i usually prefer to listen to a record at least a few times over, just to let it sink in before i form an opinion. yet, on this evening which marks my first proper listen to deerhunter’s newly released halcyon digest, my resistance to hasty judgment gradually wore thin as song after song compelled me to work out a response, no matter how premature or fleeting or how wrong i could possibly turn out to be.
such is the disarming effect of halcyon digest. i thought i held my critical stance pretty well, but if i have to locate that moment i finally caved in, it has to be “coronado”. the deerhunter sound has always been a work in progress, a distillation of the post-shoegaze breakthrough they accomplished through cryptograms. but in “coronado”, as in so many other moments in halcyon digest, the ideas are given the time and space to crystallize, resulting in a clarity of purpose quite unparalleled in the band’s already-prolific discography.
“come on now, don’t leave me hanging“, pleads bradford cox at the start of the song’s second stanza, not long before we’re treated to a recurrent saxophone that’s never sounded better since mercury rev’s see you on the other side some 15 years ago. it works not just because it’s so well thought through, but more importantly because the band knows when to stop tinkering to keep things fresh. in a similar vein, i wish i could say more about the rest of the album, but that’s as much as i’d indulge myself after one (immensely enjoyable) listen. - dan.
mp3: deerhunter – coronado
halcyon digest is out now on 4ad.
Ray Davies has written his fair share of veritable pop masterpieces, and here’s a lesser-known but no less compelling number that really gets under the skin of this inveterate Kinks fan – must be something about how the distant dreaminess of church bells on “Big Black Smoke” set the scene perfectly for Davies’ typically sardonic observations on suburban boredom. Released in 1966 as the B-side to The Kinks’ working-class depression anthem “Dead End Street”, “Big Black Smoke” is pretty much written in the same vein and is backlit by the aching tenderness in the song’s portrait of a runaway teenager who cannot go home no more to the country life she once knew, the music jangling along to the forlorn recognition that “she knew no sin and did no wrong ‘til she walked the streets of the big black smoke” – and that there’s nothing in this world to stop us worrying about that girl. - keith.
mp3: the kinks – big black smoke
Ray Davies will be releasing See My Friends, a Kinks tribute album of sorts featuring collaborations with a host of his famous friends in November.
we’re back with that occasional series of ours where we invite musicians to share a song they’ve been waking up to lately. this time, we’re honored to have as our guest sharon van etten, who has a new album epic out on october 5 on ba da bing records.
Lately, I have been obsessed with this band from Montreal called Automelodi. I work at a record label (Ba Da Bing Records) and my boss, Ben, is constantly getting new records in. He knows I have a soft spot for 80s/90s post punk/early electro, vaguely alternative music… and so one day, he put on a Wierd Records compilation. It was a vinyl set of like 4 pieces or something. There were so many good bands on there… however, Automelodi stuck out in my mind as being an authentic, genuine, NON-cheesy version of the 80s I wish I was a part of. The song in particular that gets me going in the morning is called “Schéma Corporel”. – sharon van etten.
mp3: automelodi – schéma corporel
duae is the newly released album by singaporean band lunarin, a follow up to their 2006 debut the chrysalis on aging youth records. the single “zero point red”, which our MAP correspondent brian koh picks for this month’s issue, also features in local filmmaker jason lai’s documentary brother no. 2. check it out!
SINGAPORE: I’m Waking Up To…
Lunarin – Zero Point Red
Lunarin sound bigger than what you would expect for a three-piece band. They’ve played music for almost 15 years together, although they’ve only ventured down the path of a grungier, more progressive metal sound in the last five or so years. The culmination of all this is the brazenly self-recorded and produced Duae, which sees them embracing the path they’ve carved for themselves, with their influences of Tool, A Perfect Circle and Tori Amos firmly etched on their sleeves, like tattoos burned into skin. Lunarin take a familiar sound from the late 90s and with blistering conviction, spit a Molotov of poetic metaphors and bone-crushing riffs, all laced with Linda’s “love ‘em or leave ‘em” vocals to slow crush your skull with. - brian.
Posted in mp3
Tagged duae, lunarin, map
last week, i finally caught sandcastle, the full-feature debut by singaporean filmmaker boo junfeng. what i was particularly drawn to was boo’s attempt to negotiate the politics of individual and collective memory as lodged within the broader script of the nation’s history. this was explored rather thoughtfully through the perspective of en, the 18-year old protagonist who embarks on a personal journey to uncover the truth about his late father, who he discovers was a student leader in the chinese middle school protests in Singapore in the mid 1950s.
en’s frustrated pursuit of this “truth” is interlinked with singaporeans’ own disconnect with the pre-independence history of their nation. after en misses an early opportunity to hear from his grandfather, his efforts at finding out more from his family becomes increasingly difficult: his grandmother’s senility offers only glimpses of her own bitterness, while his mother’s refusal to engage with him only shows the extent to which she was determined to bury the past. it becomes evident that while the nation’s historical narrative is often plagued by generalities, social memory is similarly incomplete when a large remnant of individual accounts are impeded by either biological or psychological obstacles to remembering.
although boo stops short of directly critiquing the political apparatus which plays a crucial part in shaping the process of memory-making, he does daringly offer his own creative intervention by featuring two contrasting versions of “home”, one of the best-loved patriotic anthems sung during national day. the first, performed by a school choir, appears early on the film and is sung with gusto, each word articulated perfectly. when boo uses it in his film, you see his honesty in his love for home, but also a tinge of irony in accentuating the lyrics’ overt idealism.
boo’s bigger gamble, though, was his choice to end the film with a second version, interpreted by australia-based singaporean donald pan. here, the usually rousing song is slowed down and stripped of its emotional veneer. matching the contemplative pace and morose predisposition of the film, pan’s vocals issue the barest breaths of life into the sentimental lyrics, forcing himself to decide if he really means each word, each declaration of contentment and belonging. as a viewer and listener, you never really know if he means it, but i honestly can’t think of a more appropriate way to close a film that has so painstakingly fought to keep things open. - dan.
mp3: donald pan – home
follow the sandcastle film blog to check showtimes and reviews. this week, it will be screened at the toronto international film festival.