Monthly Archives: May 2011

#347 Yellow Fang – หมึก ใหม่ ปิ๊กโก้

We were really excited when we found out that Yellow Fang was playing the night we arrived in Bangkok. By the time we checked into our accomodation and figured our way to Stu-Fe – the studio cafe opened by the Monotone group of artists and musicians – the Yellow Fang set had already ended. Of course we still had an awesome time, with Ball Jarulove and his rotating ensemble of friends (which included Yellow Fang’s Pimporn Metchanun) delivering a spontaneous and immensely enjoyable performance, never mind we were totally clueless about the Thai banter in between songs.

We were still determined to hunt down the Yellow Fang EP, but were disappointed once again to find that it’s been sold out. Nonetheless, we still made off with quite a harvest from the trusty DJ Siam (smaller shop space now no?), records that I’ll feature here in time to come. In the meantime, though, I’ll share with you our single consolation from the latest Smallroom Records compilation CD: Yellow Fang’s newly recorded and mastered หมึก ใหม่ ปิ๊กโก้ (something about picking a new elegant ink?), a Stereolab-meets-PJ Harvey track that parties all the way in the most fashionable new-wave chic. – Dan.

mp3: Yellow Fang – หมึก ใหม่ ปิ๊ก โก้

Yellow Fang and many other fabulous Thai indie bands are featured on Smallroom 007: Boutique, a new compilation by Smallroom Records.


#346 Gil Scott-Heron – Running

Gil Scott-Heron just passed away yesterday. I felt as if I was just getting to know him, having only recently gotten acquainted through his I’m New Here album. And his work does have that effect on you, of knowing him better though never fully. In “Running”, he begins with an answer, an explanation, knowing already what my questions were or could have been. It’s honest without needing to be confessional, drawing upon that which I instantly identify with, yet saying so much more than I could ever put into words. He tells me running will be the way his life and mine will be described, but he also leaves that final question hanging, at least for the moment or until I finally catch up to ask again. – Dan.

mp3: Gil Scott-Heron – Running

Snakeweed Sessions #3 – Monster Cat

No prizes for guessing which Singapore band we’ve been most excited by these days. In the wake of their meticulously woven Mannequins EP, Monster Cat‘s Snakeweed Session makes for a most intriguing comparison. While the title track sounds at once edgy and dramatic, the band chooses to let their acoustic rendition roll off a little lighter with melodies blending into each other delightfully. Strangely, it’s their live performance and not their studio recording that calls out their penchant for post-millenia Radiohead balladry.

I’m trying to understand“. These opening words present the band understatedly as a work in progress, in spite of the reality that they’ve clearly come a long way to make it here. “These Hands” works well as a last song precisely because it sums up this tension with such achingly beautiful pangs of longing, that insatiable yearning for more when so much has already been given. The video, like the record, feels just right, even if you wished it lasted a little bit longer. – Dan.

mp3: Monster Cat – These Hands

I’m Waking Up To is a proud supporter of Snakeweed Sessions, which brings our favorite musicians to Snakeweed Studios in Singapore.

Mannequins is up for free download until the end of May. The physical cd package will be released on June 7, with pre-orders available now.

Music Alliance Pact – May 2011 Issue

SINGAPORE: I’m Waking Up To…
Monster CatMannequins
It intertwines like a ball of yarn unraveling as feline claws playfully pounce upon their five-track debut EP Mannequins. The guilty party is collectively known as Monster Cat, who at first mention do not hint at their psycho-folk-rock tendencies. Yet, as you sink deeper into their depravity, it starts to make perfect sense. Mannequins is a bold debut that bares all and holds nothing back, along with all the vulnerability of a gentle kitten. You can download their EP for free via their website during the month of May and pledge your allegiance. – Brian.

To download all 36 songs in one file click here. MAP is published on the 15th of every month, featuring a showcase of music handpicked by 36 bloggers from all over the world.

Continue reading

#345 Kangding Ray – Pruitt Igoe (Rise)

This Saturday, Berlin-based sound artist Kangding Ray will present his response to Fort Canning Hill in Singapore. Traditionally a forbidden burial site for Malay royalty and colonially the vantage residence of British governors, the hill now becomes the compositional subject for the second installment of INSITU, a project that brings multi-disciplinary artists to selected sites in Asia to create original works mapping out their physical encounter with the space/place. Simple idea with intriguing possibilities, arguably a logical progression from Kangding Ray’s previous work.

In 2010’s Pruitt Igoe single, the myth surrounding the epic failure of the 1950’s St. Louis housing project is transposed into two movements depicting its rise and fall, accompanied by remodelling and demolition works by Alva Noto and Ben Frost. While the interpretive process is relatively straightforward and even literal at parts, Kangding Ray’s choice of depicting the project’s trajectory is spot on in capturing with dramatic irony and bone-crushing precision the doomed implosion of the modernist spirit. Here, even the field recorded street singers from Uttar Pradesh sound tragically trapped in the track’s rigorously imposed structure.

Yet, it’s one thing to interpret a site’s historical journey from afar with the luxury of hindsight and distance, but quite another to respond directly and personally to one, in situ. How Kangding Ray chooses to deal with the latter is perhaps what I’m most looking forward to this Saturday. – Dan.

mp3: Kangding Ray – Pruitt Igoe (Rise)

Kangding Ray performs this Saturday at the Esplanade Recital Studio. Tickets are available from Sistic. INSITU is organised by Beautiful / Banal as part of the Singapore Arts Festival. Pruitt Igoe is out now on Raster-noton.

Polling Day Special: The Clash

Today promises to be an electoral clash between the incumbent ruling party and the emergent, vociferous opposition as Singaporeans head to the polls, many for the first time. With almost all parliamentary seats being contested, you could call it a watershed moment in the nation’s history, or at the very least, a political awakening of sorts. Before making our way to the polling booths, we cast our votes on our favorite songs by The Clash, knowing full well the time is now – Singapore’s calling.

Complete Control (from the U.S. version of The Clash, 1979)
The Clash have always been about defiance to me. From the thumping of the floor toms to the opening guitar riffs, one of the pioneers of the modern punk and post punk styles, has been invigorating generation after generation with a call to arms to stick it to the man. As I listen back to the tunes of The Clash in the heat of political upheaval in Singapore, waves of defiance take over as I remember what it was to be a teenager, and how it was when we had opinions that didn’t matter but we had nothing to lose. All that mattered was that we weren’t the zombies and the cogs in the machine that you wanted us to be, and we could think for ourselves, putting our destiny in the faith of our choices. – Brian.

mp3: The Clash – Complete Control

Train in Vain (from London Calling, 1980)
Sometime around 2002 I bought London Calling and heard The Clash for the first time, but like The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, I couldn’t connect with the album then. I couldn’t get past Joe Strummer’s accent (what is it, Cockney?) and I was doubly alienated by the lyrical references, from Spanish bombs in Andalucía to the guns of Brixton. These places were as geographically far away from Singapore as they were in my provincial imagination.

However, the biggest wall for me to climb was the music itself. I expected punk music from The Clash, but I didn’t hear anything like punk. I had no idea then that The Clash were such a bold group, whose repertoire included raggae, ska, and funk … far beyond what we think of as punk rock.

But on London Calling one song stood out, and it was the last song on the album. “Train in Vain” is an excellent single, even if it isn’t the most adventurous; musically it doesn’t flirt as much with other genres beyond rock as The Clash do on the rest of the album. The melody is simple and the lyrics straightforward – and I believe this is one of their few love songs. Sung from the perspective of a man deserted by his lover, he bluntly accuses the latter: “Well some things you can explain away/But my heartache’s in me till this day/Did you stand by me?/No not at all.”

When I listen to London Calling now, it’s apparent how complex and forward-thinking The Clash were for their time. I’m also surprised at how my perspective of “Train in Vain” has since changed. The sadness and anger felt by the protagonist used to move me very much; but now what really hits me is how he seems so helpless: “But you don’t understand my point of view. I suppose there’s nothing I can do.” I wonder if that’s true. – Song-Ming.

mp3: The Clash – Train In Vain

Straight to Hell (from Combat Rock, 1982)
There are few songs that romanticize the lacerating aura of doom and disillusionment quite as definitively as The Clash do on “Straight To Hell”, a mesmerizing rock odyssey that captures Joe Strummer at his most fervently poetic. While The Clash’s legacy may be defined mostly by the sheer intensity and unfettered revolutionary tenor of their punk anthems, the languid “Straight To Hell” suggests a slight change of pace and injects a heightened mood of despair that devolves into pure sonic fodder for Strummer to flesh out his mournful lament. As with many of Strummer’s compositions, “Straight To Hell” is stuffed with political commentaries, his lyrics protesting the plight of immigrants, among other subjects. Loose and lucid, The Clash members also sounded like they were at the absolute top of their game as musicians on this tune; the rippling sound design conjures a sense of claustrophobia that echoes the conflicted chivalry of outlaws who never stop to consider, even when the end is nigh, about whether it was really all worthwhile. Go straight to hell, boys. – Keith.

mp3: The Clash – Straight To Hell

Should I Stay or Should I Go (from Live at Shea Stadium, 2008 [1982])
I’ve always found the album version of “Should I Stay or Should I Go” too safe, calculated and deliberate for its own good. It never fails to soldier on with that uncompromising beat, every quickening step just a tease that never got explosive enough for my liking. I can’t quite pin it down, but I get the feeling they were holding something back, and it just doesn’t feel right. A much bigger favorite of mine is the live version of the song, performed at breakneck pace at Shea Stadium in October 1982. Its opening scream hits you harder, the drums thump at greater velocity, and most importantly, it has a swagger that’s hard to beat. With this version, I find my heart fighting to match its pace as I dive right into that classic catch-22, perversely relishing the dilemma and the conflicting drama that unfolds. Of course no answers are given, even in this sterling performance, only nagging, festering indecision. – Dan.

mp3: The Clash – Should I Stay or Should I Go (Live at Shea Stadium)

#344 Cass McCombs – The Lonely Doll

Wit’s End, the latest album by American singer-songwriter Cass McCombs, is a dark and maladroit pop masterpiece that leaves behind a strong residue of loneliness with every listen. On these eight intimately arranged songs, McCombs sounds like someone wrestling with stained memories, condemned to a tedious eternity of wakeful nights spent obsessing over absent ladies and sad-eyed muses. “The Lonely Doll” oozes with starlit melodies that pull Wit’s End into a sustained mood of nocturama — entirely serene and waltzing in deathly patterns, as if being spirited away by exterminating angels desirous of a silent spring. – Keith.

mp3: Cass McCombs – The Lonely Doll

Wit’s End is available on Domino Records.