It had me within the first few chimes of its opening notes. There is something in “The Kid” that speaks to me, the languid phrasing, the strange yet a familiar chord changes. Such care and delicacy in the fingerpicking. It is reassuring and calming. If it were words it would be sagely advice. It makes me want to love.
There are no fireworks here, no intricate fretwork, no distortion. Expression comes in the form of a clean tone and a light touch of reverb and tremolo. When a song has a soul, it is quietly confident, and never sounds like it needs to be heard. And perhaps this is why Ribot’s Silent Movies remains an underrated album. – Song-Ming Ang.
We’ll Never Stop Living This Way is the unapologetic title of Ghostly International‘s self-attempted retrospective of their illustrious eleven year history, released as a companion to their upcoming The Ghostly Book. Having only starting listening to their releases along the likes of Matthew Dear and Gold Panda quite recently, I found this a fitting primer to what the Michigan-based label has been all about. One of the highlights for me was the opening track off Choir of Young Believers‘ debut album, This is For the White in Your Eyes. “Hollow Talk”, with the mournful vocals of Jannis Noya Makrigiannis accompanied by a delicately treading piano, occurs in an addictively elliptical form. Even with things growing in intensity, Makrigiannis reminds us repeatedly of how it all goes back to where it started, ending eventually on a tentative, sobering and yes, hollow, note: “Never said it was good, never said it was new/ Muted whisper of the things you feel“. – Dan.
Yes, I know I’m more than ten years late, but last night I participated in my first ever Zaireeka listening party. Organized by the Substation’s associate artist Song-Ming Ang as part of his two-week long Sonic Visions series, this event involved the simultaneous playing of multiple copies of Zaireeka, itself an ambitious 4-cd album intended for concurrent playback for a quadrophonic aural experience, an album I always wished I owned.
Zaireeka was birthed from the Flaming Lips‘ parking lot experiments, a synchronized playing of cassettes on multiple car stereos. In his adoption of Wayne Coyne’s role in those sessions as orchestral conductor, Song-Ming sought to create a similarlly communal listening experience by inviting participants to bring their own CD-playing equipment and speakers, and subsequently work together in synching the playback of almost twenty CDs.
What fun we all had, and such satisfaction gleaned from getting as close as we could to coordinating our small but important finger-pressing tasks. Yet, to focus on perfection in execution would be missing the point of it all, which was so much more to do with embracing uncertainty and learning to relate to music in its spatial dimension. Song-Ming gamely let us toy with different arrangements too, encouraging us to walk around for some songs and sit down for the later ones while dimming the lights, and indulging our pleas for a spontaneous random-track encore finale.
Halfway through, I remembered how I used to dream, long ago, of having a room with walls made of speakers, to be quite literally surrounded by sound. Last night, I think I realized at least a part of that dream by partaking in a mindblowing experience that will never be recreated in the same way again. In the midst of the bombast, though, I think I’ve come to appreciate also the parts that make the whole, and it’s one part of Zaireeka that I dug up from my old Race for the Prize single that’s all I have to leave you with now. – Dan.
Sonic Visions is a series of events organized by Song-Ming Ang at the Substation in conjunction with his first solo exhibition in Singapore, You and I (14 Jan – 9 Feb 2011 at the Substation Random Room).
What a blast 2010 has been, especially with the sheer number of concerts we’ve had this year. Here’s some of our favorite moments.
7 Feb: XX @ Esplanade Concert Hall
Though the XX was opening for Florence and the Machine, their short set at the start of the gig was my highlight of the night. I still remember standing quite near the front, having every bass and beat shake my body to the core, and feeling the goosebumps induced by relishing and experiencing firsthand the band’s understated cool. – Dan.
16 Mar: Dinosaur Jr. @ Esplanade Theatre
My colleague captured it best when she described this gig, part of the Mosaic Music Festival 2010 program, as an unplanned reunion party where you catch up with all your old buddies from school … and everyone is wearing the same stupid outfits from back then! Nostalgia aside, the grizzled veterans of the reunited Dinosaur Jr. played a loose and appropriately loud set that featured their signature brand of melodic discordance. – Keith.
11 Apr: B Quartet @ Esplanade Recital Studio
These Singaporeans boys are musicians who deliver a hundred percent in a recorded album, and go the distance when they play live. I remember being enthralled by Bani Haykal flitting in and out, between worlds as he sang his beautiful poetry or played the Xaphoon. The rest of the band thundered along like it was following lightning, and for those of us who were in the audience, we were swept up in the storm of one of Singapore’s finest bands, and secretly wanting to be as good as them. – Brian.
27 Jul: Broken Social Scene @ Esplanade Concert Hall
Three to four guitars on stage, horn players come out, synthesizers going out of their mind, and is that a horn section coming out? How do they do it? How does a band have so many members and instruments on the same stage and yet, sound like they were each in the center of the universe? It remains a mystery, and is a beautiful reminder that music has no rules, no time to go unheard and it’s a hella fun to be playing with your friends. – Brian.
7 Aug: Belle & Sebastian @ Esplanade Concert Hall
I’d loved to have caught Belle & Sebastian about more than ten years ago during their Sinister tour, but I’d settle for this anytime, especially when they played that song which made me fall in love over and over with that album. Yes, “Judy and the Dream of Horses” came late into the set, but that’s where it belongs, that captivating surprise near the end that keeps you longing for more. – Dan.
17 Sep: Typewriter @ Home
What heart, soul and infectious energy Singaporean band Typewriter exuded throughout this pulsating set. Their debut album Indian Head Massage had been a long time in the waiting, so this launch had an emotionally charged and liberating dynamic that probably won’t be reproduced again, with the band soaking in every glorious moment. – Dan.
29 Sep: Sun Kil Moon @ Chamber at the Arts House
Attending Mark Kozelek’s intimate solo performance at the old parliament building in Singapore was akin to being caught in a convulsion of the music’s strange serene beauty. Mark played most of the new songs from the recent Admiral Fell Promises album, as well as reworking a few of the more memorable of the older Sun Kil Moon tunes (“Glenn Tipton” and “Heron Blue” were particularly lovely) – but the standout for me, and no doubt for other longtime Red House Painters fan, is the roiling rendition of “Void”. – Keith.
8 Oct Keeping It Peel @ POW
This was one of my favourite gigs because it’s slightly personal. Y’see, I play bass in Shelves, who closed the night at this John Peel memorial gig. It was also our debut. I remember the encouragement of our friends and peers, and the energy that went into rehearsal, performing in a makeshift band pit, playing hard, loud, and sometimes too fast. I remember my fellow band members, the jittery excitement, the nervous beers before (and after), and overall, I remember why I still do what I do. – Brian.
11 Nov: The Flaming Lips @ Marina Bay Sands
It was like part two of a dream come true to finally attend a Lips gig (part one being fulfilled at the Mercury Rev one some years back), and what a show this turned out to be. It wasn’t as if we didn’t expect confetti cannons or Wayne-in-giant-balloon sightings, but actually being there and sharing in the euphoria of the moment was quite an unbelievable experience. Nothing that night was too weird to be celebrated, except perhaps the most baffling omission of anything at all from The Soft Bulletin. – Dan.
11 Dec: The Observatory @ National Museum of Singapore
There are perhaps few better choices in the world other than The Observatory to compose an original score and provide the live musical accompaniment to a recent screening of A Page of Madness, Teinosuke Kinugasa’s haunting 1928 silent film. The controlled and yet improvisational nature of The Observatory’s 1½ hour-long performance created a disturbing ambience for the fractured narrative set in an insane asylum, the subtle instrumentation and electronics navigating the contours of an enigmatic film masterpiece whose visual poetry was well ahead of its time. – Keith.
It’s with much excitement that we share something that’s been brewing for a while, which is now seeing the light of day. Snakeweed Sessions is a video project that takes place at, as you’ve guessed it, the legendary Snakeweed Studios in Singapore. For the uninitiated, Snakeweed holds an important place in the annals of local music history. Formed and run by music producer and engineer Leonard Soosay, it has been the setting for many great local albums, featuring some of our more recent favorite bands like B-Quartet and I Am David Sparkle.
I’m Waking Up To is proud to be supporting and collaborating on this project, which gets both local and international bands and artists into Snakeweed Studios for a short live set and interview. The videos will be subsequently shared and broadcast on our partner Singapore music blogs like Power of Pop, We Talk Music and Adventures in Solitude.
For the pilot episode of Snakeweed Sessions, we have chosen up-and-coming Singapore band Monster Cat, who have a debut EP titled Mannequins due for release later this spring. In this clip, the band gives us a sneak preview to that upcoming release with “Underwater”, a breathtaking piece that builds the tension beneath its dreamfolk veneer, restlessly surfacing later with quiet intensity. Watch out for this promising new band, and stay tuned for more Snakeweed Sessions coming your way. – Dan.
SINGAPORE: I’m Waking Up To… Kevin Lester – Rockstar 2.0 feat Vanessa Fernandez
Hip hop isn’t something one associates with Singapore’s music scene, but it exists, usually even more underground than rock, metal or hardcore. Ironically, it’s in response to rampant commercial radio that the local music community, regardless of style, has become a close-knit family. In his debut, Kevin Lester brings out the collaborative and experimental strengths of hip hop, forging a sound with slashes of rock and soul, and working with some of the country’s best singers to put out a record with incredible heart and talent. – Brian.
Ah, the Extended Player, meatier than the single, more concise than the full-length. Whether as a stop-gap between albums, a medium for collaboration, or as an introductory work, the EP remains relevant, perhaps all the more with an increasingly ADHD-inflicted generation of music listeners. Whatever it is, we love them too, so here are some of our favorites.
Bart & Friends – Make You Blush (Lost and Lonesome)
A set of unexpected new material from twee-pop stalwart Bart Cummings (Cat’s Miaow, the Shapiros), and it’s wonderful that he brought a few of his old friends along (notably Pam Berry) for the occasion. Make You Blush, eight songs of pop wonderment that altogether clock in at less than 15 minutes, is entrancing music calibrated for life’s miniature moments that are no less significant. – Keith.
Dirty Projectors + Björk – Mount Wittenberg Orca (Self Released)
Even though this sounds more like a Dirty Projectors work than a Björk one (it was written by Dave Longstreth after all), we hear a tidy contribution from all parties, particularly their voices which are distilled with delightful clarity. Because of how distinctive both parties already are, nothing really new emerges from this collaboration but for the not-too-surprising affirmation that yeah, they do sound great together. – Dan.
Forest Swords – Dagger Paths (Olde English Spelling Bee)
Strains of paranoia echo throughout Dagger Paths, the mesmerizing debut release of one-man electronic outfit Forest Swords. The operative word here is “atmospheric”, as this hazy British coastal-jam music conjures up the fractured moods and alienating drones that are strictly the domain of midnight sonic strategists. – Keith.
Funeral For A Friend – The Young And Defenceless (Join Us)
I’d been eagerly anticipating listening to a Funeral For A Friend effort that would take me back to their much heavier discography from earlier years. Well, the Welsh boys have delivered, and the familiar palm-muted, double kicking post-core sound of yesteryear returns with enough decibels to induce aneurism. – Brian.
Girls – Broken Dreams Club (True Panther)
“I just want to get high, but everyone keeps bringing me down”, Christopher Owens sighs on the title track of Girls‘ follow up to their lo-fi debut Album. While dealing with same themes of unavoidable heartbreak, this EP cleans up the sloppy mess they’d left on the floor from that previous outing. They’re careful, though, not to overdo it, opting this time for an elegantly wasted confessional that remains no less vulnerable and broken. – Dan.
James Blake – CMYK (R&S)
Even if you missed The Bells Sketch earlier in 2010, James Blake‘s subsequent EP must have caught your attention. Set to an airy atmospheric, CMYK twists and chops its way into your subconscious, picking out fragments of stuff you’re sure you’ve heard before in some distant past before morphing and piecing them together in a stunningly new configuration. Wow. – Dan.
James Blake – Klavierwerke (R&S)
Siren voices hold sway over James Blake’s Klavierwerke, German for “piano works” and the most fully realized of the three EPs released by the prolific 22-year-old British electronic composer in 201o, his masterful manipulation of his own vocals (dude can fucking sing, by the way) matching the seams of shape-shifting music noir. Elegant centerpiece “I Only Know (What I Know Now)” is the main draw here with its moody electronics that uncannily evokes the warped sensation of being caught inside a bell jar, lending a ghostly ambience that reverberates throughout this four-song EP. – Keith.
The Jezabels – Dark Storm (Self Released)
I first heard their music on a short film Way Back Home that featured stunt biker Danny MacAskill. The Jezabels are gifted with writing music that grips you at first listen. They hold nothing back on this EP, and sail with you across vast oceans of thrilling delayed guitars and Hayley Mary’s haunting falsettos. – Brian.
Tanlines – Settings (True Panther)
I didn’t think much about this debut EP from Tanlines when it first came out, but with every accidental listen, I’ve been finding myself loving it more and more. Suited mostly for the tropics, as I’m sure the outfit’s name suggests, Settings in all its joyous production makes for really fun, uplifting listening. – Dan.
The Tallest Man on Earth – Sometimes the Blues is Just a Passing Bird (Dead Oceans)
The songs on this EP sound raw and stripped to its core, but always fully realised with Kristian Mattson‘s jarringly heartfelt vocals taking centerstage. It’s a fittingly stark treatment that demonstrates the strength of the songwriting, which shows itself to be rich though never bloated in imagery, introspective yet piercing. – Dan.
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
your generous donation will contribute to the running of this site. thanks!