the way it’s shaping up currently?

Jennah: We definitely took a more thorough approach. This album is our first cohesive idea! It’s so exciting. We’ve had to focus the improvised aspects of our live shows for the studio. Recording forces you to refine your decisions.

Ida: It’s definitely a process.

Olivier: I love high-end equipment.

Jennah: Haha … We spend so much time together and we hope the album represents that. It’s a big deal to us that our sound has become more unified.

I’m definitely looking forward to the album! How have your live shows been so far, especially after playing so much at Victoria, and as I understand, a cross-country tour as well?

Jennah: We’re more comfortable, that’s for sure. The tour was a huge help. We don’t fall off the stage anymore… (Ida fell once in Winnipeg. She took the whole piano with her. A 400 pound woman saved her life). Anyway, we keep it low-key. The aesthetic hasn’t changed very much, it’s just more comfortable. And more people come out. Hahaha.

Haha that’s hilarious! I’m glad Ida’s fine. Thanks again for your time – it’s been such a pleasure speaking with all of you. Hear from you soon, with good news I hope!

Jennah: Thanks so much!! This was fun. Wish it could have been in person!

mp3: the o’darling – buckets o’ berries (from a nice ep)

mp3: the o’darling – mooncat (from a nice ep)

a nice ep is available directly by contacting the band through their website, which also has updates on their upcoming live shows.

#168 i\d – hot boy

midnighthot

with a post-freudian band name like i\d and an intriguing\puzzling piece of cover art to boot, this singaporean experimental noise rock collective sure promises a big deal from its packaging. the product is a self-released album titled midnight hot, a concise vinyl-length record culled from 4 hours of improvised jamming, mixed and edited as inspired by the likes of jazz producer teo macero (bitches brew) and reggae\dub icon lee “scratch” perry. the record itself plays like a tripped up dream freud himself would’ve had a field day dissecting, with the first and last tracks dabbling in some heavy experimentation, wild and loose. the middle portions, however, collapse very neatly like an overdetermined condensation of these disparate ideas, employing a tighter structure without losing any of its sexiness. in fact, in second track “hot boy”, much of the sex appeal lies in the stubborn consistency of a very dirty bassline, which varying trajectories of sounds and effects attempt but fail to dislodge and are eventually co-opted for a very rousing finale indeed. a dizzyingly unforgettable record, this one.

mp3: i\d – hot-boy

midnight hot is available online from cd baby and by contacting the band directly. if you live in singapore, you may purchase the cd at roxy, earshot and asylum. get it now!

#167 coltrane motion – maya blue

coltrane

a band’s popular appeal is usually discernible from its singles, but b-sides usually say a bit more about the its depth. for chicago-based duo coltrane motion (nope, no jazz here, i’m afraid), it’s the b-side to their upcoming 7″ single that speaks loudest for the sound the band stands for. in contrast to more well-known contemporaries in the dance rock scene (read: dfa), coltrane motion relies a whole lot more on shoegaze and digs deep to remind us of how dancey noise can be too. with “maya blue”, the band provides a perfect balance of hazy guitars, simple harmonies and a slower beat that still manages to force you out of your seat somehow. with this track, the haze has been let out of the room for the great outdoors, and it’s never felt more refreshing.

mp3: coltrane motion – maya blue

“maya blue” may be found on the reverse side of coltrane motion’s 7″ single the year without a summer, to be released on march 24. pre-order your copy here.

#166 the o’darling – you’re directing

odarling

the weather’s been predictably unpredictable lately. right now, the sun is out in full force, but from the way the world’s been turning on this end of the equator, the rain should be coming in a couple of hours. which brings me to my current rainy season music of choice: the o’darling, the very aptly named orchestral outfit from toronto. as a six-piece, the band exhibits impressive restraint in creating music that thrives on subtlety, never overwhelming but yet always present. i wouldn’t call their music sparse, but it does give you plenty of space to breathe, to savor the quiet in the middle of the night, or listen more closely to the raindrops on your windowpane. in “you’re directing”, the opening song off their a nice ep released last year, the lightly treading beat actually sounds like rain on a tin roof, providing the perfect backdrop for the loveliest harmonies and a delightful trumpet solo that’s gotta be the highlight for any rainy afternoon.

mp3: the o’darling – you’re directing

the o’darling is currently working on their debut full length album due this summer. at the moment, a nice ep is available from the band itself, who may be contacted from their website. look out, too, for an interview with them next week!