a new year, a new setlist of great music from around the world, delivered to your doorstep through the music alliance pact which now 34 countries strong. in this issue, our faithful local music correspondent brian koh features veteran indie band sherene’s closet with their early sessions at the green room. recorded in the mid-90s, the green room sessions was a distinctive record of the local music scene during that era, and also captures an early glimpse of now-famous local superheroes electric co. enjoy!
Catalina Vin – Caleidoscope
Catalina Vin is an Argentine-American singer and songwriter who started learning music at the age of seven. Genuine is her first album, in which her roots are reflected through eight indie-pop songs sung in both English and Spanish, with soft string and piano arrangements. Caleidoscope is one of our favourite tracks.
AUSTRALIA: Who The Bloody Hell Are They?
Seekae – Void
Ever since FBi Radio started broadcasting regularly some five years ago, Sydney’s independent music scene has flourished from the much-needed lifeblood and community support that the station provides. A lot of young musicians now have an alternative to Triple J to supplement their listening habits and this has encouraged the more experimental writers to pursue their own distinct sounds, knowing they will be played and heard. Seekae is the clear breakout band out of Sydney’s resurging experimental electronic music. With their abstract vocals and dreamy atmosphere they have earned their place as leaders of the city’s 2010 sound.
BRAZIL: Meio Desligado
Curumin – Vem Menina
Curumin is one of the biggest names of the contemporary independent music scene in Brazil. A drummer and singer, besides his solo work, he plays with artists such as Otto, CÈu and Guizado. Vem Menina is a samba from his debut album, Achados e Perdidos, released in 2003. His latest album, Japan Pop Show, was released last year and shows his talent to compose funk, samba, rock and electronic songs.
Leif Vollebekk – Quebec
Some people hear Patrick Watson in Leif Vollebekk’s vocals. Others have compared his music to that of Owen Pallett/Final Fantasy. I’m not sure about the comparisons, but I know this: Vollebekk is an incredibly gifted performer and artist, and when his debut album, Inland, gets re-released in a few weeks on hot new Toronto label Nevado Records, all of Canada is going to find out just how talented he is.
CHILE: Super 45
De Janeiros – Montreal
Milton Mahan and Pablo Munoz are De Janeiros, one of the most interesting projects in the Chilean experimental scene. In the trend of bands such as Health or Fuck Buttons – that kind of plastic and colorful noise – their sound goes beyond by adding a more playful and “tropical” feeling to it. Chilean net-label Michita Rex have made their sophomore album Plateado available to downloaded for free here.
PK14 – Cuo Guo Le
PK14 is the best post-punk band in China. Formed in 1997, they have released five albums. Currently, they are preparing a new album to be release this year and they will attend SXSW in March.
DENMARK: All Scandinavian
Cours Lapin – Cache Cache
Cours Lapin is what happens when four movie score composers (Louise Alenius, Asger Baden, Peder and Jonas Struck) get together to do pop. Their name is French (translated as “bunny run”), their lyrics are in French (of course) and the French chanson is at the root of their mellow, melancholic pop that makes me think of black and white movies (and yes, they’re French).
ENGLAND: The Daily Growl
Thomas Western – Your Front Door
Last month I picked an Italian musician based in England for MAP – this time it’s the turn of an Englishman currently living in Scotland. Thomas Western’s bluesy/folky approach to songwriting is reminiscent of Elliott Smith or Bob Dylan, while his exquisite vocal range is pitched halfway between Tim and Jeff Buckley. Western moved from Derbyshire to Edinburgh last year to complete his university studies and Your Front Door is his masterpiece.
UNCANDY – Lovecool
UNCANDY (and yes, it’s important to write it in capital letters) is multi-talented Maria Juur from Tallinn. Her home recordings have already created quite a buzz in the Estonian indie scene and rumour has it we won’t have to wait long for a debut album. She also records under the name Maria Minerva. Lovecool is featured on new Estonian indie compilation album, Kohalik Ja Kohatu 3.
Vishnudata – Silver Falls feat. Suho Superstar (radio edit)
Established in 2003, Vishnudata is a project by electronic dance music guru Ville Lankinen which explores the artist’s techno and house influences. Silver Falls is the closing track of his self-titled sophomore album and progressively it introduces the listener into a shiny ethereal atmosphere and psychedelic soundscape. This radio edit version, which features Suho Superstar on vocals, is included in a recently released EP along with three more remixes.
Ibrahim Maalouf – Souma Hia
Born in Lebanon, Ibrahim Maalouf grew up in Paris and began studying the trumped at the age of seven. Ten years later he met Maurice AndrÈ, who advised him to give up his mathematics studies to dedicate himself to music. Maalouf also had the opportunity to record a song with French singer Matthieu Chedid and this collaboration can be found in the very good Diachronism album. The track Souma Hia carries a great deal of energy.
Get Well Soon – 5 Steps / 7 Swords
Get Well Soon is the solo project of Konstantin Gropper, a classically trained singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from Berlin. His soulful and sophisticated songs take the same path as the likes of Sufjan Stevens or Zach Condon. 5 Steps / 7 Swords is the first single release from second album Vexations.
Exposed By Observers – In My Skin
Exposed By Observers aim to rape the listeners’ ears, yet are less faithfully wed to punk and more interested in dance-derived rhythms, deploying more tightly coiled riffs and distinctive beats than most screamo bands. Secondhand Youth EP, which was given away for free on their website, sounds like everything they’d ever heard, spewed out and rewired for a different type of moshpit etiquette, a brand new teenage riot. They frantically blend cheap samples, beatbox rhythms, clicks, bleeps, fringes, beeps and guitars with manic electro buzz and raw, squawking vocals. Unsurprisingly, there’s also a noticeable undercurrent of emo here too, but actually feels charged and compelling in the momentary tantrums of In My Skin. Listen loud!
ICELAND: I Love Icelandic Music
Bloodgroup – My Arms
Bloodgroup was formed in 2006 by Halez, Lilja, Raggi and Janus during some boring winter days on the east coast of Iceland and they make catchy electronic dance-pop. Debut album Sticky Situation was released on the band’s own label, Sild Ehf, and got excellent reviews. Its follow-up, Dry Land, was released on the Record Records label last month. My Arms is their latest single.
Seven Degrees – Shadows In The Dark
Seven Degrees is a boy-girl punk duo from New Delhi. This irreverent twosome produce angular, infectious punk that’s largely bare-boned yet crashy enough to cause a decent racket. Shadows In The Dark is part of a free compilation album called Stupid Stupid Stupid available on Indiecision. The song is a spiralling, old-school punk tribute that leaves you with the distinct feeling of wanting to get up and not be lazy anymore.
Seringai – Mengadili Persepsi (Bermain Tuhan)
Seringai are one of the finest Indonesian metal bands, often described as a blend of Motorhead and Black Sabbath. Their brilliant lyrics are a social critique of religious extremism, policies, domestic violence and sometimes just about stupid people.
I Am The Cosmos – Remembering You
Remembering You is a beautiful slice of broody 80s-inspired electronica buttressed on creaking synth stabs and high-pitched melodies. Its creator, Ross Turner, is known for his work behind the drum kit with various Irish bands but stepping out on his own here as I Am The Cosmos, he shows us what he can do in sole producer mode.
Port-Royal – The Photoshopped Prince
There was a blizzard here last week and I found myself listening again to this third album by Port-Royal. It was the perfect soundtrack. Shoegaze, IDM, electro and ambient influences blend together to build an epic soundscape. The Genoa-based quartet used to be on the renowned Resonant label and have worked with Ulrich Schnauss and made remixes for Ladytron and Felix Da Housecat. Now they’re back with a throbbing, intense, unpredictable, brimful of life new record.
JAPAN: JPOP Lover
Green Blossoms – Hana Akari
Green Blossoms are folky duo Aiko Koga and Anthony Guerra. Aiko sings and plays ukulele, Anthony plays the other instruments. They released their second album, Whiskey Leaves, on US-based Digitalis Recordings last summer. Hana Akari is beautiful, softly-intoned songwriting and its ghostly incantations will stick in the back of your mind.
MEXICO: Red Bull PanameriKa
The Hong Kong Blood Opera – Cansei De Ser Gangsta
The Mexican alternative scene recently witnessed the rise of a synthetic yet raw punk generation raiding the underground. A frenetic quintet from desertic Hermosillo stood out – The Hong Kong Blood Opera. A bloody opera? More like straight hardcore screaming evil and rough beats. The HKBO got sweaty teenagers shaking their guts and also blew the critics away when they won a nationwide competition sponsored by a monopolic corporation a few years ago. Instead of vanishing like every band from those schemes usually does, they reappeared with a remarkable album titled Not For The Faint Of Heart. The record breaks the rock-band-contest clichÈ and at the same time mocks the whole mediatic circus and abusive music industry models with killer singles like Cansei De Ser Gangsta.
NETHERLANDS: Amsterdam Event Guide
The Wooden Constructions – No No (Hip Hop)
Happy New Year from the Netherlands crew. We’ll kickstart 2010 with one of the most talked-about Amsterdam acts, The Wooden Constructions. Their tribal disco with punk-infused lyrics (which harness the confidence of Mark E. Smith) sit alongside their own blend of twangy guitars and driving rhythms. Their unique musical stylings and great live shows have got the city rather excited about what 2010 might offer for this band and the Amsterdam scene itself. Watch this space.
NEW ZEALAND: Counting The Beat
The Mint Chicks – Crush
For three decades, Chris Knox has made some of New Zealand’s most exciting music – from the punk of The Enemy, Toy Love, virtually inventing the country’s indie music scene with four-track recordings of his band Tall Dwarfs and writing one of the nation’s most popular songs. Knox suffered a debilitating stroke last year and to aid his recovery many who have been influenced by him have contributed to an album of covers called Stroke. The roll call includes Jay Reatard, Stephen Merrit, Will Oldham, Lou Barlow and more. Crush, from The Tall Dwarfs’ 1984 EP Slug Bucket Hairy Breath Monster, is performed by The Mint Chicks, one of New Zealand’s most exciting bands.
Sacred Harp – Next Time Too
Sacred Harp are a trio from Oslo who recently released their beautiful self-titled debut EP on the small Norwegian label The Perfect Hoax. Their music is quite difficult to describe because it’s so in the middle of everything. It’s dark, but there’s also a lot of light and colour in there. It’s experimental, but it’s also full of pop structures and lovely melodies. It’s sacral and calm, other times almost brutal. It’s music you just have to listen to. The members are from Norway, Finland and Holland, so they really fit the spirit of the Music Alliance Pact.
La Mente – La Problema
In its wonderful fusion of tropical rhythms, reggae and psychedelic electronic models, La Mente has uncovered an inexhaustible source of energy and dynamism which beckons you onto the dancefloor. La Problema is a feast of total madness and one of the strongest songs from La Mente’s new album, Para Los Muertos Y Los Vivientes.
PORTUGAL: Posso Ouvir Um Disco?
Malcontent – Aggressive
Malcontent are a quartet from Oporto led by SÈrgio Costa. When you listen to them you know their influences (The Jesus And Mary Chain, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Sonic Youth, Joy Division, Nine Inch Nails) and they don’t deny them. They started playing in 2007 and released several promo singles. Finally, they have their first full LP out, called Love The Gun, which the band self-released.
ROMANIA: Babylon Noise
Aievea – Joy Of Life
Vlaicu Golcea and Electric Brother are two incredibly talented multi-instrument players. They combine conventional music with electronic beats and the creative rhythms of Tavi Scurtu, the drummer who juggles with sound. To an already great recipe, we add Marta Hristea’s incredible voice for the perfect nu-jazz experience. After a six-year pause, they’ve just released their second album, Cinema, which can be fully downloaded here.
SCOTLAND: The Pop Cop
Galleries – Underground Overground
Galleries have only been in existence for a matter of months, yet the quality of the songs on their MySpace page can’t help but mark them out as a band whose reach is sure to extend much wider than the blogosphere. The Glasgow group is made up of three students and, interestingly, BBC political reporter Andrew Black on drums. The lush sounds of Underground Overground beautifully hints at their The National and Jimmy Eat World influences and is taken from Galleries’ forthcoming debut EP. It’s a MAP exclusive download so feel privileged that you’re getting to own it first.
SINGAPORE: I’m Waking Up To…
Sherene’s Closet – Stereo Loud
Have we got a classic for you this month! Though now defunct, Sherene’s Closet is still very much celebrated in the Singaporean music scene. You might say it all started with this demo recorded during the now legendary Green Room Sessions, and I hear it’s a bit rarer than the LP version. This should be considered one of the best local songs ever recorded, owing to Gerald Stahlman’s stellar vocal delivery and the raw energy of the rest of the band.
SOUTH AFRICA: Musical Mover & Shaker!
Ashtray Electric – Lia
“A quaint mixture consisting of three parts suburb and two parts platteland” make up the phenomenon that is Ashtray Electric. They combine delicate beats, heartfelt lyrics and catchy melodies that lead to a rather fresh, unconventional sound, albeit one that gets your feet tapping. Lia has been compared to Editors and Interpol but Ashtray Electric bring a fresh new sound that has them at the forefront of the indie scene, and rightly so.
SOUTH KOREA: Indieful ROK
Apollo 18 – Warm
Last year Apollo 18 established themselves as one of the very best rock acts of Korea. Starting with a marvellous post-rock-oriented EP, an amazing album followed in which they experimented with hardcore, shoegaze and psychedelic elements. An international version of the first EP has just been released and before the end of the month it’ll be followed by instrumental rock pieces of a more playful kind. Re-recorded to magically sound even better than before, Warm is a stunningly beautiful post-rock piece of epic proportions best played as loud as possible.
SPAIN: Oscuro Magazine
2 Minuts d’Odi – Cuidad De Dios
2 Minuts d’Odi (“2 Minutes Of Hate”) are part of the “Brave Coast Punk-Rockers” movement which extends throughout the Costa Brava. Cuidad De Dios (“City Of God”) is a song against religion which speaks of the Palestinian problem and the bad influences that hatred and violence can have on a kid growing thirst for revenge.
Jenny Bjˆrkqvist – To Heal Your Wounds
To Heal Your Wounds by Jenny Bjˆrkqvist is a song that successfully straddles the worlds of indie and folk – it would be as comfortable hanging out with Nick Drake or Jose Gonzalez as it would be spending time with Dylan or Guthrie. Friend and fellow neo-folkie Tim Schmidt contributes vocals on this track.
UNITED STATES: I Guess I’m Floating
Vikesh Kapoor – Mack The Knife
Vikesh Kapoor is an up-and-coming acoustic artist, currently based near Boston, who writes ballads which draw their strength from storytelling-type lyricism. After making appearances in Billboard and The Boston Globe, Kapoor is releasing his Newspress Scare 7″ featuring this great rendition of the Kurt Weill-composed Mack The Knife.
El Pacto – Hyperdance En La Curva De San Pablo
El Pacto are music legends in the city of Barquisimeto. Since 1992, they have been devoted to merging rock, pop, jazz, ska and folk music in a sound so original and vanguardist, they have even influenced famous national bands like Amigos Invisibles. Their shows ususally include circus-like performances with actors and acrobats. Hyperdance En La Curva De San Pablo is taken from the album of the same name.
To download all 34 songs in one file click here