Author Archives: dan

Best of 2012: Actress – R.I.P

I know we haven’t been the most regular in writing this year. But the year-end review is something we’d never let go, so look out for our take on the best releases this year. Thanks for sticking with us.
The appended artwork for ActressR.I.P is an an evocative accompaniment to the album, with Eve Ackroyd’s charcoal rendition of a hand feeling for yet blending into the textured painting serving as an apt interpretation of how Darren Cunningham immerses himself into the multifarious layers that make up his music. This is dark stuff that’s full of life, meaning, and context: Cunningham’s rave roots still occupy a shadowy presence, but with R.I.P it is but one part of a larger ensemble that slips in and out of your consciousness and remains in my opinion the most deeply affecting release of the year. - Dan.

mp3: Actress – Shadow from Tartarus

R.I.P is available on Honest Jon’s Records.

Music Alliance Pact – 50th Anniversary Edition

SINGAPORE: I’m Waking Up To…
Gema’s debut EP Before is a sprawling canvas of sounds, textures, layers, beats and samples that come together to form a cohesive theme of soulful disturbia. I’m somewhat afraid of what I might find inside Gema’s head. Every sound seems to have a sort of nascent meaning, which is scary because such premeditated behaviour has no place in the hands of a musician capable of carving another world straight into your skull. He’s one of the newest additions to the Syndicate stable, and we hope the marriage of the two will equal three. - Brian.

To download all 40 songs in one file click here. MAP is published on the 15th of every month, featuring a showcase of music handpicked by bloggers from all over the world. This month marks the 50th edition!

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Music Alliance Pact – October 2012 Issue

SINGAPORE: I’m Waking Up To…
GalacticaSaul’s Tighs
In a little-known recess in Singapore’s music scene, there existed a group of science fiction aficionados with a common love for the space odyssey Battlestar Galactica. They went on to write some dreamily-inspired shoegaze with titles such as Saul’s Tighs and Gaius Is Crying… Again, referencing series characters Colonel Saul Tigh and Dr Gaius Baltar. While the concept is an inside joke, the music is anything but. Their songcraft and taste in melodies evoke an immense sense of loss in the immeasurable vastness of space. It takes you back to the heyday of science fiction when the music was sprawling and searching, as opposed to present-day equivalents of over-budgeted pyrotechnics.

To download all 39 songs in one file click here. MAP is published on the 15th of every month, featuring a showcase of music handpicked by bloggers from all over the world.

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#401 Dear Eloise – 她从来不 (She Never)

I finally caught the Andy Warhol: 15 Minutes Eternal exhibition at the Art/Science Museum last weekend. Presented in a strictly chronological and unapologetically didatic approach, the exhibition served as a well-charted primer to Warhol’s work through the years. There was something magical about viewing his early commercial work, his rudimentary but precisely transferred blotted lines anticipating his impending factory-produced pop art statements. But I found his later works somewhat devoid of that cutting edge, as if he ironically ended up mass producing and reproducing his established aesthetic, almost labouriously. I did, however, find myself mesmerised at the middle of the exhibition by the seemingly never-ending video of the Velvet Underground at rehearsal with not just Nico but also her young son, doing his bit to add to the incessant waves of noise.

That’s perhaps a somewhat contrived, literal, if not roundabout, way of introducing what I’ve happened to be listening to a lot to these days – the clearly Velvets-inspired Dear Eloise and their second album 美丽陌生人 (they’ve written it as Beauty in Strangers in the liner notes, although I feel – despite the unwarranted Madonna comparison – it should be more accurately Beautiful Stranger). The protagonist makes her existentially-challenged appearance in “她从来不” (She Never), defined by the shadow of her absence, a mysteriously powerful force that absorbs the sun and the wind into that nothingness as well. It’s a perfectly ethereal and partly naive storyline that endears to as much as it loses itself in the very consuming noise it invokes. - Dan.

mp3: Dear Eloise – 她从来不 (She Never)

美丽陌生人 (Beauty in Strangers) is out now on Maybe Mars and distributed through tenzenmen.

#400 Divine Fits – Shivers

Divine Fits, the new project fronted by Spoon’s Britt Daniel and Dan Boeckner (former member of Wolf Parade and Handsome Furs, both bands now defunct), is an amalgam of the two’s shared musical ethos, all tightly-wound pop hooks and raw energy. Their perfectly executed cover of “Shivers”, a song originally performed by The Boys Next Door (the teenaged incarnation of The Birthday Party featuring Nick Cave, Mick Harvey and Rowland S Howard), operates on a propulsive pulse that draws inevitable comparisons to Britt’s main band that we long admired. So yes, as much as it sounds unscripted, the song’s very familiarly Spoon, still. Yet “Shivers” pulls us into a wistful mood — every time we find ourselves unwittingly identifying with the rock singer, as he steadies himself to disown every shred of romantic longing he feels. - Keith.

mp3: Divine Fits – Shivers

A Thing Called Divine Fits is awesome and available on Merge Records.

Music Alliance Pact – September 2012 Issue

SINGAPORE: I’m Waking Up To…
A mysterious force has been brewing in Singapore, bubbling beneath the shiny veneer of saturated city lights. The glitchy imperfections of static haunt the corridors of abandoned buildings, a sign of life from androids realising self-awareness. FAUXE leads a charge into this unknown realm, stirring up quite the storm with his debut EP Ubuntu and letting his music trickle down your window panes on a rain-sodden day. - Brian.

To download all 38 songs in one file click here. MAP is published on the 15th of every month, featuring a showcase of music handpicked by bloggers from all over the world.

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#399 Jim O’Rourke – Therefore, I Am

Me? I’m getting better everyday. I was revisiting one of my favourite Jim O’Rourke albums this week, and was surprised at how well, albeit quietly, the popping and rocking Insignificance has aged through the years. In “Therefore, I am”, the driving opening riffs sound like they’ve never stopped since they were first recorded more than a decade ago, while the pop harmonies that gave the song its richness sound even brighter than before.

That’s what I said, don’t believe what you heard. But I never know whether to take O’Rourke for what he says – is this the work of an artist at odds with himself (and his listeners), or a gifted songwriter capable of crafting a perfect pop song around confessional antagonism? There is a deliberate ambiguity in this work that contrasts with the straightforward song structure that encases those unlikeable thoughts: Is that really him speaking? To me?

It’s not like I want to be king; but I can’t help myself, it’s just that I am. Or is this pure arrogance? I really can’t tell. While this is usually regarded as among his most accessible work, I think it grows in complexity with each listen. Perhaps more accurately it reveals more about the man than his other recordings and collaborations, the conflicts borne within, but also the simplicity with which things can be expressed. I don’t think I’ll tire of revisiting this. – Dan.

mp3: Jim O’Rourke – Therefore, I Am

Insignificance is still, after all these years, out on Drag City.

#398 St. Vincent – Dilettante

I can’t wait to listen to Love This Giant, the album-length collaboration between David Byrne and St. Vincent which will be out sometime next month. The band’s third album Strange Mercy (2011), a collection of kaleidoscopic art-damaged songs, is still on heavy rotation of course, and last weekend’s Summer Sonic 2012 festival in Japan provided us with the chance to get acquainted with the evolving music and lead singer Annie Clark’s intense stage performances. The mannered chamber pop of her debut Marry Me (2007) is a distant memory, ceding to wiry musical catharsis, manic guitar soloing and a choice post-punk cover (The Pop Group’s “She Is Beyond Good and Evil”). The studied subversion of “Dilettante” works particularly well in this context, the singer teasing out every twisted nerve and casual vacancy in the song like a sustained illusion: “I got no patience for an estrangement, anyway”. - Keith.

mp3: St. Vincent – Dilettante

Strange Mercy is available on 4AD. You can also pre-order David Byrne and St. Vincent’s Love This Giant here.

Music Alliance Pact – August 2012 Issue

SINGAPORE: I’m Waking Up To…
MUONAqua Assault
The muon is an elementary particle similar to an electron. MUON is also a musical entity that exists in Singapore, whether as one person (Nick Chan) or more (currently, Jordan, Ren and Adam). Despite its varying states of existence, MUON’s music is rather akin to its sub-atomic namesake with its deconstruction of pedantic structures, but also as intelligent, intense and cryptic aural and visual forms. Always exciting and always new, MUON has been forged in its singularity, and their craft emerges through parallel universes. - Brian.

To download all 34 songs in one file click here. MAP is published on the 15th of every month, featuring a showcase of music handpicked by bloggers from all over the world.

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#397 Chromatics – Birds of Paradise

“Bird of Paradise” seems to push all the right buttons. A processed background terrain crackles with the warmth of vinyl and the uncertain static of broadcast radio. Meanwhile, a singular recurring keyboard melody aims squarely at recalling those haunting, poignant, late night soundtracks, especially when awash with synth strings, inserted at those precise moments you’re held most breathless. And of course the words, with well worn cliches thrown in, sounding as true as they could through the breathy vocals of Ruth Radelet. I’m torn between filing this under “formulaic ballad”, “devious slight of hand”, or “heartfelt stroke of genius”, wondering if sincerity, manipulation and irony could ever co-exist. Perhaps it does in the enchanting but unfathomable world of Chromatics, who claim it’s in fact you who hold the keys to their heart. - Dan.

mp3: Chromatics – Birds of Paradise

Chromatics’ Kill for Love is out now on their own Italians Do It Better label.