Monthly Archives: August 2010

#301 simon & garfunkel – america

i’m empty and aching and i don’t know why.

was it because sufjan? he began in michigan, but left us alone and for four years we coped in his absence. and then out of the blue, I look up, startled, to find him with me; counting the cars at the new jersey turnpike.

friends drift in and out of one another’s lives. they meet serendipitously along the way, travel together for a spell, and then keep moving. it shouldn’t surprise you. keep telling yourself that.

“america” captures that constant flux and displacement, the profound insights that come unexpectedly, and our attempts at finding faithful travelling companions. and yes, people do come and go. but who knows, your paths may cross again, someday. - b.

they’ve all gone
to look for America

mp3: simon & garfunkel – america

#300 matthew dear – honey

“honey”, the opening track of matthew dear’s latest release black city starts off on the same footing as “walk on the wild side”, with that familiar brooding note, suspended midway whilst conducting an introspective survey of the dirty streets that becomes the setting and topic of interest for the rest of the album. yet, this is less of a concept album than it is a descriptive one, relying largely on dear’s sonic mastery of mood and atmosphere as its distinctive entry point. in “honey”, you’re drawn into the story not by the narrative itself, but the intricate detail – the dreariness of city life and the dark corners of its underside – that fills the track’s ever-accommodating cinematic space. it matters less, then, that this black city lacks the memorable characters that so colored lou reed’s deviant universe, especially when it works so finely on its own as a gripping soundtrack to the filthier sides of our existence. - dan.

mp3: matthew dear – honey

black city is out now on ghostly international.

migrant sounds, migrant voices

migrant voices is a community arts charity that organizes art-based projects activities to engage with migrant workers in singapore. previously, they were involved in producing an album of music written and performed by migrant workers, and has to date started a couple of worthy initiatives, such as collecting, documenting and presenting their oral histories.

this saturday, a gig titled migrant sounds will be held to raise awareness for migrant voices and the work they have been doing. among the acts i’m really keen catch are great empty, who we’ve featured previously on map, and mux, which is a very exciting audio-visual project by some of our friends from b-quartet. folk singer/songwriter cotton island will also be performing that night, as will seyra, who you can listen to in the sample below – a collaboration with great empty.

the organizers promise it’ll be an interactive experience, so if you’re free this saturday night 21 august, do pop by and join in the fun at going om at 63 haji lane from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. and give your support to this worthy cause! - dan.

mp3: great empty – our sense of the beautiful (with seyra)

click here to find out more about the gig, and here for more on migrant voices.

#299 gonjasufi – sheep

the reason i like gonjasufi‘s warp records debut so much has a lot to do with how the album title so cryptically yet precisely describes how the whole thing sounds. equal parts esoteric and worldly, a sufi and a killer blends itself into a gorgeous expanse of free floating ideas and sounds, never content to stay at any point, as if that point could even be pinned down. and while the themes seem overtly spiritual at times, there’s always a distinctly rough edge to the sound that’s almost certainly referencing something, someone of this world. perhaps, then, the most enjoyable part of this journey isn’t so much what you get out of listening to the album, but the pursuit of what you never quite seem to get fully. it sounds so familiar, but where have i heard this from? yet, it also sounds foreign enough to throw me off, long enough before the next thing comes my way. i know i wouldn’t have it any other way. - dan.

mp3: gonjasufi – sheep

a sufi and a killer is available on warp records.

music alliance pact – august 2010 issue

this august, singapore celebrated its 45th national day, and is now playing host to the inaugural youth olympic games. however, don’t let that fool you into thinking that’s all we’ve been up to. over the past two weeks, we witnessed two great performances from broken social scene and belle & sebastian. and next weekend from the 20th to 22nd, our very own annual indie rock festival baybeats will get underway at the esplanade. one of the exciting new local bands to be showcased there will be basement in my loft, which our MAP anchorman brian koh tells us more about this month. enjoy!

SINGAPORE: I’m Waking Up To…
Basement In My LoftI Think I’ll Run
Basement In My Loft have an underground, garage-rock sound with lofty melodies. As a power trio, they deftly walk the line between bittersweet melodies and utter chaos, while delivering an urgency in their music, convinced that one day, all this shall pass. They’ve got big things planned ahead, dropping their debut album at this year’s Baybeats music festival, one of Southeast Asia’s most prestigious indie festivals. Even with the accolades, BIML’s belief in their music and style keeps their integrity intact, with the band taking no shortcuts to making music that matters. - brian.
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#298 sun kil moon – admiral fell promises

Mark Kozelek’s ruminating music has a way of seeping into our unexciting lives every now and then, and I am just about content to spend most of my days plugged in to the unspoiled beauty of Red House Painters records, while watching the outside world drift by with the artful rhythms of a Jorge Luis Borges story. Admiral Fell Promises, Kozelek’s latest and fourth album under the auspices of his ongoing Sun Kil Moon project is a sparse acoustic affair characterized by his growing interest in classical guitar playing. The serenity and attentiveness to instrumental details on these ten new songs are enveloped in Kozelek’s tender touch, and Admiral Fell Promises offers a striking contrast to the heavy aura of loss and mourning that weighs on his previous outing April (2008). The new album’s title track captures very well the hauntingly poetic effect that the best of Kozelek’s songs always have – a flicker of warmth, a fleeting truthful moment where the singer sounds unburdened and basking in the radiance of new mornings that gently wash away the detritus of long-held dreams. - keith.

mp3: sun kil moon – admiral fell promises

Admiral Fell Promises is available on Caldo Verde Records.

#297 gate – wilderness

i’ve never quite made sense of new zealand noise rock band the dead c, although there’s always been something special about their dense, lo-fi ethic that keeps me listening, even if mostly in cycles of puzzlement and struggle. yet, perhaps most of the music we’re used to today has made things too easy, too digestible, and way too pleasant that we end up missing the process of actually listening for ourselves. what the dead c brings to all of this is a much needed discomfort and dissonance, a breach in the limits of musical acceptability.

gate, the sometimes-collaborative project of dead c frontman michael morley, sounds much easier on the ears, owing to morley’s surprising dedication to electronic ambience and rhythm. however, you’d still have to work hard in listening to republic of sadness, which features morley’s vocals – sometimes mournful, often frighteningly droning – as a constant foil to the inviting, primitive beats. patience, though, can be rewarding, as in “wilderness” which starts off simply enough as a potential screamadelica candidate before morphing spectacularly into both an awakening monster and the soundtrack to its sporadic, pent up existence. - dan.

mp3: gate – wilderness

republic of sadness, gate’s first album in a decade, is out now on our favorite ba da bing! records.

#296 arab strap – here we go

Looking back to the days when I was once a disaffected young man just entering college, which was quite some years back now if I were to be completely honest about it, I remember being rather stoked about having the chance to write and contribute to this shitty little campus newspaper my school department was running. That was also during a period of my life when I happened to be very much into the wonderfully cynical pop music mined by the Scottish band Arab Strap, among my many other free-ranging musical interests. And so I dashed off this long and rambling review of their then-recent album Elephant Shoe (1999), threw in two or three probably ill-advised Henry Miller references into the article (in a pretty wretched attempt to capture the aura of fucked-up romanticism conjured in Arab Strap songs and thread it to what I always love about Miller’s heroic prose, I suppose), and then comically tried to pass it off as an ambitious rock and roll think-piece or something.

Not surprisingly, the student editor who was in charge was having none of it and refused to print it; he must have thought I was being a real douche for peddling such dubious, antisocial content of zero journalistic merit, but hey. (Interestingly, another piece that I wrote for the paper that was overlooked for publications during those few months where I cared enough to contribute stuff was by another band from Glasgow: Mogwai’s seminal Come On Die Young).

We are a long way from Glasgow, so a bit more localized context is useful here perhaps (or maybe not). It’s worth mentioning that Philophobia, Arab Strap’s second album just prior to Elephant Shoe, was selected as the best album released in 1998 by the now-defunct BigO magazine – which to me, still very much an avid reader of the magazine back then, was quite a big deal, especially considering that the album was picked ahead of other certified album classics released that same year in the shape of Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane over the Sea, Mercury Rev’s Deserter Songs and Gastr Del Sol’s Camofleur. Then again, readers familiar with BigO and the critical slant the magazine has taken right up to the day it folded should not be all too surprised by the BigO editors’ fascination with Arab Strap and their frank, bitterly observational songs revolving around sexual boredom, romantic betrayal or the more depraved episodes of a volatile relationship, and the subversive thoughts that come with a simple fear of actually falling in love with someone.

Or I guess we can say that Arab Strap appealed to a rather desperate demographic. Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton are disappointment artists decidedly in a mold of their own, adept at milking the airy strangeness of songs of such numbed emotional resonance as on the Philophobia single “Here We Go” – Malcolm the talented multi-instrumentalist who could make sparse guitar tones and mechanized drum machine beats sound maladroitly profound; Aidan the gutter poet who can pontificate about cheating girlfriends with the best of them.

Listening to their songs, you can picture Aidan writing them down while nursing his pint at the darkest and loneliest corner of the bar, shooting a sidelong glance every now and then at the ensuing drunken debauchery, the blowzy merrymaking, the drowsy chaperones taking turns monkeying around, and the casual, almost anarchic union of warm bodies. And in the moody container memory that the mumbled vocals and hypnotic rhythms of “Here We Go” cast, it doesn’t feel too bad to be a little uncomfortably numb sometimes. - keith.

mp3: arab strap – here we go

Arab Strap’s first two albums, The Week Never Starts Round Here and Philophobia, will be reissued by Chemical Underground later this month.