True or Fauxe: The music behind the mask

Fauxe is a Singaporean producer/beatmaker who caught our attention when his remix of The XX’s ‘Angels’ started circulating on Facebook just days before his public appearance at The Pigeonhole’s benefit gig where his performance with local band Pleasantry left us intrigued and wanting more. Not only that, the fact that he kept his mask on even after his performance — despite the heat in the venue — only added to our curiosity. This mystery man has just released his debut EP UBUNTU, and has two shows coming up at Home Club in February. Read on as we pick his brain and find out more about his work.

Hey Fauxe, when did you start making music?
I think I’ve always been a very noisy child, always causing trouble for my mum. I think that’s how music slowly came into my life — I just lean towards anything that creates sound. I started learning to play the guitar with a friend of mine at the now defunct music school Celviano Music, but after awhile I stopped taking lessons and decided to teach myself because I guess once you know the chords, everything just falls into place.

I formed my first band with the guy I learned the guitar with. We always switched roles when it came to vocals, rhythm and lead. To be honest, I think we played a lot of stuff, from rock, indie, metal, blues, etc. That was one of the best times of my life because being able to play music with people was always a very spiritual experience for me.

What’s steered you to your current musical direction?
I listened to mainstream music when I was young but I started getting into a lot of underground bands in secondary school, especially either metal or indie bands, although that term itself is already so general and overused.

“I never knew you could make music sound so colourful, in the sense that it brought so many emotions.”

I wouldn’t really say that any of what I used to listen to has steered me to my current musical direction. Really, it was the breaking up of the band I was in. It allowed to be really free in my mind to explore the creative and musical possibilities out there, and that’s what inspired and made me interested in venturing into electronic music.

One person in particular that actually helped create Fauxe is Gold Panda. The moment I heard ‘You’, I was just completely blown away. I never knew you could make music sound so colourful, in the sense that it brought so many emotions. Everything about the track made me realize that there is more to electronic music than just 4/4 beats — you can actually create emotions out of sound without really singing. So yes, ode to Gold Panda, because I wouldn’t have started Fauxe without him, probably still be finding my calling.

“Music isn’t a single entity, it’s a really complicated matter that seems to evolve into many different forms. It has a life of its own and it gives people different feelings and moods. I love that aspect of music the most, the unpredictability.”

What do you think it is that makes us personally connect with a certain sound or genre?
I would just say the emotions you feel when you hear a track. For me, there are times when apparently sad songs actually make me happy, or vice versa. It’s because individually, we all go through different situations in life. Even with my own music, I tend towards writing about how I feel on that particular day itself. So even if I were to write a happy song titled let’s say, ‘Love You Baby’ (yes, its cheesy, but whatever), I wouldn’t be surprised if someone else were to listen to it and feel sad when the music hits them. And that’s good, because music isn’t a single entity, it’s a really complicated matter that seems to evolve into many different forms. It has a life of its own and it gives people different feelings and moods. I love that aspect of music the most, the unpredictability.

And does this explain the mask?
The main reason why I wear the mask is because I just want people to focus on the music. That’s really all there is to say about it. I don’t want to mix my personal life with my music. You could say that people might be more interested in who I am since I’m covered, but in the end, it doesn’t really matter, because when I’m wearing the mask, I let the Fauxe persona take over me and the only thing that matters then is sharing the music that I make to whoever wants to listen. And after I’ve shared the love, I go.

Your live remix of Pleasantry’s ‘Window Gazer’ at The Pigeonhole’s benefit gig was pretty cool. How did this collaboration come together?
That gig has to be one of the most memorable. Producing the remix was fun in itself, but playing live with them was awesome. I think there always comes a point in time where you as a producer, will want to try something different, and performing live with a band is one of them.

“When I’m wearing the mask, I let the Fauxe persona take over me and the only thing that matters then is sharing the music that I make to whoever wants to listen. And after I’ve shared the love, I go.”

Do you plan to collaborate live with more local acts in this way?
Yes! I do plan to actually collaborate with more bands and musicians here in Singapore. Once I’ve found the time, I’ll make the best of it.

You also started the HYBRDTHRY sessions. What are you planning for the next session?
Ah yes, HYBRDTHRY was an idea conceived when I realized there is a lack of platforms for young, fresh, new, whatever-you-might-call-it producers who find it hard to find places to perform in. The idea is to encourage the community to develop, rather than stick to their own crews and not give a damn about the rest. It’s been a long time since there was another show but I do plan to continue this when the time is right.

So what are your thoughts on the electronic music scene in Singapore?
Well for starters, I don’t really know much about the scene here. I’m still very new to this, considering I started barely a year ago. I have heard a lot though, from the outside, be it positive or negative, but I’m just going to see for myself and experience what it’s like to be an electronic musician here in Singapore.

“The idea is to encourage the community to develop, rather than stick to their own crews and not give a damn about the rest.”

The only thing I can say though is that I’ve met many amazing people from the community here who have led me to meet the good people from the label I’m now in, Phyla Digital! Shoutouts to Harv, Nikhil and Nithia!

Yes congratulations on that! How do you think belonging to a label or collective helps an artist in this modern context?
I think for me, being in a label has given me confidence in knowing that I have people with me who want to push the music as far out as possible and who will do whatever it takes to get it out there. Once you meet people with the same ideas musically, it just clicks, and I’m so glad that I met the three of them.

Do you think you could you recommend three albums to our readers? We love your music and remixes so we’d love to know what you’re listening to right now!
Well there’s too much music out there for me to really say, but if I had to, I’ll just recommend what I’ve been listening to lately:

1. Burial – Untrue
2. Gold Panda – Lucky Shiner
3. Jonsi and Alex – Riceboy Sleeps

And lastly, what are your favourite Other Sounds?
Now, sound-wise, I really go for anything weird, funny, strange — well, I’m sure you can think of all the other synonyms for what I’m trying to say!

I use field recordings of whatever I find in the house, which you can hear on my debut EP, UBUNTU — anything from household items, to the radio, to the ambient sounds outside my room. People tend to not associate these sounds with ‘music’ — but what’s funny is that there are a lot of sounds we hear everyday like random rhythms that each have a certain character to them each time you listen to them.

This to me, is not just sound, it’s music. I’m a very strong believer in using sound as music, because sound is everywhere, it’s universal, just like music.

By Cindy Tan

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Fauxe is playing at Syndicate’s 3rd Anniv3rsary this Saturday, 2 February, and will be opening for Gold Panda on 27 February.

Sapporo Safaris EP launch @ Scape Warehouse (25.01.13)

In a hexagonical room that could fit a couple hundred, a multi-coloured bird had shed all of its feathers at The Gallery at *Scape, where Sapporo Safaris were to launch their EP, Figures of Eight. They proved to be a beacon of hope that night for the local music scene along with the mixture of performers they had invited, from Seyra to Ellipsis to The Sets Band — an exemplary pick of bands from the growing local musicians pool, in both talent and in diversity.

As the opening bands played, the overall atmosphere at The Gallery at *Scape, felt like a school dance. Seyra’s happy pop songs set the pace, but the sound system and acoustics of the room didn’t quite work in their favour, something that would plague all four bands on the bill. Sarah Ismail’s sugar-sweet vocals were drowned and did not stand out as much as it does in their bedroom recordings. It would have been great to hear her voice and lyrics beneath the warm strum of the guitars and the steady happy drum beat. Instead, it was hard to make out any lyrics, but the catchiness of their songs encouraged some feet-tapping and body-bobbing.

Ellipsis, “new kids” in the local music scene, definitely gained some fans with their set, and with a song called ‘Padawan’, ‘Platypus’ and one about “making out amidst nature” (which the sound system made to sound like “making out in front of strangers” — we had to clarify with the band), they weren’t hard to like.

The last supporting band that night was The Sets Band, whose sound was hard to put a finger on, especially when their bio described themselves simply as “loving emotions”. In the context of music, that could mean anything, really. The Sets Band, like Ellipsis, was a four-piece, but unlike Ellipsis, has been around for a few years longer. Their standout track was ‘Rainbow Cave, which made rock ‘n’ roll love with our ears in slow-motion.

As the audience thickened, and as the venue was comfortably filled, some Sapporo Safari members and started throwing more feathers in the air, adding to the magical ambiance that they had prepared for us. As they breezed through the first three tracks ‘An Island in You’, ‘Oxygen Man II’, and ‘Electric Handshakes’ (all off their EP Figures of Eight), one can observe that while talented and likable, a few members were still painfully shy, and not quite ready to share their performance space with strangers. However, lead singer and frontman Kevin Ho, sister Jacqueline Ho and bassist Edmund Tan (who allowed Kevin a little break on lead vocals for their new and noteworthy song ‘Wishing For a Dream’) made up for the shyness of the other members and faced the crowd with a free-spirited attitude and enthusiasm that screamed, I don’t give a f***!

Their music is very different from the traditional guitar-driven sound that the previous bands were obviously inspired by. Sapporo Safaris; music had an ethereal dreamy quality to it with its soaring trumpets and vocal harmonies that it’s difficult not to compare them to Beirut and other Balkan-folk music. When the band performed ‘Ancient Becoming’,  you could feel everyone’s hairs rising in awe and hearts falling in a steadfast kind of love for them.

By Cat Cortes

Symmetry Entertainment announce brand new live series ‘Before Sunrise’

Symmetry Entertainment has announced the first two shows in their new series of live shows called ‘Before Sunrise‘, which will feature international bands from a plethora of genres encompassing electronic, post-rock, indie rock and everything in between.

In partnership with Home Club, Before Sunrise kicks off with Gold Panda, a composer, performer and producer hailing from Essex, UK. His debut full-length album, Lucky Shiner, was released in September 2010 and his most recent EP, Trust, is available to stream online on Pitchfork. Now, he’s ready to take on Southeast Asia, with local talent Fauxe opening the show whose music explores textures, soundscapes, moods and feelings.

Before Sunrise #2 will feature This Will Destroy You, the American post-rock band from Texas known for their lengthy, atmospheric instrumental pieces featuring layers of effect-laden guitar and dynamics in spades. The band will be supported by Singapore’s I Am David Sparkle, the five-piece with two records under their belt and a growing following the world over.

Organizer Tim Kek says, “We just wanted to develop a regular monthly/bi-monthly indie series that is both inexpensive and addressable so that everyone can come out to have an amazing time at our shows.” Plans for the rest of the series remain open-ended, with the promise of holding “as many shows as we can have, for as long as we can.”

Before Sunrise featuring Gold Panda
with Fauxe
27 February, 2013
Home Club
$38, $48 at the door (includes one free drink)

Before Sunrise featuring This Will Destroy You
with I Am David Sparkle
3 March 2013
Home Club
$38, $48 at the door (includes one free drink)

Tickets available now at ApeSnap.

Another Sunday Afternoon – The Bookmark

Three years since the release of debut studio album, The Uncanny Tree of Fractured Hearts: featuring the Peculiar Case of Janet Leno, it is great to hear that the guys of alternative pop/rock band, Another Sunday Afternoon, are no longer dwelling in melancholic love stories anymore – well, not completely – and to hear them sing about other facets of life is completely refreshing. Years since they started in 2006, the band is slowly bordering on becoming bolder and more confident — less whimsical, but with a lot more wit. The Bookmark “marks” the start of the band’s bigger sound.

Before going into their lyrical progress, first track, ‘The Bookmark (Chapter Three)’ clearly sets high expectations that show how much the band has really developed. The danceable opener enters with intricate harmonizing guitars and bass lines that blend perfectly with each other. It is fun, almost groovy, and you hope for more of this in the rest of the EP.

As it turns out, what follows are tracks that each radiate very separate energies from each other, making The Bookmark quite the roller coaster ride. Another one to look out for is second track, ‘Rising From Quicksand’, which keeps the energy up while moving us into a darker and more aggressive sound with distortion and steady drums. They are however, whether intentional or not, careful to keep this aggression ‘under control’,  maintaining their swirling guitars and optimistic chorus.

As mentioned earlier, the lyrically led band has, in The Bookmark, confidently expressed the more personal issues that impact their lives besides their previous driving force of love. They open up and sing of fairly universal themes such as the changing dynamics in familial relationships in heartwarming folk track,  ‘The Sandcastle Crusade’; and touch on their rise and fall, through ‘Rising From Quicksand’ and ‘An Anthem For Certain Doom’ respectively.

They have not let go of their love songs entirely though, and being that it is almost customary to have at least one love song in any album, Another Sunday Afternoon lays out ‘Cloud Nine To Ground’ and ‘Cave-In’ to us, two positively sad and melodic, slow tempo almost-ballads to update your post-breakup playlist with.

By Nurl Azlea

The Other Sounds: January

How did you start 2013? Semi-conscious on a cocktail of substances? Losing your marbles, sense of decorum, and many other less mentionable things at Zoukout? Moping at home alone wondering what you’re doing with your life the last and next year and thinking what the hell those people are celebrating? Writing a new list of resolutions you’ll ditch in the next 48 hours?

At Other Sounds, we prefer to keep things real and usher in the new year with the one thing that’ll stay constant in our lives. So here’s our compilation of the music that crossed the new-year threshold with us — the first songs we listened to in 2013:

1. Unknown Mortal Orchestra / So Good At Being In Trouble
2. City and Colour / The Girl
3. Paper Route / Second Chances
4. Stars / Fixed
5. The Sound Of Animals Fighting / Act II: All Is Ash or the Light Shining through It
6. Burial / Truant
7. Obstacle 1 / Interpol
8. Toro Y Moi / So Many Details
9. Clinic / Miss You
10. Deftones / Back To School (Mini Maggit)
11. Mint Julep / I Never Wanted You (Headphones Cover)

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Happy 2013!

By Zixin Lin

Big Wig Festival to hit Singapore

Singapore’s growing music festival scene just got a whole lot bigger with the inaugural Big Wig Music Festival coming to Fort Canning Park on Saturday, 6 April 2013.

A celebration of musical diversity and a kaleidoscope of sights and sounds, the Big Wig Music Festival will feature some of the biggest names in hip-hop, soul, funk, disco, moombahsoul, latin, reggae and dancehall – creating a global funky vibe.

Pharoahe Monch is set to headline the festival, the internationally acclaimed rap artist who since his ‘Who Stole my Last Piece of Chicken’ days has released a string of notable albums brimming with concept and expression. Other international acts include The Pharcyde, Four Dub featuring Akil the MC of Jurassic 5 with Hydro Phonics and Tech 12, The Cuban Brothers, Deejay Theory, Captain Planet, and Chrom3.

Also joining the massive line are lcal acts are Wicked Aura, Kevin Lester with DJ Koflow, and the Pushin’On Crew.

The phenomenal British MC, Lady Leshurr, will be hosting the all-day event, which will also feature a purpose-built skate-board ramp — which will be later donated to Scape — from pro skater Barker Barett, performances from home-grown break-dance crew Radikal Forze and live graffiti from international and local artists.

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Big Wig Music Festival
Fort Canning Park
6 April 2013

Tickets available from the 1 February at all SISTIC outlets and via PayPal.

Laneway Festival Singapore 2013 @ The Meadow, Gardens by the Bay (26.01.13)

Until this year, Laneway Festival was held at Fort Canning Park, a nice little venue — but perhaps a little too little. The new location for its 2013 edition, Gardens by the Bay, addressed that by providing far more space for everyone to sift through the day, from Kings of Convenience to Gotye. It didn’t however, provide much else in the form of blockage from the sun, so everyone who arrived in the afternoon was to more or less take home with them not just mild tinnitus but severe sunburn. What were we to expect from an all-day festival though? It’s nothing to complain about considering the massive performances that awaited us!

With temperatures hitting 40ºC, it felt a little odd that Kings of Convenience were kicking off the 12-hour festival. I’d leave something like their breezy indie folk/pop/mild jazz to a time less scorching but it was a treat nonetheless, with the Norwegian duo playing and singing side by side. Their first song, ‘My Ship Isn’t Pretty’, immediately displayed delicious musical interplay, not only on their acoustic guitars but their vocals too. After a couple of songs, the boys called the rest of their band in to provide additional instrumentation to their remaining songs. Everyone who’d sat down by then would once again stand up and thump along, and laugh as well, with Erlend’s comedic onstage dancing and exhilarated “TO YOU!” call-and-response cheers on ‘Boat Behind’.

Poliça came right next and gave the very opposite of what Kings of Convenience did: loud and bass-heavy, with R&B croons coming from Channy Leaneaugh, whose dress colours matched those of the stage lights. The most striking thing about Polica was that they had two drummers in a band four-strong; the drums were spine-tingling, and especially so on the take of ‘I See My Mother’. To be out there for 40 minutes as one of those drummers is one mean feat, and they pulled it off incredibly well.

And if you thought Polica was heavy enough, wait another five minutes and over to Stage 1 to Cloud Nothings‘ highly-energetic set. It was either way too energetic for the crowd to handle, or the audience at Laneway just weren’t ready for a punk-out jam session (perhaps to conserve energy for Of Monsters and Men, who were up in an hour?). Still, vocalist/guitarist Dylan Baldi led his band through a full set of songs from their latest album, Attack on Memory with highlights including the opener ‘Fall In’, ‘Wasted Days’, ‘No Future/No Past’, Stay Useless’… you get my point.

I’m certain it got much hotter from this point on, so respect to the fans of Divine Fits, whose set started just as temperatures went from desert, to surface-of-the-sun levels. Their no-frill pop rock setup started with ‘Baby Get Worse’, and the little synth add-ons and maracas they employed along the way worked a charm. There were Handsome Furs, Spoon, and Wolf Parade fans in the crowd, judging by the random song requests being hurled from the crowd, but all seemed to accept Divine Fits as Divine Fits, embracing the back and forth frontman positions of Britt Daniel and Dan Boecker and their undeniable chemistry.

Even more respect to the fans of Of Monsters and Men who pulled through the sweltering oven that is Gardens by the Bay, not even to immediately watch them, but stand around simmering for another forty minutes or so, for a good spot right in front of the stage. The huge crowd that the band roped in only validated their immense popularity down here in Singapore. And the fans weren’t disappointed; epic hum-a-longs such as ‘From Finner made the death rays of the sun absolutely irrelevant. They didn’t need the choral la-la-la’s and call-and-responses that Of Monsters and Men used to get the crowd going; the fans had it going from the start, cheering hysterically even for soundcheck of each of the individual instruments on stage (trumpet especially). There were circles of dancing by the end of their set, and the response was so huge that they even gave an encore.

It was Japandroids‘ very first gig here in Singapore and fans had been waiting a long time since their breakthrough in 2009 with fantastic debut Post-Nothing to finally see the duo play. With some technical difficulties at the very beginning taking away quite a number of minutes from their set, the band did what felt like a brief, no-frills run-through of their hits from both their records, stopping in between numbers mainly to deal with the onset of exhaustion and banter with the crowd meanwhile. For a band of two, they knew how to be maximize their presence both sonically and visually, with guitarist Brian King jerking about in riffing rage and drummer David Prowse even violently toppling his own drum set with the last-minute pounding he gave it at the set closer ‘For the Love of Ivy’. It was the only time the crowd really truly moshed on the day.

How fitting is it, then, to have the chill-out micro-deep house slow jams of Nicolas Jaar next. The debonair man fitted the stage with a MacBook Pro (with the Apple logo ominously taped out, of course) for himself and was accompanied with a guitarist and a saxophonist. The mix was a mostly continuous affair, switching between sounds of the familiar and sounds of the new– I think it makes the impact of the familiar way greater; when ‘Variations came on, the crowd really got going. But hey, he could get the crowd going any time he wanted; Jaar only needed to sing over the beats with his deep, sensual vocals to soul-out the mellow sounds.

Kimbra was up next, and man, did she know how to work up a sweat. Dressed in a frilly dress with blue hues, she showed how excited she was for her first show in Asia ever, and her love for Singapore by dedicating ‘(Love Is a) Two Way Street’ to the fans who’d made their way down to watch her antics. She was getting crazy with the tambourine — in a good way — strutting and bouncing up on stage with so much wild abandon. So it was a surprise to see she was still slightly self-conscious, brushing her bangs to make sure her wild head-bopping wasn’t messing with it too much — but she would eventually completely let go by the end of the set. Props to the production team for this one; the A-Trak-produced ‘Warrior’ was a stunner, as was the clever Daft Punk drop at the end of ‘Settle Down’.

The high-/low-energy alternation continued, with Real Estate taking over from Kimbra with their jangly brand of chilled-out pop rock. By this time, the sun had set, with a full-moon settling at the edge of the scene. Normally, I would figure their surfy-summery sounds would suit the hot Singaporean day, but it worked well enough at dusk too. Busting out their hit ‘It’s Real’ from the get-go, the crowd were greatly appeased, but this too meant that the excitement would simmer down after a while. The band played some new material too, and while I don’t know the songs well enough to name names, I’ll say that while the new Real Estate material was more or less the same; they had a more progressive element to their sound — so there’s that for musical progression. Attentive crowd-goers would also notice Kings of Convenience’s Erlend come down to enjoy the end of their set, before making a quick departure as they finished up with the song they’d ended Days with: ‘All the Same’ was beautiful and self-reflective, reaching emotional highs as the tempos gradually dropped off as it closed.

Then there was . This was it. I mean, this really was it. It had come to that part of the festival that everyone had been asking about all day: when is it going to be and which stage is it going to be held on, so that when Alt-J were playing, they’d strategically be in front. The Yamaha sound effects (1, 2, 3, yeah) at the beginning had the crowd arrested and ready to move, but there was a bit of a setback – as Alt-J started ‘Tessellate’, technical errors arose and they promptly left the stage. Give or take five minutes though, and they were back on stage.

Visually, Alt-J were geek rock at their finest, dressed in T-shirts, sporting curly hair, big glasses, etc. But it didn’t just stop there. In sound, they were much like a mellower Late of the Pier, paying so much attention to technical detail and rhythmic precision that they stayed completely stationary for most of the show. To add icing to the descriptive cake, a technician kept running on stage to either change the lead’s guitar or re-adjust the microphone or tighten the guitar wires. ‘Breezeblocks’ was quite simply the apex in terms of crowd excitement for the whole day.

Making a second appearance in Singapore were electro-psych-pop group Yeasayer who played hits new and old, like ‘Fingers Never Bleed’ and ‘O.N.E.’ and ‘Ambling Alp’. Lead vocalist Chris Keating started with a sports jacket but that was never going to last long, heating himself up with absolutely frenetic movements and quasi-dances that excited the crowd amidst diminishing energy levels at the end of the day. Their bouncy beats, hip-hop-like vocal cadences and electronic experimentation were a hit with the crowd, and Keating was feeling it too; hopping out onto the stage speakers and even once, to the stage bouncers’ dismay, jumping off them and getting close and personal with the thrilled audience members at the front.

When Natasha Khan came on, you could immediately sense the superstar quality in her. The crowd went, for a lack of a better word, apeshit as she strutted on stage in a white winged blouse and hot pants. “Thank God I’m alive! Thank God I’m alive!” she screamed at the end of ‘Lilies’, busting vocal chops so aurally fantastic the crowd was completely enraptured. Bat for Lashes had indeed completely captured the whole audience; despite the intricate instrumental setup, she had all eyes on her. Her sex appeal, too, was used to great effect; she spent quite some time dancing with her back facing the crowd, and also worked us all with finger points and smiles – all part of being a superstar diva.

“AUSTRAALIAAAAAA!!!!” is what I recall an excited Laneway-related manager screaming out as he introduced Tame Impala to the stage: having a band as huge as Tame Impala as the representative Australian band for the show was quite a feat. And the band’s set was phenomenal. I’d stopped taking notes completely and just jammed out with the rest of the increasingly-Australian crowd. My only gripe is that they played ‘Half-Full Glass of Wine’ instead of, my opinion, the much better ‘Apocalypse Dreams’, which would’ve made for an awesome closer, but my disappointment for the lack of an encore was very much appeased by the fact that Beck’s ‘Tropicalia’ came in on the speakers right after the set ended. Which is another thing to note: the songs that Laneway uses for interludes between sets are absolutely fantastic, and perhaps, hopefully, hint at whoever’s coming over for next year?

The end was marked by Gotye for the sole reason of being the biggest name in the festival, I’m sure of that. But Gotye’s no M83, whose uplifting dream-dance electronica could enrapture a crowd even at their lowest energy levels. It was still a solid performance, with his groovy sounds complementing the fantastic animations that went on in the background, and at times, the infectiously quirky beats and melodies took over general exhaustion and got the crowd bopping along. A cool-down affair, largely, which was welcome after a long day in the sun. ‘Eyes Wide Open’ was perhaps the highlight of his set, with its sliding guitar and percussion so very much alive on stage; followed closely by the inevitable sing-along of ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ with Kimbra herself.

And there you have it, an end-to-end documentation of Laneway Festival Singapore 2013. Here’s to hoping it’ll rain next year?

By BJ Lim

[Ed’s note: For a festival only in its third year in Singapore whose line up was initially met with hesitation at announcement, one can only hope that Laneway will continue to grow in the coming years as it has since 2011, with a 2000-strong increase in punter attendance year on year and most recently, its relocation to a brand new and better-suited site.

The fact that an all-day, outdoor music festival, foreign both figuratively and literally, can work so well here is a testament in itself to the growing appreciation we have for music in Singapore and our perhaps surprising willingness to give new and lesser-known musicians a chance. It’s easy to take for granted the event’s and organizers’ forward-thinking and daring ambition in expanding the festival to Singapore and giving all of us the chance to experience it; but it has become so much an important part of our music landscape that I hope our collective trust in it will only see them delivering bigger things in 2014 and beyond.]

Laneway Festival Singapore 2013

with Alt-J, Bat for Lashes, Cloud Nothings, Divine Fits, Gotye, Japandroids, Kimbra, Kings of Convenience, Nicolas Jaar, Of Monsters and Men, Polica, Real Estate, Tame Impala, Yeasayer

The Meadow, Gardens by the Bay
26 January 2013

Photos by Alvin Ho

Cashew Chemists – s/t EP

The Cashew Chemists’ debut self-titled EP was delivered to us in a charmingly flimsy bi-fold CD sleeve. Low-budget, no-nonsense, and oddly earnest because it just seemed so ‘substance-over-style’ — which is ironic, because it’s not that the boys don’t have an image. In fact, they’re all about image: tweed, brogues, suspenders, the works. Their package is Korean boyband-level immaculate, making them stand out in the mini renaissance of lo-fi retro throwbacks in the Singaporean music scene now.

As soon as ‘Not In Love’ crackled into play, the influence of The Strokes on their nascent sound (and especially vocals) is immediately clear. That’s not to say the band is a copycat — right after the first track, the band embarks with more confidence on a sound firmly establishing their arrival on the scene. ‘What’s The Matter’ kicks off the rest of their catchy, feel-good tunes that alchemise the nostalgic essence of a ‘90s Singaporean music tone, with very heavy influence from The Strokes and hints of The Beatles.

‘I’m in love with the world/ But not through the eyes of a pretty girl’, lead singer Yuji croons with youthful, sunny positivity in ‘Over You’. It’s a surprisingly marked departure from the band’s heavy metal beginnings, but the intricate attention they pay to riffs even in their new music shows traces of the songwriting precision so distinctive of the former genre.

But while everyone loves the Strokes, Cashew Chemists’ inheritance of the lo-fi, bedroom-y slur characteristic of Julian Casablancas isn’t necessarily such a good thing. It’s just that their Casablancas loyalty and incongruous American accent (especially in the opening track) regrettably detract from the distinct identity they could be carving.

The EP could do better with more variation and less homogeneity in the album as a whole, but it’s music impossible to not dance or bob along too– the chemists have concocted the perfect formulas for catchiness, and we can’t stop hitting replay. It’s a more than impressive effort for an EP, and I’m definitely looking forward to the band’s next release.

By Zixin Lin