Author Archives: brian koh

Aya Sekine & Sleep Easy live at Syndicate’s Subsessions

Aya Sekine

Aya Sekine was brought to my attention after we received the mailer from the awesome folk at Syndicate that she would be featured alongside Pleasantry’s Isa Ong who will be performing as Sleep Easy the next installment of Syndicate’s Subsessions. Curious, I decided to take a gander at what awaited us this Saturday.

Aya Sekine plays beautiful jazz improvisations on her piano and keyboards. I probably didn’t realise, but I’d heard her play at the Blu Jaz cafe / bar, and I was always impressed by the music I was hearing as it reminded me of a particular jazz bar that I frequented while studying in Perth. What’s really getting me excited is the promise that she will unleash a more experimental side, not just in terms of musicality, but technology as well. In the mean time, I’m happy to pass on a listen of her music.

mp3: Aya Sekine – Syndrome

Sleep Easy

Sleep Easy will also be performing aside the accomplished Aya Sekine, and while she delves into the sometimes manic maelstroms of jazz improvisation, Sleep Easy approaches his craft in a more delicate and simple manner. It does evoke the sort of rising slumber in a field of golden grass routine, but I think it’s the perfect counterpoint to each others’ body of work.

mp3: Sleep Easy – Fingertips

Syndicate’s Subsessions will be happening at The Substation Theater, 45 Armenian Street on 25 August 2012, 8PM – 10PM, and also features visuals by Syndicate’s resident artist, Brandon Tay. Tickets are $20 at the door. There’s more information at Syndicate’s post here.

#395 The Observatory – Killing Time


Been awhile since I posted in here, but life’s just been busy for me lately. Still, one of the little pleasures I get out of each day, is the short walk from my home to the train station whenever I commute to work. Going back to the basic roots of this blog, “Killing Time” was literally the first song that popped into my music player as I switched it on. It was also the first song that made me fall in love with The Observatory when I first laid ears on their debut, Time of Rebirth, eight years ago in 2004.

There’s something whimsical about the way time stretches within the song as singer/keyboardist Vivien Wang achingly croons into your ear … “Killing time, killing time, don’t really know what to do.. Sad is the man who lives by the sea..” – all this while guitar swells and a breezy swing on hi hats trickle along in the background. The static in the air as you listen closely also adds a dimension of a waking dream, another testament to the intricacies toward soundscapes that the band pays dire attention to.

By the time we arrive at the final coda, at the final signpost of any human contact, Vivian offers these words “sad is the man who’s lost his way..” right before a melancholic and surrendered nylon stringed guitar solo, courtesy of Victor Low, takes us over the edge to be consumed by the abyss. - Brian.


mp3: The Observatory – Killing Time

#379 Ekra – A ‘Lil Called Strength


I haven’t been this excited in a long while. In fact, I think this is the best thing I’ve heard since 2012 started.

Ekra is an NYC-based husband and wife duo, who make some of the most glorious, noise inspired melodies that reek of certain depravities and sensitivities. All at once, it is a hurtful hiss of lashing snakes backed in a corner, and blissful surrender to the fates that toy with us so.

I’ve been looking for that particular sound, that would drown me in its waves of emotion, asphyxiate me in its splendour, embrace me in its all-encompassing arms, and I think I’ve found it through the magic presented here.

The astounding thing about this music, is that it’s so very primal. There’s a particular minimalism that strikes as an up-yours to what we already know, or a departure to various progressive sounds we’ve heard of late. It’s amazing what this particular rhythm section has chosen to do, in the realm of deconstruction and then reassembling it all over again into a new whole. - Brian.


mp3: Ekra – A ‘Lil Called Strength

Men, the latest release by Ekra can be purchased through their bandcamp, or their website.

#368 Nicholas Chim – In The End


I’ve been waking up to some of the most well-crafted songs in a while, all courtesy of singer-songwriter Nicholas Chim.

The entire album entitled Forgiefan flows seamlessly from track to track. The song arrangements are astute enough that one gets the sense of a sculptor carefully and deliberately chiseling at his masterpiece. We’re not talking about cold dead stones, but at statues that come to life when bathed in the right light, and what a light it is! Nicholas’ emotive delivery carefully casts this light as he lays it all out, bare and broken, surrendered to the fates beyond control, just like that last shot of whiskey as the first rays of sunlight fracture through your window.

There’s a song for everyone, but I found myself drawn to one particular song. The first track, “In the End”, lulls you into the tapestry that Nicholas has weaved. Almost a song for the bereavement of love lost, shades of Kings of Convenience and Mark Kozelek in its delivery and its sparse yet deceptively simple guitar work. It’s the point of the blade that balances Nicholas’ entire world and where the most true words are hinged. “I still feel your knife in my heart.” - Brian.


mp3: Nicholas Chim – In The End

Forgiefan can be purchased as a digital download, or a physical CD with wonderful artwork by Kristal Melson. Head on down to the Bandcamp.

You should also check out Nicholas’ music video for his first single, I Want You Again (feat. Aarika Lee) over here.

#337 Niki & The Dove – DJ, Ease My Mind


It takes some sort of an emotional blow to hold on to every word being sung, like it was the gospel of truth itself.

So maybe I’m not in the best place emotionally, and this song started as something hopeful, something to embrace were it to play at my favourite indie club, but now I find it’s full dread, and there’s a part of me that will always want to remember what I was trying to forget.

They should still play this, near the end of the night, just as you start to feel the perspiration across the nape of your neck. A cold wind blowing to sweep the excess feelings of euphoria and regret, mixed together into the incense that you offer to the machinations of irony and wish it all away in one fell swoop. - Brian.

I want to forget / I want lights to / Blind me / I want to / Want to disappear / Oh DJ ease my mind will you / Play that song again / Because we were in love / Before / Before the rain begins / And if I cry / Cover my ears


mp3: Niki & The Dove – DJ, Ease My Mind

#325 The Highwaymen – Silver Stallion


I’ve been waking up to the lyrics of “Silver Stallion” for about four days straight, ever since I discovered The Highwaymen‘s version of the Lee Clayton original, although the first time I’d ever heard of the song was through Cat Power.

Everything I love about country music (which in actuality, is very little) is in this amazing version of the song. The general consensus amongst people I’ve raved about this song to, is that nobody on the face of God’s earth is putting out music with this sort of vocal quality anymore. The timbres of each of the individuals’ voices can be heard so distinctly, that they almost blow like a cold wind straight through your bones. (They happen to be Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson no less)

And who can blame them for delivering the song in such a haunting manner? Country, as a genre, has always been about a longing, a throwback to simpler times, to the open country, where complicated men were straight shooters and the there was no such thing as an end, but you’d simply ride off into the sunset, never looking back.

“.. ridin’ like the one-eyed jack of diamonds with the devil close behind..” - Brian.


mp3: The Highwaymen – Silver Stallion

#321 sex bob-omb – garbage truck


I was watching the movie adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s graphic novel series, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, where the story can be sort of summarised as “love for an 8-bit generation”. Set in Toronto, Canada, Sex Bob-omb (Stephen ‘The Talent’ Stills, Scott Pilgrim, Kim Pine) are an indie band, and our hero, Scott Pilgrim plays bass guitar for them. I don’t really know what else to say, but like, the comics are cool, the movie is cool, and the songs are cool. Like, this song totally just piqued my ears up like a raccoon, and I was listening to the lyrics, like.. “I’m a garbage truck. Truck, truck, truck!” and the song arrangement is pretty simple, and it just got me remembering of when I started my first band, our first song, and I realised that songs like this, are incredibly special, and some parts of us never really grow up. Figuratively speaking.

Oh, the Sex Bob-omb songs for the movie were written by Beck, and performed by the actors themselves. (Michael Cera, Amanda Pill, Mark Webber) - brian.

mp3: sex bob-omb – garbage truck

#313 wintersleep – baltic


A storm is coming. When you’re fascinated by post-apocalyptic themes, sometimes we forget that the precursors are every much as gripping. The only thing going through my mind as the guitars shimmer in, and the pensive bassline that snakes in, over the hypnotic forest of snare work, is that this world could very well end in the next five minutes, and it would be GLORIOUS.

Halifax rockers Wintersleep have done it again. They’ve somehow conjoured the spirits of the cold winds to bless their forays into songwriting. “Baltic” doesn’t so much sound like a song as much as it seems to be a chant or ritual as they welcome the crashing waves to come sweeping along the cliffs that protect our hearts. The mood is inexplicable: as you go under the spell they weave, the words take shape, they lose their form. Then, as Paul Murphy, who acts as shamen or spiritual guide, begins the next phase of his ritual, he evokes the darkest emotions to manifest themselves. “Let it out.. let it out of my head..” he said. - brian.

mp3: wintersleep – baltic

“Baltic” appears on Wintersleep‘s 4th studio album, ‘New Inheritors’ and is being released by The Tom Kotter Company. Vinyl bundles can be bought at their store.

#311 311 – grassroots


Just thought I’d be a bit cheeky with entry #311, since the band 311 was a big part of my growing up. They were one of the bands that saved me from spiraling too far down into the abysmal genre of music known as nu-metal. Yes, I did grow up in that era, and there were a few bands that I thought were cool.

Listening to 311 was like someone holding an intervention for your excessive lifestyle, and it was also one of my first forays into the realm of rap-rock. But genres aside, they taught me the importance of groove, taste within a pocket, and that if you didn’t try too hard to have fun, you would.

I love “Grassroots” just for that. It’s a supersampler of 311′s fusion of rock, rap, reggae and Santana-inspired blues. While you’ll probably need to listen to an entire album to get all of that, this number distills all the elements that work and filters it down to an exciting four minute ditty that’ll get your head boppin’ along because 311 has grassroots for your momma. - brian.

mp3: 311 – grassroots

#307 rjd2 – lazerface’s warning (remix)


It’s been awhile since I last posted in here because my mind’s been all over the place. For some reason, I could not bring myself to bash out a short paragraph or two about the songs I was listening to. One minute I was listening to this, and then I was listening to that, and in the end, the day would end and I’d be right back where I started.

Well, I’ve gotten over that phase, but I remember being drawn to the haunting loops of RJD2 aka Ramble John “RJ” Krohn’s early work and rough cuts. On songs like “Lazerface’s Warning”, the rare groove beats are loosely jointed ideas, perilously held together by the confident flow of an MC, and one or two minimal samples that act as a sort of gaffer tape with all the cracks showing. Yet somehow, this broken canvas seemed to reflect the tumultuous reflections in the mind better than any complete song ever could. - brian.

mp3: rjd2 – lazerface’s warning (remix)