Sigur Ros @ Fort Canning Park (23.11.12)

Reykjavík, Iceland – an exotic, mysterious, and beautiful Nordic town surrounded by sand, lava fields, mountains and glaciers. It is actually foretelling that such an enigmatic part of the world is made famous by one of the most inexplicably talented and deliciously strange music-makers, Sigur Rós. So when it was first announced that these Icelandic geniuses were gracing our sunny shores, I almost popped a gasket. As most of my frivolous dreams, I never thought I’d be able to experience the Sigur Rós phenomenon for myself. Needless to say, I pinned high expectations on Jonsi and the gang.

I remember hearing Ágætis byrjun for the first time in the early 2000s and thinking to myself that this is what beauty must feel like. The cello-bowed guitarwork, the intricate orchestration and the ethereal falsetto were all peculiarly stunning, culled gently from an island far, far away. The allure of the band was in the novelty of these aspects, especially singing in Volenksa – a non-literal unintelligible form of language.  2005’s Takk and 2007’s Heima/Heiv also captured the essence of a unique sonic experience that only Sigur Rós can carry off. Because a large portion of their songs are made up of their magic formula of a quiet start, powerful build-up and magnificent release, visual effects are key. For me, a lot of the mystery and the goosebump-worthy moments that are quintessential of a Sigur Ros album were whittled away between Heima and Valtari but I was hoping that this live experience would help reignite my ‘A-ha’ moment that I got listening to Agaetis Byrjun.

Let’s face it – Sigur Ros’ music is best heard over the course of an album and viscerally rewarding when accompanied by the picturesque nature of their homeland. That was why I was so surprised at the choice of venue. I thought that the Esplanade would have been a better choice to listen closely to the complexities of this cinematic and auditory experience – and I was right. Right from the get go, the harmonious introduction of Í Gær was interrupted by a group of young revelers who seemed to be there for the wrong reasons. They were in a drunken stupor, talking over the music and making fun of Jonsi’s falsetto. Thankfully, they moved away and then did I really get to notice the set-up of the stage. The long, white tent on the left blocked everyone from seeing the full-stage set-up. If I hadn’t moved closer, I would not have seen the baby grand piano or the other half of the string and horn section. Hence, I already did not like the way the stage was set up. I kept thinking how different it would be should the concert have been at the Esplanade instead.

Having said that, Sigur Ros have proven that they can make music pretty and unpredictable – and they sure focused on that. On Vaka and Svefn – g- elar, Jonsi and his anonymous conjurers cooed away beautifully. The audience rejoiced in excitement after the first note of each song, remained in semi-quiet contemplation in the mellow portions and raised their arms wildly during the releases. Admittedly, I was irritatingly distracted, as a lot of the concert-goers were, it seemed. The crowd perked up during Seaglopur, which is one of their most recognizable ‘made-for-inspiring-moment-in-film’ (Life of Pi) tracks. It was almost scarily en pointe – musical verbatim from their EP of the same name. The peak of the concert (minus the encore) was definitely their most loved hit, Hopipolla. The crowd came to life, many singing along and my heart sang in the beauty of the moment.

As the clouds gathered and the thunderstorm loomed, so did the Heavens speak to us, this change in weather coincided with their grandiose encore. The drizzle accompanied the quieter moments of Ekki Mukk and Popplagio;  and as the thunderstorm struck along with the brassy fanfare and cymbal-bashing crescendo of Popplagio, the crowd roared with approval and awe as did Jonsi and the gang, as seen by their gaping mouths and passionate playing. I have to say that these two songs were probably the best moments of the hour and a half set.

Although the repertoire was strong, considering they pulled from a lot of their old albums and nary was a mistake heard, something was still lacking for me – and I’m pretty sure it was the absence of interaction. As most live sets go, it is so crucial to say something. Anything.  Unfortunately, because of they didn’t interact, I did not feel the way I thought I would. Yes it was good, even great in some moments, but the distracting crowd, wrong venue and lack of interaction did not make it a mind-blowingly memorable concert. I guess I’ll stick to my corner of the room, listening to them and wondering what living in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge must feel like.

By Alyson Lopez

Stars announce Singapore show in February 2013

Indie promoters Symmetry Entertainment have just announced yet another show for the coming year, with Canadian band Stars returning to Singapore for the first time since performing to an almost sold-out crowd at the Esplanade Concert Hall in 2009.

Formed in 1998 by vocalist Torquil Campbell and keyboardist Chris Seligman, Stars have gained a dedicated cult following of fans over the years, having released an impressive repertoire of 14 albums and EPs.

The five-piece are part of a tight-knit group of Canadian musicians signed to Arts & Crafts, the label responsible for equally prolific acts Feist and Broken Social Scene, with whom they share members.

Stars’ distinctive, heavily textured and bittersweet indie pop songs carry through to their latest album, The North, which sees them on a world tour across Europe, Asia and Australia. The album is no doubt the band’s most upbeat and playful, but manages to retain a thoughtful and assured execution that one can only expect from a band as prolific as Stars.

Stars
Kallang Theatre
Tuesday, 19 February 2013
7:30pm
$68, $88, $108, $128

A 5% bulk discount applies for purchases of 8 tickets and above.

Tickets will be available 10am , Monday, December 17, 2012 through www.ticketbooth.com.sg, the Ticketbooth hotline 62962929, and all authorised Ticketbooth outlets island-wide.

The Other Sounds: November

We all love mixtapes, because they’re like an anthology of poems a secret admirer took the trouble to compile for you and that you can sing along to. But, like secret admirers, you also don’t get many once you graduate from high school. So, starting this November, we’re making you monthly mixtapes! Yes, you. Aren’t you just the special-est readers in the world! They’ll be a potpourri of what’s currently on heavy rotation in the office and in our bedrooms.

This month’s perky playlist spans from experimental synths and sublime ambient guitars to some unadulterated pop and R&B. We’ve also thrown in some folk and electronic rock for good measure. It’s a decidedly cheery list looking to an optimistic conclusion to the year, with some room left for reflection and me-time.

1. Suedehead / I Believe In Love
2. Crystal Castles / Affection
3. The Big Pink / Rubbernecking
4. Billow Observatory / Pankalia
5. Fiona Apple / Anything We Want
6. Macklemore / Can’t Hold Us
7. Jessie Ware / Wildest Moments
8. Driver Friendly / Ghosts
9. Cloud Nothings / Stay Useless
10. Cat Power / Nothin’ But Time
11. The White Birch / Breathe
12. Panama / It’s Not Over

[youtube width=”457″ height=”343″]http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLDZpcfnKQYjP5so8kp1NevRMS2DD88EEF[/youtube]
By Zixin Lin

Mosaic Music Festival 2013 ticketed line-up revealed

The Mosaic Music Festival is returning once again in 2013 with an incredible line-up of artists as varied in genre as the countries they’re traveling from.

The festival, now in its ninth year, is perhaps Singapore’s largest music festival, with over two hundred local and international artists performing in over six venues over ten days.

Next year’s festival will be held from 8-17 March, and following from this year’s theme of ‘Peace’, the 2013 edition will celebrate the ‘World of Music’, an homage to the diversity of the festival’s international programme.

The festival’s full programme including its free, unticketed performances will be released in the next month.

Mosaic Music Festival 2013 ticketed line-up:

Esplanade Concert Hall
(from $40)
Friday, 8 March, 7pm – Joss Stone (UK)
Saturday, 9 March, 7:30pm – Grizzly Bear (USA)
Monday, 11 March, 7:30pm – Gilbert O’Sullivan (UK)
Tuesday, 12 March, 7:30pm – Salif Keita (Mali)
Wednesday, 13 March, 7:30pm – Esperanza Spalding (USA)
Friday, 15 March, 7:30pm – Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra (Japan)
Saturday, 16 March, 7:30pm – Mutemath (USA)

Mosaic Studio (Recital Studio)
(from $30)
Friday, 8 March, 7:30pm – mouse on the keys (Japan)
Saturday, 9 March, 7:30pm/9:30pm – Wouter Hamel (The Netherlands)
Friday, 15 March, 7:30pm/9:30pm – Gretchen Parlato (USA)
Saturday, 16 March, 7:30pm – Pablo Ziegler x Tokyo Jazz Tango Ensemble (Argentina/Japan)
Sunday, 17 March, 7:30pm/9:30pm – My Brightest Diamond (USA)

Mosaic Club (Theatre Studio)
(from $40)
Saturday, 9 March, 7:30pm/10pm – Grimes (Canada)
Friday, 15 March, 7:30pm/10pm – Tennis (USA)

Tickets will be available on 6 December 2012 at the Esplanade Box Office, all authorised SISTIC agents, or online at sistic.com.

Sign up to be a Mosaic Friend and receive exclusive emails with the latest news and updates as well as 10% off full-priced tickets valid for all shows in the festival.

Mosaic Friends/Visa Specials
(offer ends 15 Feb)*
10% savings for full-priced tickets purchased for all shows in the festival. Present your Mosaic Friends card, Visa Credit or Debit card when you purchase tickets at Esplanade Box Office or any of SISTIC’s authorised agents. Online booking available

Mosaic Savings*
15% savings for a pair of top-priced tickets for any Concert Hall show. Online booking available.

Visa Infinite and Visa Signature Card Specials
Enjoy a complimentary glass of wine with every full-priced ticket purchased for any Concert Hall show. The wine is redeemable with your promotion ticket stub at the foyer bars on the day of the concert.

*Terms and conditions apply

Pop Levi – Medicine

Pop Levi’s third solo studio album, Medicine, leaves the listener mildly puzzled. Jonathan James Mark Levi, the one-man-band behind Pop Levi, has combined (sparse) moments of genius musicality with other — frankly — confusing choices. Fitting into the recently established ‘future rock’ genre (as defined by the former Ladytron bassist himself), the album seems to draw influence from 70s glam rock, and pulls it off — mostly.

Clear indicators of this are ‘Midnite Runaround’ (consisting of a simplistic riff and vintage beats), ‘Rock Solid’ and ‘Medicine’. On the other hand, the ‘Motorcycle 666’ vibe did not go down at all well, and I hope to never again subject my ears to the screeching guitar and death-drone voice that makes an appearance in the final 40 seconds.

‘Strawberry Shake’, the single that preceded Medicine’s release, opens the album. An initially harsh track to the unsuspecting listener, it soon welcomes one with an appealing pop sound, setting up the unpredictability of the album. It is followed by a mish-mash of tracks that — depending on one’s mood — have the ability to either fascinate or assault the ears.

The second half of Medicine definitely improves, with ‘Bye-Byes’ as the turning point. It’s a 70s-inspired ballad with a solid bassline and pretty melody, and production-wise its relative simplicity works in Levi’s favour.

Second-to-last track, ‘Remember, Remember’, is a throw-back to the sounds of the early 60s and wouldn’t be out of place during the Rydell High School dance on Grease. Don’t take this as a negative comment though; it definitely inspires some shoe-shuffling, what with the brass hook and keys.

This is certainly an album that one warms up to. Upon first listen, Levi’s varied choices in terms of instrumentation, lyrics and production are bamboozling. The track listing has no logical order. However, after the fifth play-through, the listener begins to get the direction Levi is taking and the sound therefore makes a lot more sense.

For fans of Pop Levi’s previous music, get your imagination outside the box because Medicine has certainly taken a different course. This evolution is sure to bother some, but our suggestion is to stick with it because the album has some hidden gems that simply need perseverance in order to be appreciated.

Listen to: ‘Strawberry Shake’, ‘Bye-Byes’ and ‘Midnite Runaround’

Bye Byes:
[youtube width=”457″ height=”343″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0fQ786w-BM[/youtube]

By Eleanor Turnbull

The Plastiscines @ Zouk (24.11.12)

As part of the the annual French Festival in Singapore, VOILAH! brought the all girl indie rock band The Plastiscines down to perform at Zouk last Saturday night. The dancefloor was still empty by the time the concert was supposed to begin but after waiting almost an hour for the fashionably late concert goers to stream in, the show finally kicked off.

The initial turnout didn’t look very good and it was only packed towards the end of the performance. It can be said that the Plastiscines are more well known in the US and France, having been featured on songs by Cobra Starship and Panic! At The Disco, as well as a cameo on Gossip Girl performing their 2009 single ‘Barcelona’. The audience was largely made up of a group of French expats, men who were probably there to just watch a group of pretty girls perform and some local hipster kids who undoubtedly were fans.

It was the Parisian band’s first time in Singapore and it was also the first time that they’ve performed with five girls on stage instead of the usual three. The girls in the band were naturally alluring in the way that only French girls could be. But they also proved that they had some talent behind their pretty faces.

All five of them did a great job at playing their instruments. Singer Katty Besnard had good stage presence, knew how to work with her vocals and sounded on point. She also tried to work the crowd with her dance moves and encouraged audience participation, which did get some people pretty excited.

The Plasticines performed their singles such as ‘Bitch’, ‘Loser’, ‘Shake’, as well as a few French songs (it was part of the French Festival after all). Their music is evidently influenced by The Libertines and The Strokes, but their song lyrics didn’t have the same kind of depth. And while their performance was good, it didn’t leave an impression on me.

Musically, they fell a bit flat and sounded like a generic indie rock band. But credit has to be given to them for knowing what works for them and sticking to it. While I was left unimpressed, I’m sure there were fans who were happy they got to see these babes perform live.

By Cindy Tan

Soft Power Records: Smitten with Singapore music

Soft Power Records are a Scottish indie label that releases music in analogue-only formats. Having coordinated releases from acts such as September Girls, Dirty Beaches and Aggi Doom, Soft Power has turned its attention to Singapore, working with Happy Teardrop on Obedient Wives Club’s (OWC) new EP ‘Murder Kill Baby’ (MKB), due for release on 15 February next year.

We tracked down Bek Galloway, one half of Soft Power’s founding partners, to find out more about the label.

What was Soft Power’s first ever release?
Our first release was the vinyl version of Theoretical Girl’s LP ‘Divided’ in conjunction with (British independent record label) Memphis Industries. The simple reason we put out that record was that it was an album we both really enjoyed but that sadly never had a vinyl release. We wanted to try something we had never done before.

We had a lot of fun doing it and were really happy with the way it turned out. In the end, we added an extra track, made a cut-out-and-keep Theoretical Girl Dressing Doll, and Amy (Turnnidge, aka Theoretical Girl) cross stitched us some fabulous lyrics, which we put onto postcards.

Our first 7″ was a split with Dirty Beaches and one of his friends Conor Prendergast (who also runs Fixture Records), and our first tape release was an absolutely wonderful EP by the very brilliant but now defunct London band, Trogons. We didn’t know what we were doing when we started out, we don’t know what we’re doing now, but we’re enthusiastic and we love everything we put out.

What do you look for in acts that you sign?
This is pretty tricky, so we made a checklist for any band who might want to approach us:

1. Make us swoon and/or feel sick by being brilliant
2. Write great pop hooks
3. Lots of backing vocals (we really like those!)
4. Dress up nice on stage
5. Make us want to join their gang
6. Good sense of humour — you will need it

“We didn’t know what we were doing when we started out, we don’t know what we’re doing now, but we’re enthusiastic and we love everything we put out.”

Where does your love of music come from?
We both grew up in families that loved music. Legend has it that (partner) Graeme got his first record player when he was two and loved nothing more than spinning vinyl as a tiny kid.

In our house, music was always on somewhere. I wasted half my life listening to records – it was a way of both connecting with and disconnecting from the outside world. Eventually, it turned out not to be time wasted at all.

Tell us more about your recent signing of Singapore’s Obedient Wives Club for their upcoming EP ‘Murder Kill Baby’.
We’re really excited to be working with them and Happy Tear Drop Records. OWC first came to our attention when their first CD EP came out, ‘This Is It’. I was smitten with it, did a bit of research online and then contacted Georgiana (from Happy Tear Drop) about stocking the CD in our online shop.

We became friends on Facebook — with (OWC’s guitarist) Keith Tan in particular, who’s also friends with (Irish band) September Girls. Over the course of a few messages, we mentioned that we’d like to put something out with them and MKB is the end result.

You’ve said before that you don’t often work with Scottish local bands. Why is this?
It isn’t that we don’t want to work with Scottish bands — we love working with them! We put out one of Glasgow’s best new bands, Aggi Doom, and one of the finest indiepop bands to come out of Edinburgh in a long time, The Spook School.

It’s just the particular area that we live in — smack-bang between Edinburgh and Glasgow — is a bit of a cultural vacuum; there isn’t any kind of music scene where we are. As ever, Glasgow is absolutely bursting with stupendously talented new bands.

It’s an embarrassment of riches as far as independent music is concerned and I’m sure we’ll be putting out more Scottish bands in the future, just not any from our postcode. Nowadays it’s so easy to work with bands from all over the world, which would have been nigh on impossible 15 or 20 years ago. Thanks to the Internet, everyone is local.

Are there any other Singaporean or Southeast Asian acts that you’ve got your eye on?
We’re embarrassingly ignorant about the music scene in Singapore and South East Asia, but are aware that there are a lot of exciting things happening musically in that corner of the world. There are so many good new bands coming through, but we’re fans of Shh…Diam!, Rocketswan, Pastelpower (OWC guitarist Cherie’s side project) and, of course, Obedient Wives Club. We would love to hear more.

Now, down to the nitty-gritty. Do you see the popular re-emergence of vinyl as a lasting trend?
Yes! Of course vinyl is here to stay, and truth be told it never really went away. The sound itself is so much warmer and more beautiful, the artwork is large and clear, you can actually read the lyrics or sleeve notes, and the record itself is hugely satisfying not just to play, but to hold and own — a prized possession. The same cannot be said of a download.

“We’re embarrassingly ignorant about the music scene in Singapore and South East Asia, but are aware that there are a lot of exciting things happening musically in that corner of the world.”

On the flipside, digital music is incredibly convenient and there’s nothing better than getting a vinyl with a download so you can take your music with you wherever you like. However, you can’t give it as a gift — a digital playlist will never have as much emotional resonance as a carefully compiled mixtape, for example. Digital downloads are excellent tools for promotion and convenient in the extreme, but the experience of listening to a vinyl record can never be replicated virtually.

And now we want the low down on your personal faves!

First album you played to death… Hatful Of Hollow by The Smiths
Last album you paid for… Ladytron:  Live At London Astoria
Standout release of 2012….  Terror Bird: Secret Rituals LP
A release you’re really excited for…
Veronica Falls new LP; September Girls Debut LP; Marnie LP
Favourite artist of the moment… September Girls
Favourite Obedient Wives Club track… This Is It
Best thing about vinyl… You can put your arms around it.
Soft Power Records in five words… Not sleeping at the wheel.

By Eleanor Turnbull

‘Rape-gazing’ into the obscurest genres in music today

A group of turquoise-haired Tumblr-ers recently staged a collective hashtag attack on Barbadian singer, Rihanna, for looking too “seapunk” in a public appearance. The electronica microscene was apparently furious she adopted their style and hence violated the anti-mainstream spirit of their subculture.

Hipster teen ennui aside — that’s right, ‘seapunk’. If you never knew how exactly to categorise that particular aesthetic of tie-dyed t-shirts, moss-green locks and Yin-Yang symbols, now you do.

First profiled on the New York Times in 2011, the term ‘seapunk’ was coined by a DJ who said it came to him in a “surreal dream”.  The subculture shares its name with a genre of art and music that utilises a very specifically aqua-themed array of 1990s cyberpunk imagery (dolphins, pyramids, beaches, dreamscapes, ocean sounds, etc.).

The resulting aesthetic straddles the line between ‘90s kitschness and… an admittedly appealing pastel whimsicality. Now that we’ve learnt seapunk is a genre of music and not an aquatic species of amphibious angsty musicians, we took the time to look into some other obscure genres with equally Dadaist names:

Rape Gaze
Rape-what?!

Apparently, ‘rape gaze’ is sister to the equally politically-incorrect ‘slutwave’ and is dripping with slimy goth hipsterdom. Marriages between ‘shoe gaze’ and violently dark themes are not all that unholy it seems, and the demon spawn produced from this genre is what they call ‘rape gaze’.

‘Rape gaze’ music would be interesting enough and have enough sonic depth without its pretensions; supposedly bands like Creep or Salem somehow project some postmodern, ha-ha-ironic, super subversive femininist drive through serenading us about raping and murdering women. Uh, we don’t get it. It’s like someone took the Riot Grrl movement and fed it through the Human Centipede.

Listen to: ‘King Night’ by Salem

[youtube width=”457″ height=”343″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kwMc91DQXHU[/youtube]


Unfolk
‘Unfolk’, or ‘Antifolk’, has been around for a while, so one can’t say it’s exactly obscure. But what is ‘antifolk’ anti about exactly? Beck is part of a movement of musicians determined to run against the grain of 1960s politically charged folk music, as well as ditties crooning about depressive love and Wisconsin winters.

Acoustic, raw, and lyrically quirky (e.g. The Moldy Peaches), it generally mocks the earnestness and pretension it sees in the established mainstream music scene. Fair enough, except when we consider that it was started by musicians reacting against being unable to gain gigs at established folk venues, it just reeks of petty bitterness rather than truly subversive ingenuity.

Listen to: ‘Vampire’ by Antsy Pants

[youtube width=”457″ height=”343″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w5ngc_VQMSw[/youtube]


Freak Folk
Some of your favourite musicians like Woods, Cocorosie, Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear, and singer-harpist, Joanna Newsom, all fall under ‘Freak Folk’. A scary name for not-so-scary music, except maybe Joanna Newsom’s ghoulish wails.

‘Freak folk’ is only freaky because it employs unusual sounds (e.g. baroque, psychedlic), waxes lyrical about outre themes, and uses avant garde vocal styles on a template of folk music.

Listen to: ‘Peach Plum Pear’ by Joanna Newsom

[youtube width=”457″ height=”343″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KcHjAUhtSrk[/youtube]


lowercase
minimal ambient music. either sublimely pure or amazingly dull. sounds like the inside of a womb or a seashell.

Listen to: ‘Stars Of Ice’ by Steven Roden. Turn up your volumes.

[youtube width=”457″ height=”343″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mq-flsYeX40[/youtube]


Skweee
Not the sound of a punctured air bed, the onomatopoeic name echoes the act of “squeeezing out” the most interesting sounds possible in the production process, primarily from vintage synthesisers.

Originating from Sweden and Finland, ‘Skweee’ combines simple synthesiser or chiptune leads and basslines with funk, R&B or soul-like rhythms. The result is a mostly instrumental, stripped-down funky sound — like videogames transformed into weird Scandinavian aural magic.

Listen to: ‘Monkey Pee Monkey Poo’ by Daniel Savio

[youtube width=”457″ height=”343″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ts7fcKSF24[/youtube]


Nintendocore
If 8-bit chiptunes in ‘Skweee’ music are too “soft” for you, ‘Nintendocore’ imbibes it with some hardcore bells and whistles so you can truly feel like Mario in a studded leather boiler suit. It’s Gameboy music fed through a grimy, metalcore filter. Our favourite nintendocore musicians: Crystal Castles.

Listen to: ‘Alice Practice’ by Crystal Castles

[youtube width=”457″ height=”343″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2H61navg3-c[/youtube]


Witchhouse
Music not of your Hansel and Gretel candyhouse variety. Originally coined as a joke by Travis Egedy and friends to describe the occult-based house music they produced and later adopted completely unironically by bands like †††, ‘Witchhouse’ is what a zombie DJ would be spinning if you were clubbing in the Addams’ family house.

And don’t bother Googling †††, because you won’t get any results*. Apparently this typographical (and hence search engine) elusion is common among witchhouse bands to keep the scene as underground as possible. And you thought dance-punk band !!! (‘Chk Chk Chk’) was obscure.

Listen to: ‘Cobainen’ by Blvck Ceiling

[youtube width=”457″ height=”343″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WP457VyBF4w[/youtube]
And if you’re into listening to bands that don’t even exist yet, you might be interested in exploring some other obscure genres like Spacesynth, Schranz, Cowpunk, and Dementia.

*However, try Googling “Crosses band” instead.

By Zixin Lin