Monthly Archives: June 2011

#354 Seapony – I Never Would

I’ve just finished reading 03, Jean-Christophe Valtat’s novella about a precocious high school student’s coming of age in the eighties, in one torrid sitting on a Sunday morning (with The Cure, Joy Division and The Smiths as super-emo background noise). Sublimely written in one single unbroken eighty-page paragraph, 03 wallows unabashedly in the inflated romantic confusion of a teenager in love — in this case, a lonely boy’s feelings for a mentally handicapped girl he encounters every day in the French suburbs — and yet there is an aching sensibility to Valtat’s prose that would resonate strongly with anyone who has experienced similar growth pangs. Nostalgia is a pretty strange business, and (in the same manner as what I have done with Valtat’s book) there is this same rush of adolescent immediacy to Seapony’s “I Never Would” that I am starting to identify with: that vintage jangly C86 influence, the shimmering pop melodies, the wistfulness in singer Jen Weidl’s vocals that suggests something more than superficial sadness. – Keith.

mp3: Seapony – I Never Would

Order Seapony’s debut album Go With Me on Hardly Art.


#353 Tune-Yards – Powa

Undoubtedly, the focal point in the music of Tune-Yards is Merril Garbus’ voice. Intense and disciplined, it channels an immense depth of emotion and state of being, expressed across a staggering hybrid of reggae, soul, jazz and folk influences. But it’s not the only thing worth listening to on Tune-Yards’ recent second album. Without sounding congested, w h o k i l l delights in musical complexity and rewards handsomely for each closer listen. On the standout slow-jam “Powa”, Garbus’ self-assured vocals prove unshakable, whether she’s cooing softly at the start, growling in increasing tension with each chorus, or breaking out into an impossible falsetto near the end. Yet it’s not difficult noticing the other layers that make the song what it is – the forceful ukelele strums, the angelic harmonies and evilish riffs, the luxurious reverb, and that wandering bassline that gratefully laps up anything in between. Its power inside, it rocks you like a lullaby. – Dan.

mp3: Tune-Yards – Powa

w h o k i l l is out now on 4AD.

#352 Lapalux – Time, Patience, Everything

Some thoughts and observations on this new Lapalux track:
1. This is the soundtrack for the moment, not for any specific event. Long, stretched moments, preferably.
2. I guess this is what you’d call atmospheric music, yet its movement and content betray its underlying pop/r&b aspirations.
3. It’s hard to explain, but if you listen on headphones, the sounds slide up your ears. Just try it.
4. The title sounds like an unnecessary weight on the track, but I must admit it sums things up quite nicely. – Dan.

mp3: Lapalux – Time, Patience, Everything

Lapalux’s new EP Many Faces Out of Focus is out on Pictures Music. The limited run cassete tape is sold out, and is now available digitally.

Music Alliance Pact – June 2011 Issue

SINGAPORE: I’m Waking Up To…
Humming KittenMonochrome
Little is known of Humming Kitten, and we get the impression they’d like to keep it that way. It is a little disconcerting at first, approaching this musical project without any preconceived ideas of who or what the band members are, and appreciating their musical ideas purely at face value and on first impressions. However, once you soak it all in, you might feel that they’ve been there all along, lurking at your blogs or gigs. Revealing the chief conspirator as an entity known as Keyboard Cat, and that they favour a lo-fi noise-pop approach to their pieces, Humming Kitten ultimately sound so lonely with solitude as their ally. – 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.

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INSITU Fort Canning – Reflections

It was always going to be an interesting collaboration, not simply because of the multi-disciplinary and multi-national backgrounds of the artists involved in this second installment of INSITU, but also the context of the subject of their work – Fort Canning Hill in Singapore. Known as the Forbidden Hill in pre-colonial times because of its believed designation as the burial site of Malay royalty, the Hill was subseqeuntly appropriated by the British as Government Hill and later fortified and named after the Governor General of India. No longer a fort today, the hill nonetheless remains a site bearing much historical and geographical significance.

INSITU Fort Canning began with a quote from David Mazzucchelli from his graphic novel Asterios Polyp on the re-creative character of memory, something that is actively constructed in the present when summoned. This was appropriate considering how the audio, visual, textual and performative responses of the artists – Kangding Ray, Taisuke Koyama, June Yap and Boedi Widjaja respectively – attempted to actively engage with memory not as a relic of the past but as a conversation between the past and present, a mapping of the relationship between the historical and biographical, between subject and artist.

Photographer Taisuke Koyama, for example, could not neglect his personal response to the hill as situated within his identity as a Japanese and his attempt to deal with the hill’s history during the Japanese Occupation. For curator and writer June Yap, it was the interweaving of historical narratives with present-day ones in a semi-fictional recited text. And through the perspective of visual artist and project founder Boedi Widjaja, INSITU was birthed from his personal struggle with the problematic process of remembering home. It’s no wonder that the force of each artist’s work resonated powerfully, especially Widjaja’s routine involving the rhythmic clashing of chalk against paper on a table top, a performance that was personally catharthic whilst more broadly symbolic of the violence enacted on the hill via its many rewritten scripts through time.

You could say that as a whole, it was the soundtrack by Berlin-based artist Kangding Ray that strung the performance together, not in a unifying way but as held in precarious tension. Beginning with traditional gamelan and setting the tone with his own field recordings on the hill, KR proceeded to explore the space by introducing his distinct brand of bass-heavy electronica. While the local(ized) sounds are embraced as intimate contextual engagements with the hill, KR’s own material tended to exist on a different level of abstraction, and it is here that his intervention might be considered most divisive. One wonders, for instance, if it feels somewhat decontextualised from the rest of the artists’ contributions; yet, it smartly avoids the trap of literalism by choosing to express itself through a deliberately foreign sound, one that communicates most forcefully through the varying intensities of rhythm and the careful shifts in sonic textures.

Kangding Ray’s approach captures nicely the broader dynamics of collaboration in INSITU Fort Canning, with its discontinuities and interpretations that tend to vacillate between the hill’s primary contexts and tangents of extrapolation that are not immediately obvious. It is this degree of uncertainty and complexity of responses that is ultimately the most fitting tribute to the Hill itself, with its vast and multi-faceted histories embedded within, both told and untold, speakable and unspeakable. – Dan.

mp3: Kangding Ray – World Within Wordsfrom Automne Fold (2008)

INSITU Fort Canning was organized by Singapore-based art practice Beautiful / Banal. Kangding Ray’s latest album Or is now out on raster-noton.

#351 Battles – Ice Cream

Even with the departure of Tyondai Braxton’s cartoonish warbbles, Battles‘ sonic palette has hardly changed. And as a trio, they sound just as tight as their 2007 debut full length Mirrored, owing in no small part to John Stanier’s taut and rock solid drumming. The playfulness and abstract humor, such a charming feature of Mirrored, continues to characterize their new album Gloss Drop. But something’s changed too. Things seem less frenetic and muscular, with the same high level of energy channeled pop- and groove-wards instead. In lead-single “Ice Cream”, the band seems determined not just to create an insanely fun track, but an immensely enjoyable, intruigingly human one. – Dan.

mp3: Battles – Ice Cream (Featuring Matias Aguayo)

Gloss Drop is out now on Warp.

#350 Efrim Manuel Menuck – Our Lady of Parc Extension and Her Munificent Sorrows

The music of Efrim Menuck may be criticized for being simplistic or even naive. Whether delivered in stirring apocalyptic terms in Godspeed You! Black Emperor or channeled through the mournful communal excursions of A Silver Mt Zion, Menuck’s musical vision is a stubbornly straightforward one, an outpouring of emotional force regardless of medium or form. As a self-confessed fan, I’m not embarrassed to admit my willing subjection to this treatment (or might you say manipulation?), or even how much this unadulterated experientialism appeals to me.

But Menuck’s recent solo effort, Efrim Manuel Menuck Plays “High Gospel”, explores a new dimension to the Montreal-based musician and studio engineer’s work. While capable of delivering crushing intensity and overwhelming sorrow like any GY!BE or ASMZ record, High Gospel is decidedly more crafted and varied, and less inhibited to experiment or even detour. In the opening track, for instance, soul-stirring drone is weaved intricately with familiar choral manifestoes, only to be interjected by a dizzying array of electronic signals. Emotions still ride high, reaching even new heights at some points, only this time they seem less raw and perhaps more believable. – Dan.

mp3: Efrim Manuel Menuck – Our Lady of Parc Extension and Her Munificent Sorrows

Efrim Manuel Menuck Plays “High Gospel” is out now on Constellation.