These Brittle Bones: “I don’t want to impress people”

Chris Jones, of These Brittle Bones, often has people tell him that he has an ‘old soul’. “I find it extremely annoying,” sighs the Singapore-based Welsh singer-songwriter, who began putting out records from his bedroom when he was twelve. It does seem that young musicians are frequently subject to this sort of trite remark when they display talent or depth ‘beyond their years’ – it’s practically inescapable.

It’s impressive, no doubt, that at fifteen Chris has risen to some fame within the local scene. “But I don’t want to impress people,” Chris counters, “I want people to be able to connect to my music.” The irony here is that Chris’ age helps to draw attention to his music, yet at the same time has an effect on the way his music is perceived. But he doesn’t want to be patted on the head and praised: he wants a real emotional response.

People might do better to stop reacting so effusively to Chris’ ‘precociousness’, and react instead to the actual music. Take These Brittle Bones’ latest single, ‘Hollow’, which was reworked from an earlier and less polished version. When asked what it’s about, he replies obliquely: “it’s about being in this place, and you can see something but you’re not quite able to get it, something intangible.” What Chris is hinting at is that there’s something deeper, and perhaps symbolic that lies in between the lines – it can’t quite be grasped or verbalised easily, it’s more internally felt, more visceral. “I don’t usually like to give specific meanings, I like to be quite implicit,” he adds. His lyrics are certainly ambiguous, but they are also inexplicably evocative.

For Chris, it’s important for his songs to be affective, to stir up depths, to strike a chord. “You don’t have art because it’s nice, you have art because it makes you feel something,” he states firmly. An avid reader, Chris also has a particular liking for the works of Edgar Allan Poe; whether coincidentally or not, the celebrated Romantic poet was part of a movement which emphasised the value of emotion and intuition in art.

“Sometimes when there’s another person involved, the direction can get confused.”

Three years have gone by since the release of These Brittle Bones’ debut, self-produced EP ‘Leaving the Woods’, and a lot has changed since then: the bedroom recording has been upgraded to studio production, and These Brittle Bones now play live as a band. “I’ve grown up a lot,” Chris muses, “I’ve had a lot of experiences musically, and even socially – to become a better person.” And now that Chris has ‘grown up’, he has developed a very clear idea of what he wants to achieve as a songwriter, how he wants his music to sound, rather than leave it to his producers.

“I want to have full control,” he confesses. “It’s quite selfish… But sometimes when there’s another person involved, the direction can get confused.” Chris is quick to add that “it’s not all the time I’m sure of the meaning myself – it just happens”. The idea is that in order for it to be able to ‘happen’, he needs the creative freedom to be able to explore what he wants on his own, not to always have to be accountable to his collaborators.

It’s because of this that Chris is contemplating going back to what this project originally was, going back to where it all started: self-produced, home recording. “I find that I’m a lot more creative when I’m recording in the bedroom,” he explains, “Rather than in the clinical space of the studio where there’s no windows, no daylight or anything.” But the difference is that Chris is no longer an amateur newly inducted into the world of Garageband; he’s bringing the experiences that he’s accrued in the studio and on stage back to his bedroom. Going further, he’s also planning to draw on the unique advantages of home recording, to “experiment with how you can use background noise and atmospherics to build on to the music, rather than have absolute silence”.

 “You don’t have art because it’s nice, you have art because it makes you feel something,”

It’s an exciting time for These Brittle Bones, with a new approach to production, a new release in the works – he’s even got a new piano in his bedroom. He’s come a long way since he first started out, and now is the time to take things to the next level, to push the envelope and break new ground, to “do something that I’ve never done before”. Chris’ age may disadvantage him in some ways, but ultimately, it’s because he started young that he’s been able to learn more and develop himself more fully as a musician, taking the time to figure out what he wants, and where he wants to go from here.

By Li Shuen Lam

Passport #1: Amadou and Mariam – Dimanche à Bamako

Passport is a new series on Other Sounds that scours far-away places for records of note. We start off with Amadou and Mariam’s Dimanche à Bamako from landlocked Mali, a former French colony in West Africa that since 2012 has once more been embroiled in conflict.

Malian music, like many of its African counterparts, is deeply political. Given the country’s long tradition of oral history passed down through griots, it is not hard to see why music is both a source of aesthetic pleasure and a tool of mass communication for Malians. Nowhere is this more evident than in the nationalistic desert blues of the Tuareg group Tinariwen and the charged lyrics of Mali’s hip hop scene.

Where do the soulful husband-and-wife duo of Amadou Bagayoko and Mariam Doumbia fit in this milieu, then? Many of the tracks they have recorded on earlier albums have often explored the love that they share (‘Je Pense à Toi’ and ‘Mon Amour, Ma Chérie’ are classic examples) and they have only occasionally delved into commentary on socio-economic issues (‘Pauvre Type’). The territory that this blind couple from Mali seems to be most comfortable in is mostly defined by the light-hearted and danceable.

On Dimanche à Bamako, however, Amadou and Mariam’s honest blues-inspired tunes meet the activist fusions of Franco-Iberian singer Manu Chao. Chao, who produced and performed on the album, has lent much to the energetic vibe it possesses in comparison to Amadou and Mariam’s older work. You will hear lyrics about immigration and identity, African street soundscapes and a whole variety of synth touches from sirens to simulated audience roars – these are elements Chao is well-known for.

Chao’s fingerprints thankfully complement rather than drown out Amadou and Mariam’s soul on this record. The opener ‘M’bifé’ recaps the duo’s established form with delicate strumming backed by male harmonies, while its instrumental counterpart ‘M’bifé (Balafon)’ is a frenetic track by Chao that lays the groundwork for the jumpier ‘La Réalité’ and ‘Sénégal Fast Food’. This memorable pair of tracks is steeped in a sense of duality that spans both time and place, bridging Amadou and Mariam’s music directly to the francophone African diaspora.

Dimanche does not deliver body-blows with the politics it deals with, but ‘La Paix’ and ‘Politic Amagni’ are much more direct in their messages than past attempts. Where the album really shines in making a statement comes directly from its title, translated as Sunday in Bamako, which makes for the most satisfying reading of the entire record – a cross-section of urban life in Mali’s capital, a city torn between the modern and traditional. Bamako has much to be proud of in this portrayal, and in the starkness of its present troubles, Dimanche would undoubtedly serve as a comfort.


Listen to: ‘M’bifé’, ‘La Réalité’, ‘Sénégal Fast Food’

[youtube width=”457″ height=”343″][/youtube]

By Manoj Harjani

Muthafucka I’m Ill: Hip-hop as a medium for mental disorders

You all know how it’s been; Ever since Kanye “…so the world could feel his pain!” West blew up the rap scene in 2004 with his debut record The College Dropout, the conscious rap that the likes of Aceyalone, Common and Talib Kweli have been rapping over the last decade took on a whole new look, feel and level: now, not just conscious but self-conscious, much of popular rap has flipped its script and went introspective and retrospective. It’s gone from self-appraisal to self-abasement, from Diddy “Bad Boy for Life” to Drake “What Am I Doing?”.

Bar a few exceptions (e.g. Lil Wayne), even the most pompous of rappers now remember to keep their self-awareness in view – who would imagine Black Album-era Jay-Z, notwithstanding the Nirvana reference, calling himself “stupid and contagious”?

But where Kanye West has dealt with the god complex, newer off-radar rappers have taken the self-conscious rap ideology to a whole new different level, not just identifying but even embodying mental issues and disorders within their sound and image.

Driven by the near-inevitable rapper’s drug addiction, Danny Brown personifies his ailments into his music, flipping his voice from the deliriously high-pitched peak-outs to the painfully sober down-lows, as he raps between (in the former voice) literally shitting all over recording booths and (in the latter) trying to smoke his depression away. And as much as Childish Gambino may deny it, his Instagram letter antics, coupled with his Because the Internet album cover .gif, paint a picture of a comedian’s tragically ironic depression.

And they’re not even the best examples. The still-marginally-controversial Odd Future ring leader Tyler, the Creator, despite all his current wild successes and fame, started off as a spitefully maniacal teenager murderously angry at the world for… what, exactly? The answer is explicit in Tyler’s Wolf cut ‘Answer’ – his dad “not being there fire-started [Tyler’s] damn career”. Like Eminem before him, Tyler’s depression and frustration was cultivated by a troubled childhood. But much unlike Eminem, Tyler’s rage-fuelled stories delved into rape and (right after that) cannibalism.

Despite all the grotesque imagery (or because of it), misunderstood, antisocial teenagers from around the world found, perhaps, or hopefully, not relation, but understand where he’s coming from, and understand they could very well, harbouring at the deepest recesses of their fucked up minds, have such dark thoughts themselves.

[youtube width=”457″ height=”343″][/youtube]

[spacer height=”10px”]Actually, psychologically, depression tends to lead to extreme tiredness, or not wanting do anything at all just about forever. Modern hipster-hop has got that covered too, in the 16-year-old white Swedish rapper Yung Lean, who, with producers Yung Sherman and Yung Gud, form Sad Boys. They try to pit a Main Attrakionz-esque flow with cloud / trill / trap beats and end up sounding like a not-so-wild-for-the-night A$AP Rocky.

In fact, even though they usually rap about getting bitches / doing drugs, Yung Lean’s not-even-trying delivery and the accompanying clouded beats come across as more passive-aggressively… sad. Yung Lean even says it himself on ‘Lightsaber // Saviour’: “I’m on the floor crying, crying / Why do I gotta be alive / I ain’t about that life / I ain’t about that life”.

That’s not to say they’re all lame – along with their vaporwave-influenced image, Sad Boys are at the forefront of what’s cool in the post-swag landscape, the next big are-you-serious thing in rap after Das Racist’s ‘Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell’, where the medium is the message and not much else at all. And what’s the message? Beats me, but they’re definitely reflecting a group of fashionably depressed Tumblr-core hipsters who constantly nod back to their childhood with 90’s cartoon .gif’s and Windows 98 screen-savers.

[youtube width=”457″ height=”343″][/youtube]

[spacer height=”10px”]The most extreme and prominent example however, would be the Sacramento hip-hop (?) act Death Grips. While some claim that their brand of industrial-influenced rap has already been done by experimental hip-hoppers dälek, they miss the vital difference that really defines Death Grips, which is their schizophrenia-induced (or -inducing!) sound, cultivated mainly through, among the dissonant production, MC Ride’s mad pseudo-rap screams, which at times recall an unkempt homeless man’s incessant word salads.

In Death Grips’ lyrics (made accessible through the band’s uploading of accompanying lyrics in their YouTube video descriptions), we see lines like “Cobra spit over apocalyptic cult killer cauldron smoke”, or “World of dogs gone mad / Above the law in your ass / Fire trash meltdown I’m not here / I’m world of dogs infrared”.

Of course it could all be an act, and of course all those word mishmashes could provide some insight, but that doesn’t discount the image that Death Grips give off. It’s clearly disturbed music and a clear-cut case of mental disorders being channelled through the highly-malleable, highly-personalised medium of hip-hop.

[youtube width=”457″ height=”343″][/youtube]

[spacer height=”10px”]Rap has always been the message of the masses, reflecting the social attitudes of the people themselves. So when personal issues become bigger, more worldly relatable problems than the political conflicts of Public Enemy or the oppressed rage of N.W.A., what more mental issues and debilitating sensations could we see becoming more prominent in the field? ADHD? Nausea? Insomnia? Or even, allegedly, Asperger’s syndrome?

Whatever way it is, these examples are evidence that hip-hop continues to evolve, even more so than other genres, into not just different sounds, but different psychological states of mind. That’s probably what makes hip-hop what it is today – relatable on all fronts, or, in Yung Lean’s words: “so real you can call me reality” – or perhaps, has it always been that way and not just today? Check out this list of rappers with mental disorders. Or this Wikipedia article on how mental disorders can lead to creativity. Even Lil Wayne insists, “Muthafucka I’m ill”. And in spite of the connotations of their lingo, maybe they all are indeed.

By BJ Lim

Music Matters Live with HP announce globe-spanning line-up

Music Matters Live with HP have announced their line-up for this year’s festival, which features a roster of artists from around the world.

The festival will run from 21-24 May and will feature a heap of showcases over the four days. In its fourth year, Music Matters Live with HP has become one of the highlights of Singapore’s music calendar, as one of the largest music festivals in the region.

With the addition of an extra night, we can see the festival slowly but surely expanding.

The promoters have stated that this year’s festival takes “a giant step upwards”. With the announcement of more bands and venues, they’ll be flying their “super-music-discovery flag even higher”.

Festival-goers will be able to catch the acts more than once over the four nights at different outdoor and indoor venues.

Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 5.51.41 PM

The bands playing include Other Sounds favourites Dune Rats, French synth-pop band Juveniles, Australian lo-fi musician Jeremy Neale, Melbourne indie-pop darlings Tully on Tully, and Singapore local chart-topper Gentle Bones, plus many more.

Check out the full list of artists below:

Music Matters Live with HP 2014:

Afgan (ID)
Ash Grunwald (AUS)
Buffalo Sunn (IR)
Bunkface (MY)
Dualist Inquiry (IN)
Dune Rats (AUS)
Empra (AUS)
Endah N Rhesa (ID)
Gentle Bones (SG)
Jeremy Neale (AUS)
Juveniles (FR)
Kyoto Protocol (MY)
Lyon Apprentice (AUS)
Mad August (MY)
MC HotDog (TW)
Ming Bridges (SG)
Quarterback (TW)
Quest (PH)
Sezairi (SG)
Slapshock (PH)
Stars and Rabbit (ID)
The 13 Band (TW)
The StoneWolf Band (PT)
Trick (SG)
Tully on Tully (AUS)

Music Matters Live with HP 2014
21-24 May 2014
Clarke Quay (various venues TBA)

By Ale Launech

Re-united Slowdive announces first ever Singapore show

Just months after bringing in genre leaders Foals and Explosions in the Sky, Symmetry Entertainment has announced its latest show – Slowdive, live at *SCAPE, The Ground Theatre, on 31 July 2014.

Slowdive, the acclaimed band behind the immaculately paced, fuzzy tremolo-infused pop sound of the early ‘90s, has reformed with the full line-up from its Souvlaki days. Twenty years after releasing Pygmalion, the band has resumed “making some noise back in Reading together.” And with its somewhat small but fervent population of shoegaze devotees that have attracted the likes of Yo La Tengo and Deafheaven (playing here in May), Singapore seems a more than befitting stop in Southeast Asia.

[youtube width=”450″ height=”340″][/youtube]
Peculiarly, or coincidental as it may be, Slowdive’s reunion materialises at a time when several of their ‘90s peers have staged returns to music making. Will they follow the lead of Neutral Milk Hotel and bank on worn classics? (Not that anyone attending the upcoming gigs will mind.) Or will the band step into the spotlight again with an impeccable new record à la My Bloody Valentine? Only time will tell, but all fingers will be crossed for a release bearing the aesthetic and mythological mantle Pygmalion shares with the similarly named George Bernard Shaw play.

Another interesting question that arises is whether Slowdive’s new shows would inadvertently draw those who link them to their ‘cool’ ‘90s contemporaries. ‘90s dream pop bands, even those at the denser end of spectrum, have seen their sepia icons splashed across way too many blogs parading hazy lyrics, amalgamating any band with the slightest hint of daydream guitar. There is, however, no reason to be all that pessimistic. After all, modern communication enabled a good number of fans to find Slowdive long after its 1994 closing act.

There will be expectations to realise and Slowdive has much to catch up on with its members rejoining from their various diverse projects. The band, though, has a solid catalogue of articulate pieces of music that will certainly be a pleasing and cathartic return to. Surely they won’t go wrong playing those.

*SCAPE, The Ground Theatre
Thursday, 31 July
$75 (early bird), $90 (standard), $100 (at the door)
Tickets available 16 April at EventClique.

By Edward Eng

Saskwatch rise up with new album ‘Nose Dive’

On the eve of dropping their new album Nose Dive, Saskwatch member Liam McGorry caught up with Other Sounds to chat about how nine kids went from busking on city corners to sharing an arena with the Rolling Stones.

The past two years since releasing their debut Leave It All Behind have been fuelled by ambition and filled with endless nights of writing and performing. After scorching stages across Australia, the UK and Europe — Nose Dive has proven that the hard work has paid off.

OS: There are nine of you – so the obvious place to start is: how did you all find each other and get together?
L: Most of us met studying music at uni. We used to busk for change outside Flinders St Station in the city once a week on a Friday.

The soul attitude of your music seems to pay homage to the swing and RnB originals. You have managed to give the spirit of the greats an upgrade into the 21st century. How do you manage to entangle these worlds?
I think personally just growing up Melbourne in the mid 2000s and going to see gigs, there were a lot of great ‘soul’-inspired bands. Seeing bands like The Bamboos, The Cat Empire and Dynamo were great because they fused soul with rock ‘n’ roll, blues, funk and many other types of music.

“… There’s been a definite choice to try and write better songs and for it to be really not just a bunch of songs but an album as a whole.”

There seems to be a soul revival in the works on an international scale. Who inspires you?
Daptone Records, Lee Fields, Primal Scream. These days, hearing bands like Alabama Shakes, Dr Dog, The Black Keys, Arctic Monkeys all play soul in their own way is really great. I guess we just listen to lots of music.

The new album is launching today. You have given us a taste by releasing the new single, ‘Born To Break Your Heart.’ The single seems a bit more reserved compared to the previous collection of songs on ‘Leave it All Behind’ which you released in 2012. What can we expect from the album?
I think the album is a bit more well-rounded this time. There’s a bit more light and shade, and a bit more range in terms of emotion, dynamics and sound. I think it takes on some new influences from the bands above, and there’s been a definite choice to try and write better songs and for it to be really not just a bunch of songs but an album as a whole.

[youtube width=”450″ height=”340″][/youtube]

As a collective, you have brought together an eclectic style. Since you have been working together for four years now, have each of you acquired a role in the group?
I think over time, just working together, everyone really has acquired their own role. One person looks after the merchandise, writes songs, organises everyone, brings up a idea about live set… It’s just happened pretty organically, really!

Do you think that Nose Dive reflects the always-evolving maturity of the group?
I think it is something we’re all really proud of, to be honest. I think our main goal really was to just try and make a better album than the last.

Your live shows have been described as “electrifying.” The energy and vibe of the show is always high – how does this translate from the writing and recording process you go through? Are your live shows a reflection of the creative process?
I guess it is pretty similar to shows because most of the time we record live. There will always be little issues that we’ll go back and work on pretty thoroughly, in the rehearsal room and the studio. But I guess the only time it’s different is just the writing itself.

You have quickly become an international name and have graced stages from Meredith and Falls Festival in Australia to BlackisBack in Europe — not to mention Glastonbury, arguably the most recognised festival in the world. What was the highlight of these amazing globe-trotting tours?
There have been many; personally, Meredith for sure. BlackisBack was definitely one as well. To be honest, it’s probably Glastonbury. Its scale is just ridiculous and it was just an incredible experience.

One of our shows there, we started playing on a very small stage halfway through the [Rolling] Stones’ set. We would finish a song and hear the intro to ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ in the distance. It was surreal… and when they finished, we had about 5,000 walk past and stop and watch us. It was amazing.

“… It is also great to come crashing down back to reality with a 6.00am flight home after playing in Perth and go straight to work.”

With such a massive year behind you and the ‘Nose Dive’ tour approaching, how do you all keep your cool during down-time?
I just think we’re all very lucky to have done half of this stuff. But it is also great to come crashing down back to reality with a 6:00am flight home after playing in Perth and go straight to work.

You had your breakout residency at the iconic Cherry Bar in Melbourne. With great venues like The Empress and The Great Britain closing down – and organisations like SLAM (Save Live Music Australia) trying to save them, what do you think the future holds for indie bands in Melbourne?
Obviously more has to be done to save these great venues. At the same time, the future is still bright with new ones like Boney and Shebeen opening up as well. I think Melbourne has such a great musical culture it will be fine. The people can’t do without music.

Looking toward the rest of the year – what does 2014 have in store for Saskwatch?
We’ll be touring Nose Dive a little later in the year around Australia and hopefully getting back overseas as well. And working on the next album too.

By Lucy McPherson

Order ‘Nose Dive’, the new album from Saskwatch, here.

The Cairos return to Asia

Brisbane boys The Cairos will once again be gracing the shores of Singapore when they play Home Club this May as the first stop of their six-date tour of Asia.

The Cairos

The last time the band were in the region, they were set to play CAMA Festival in Hanoi back in 2013. And athough the festival was cancelled, they still made their way over and played alongside Singapore’s own The Pinholes.

Now, not so long after playing the same venue back in October last year, the boys have decided to return, this time with an upcoming new album to showcase.

Dream of Reason features the band’s airy new track ‘Desire’ and last year’s saccharine, laced single ‘Obsession’.

[youtube width=”460″ height=”345″][/youtube]

The band has really been putting in the hard-yards as of late and are touring extensively throughout Australia and Asia in the coming months, including dates in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City. 

Vocalist Alistar Richardson doesn’t like sitting still, and says that a few weeks after a tour, the band “start getting that niggle [to tour again] and just want to jump in the car and go for a drive.”

It’s good to see bands like this returning to play in the region so quickly. Let’s keep building this culture and seeing bands come back time and time again. Definitely get out and see the lads when they tour in a city near you!

The Cairos ‘Good Days‘ Asia tour

7/5 Singapore – Home Club
9/5 Hong Kong (Kowloon) – Hidden Agenda
10/5 Hong Kong – HK Brew House
15/5 Shanghai – Yuyintang
16/5 Bangkok – Cosmic Cafe
17/5 Ho Chi Minh City – Cargo Bar

By Ale Launech

Anechois – Circles

Circles, as the name suggests, is in many ways geometrically inspired: repeating sequences, tessellating guitar lines, elliptical time signatures form Anechois’ bordering-on obsessive brand of progressive rock. It is a beautifully concise record, in that not a single note, beat or word appears excessive.

In this seven-track EP, released for Lomography’s Blue Hour Sessions, Anechois seems to be seeking a sense of clarity above all – instead of obscuring or obfuscating, as is the temptation for many technically sophisticated bands, the songs are illuminatingly transparent. The acoustic guitar figures, especially in ‘Emma’, sound especially blithe and pure; set against a susurrus of synths, they break forth in simple and liberated joy. There is, however, an undercurrent of pensive awareness, a vague sense of fleeting: a lyric in ‘Reverse’ goes, ‘If only I could see your smile, it hides when the dawn breaks.’

Anechois maintains an acute grasp of balance throughout, with vocals that are sparsely spaced, amidst dense and thickening textures. The standout track ‘Thumbprints’, is driven by a rhythmic, punctuating bass, which builds up to the climax of the EP – a beatific brilliance of sound that is fully and suddenly unleashed. The vocals of frontman Haziq echo resoundingly. The effect is incredibly cinematic; it’s easy to lose yourself in its midst.

The songs are lyrically fragmented, terse and vague. There’s some sense of contemplation, as if one were observing the world from a distance, a detached abstractedness. There are some meaningful turns of phrase: ‘We are running around in circles, but we barely reach the surface’ in the titular track, hints at the meaninglessness, or circularity, of routine, which possibly is the very essence of the EP.

This third EP from Anechois seems in some way to reflect the raw, pure side of the band, capturing a touching honesty that is more apparent than in their previous releases. It takes several listens to fully appreciate their remarkable technique and skill, so effortlessly rendered; there is also a meticulous attention to detail throughout. This is a record that deserves to be put on repeat.

Listen to: ‘Emma’, ‘Thumbprints’, ‘Circles’


By Li Shuen Lam

The Caulfield Cult to play THE FEST in Florida

Locally grown rockers The Caulfield Cult have been added to the line-up of THE FEST, a massive punk/emo festival in Florida, featuring the likes of legendary names in the punk scene such as The Descendants, and Strike Anywhere.

The band will also be sharing the stage with acts such as The Flatliners, The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid To Die, Old Gray and Candy Hearts.

The announcement comes as a well-timed surprise following the commencement of their Japan tour with Melbourne punks Up And Atom, and their upcoming European tour in the summer, which will span a total of fourteen countries over a period of five weeks.

“Haha yea, I’m ORDing in style, flying to Europe the day I get my IC,” frontman Nick Prasat Kumar said about the start of the tour, which coincides with the end of his stint in Singapore’s mandatory army training programme.

The Caulfield Cult are currently touring Japan. They will begin their European tour on 23 May in London, and will play THE FEST in Gainesville, Florida, on 31 October, 1 and 2 November later this year.

By Louis Foo