We were really excited when we found out that Yellow Fang was playing the night we arrived in Bangkok. By the time we checked into our accomodation and figured our way to Stu-Fe – the studio cafe opened by the Monotone group of artists and musicians – the Yellow Fang set had already ended. Of course we still had an awesome time, with Ball Jarulove and his rotating ensemble of friends (which included Yellow Fang’s Pimporn Metchanun) delivering a spontaneous and immensely enjoyable performance, never mind we were totally clueless about the Thai banter in between songs.
We were still determined to hunt down the Yellow Fang EP, but were disappointed once again to find that it’s been sold out. Nonetheless, we still made off with quite a harvest from the trusty DJ Siam (smaller shop space now no?), records that I’ll feature here in time to come. In the meantime, though, I’ll share with you our single consolation from the latest Smallroom Records compilation CD: Yellow Fang’s newly recorded and mastered หมึก ใหม่ ปิ๊กโก้ (something about picking a new elegant ink?), a Stereolab-meets-PJ Harvey track that parties all the way in the most fashionable new-wave chic. - Dan.
Gil Scott-Heron just passed away yesterday. I felt as if I was just getting to know him, having only recently gotten acquainted through his I’m New Here album. And his work does have that effect on you, of knowing him better though never fully. In “Running”, he begins with an answer, an explanation, knowing already what my questions were or could have been. It’s honest without needing to be confessional, drawing upon that which I instantly identify with, yet saying so much more than I could ever put into words. He tells me running will be the way his life and mine will be described, but he also leaves that final question hanging, at least for the moment or until I finally catch up to ask again. - Dan.
No prizes for guessing which Singapore band we’ve been most excited by these days. In the wake of their meticulously woven Mannequins EP, Monster Cat‘s Snakeweed Session makes for a most intriguing comparison. While the title track sounds at once edgy and dramatic, the band chooses to let their acoustic rendition roll off a little lighter with melodies blending into each other delightfully. Strangely, it’s their live performance and not their studio recording that calls out their penchant for post-millenia Radiohead balladry.
“I’m trying to understand“. These opening words present the band understatedly as a work in progress, in spite of the reality that they’ve clearly come a long way to make it here. “These Hands” works well as a last song precisely because it sums up this tension with such achingly beautiful pangs of longing, that insatiable yearning for more when so much has already been given. The video, like the record, feels just right, even if you wished it lasted a little bit longer. - Dan.
SINGAPORE: I’m Waking Up To… Monster Cat – Mannequins
It intertwines like a ball of yarn unraveling as feline claws playfully pounce upon their five-track debut EP Mannequins. The guilty party is collectively known as Monster Cat, who at first mention do not hint at their psycho-folk-rock tendencies. Yet, as you sink deeper into their depravity, it starts to make perfect sense. Mannequins is a bold debut that bares all and holds nothing back, along with all the vulnerability of a gentle kitten. You can download their EP for free via their website during the month of May and pledge your allegiance. - Brian.
To download all 36 songs in one file click here. MAP is published on the 15th of every month, featuring a showcase of music handpicked by 36 bloggers from all over the world.
This Saturday, Berlin-based sound artist Kangding Ray will present his response to Fort Canning Hill in Singapore. Traditionally a forbidden burial site for Malay royalty and colonially the vantage residence of British governors, the hill now becomes the compositional subject for the second installment of INSITU, a project that brings multi-disciplinary artists to selected sites in Asia to create original works mapping out their physical encounter with the space/place. Simple idea with intriguing possibilities, arguably a logical progression from Kangding Ray’s previous work.
In 2010′s Pruitt Igoe single, the myth surrounding the epic failure of the 1950′s St. Louis housing project is transposed into two movements depicting its rise and fall, accompanied by remodelling and demolition works by Alva Noto and Ben Frost. While the interpretive process is relatively straightforward and even literal at parts, Kangding Ray’s choice of depicting the project’s trajectory is spot on in capturing with dramatic irony and bone-crushing precision the doomed implosion of the modernist spirit. Here, even the field recorded street singers from Uttar Pradesh sound tragically trapped in the track’s rigorously imposed structure.
Yet, it’s one thing to interpret a site’s historical journey from afar with the luxury of hindsight and distance, but quite another to respond directly and personally to one, in situ. How Kangding Ray chooses to deal with the latter is perhaps what I’m most looking forward to this Saturday. - Dan.
Today promises to be an electoral clash between the incumbent ruling party and the emergent, vociferous opposition as Singaporeans head to the polls, many for the first time. With almost all parliamentary seats being contested, you could call it a watershed moment in the nation’s history, or at the very least, a political awakening of sorts. Before making our way to the polling booths, we cast our votes on our favorite songs by The Clash, knowing full well the time is now – Singapore’s calling.
Complete Control (from the U.S. version of The Clash, 1979)
The Clash have always been about defiance to me. From the thumping of the floor toms to the opening guitar riffs, one of the pioneers of the modern punk and post punk styles, has been invigorating generation after generation with a call to arms to stick it to the man. As I listen back to the tunes of The Clash in the heat of political upheaval in Singapore, waves of defiance take over as I remember what it was to be a teenager, and how it was when we had opinions that didn’t matter but we had nothing to lose. All that mattered was that we weren’t the zombies and the cogs in the machine that you wanted us to be, and we could think for ourselves, putting our destiny in the faith of our choices. - Brian.
Train in Vain (from London Calling, 1980)
Sometime around 2002 I bought London Calling and heard The Clash for the first time, but like The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, I couldn’t connect with the album then. I couldn’t get past Joe Strummer’s accent (what is it, Cockney?) and I was doubly alienated by the lyrical references, from Spanish bombs in Andalucía to the guns of Brixton. These places were as geographically far away from Singapore as they were in my provincial imagination.
However, the biggest wall for me to climb was the music itself. I expected punk music from The Clash, but I didn’t hear anything like punk. I had no idea then that The Clash were such a bold group, whose repertoire included raggae, ska, and funk … far beyond what we think of as punk rock.
But on London Calling one song stood out, and it was the last song on the album. “Train in Vain” is an excellent single, even if it isn’t the most adventurous; musically it doesn’t flirt as much with other genres beyond rock as The Clash do on the rest of the album. The melody is simple and the lyrics straightforward – and I believe this is one of their few love songs. Sung from the perspective of a man deserted by his lover, he bluntly accuses the latter: “Well some things you can explain away/But my heartache’s in me till this day/Did you stand by me?/No not at all.”
When I listen to London Calling now, it’s apparent how complex and forward-thinking The Clash were for their time. I’m also surprised at how my perspective of “Train in Vain” has since changed. The sadness and anger felt by the protagonist used to move me very much; but now what really hits me is how he seems so helpless: “But you don’t understand my point of view. I suppose there’s nothing I can do.” I wonder if that’s true. – Song-Ming.
Straight to Hell (from Combat Rock, 1982)
There are few songs that romanticize the lacerating aura of doom and disillusionment quite as definitively as The Clash do on “Straight To Hell”, a mesmerizing rock odyssey that captures Joe Strummer at his most fervently poetic. While The Clash’s legacy may be defined mostly by the sheer intensity and unfettered revolutionary tenor of their punk anthems, the languid “Straight To Hell” suggests a slight change of pace and injects a heightened mood of despair that devolves into pure sonic fodder for Strummer to flesh out his mournful lament. As with many of Strummer’s compositions, “Straight To Hell” is stuffed with political commentaries, his lyrics protesting the plight of immigrants, among other subjects. Loose and lucid, The Clash members also sounded like they were at the absolute top of their game as musicians on this tune; the rippling sound design conjures a sense of claustrophobia that echoes the conflicted chivalry of outlaws who never stop to consider, even when the end is nigh, about whether it was really all worthwhile. Go straight to hell, boys. - Keith.
Should I Stay or Should I Go (from Live at Shea Stadium, 2008 )
I’ve always found the album version of “Should I Stay or Should I Go” too safe, calculated and deliberate for its own good. It never fails to soldier on with that uncompromising beat, every quickening step just a tease that never got explosive enough for my liking. I can’t quite pin it down, but I get the feeling they were holding something back, and it just doesn’t feel right. A much bigger favorite of mine is the live version of the song, performed at breakneck pace at Shea Stadium in October 1982. Its opening scream hits you harder, the drums thump at greater velocity, and most importantly, it has a swagger that’s hard to beat. With this version, I find my heart fighting to match its pace as I dive right into that classic catch-22, perversely relishing the dilemma and the conflicting drama that unfolds. Of course no answers are given, even in this sterling performance, only nagging, festering indecision. - Dan.
Wit’s End, the latest album by American singer-songwriter Cass McCombs, is a dark and maladroit pop masterpiece that leaves behind a strong residue of loneliness with every listen. On these eight intimately arranged songs, McCombs sounds like someone wrestling with stained memories, condemned to a tedious eternity of wakeful nights spent obsessing over absent ladies and sad-eyed muses. “The Lonely Doll” oozes with starlit melodies that pull Wit’s End into a sustained mood of nocturama — entirely serene and waltzing in deathly patterns, as if being spirited away by exterminating angels desirous of a silent spring. - Keith.
It’s hard not to love Inch Chua. In this second installment of Snakeweed Sessions, the Singaporean musician shares most candidly and personally the stories behind her songs. She sounds a little embarrassed recounting how “Have It Your Way” had to do with her not being able to get her motorbike license. And in her introduction to “Hurt”, you can’t help but share in the bittersweet resignation lying behind the strong front she puts up when she talks about losing her best friend.
Still, her music speaks the loudest simply because of how it emanates from her. When Inch dives into her music, she is utterly absorbed, something you hear in her album Wallflower, and which you can’t miss seeing in these videos. I particularly like how she uses the piano keys as a dampening force, a mellow counterpart to the sharpness of her vocals, adding a steady momentum and dose of gravity to the highs and lows of her lyrics. The guitars, on the other hand, sound simply like an extension of her, generously allowing her voice to breathe, for the stories to be told again and again. - Dan.
i was headed nowhere in particular, adrift on my own internal sea
when suddenly arrested and anchored by strains of the softest music
as i pass a door left slightly ajar
i stand at the door, not daring to look
i’m not supposed to be here
but there they must be, hunched over a tape recorder
unmistakably familiar and distant
like memories of yourself when you were thirteen (thirteen years ago)
where have they gone? - b.
Bobsy is Singapore’s best kept secret. The End of April 7″ was released on Drive-In Records and Moonscreen Records. More recently, it was featured in the Brilliant Sight of Sounds compilation by SEA Indie.
sharon van etten:
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".
mp3: automelodi - schéma corporel
bani haykal from b-quartet:
often enough, it’s the early morning rush which gets me excited about shutting my eyes. and by morning, we’re looking at the 4 a.m. time frame where all you hear is yourself in a foggy blur, thinking if sleep is really all that important because the early few are storming off for work. in all honesty, there is no ipod nor a single earplugging devicetron which i’d attend to. often enough, it’s someone else’s sonic leak i’m getting addressed by. but, i’m listening to Steely Dan’s “Babylon Sisters”. in my head, at least. sanity ‘from the point of no return’, personally. it’s a breath of fresh air. despite its age. everything is beautiful then.
mp3: steely dan - babylon sisters
naomi yang from galaxie 500:
The perfect song to start the day is “A Tonga Da Mironga Do Kabuleté” – the live recording from 1971 by Brazilian artists Vinícius + Bethania + Toquinho. It is like a beautiful sunrise – although I think that the lyrics are actually some sort of political commentary disguised as a Candomble/Afro-Brazilian curse – but whatever! And then you should just leave the CD on, and listen to the rest of the album while you have your coffee. And you will have a great day.
mp3: vinícius + bethania + toquinho – a tonga da mironga do kabuletê (live in buenos aires, 1971)
jamie stewart from xiu xiu:
i have a nico button on my guitar strap and her excess eyeliner has been burning the dirge "janitor of lunacy" into my waking ears as of late, at least 20 times in the last week. until yesterday we have been on tour in scandinavia, russia, poland, austria, germany and czech. these grey locations held hands with her harmonium perfectly.
mp3: nico - janitor of lunacy
justin ringle from horse feathers:
i have been obsessively listening and waking up to this tune by gillian welch called "annabelle". it's a song about a sharecropper in alabama and it is so sad, beautiful and timeless that I can't help but listen more than once in a row. the harmonies in the chorus make my hairs stand up... beautiful song.
mp3: gillian welch - annabelle
tracyanne campbell from camera obscura:
my favourite song at the moment is called 'one in a million' by steve miller. it's really beautiful. his voice is like honey in the sun and it totally melts my heart. the lyrics are quite simple and i guess
corny but it's a great tune and the production is so good it really doesn't matter. i wish i'd written it. in fact i'd love to do a cover version of it. i was recently in stockholm visiting my friend victoria (bergsman) from taken by trees and we were singing it in the flat and talked about recording it. watch this space...
mp3: steve miller band - one in a million
stuart murdoch from belle and sebastian:
every day when i leave the house and walk over the iron bridge and up to the glasshouses, i listen to “what for” by james. i have a habit of dropping back 20 years in my thoughts, and having a parallel soundtrack running in my head so that i may be walking in a street in 2008, but my head is in 1988. i don’t know why that is. this is an up and hopeful song of the period from a band i used to care for deeply.
as we slip into the autumn here, i am prepared to let my new song of obsession become “the game” by echo and the bunnymen.
“everybody’s got their own good reason why their favourite season is their favourite season”.
mp3: james - what for mp3: echo and the bunnymen - the game
alison eales from butcher boy:
I'm waking up to Labi Siffre, and wondering how I managed to stay asleep for so long. His songs are diverse, unpretentious, and performed with tangible joy. I'm literally waking up to him as well - I have 'It Must Be Love' set as my alarm, and it is proving to be a very nutritious musical breakfast.
mp3: labi siffre - it must be love
who we are
i love music, but i can't play it for the life of me, so i might as well try writing instead. hope you like it. i'm from singapore, where there really is good music if you look hard enough. i'd love to hear from you (yes, you): email@example.com
I'm a four stringing minstrel of doom, and hired gun for the odd band or two. Few things excite me more than music, and whiskey soaked vocals are a definite plus, so please be sure to send some my way. When I'm not contributing to I'm Waking Up To and MAP, you should follow my misadventures at http://litford.wordpress.com And yes! I'd love to hear from you too: firstname.lastname@example.org
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