Monthly Archives: June 2010

#287 tindersticks – black smoke

Falling Down A Mountain, the eighth album by soundtrack specialist Tindersticks, kicks off with such a resounding piece of plangent lounge jazz that must whet the appetite of longtime fans, a rekindling of the wonderfully sophisticated pop sensibility that served them so well for two decades. This veteran British band, now regrouped with new members, have had a long and fruitful working relationship with French auteur Claire Denis – one of my favorite contemporary filmmakers and I’m really dying to catch her two most recent works 35 Shots Of Rum and White Material, hopefully in the theatres someday soon in Singapore – and it was acknowledged that the process of scoring these two films may have something to do with their newfound “sense of direction”. While it’s nowhere near as powerful as the second Tindersticks album (1995) or Curtains (1997), Falling Down A Mountain delves into a range of moodily baroque musical elements with a real sense of cohesion. On the album, “Black Smoke” bursts into strummy life with a touch of wistfulness, Stuart Staples’ blighted croon sounding smooth as ever and yet richly conflicted, even if that the song’s untapped reservoir of emotions is about as obsessively mundane as a masquerade of city dwellers thinning into the lonely evening. - keith.

mp3: tindersticks – black smoke

Falling Down A Mountain is out on 4AD and Constellation.

#286 twin sister – phenomenons

Life seems to be always in an unapologetic hurry these days, which has intensified my appreciation for the serene velocity of Twin Sister’s music – guess I will always have a soft spot for dark dreamy pop songs with a slightly rancorous edge. Feelings flow on Color Your Life, their second EP (following 2008’s Vampires with Dreaming Kids) that is similarly suffused with the kind of lugubrious aura that lulls one readily into the songs’ cavity of warmth. “Phenomenons”, the sublime piece of soft-rock fantasy that closes Color Your Life, comes off sounding like the vivid byproducts of infatuation, Andrea Estella’s breathy vocals binding all the intimate exchanges, muffled desires and tentative melancholy echoed throughout the song into a complete sensuous whole. Caring is creepy perhaps, but then again, this could all be only a dream. - keith.

mp3: twin sister – phenomenons

Both Twin Sister EPs are available at twinsistermusic.com.

music alliance pact – june 2010 issue

sorry everyone for the late posting of this month’s MAP, the monthly offering by bloggers from all over the world introducing the music from their respective countries. as always, we have our local music ambassador brian koh anchoring this segment, with his song recommendation of the month from the mysterious elsa x.

SINGAPORE: I’m Waking Up To…
Elsa XBaby Steps
On paper, Elsa X is a one-person experimental outfit that combines elements of post rock and electronica, under a pseudonym for a girl who suffers from mental disorders. Actually, it’s a project meant to raise awareness on mental illness. The music however was released as a 2 sides EP written by one principal songwriter, Wang Wei Yang, who has deftly combined various emotional undertones based on research by his project mates. The air of bipolar emotions constantly flits through the soundscapes, hopeful and hopeless all at the same time. Elsa X is not real, and the music may not have been conceived from an artist’s vision, but in this schizophrenic world, who can truly say what is what? - brian.

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#285 astreal – june 12

I woke up this morning like any other day, a bit hazy, wondering what I was going to do, or what was in store for me. The nice thing about a Saturday without plans, is you can wake up whenever you want, so I walked to my mobile phone to check the time, but it was the date that surprised me more than how late it was.

June 12. What a pleasant surprise! I immediately pulled the song out from my collection, and the nostalgic waves of Astreal’s, Slowdive-inspired dreampop came washing over me. June 12 sets itself up as a pining song about love lost and hopefully found in the future, with a healthy dose of melancholic reverb, delay and Ginette’s signature whispers of fragile hearts. June 12 doesn’t particularly remind me of any particular day, but maybe for others, it’s the day you’ll always remember. - brian

mp3: astreal – june 12

#284 disappears – gone completely

what would motivate a drone/ambient label like kranky to put out a good ol’ rock record? not many reasons, i’d reckon, but when you get around to listening to their latest release, the question quickly becomes more of why not? lux by disappears sounds nothing like what the label has done before (stars of the lid this surely ain’t), so much so that they felt the need, almost apologetically, to provide an account of their actions: “it still fits in with the kranky aesthetic, because at the core it is minimalist head music“, their website reads.

but lux sounds so darn badass, so cocky in claiming its place among post-punk forebears like the velvet underground, the stooges and suicide, that you know kranky just couldn’t say no. and in a way, they are right – the unrepentantly primitive but stubbornly focused rhythm section forms the core of their music by pounding away with the clinically entrancing effect of a minimal techno track. at the same time, as the blistering album opener “gone completely” would show, it’s everything else that they manage to squeeze in – the drone, the reverb, their inner demons, their outer punk – that makes this record such an engaging listen. - dan.

mp3: disappears – gone completely

lux is out now on kranky.

#283 caribou – kaili

as much as i loved the densest sunshine moments of caribou‘s andorra (2007), it wasn’t something i was always in the mood for. this year’s swim, in contrast, doesn’t quite reach the same emotional highs (at least upon first listen – it’ll find its way of attaching itself to you when given the chance), but certainly clears up a lot more breathing room for you to savor the intricacies of daniel snaith’s masterful touches. yet, swim’s “kaili” seems to have found a middle ground in bringing out the best from both albums. a song on love in the face of growing old, “kaili” channels the uplifting vibes of andorra through a subject matter that could have easily sounded wearisome. the real treat, though, lies in the second half of the song which spirals into transcendent bliss, a perfect blend of free jazz and electronic genius that constantly threatens to spin out of control if not for snaith’s discipline and finesse in holding it all together. - dan.

mp3: caribou – kaili

swim is out now on merge records.

#282 broadcast and the focus group – we are after all here

When my friend passed along his copy of Broadcast and The Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age (2009), he slipped in the caveat that this weird-science psychedelic music seems “more difficult” than usual. Then again, a lot of what Broadcast have recorded throughout their career would not be mistaken for being easy listening by any means; this album, the result of a recent collaboration with experimental musician Julian House (aka The Focus Group), only serves to further confirm Trish Keenan and James Cargill’s mastery of their medium. There is a very loose improvisational feel to the song collages and futuristic fragments that make up Witch Cults of the Radio Age, the unnatural ambience of Broadcast’s avant-pop shining through with absolute clarity on “We Are After All Here”, with Trish’s disembodied vocals buried deep under the obsessive crackling of amorphous melodies as if playing the role of a weary time traveler struggling to break out of claustrophobic confines. It’s on haunting songs as such that Witch Cults of the Radio Age takes on the absurdist tone of a requiem for the future. - keith.

mp3: broadcast and the focus group – we are after all here

Broadcast and The Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age is available on Warp Records, which will also be releasing Broadcast’s upcoming album due later this year.