On the 21st of every month Every now and then (sorry — I blame NS!), Other Sounds takes three quality underground/indie records from the East that deserve your attention and bring them to light.
I haven’t had much time to categorise my listening due to my current time in BMT at Pasir Ris Camp (they prohibit iPods!), so there isn’t much of a theme on here as there was in the previous BFTE’s. Instead, this month will feature three “odds and ends” records that I couldn’t exactly fit into previous features, but had been put on heavy rotation over the last year or so anyway. Jam out to some Japanese hi-fi experimental electropop, groove to some jazzed-out Korean beats, or bop your heads to some Kiwi punk rock.
Easily the most enjoyable album I’ve listened to in a long while, salyu x salyu’s s(o)un(d)beams is J-pop star Salyu’s one-off collaborative record with shibuya-kei darling Cornelius (of solo and Flipper’s Guitar fame), where Salyu’s pleasingly diverse vocals are amalgamated with Cornelius’ signature cut-and-paste voice-as-instrument production to form eleven tracks where Salyu’s vocal hooks are more melodic cues and beats than anything else.
The result? A complete pop album more fully-realised than anything Salyu or Cornelius have released thus far (and that means a lot for Cornelius) that its rhythmic ups and downs, tempo highs and lows. There’s crunchy bits of melodic goodness at even its most playfully reckless moments, and when Salyu and Cornelius actually try to do something that could pass off as an Oricon-charting single, they work just as well without breaking the cohesive mould that so effectively binds s(o)un(d)beams together as a unit. This is exemplified right smack in the middle of the album, where (also highlights) glitch-ambient abandon ‘歌いましょう’ switches to the shamelessly upbeat ‘奴隷’ (think OORUTAICHI with a vocalist that can actually sing) before closing off with the delightfully contemporary singer-songwriter number ‘レインブーツで踊りましょう’. Any album that can pull off such a wide range of styles so flawlessly can’t possibly be a bad one.
[youtube width=”457″ height=”343″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DChoNWcIbLw[/youtube]
5mg – Sentimental Instrumental
My moonspeak may not be adequate enough to reveal more about this act beyond its mere existence, but the delectably succinct 7-track EP Sentimental Instrumental that the Korean new age act 5mg released in 2009 ought to be enough to finally prove to you that those Koreans really know how to work their hip-hop production, if Urban Romantic City and Octave 20 haven’t been examples enough.
Past the atmosphere-setting first track ‘Intro’ (or skip it if you haven’t got the patience for that unbearably sticky Asian musical sentimentality) and you’re immediately treated to the fantastic ‘Cakewalk’, a 2-minute post-jazz maximal-minimal blitz that immediately recalls both Fantastic Plastic Machine’s equally fantastic Louis Vuitton collaboration ‘Superflat Monogram’ and the Mii Channel ambience on Nintendo Wii. With its saccharine-sweet melody, uptempo hip-hop beat and electro-orchestral lead chirping their way through, I feel the insatiable urge to go and buy something.
The next track ‘Coffee House’ largely follows that same mood, but the remaining four tracks take on a more downtempo, sullen and ballad-esque approach, all the while taking cues from glitch, jazz-hop and other new age oddities. They’re not as ear-catching or wow-inducing as ‘Cakewalk’ or ‘Coffee House’, but given the different direction taken, I suppose they’re not meant to be.
[youtube width=”457″ height=”343″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=chRQgTGmrHI[/youtube]
If Popmatters’ largely-ignored glowing review of Antipodes or Pitchfork’s very-recent heads-up to Popstrangers haven’t alerted you to them yet (and by the looks of their Last.fm scrobble count, they haven’t exactly yet), here’s to hoping my words can: Popstrangers, a new rock band hailing from New Zealand, play some pretty groovy punk rock tunes that, despite their determinedly us-v-them debut album title Antipodes, recall a hazier, grungier time back in the 90’s, only this time in a rather different accent. Like Tame Impala, their antipodean buddies just across the sea, they base their sound upon a lo-fi, treble-upped, guitar-based kind of psychedelic rock, but so much unlike them (and a major plus point), Popstrangers veer far more into the dissonant, often playing with rhythms and melodies that don’t make much sense on paper, but work a delicious treat in practice (preview their mid-album highlight ‘What Else Could They Do’ below to hear what I mean).
Admittedly, these young rockers have still got some ways to go in the field of songwriting, but they’ve already shown from their debut Antipodes that they’ve got the dynamism (‘Witches Hand’), swagger (‘What Else Could They Do’) and, most importantly, a sweet, catchy, pop sensibility (‘Heaven’ – Antipodes’ first single and also a personal favourite). The record’s a little uneven otherwise, but that, too, shows that Popstrangers aren’t afraid of branching out beyond a fixated, surefire way of churning out their clanky, unorthodox noise pop-rock. Keep these guys on the lookout.
‘What Else Could They Do’
[youtube width=”457″ height=”343″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJXqq_EPIy8[/youtube]
By BJ Lim