Monthly Archives: January 2011

#324 Marc Ribot – The Kid

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.

mp3: Marc Ribot – The Kid

Marc Ribot’s Silent Movies is out now on Pi Recordings.


#323 Choir of Young Believers – Hollow Talk

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.

mp3: Choir of Young Believers – Hollow Talk

We’ll Never Stop Living This Way is a digital release available now from the Ghostly Store. It comes bundled with a pdf version of The Ghostly Book.

My First Zaireeka Listening Party

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.

mp3: The Flaming Lips – Thirty-Five Thousand Feet Of Despair (Disc 1)

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).

Our Favorite Gigs of 2010

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.

mp3: The XX – Crystalised

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.

mp3: Dinosaur Jr – Been There All The Time

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.

mp3: B Quartet – A Dull Taste On My Tongue

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.

mp3: Broken Social Scene – Forced to Love

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.

mp3: Belle and Sebastian – Judy And The Dream Of Horses (Live at BBC)

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.

mp3: Typewriter – That Deepest Blue (Haramain Mix)

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.

mp3: Sun Kil Moon – Carry Me Ohio

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.

mp3: Shelves – One Live Baby
(Heh, we realized later that this was actually in 2009, but who’s keeping score aye?)

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.

mp3: The Flaming Lips – Do You Realize

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.

mp3: The Observatory – Invisible Room

Snakeweed Sessions – Monster Cat

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.

mp3: Monster Cat – Underwater (Live at Snakeweed)

Music Alliance Pact – January 2011 Issue

SINGAPORE: I’m Waking Up To…
Kevin LesterRockstar 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.

To download all 35 songs in one file click here

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Our Favorite EPs of 2010

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.

mp3: Bart & Friends – A Summer’s Dream

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.

mp3: Dirty Projectors + Björk – On and Ever Onward

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.

mp3: Forest Swords – Miarches

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.

mp3: Funeral For A Friend – Damned If You Do, Dead If You Don’t

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.

mp3: Girls – Broken Dreams Club

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.

mp3: James Blake – I’ll Stay

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.

mp3: James Blake – I Only Know (What I Know Now)

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.

mp3: The Jezabels – A Little Piece

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.

mp3: Tanlines – Real Life

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.

mp3: The Tallest Man on Earth – Little River