Deafheaven @ Beep Studios (3.05.14)

Never trust Google Maps.

It could lead to you wandering around for an hour in the heat, eventually abandoning all hope in technology. “Where could this place be?”, you’ll wonder. After stopping and thinking for a moment, you’ll remember that you are going to a Deafheaven show, and scan the area for black t-shirts.

Upon arrival at Beep Studios, we could sense the anticipation from the fans waiting around the courtyard; smoking on the steps, arguing over album superiority and gathering around one of the men they were all there to see. George Clarke‘s usual persona was surprisingly absent; out among the people his demeanour was the polar opposite of what we’d expect from the vocalist onstage. Polite, friendly and more than happy to stand for photo after photo with fans, he was signing anything they handed over. I instantly regretted leaving my copy of Sunbather back in Melbourne.

George eventually headed into the venue and the majority of the crowd followed, ready for their first taste of music for the night. Singapore locals Paris in the Making were up first and, with a few words from the band, they began their set. After a massive build up, the progressive hardcore group burst into a barrage of heavy hitting riffs and screams from the band’s frontman. They were tight, however their heavier moments were eclipsed by their “prettier” passages which illustrated the bands intricate instrumentals.

After the set came to a close, the fans scuttled out of the venue for another smoke and some air before the main event. “KittyWu are on a roll,” I heard someone say, and it’s true. In recent months the label/promoters have been doing everything right, bringing in Irish post-rockers And So I Watch You From Afar and Japanese math-rock girls Tricot for successful shows. Tonight was not going to be an exception.

wandered inside as the band was putting together the final touches before what was going to be a phenomenal set. The lights went down as the band (minus George) took to the stage, before bathing them in red. The band broke into ‘Dream House’ as George arrived on stage.  He commanded the stage entrancingly, and had all eyes squarely fixed on him. Part commander, part conductor, he flowed with the music, punched the air and gestured to the audience to creep forward. Once he opened his mouth, letting out a frighteningly high scream, the audience was putty in his hands.

What followed was a phenomenal assault on the senses as the band made their way through the rest of their highly acclaimed sophomore album Sunbather. It was great to see the somewhat timid crowd begin to loosen up, as they sang along to the melody of ‘Irresistible’. The band continued with extreme professionalism and energy, creating the most incredible wall of sound I have ever faced. With the band still playing, George jumped into the crowd and the devoted carried their “master”.

As George screamed the words “I am my father’s son” during ‘The Pecan Tree’, you could both hear the emotion in his voice and see it on his face. The power behind those words gave the whole audience a look inside the man in front of us. His veneer slightly cracked, and I was reminded of the guy I met outside before the show. Just a man, with incredible talent.

The room was still charged with energy when the band put down their instruments and waved thankfully to the crowd. It wasn’t the loudest cry for an encore I have ever heard, but you could tell the fans wanted more. After a quick “piss break” (in a beer can, apparently), the band returned to treat the dedicated fans to their 10-minute epic ‘Unrequited’, from their debut album Roads to Judah.

As the show came to an end, fans rushed to congratulate the band as they walked through the crowd to their dressing room. Deafheaven tore away all expectations, and hearing Sunbather in it’s entirety had left us drenched in the best way possible.

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’

Thumbprints:

By Li Shuen Lam

Atlas – Here Be Dragons

Here Be Dragons is a real seducer, with lyrics that evoke memory, identity, loss and fear set to deliciously crafted math-rock riffs and synth layers. There is a wonderful authenticity in each of the stories told by Atlas on this album, as gears shift abruptly, jumping from one recollection to the next — much like how we share our experiences in person with one another.

As a debut, Here Be Dragons is ambitious, but not arrogantly so. Atlas’s strength lies in cheerfully ignoring the limits of genre prescriptions as they stitch together varied emotional landscapes like ‘Genius (Life in Transit)’, which are richly textured yet easily communicated. The punchier ‘In (Im)Polite Company’, on the other hand, is reflective of a band in a constant state of exploration as it trudges through mental caves with great energy, leaping across synapses to find meaning in crevices of grey matter not seen or heard of before.

Young bands often feel the weight of obligation to pay respectful homage to their influences in their formative years – many revered icons, after all, started off with covers. While some end up making the mistake of sycophancy in the process, Atlas gracefully avoids doing so on ‘East Oriental Club’. This standout track honors the technical distinctiveness of Japanese math-rockers toe, but takes a bold step further, transforming into a glorious cinematic expanse that is rightfully set apart as the longest item on the track list.

Those who have followed Atlas through their many twists and turns up to the present will likely mourn the knowledge that this album is the only record we will see from the current lineup, but surely even they cannot suppress the excitement for what might come next. Until then, clocking time to the tune of Here Be Dragons is a fine way to wait.

Listen to: ‘Genius (Life in Transit)’, ‘East Oriental Club’, ‘In (Im)Polite Company’

East Oriental Club:

By Manoj Harjani

Sky Ferreira – Night Time, My Time

There has been a lot of buzz about a certain Sky Ferreira – from her touring with Miley Cyrus to her arrest for drug possession – but for those not familiar with the grunge-lite indie pop of the 21-year-old singer-songwriter-model, you might just recognise that very naked album cover instead.

Make no mistake – despite the darkness and vulnerability suggested by the sourpuss portrait of an exposed Ferreira in the shower on the cover (bearing a marked resemblance to Grumpy Cat), Night Time, My Time is, first and foremost, unmistakably a pop album.

The album’s fourteen tracks find their lyrics in vignettes of teenage romance and self-loathing in equal measure, but sonically Ferreira’s debut full-length is luminous. Night Time, My Time draws its influences from 80s dance synth-pop, 90s grunge and 00s indie rock. Hit-making producer Ariel Rechstaid (Vampire Weekend, Haim, Charli XCX) coats the record in a layer of sugared gloss; the combination of grungy guitars, bright synth lines and big choruses marks an album primed for cross-over onto mainstream radio with a bold, seductive edge.

Album opener ‘Boys’ is an infectious anthem of young love, a haze of sledgehammer riffs and plummeting beats set against a delicious spoken word refrain, while lead single ‘You’re Not The One’ matches air-tight synths with a sashaying chorus with an undercurrent of girl power.

Lyricism may not be the album’s forte – the insular and prosaic diction of Ferreira’s song writing doesn’t break new ground on the flightiness of young love or youthful hedonism – but what the the album lacks in poetry, it more than makes up for in those big riffs. Her songs strut and swagger. They don’t just arrive; they announce their presence. ‘Omanko’ is an inescapable earworm, thanks to a restless bass line that propels the fuzz nugget through a hodge-podge of off-kilter musings about Japanese Jesus and Japanese Christmas.

It is only on ‘I Blame Myself’ that Ferreira comes close to the unflinching, transgressive self-cross-examination that the album cover offers. This head-bobbing number throbs with shame and anxiety as Ferreira ponders her complicity in shaping her reputation as a controversial alt-pop princess (“Is it because you know my name/Or is it because you saw my face on a cover”).

Night Time, My Time is an immensely pleasurable – if at times uneven – pop record, but disappointingly falls short of delivering the sucker punch of gritty and naked storytelling that marks other pop records with gravitas. That said, in a time when pop is making a comeback in the indiesphere (see: Lorde, CHVRCHES, Future Islands), there is nothing shameful about making straight-up top-notch pop.

7/10

Listen to: ‘Boys’, ‘Omanko’, ‘I Blame Myself’

Boys:

[youtube width=”457″ height=”343″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0rRwQLAigeM[/youtube][spacer height=”10px”]

By Chen Shanshan

White Lies @ TAB (22.03.14)

British rock concerts are well known for their raucous and chaotic atmosphere, where bands like the Sex Pistols would thrash venues all in the name of anarchy and passion. This time however, it was a last minute change of location that created the sense of upheaval. Perhaps rather naively, promoters had booked White Lies to play at The Coliseum, one of Singapore’s larger music venues. Unsurprisingly, ticket sales never met their expectations and so to save the band from the embarrassment of playing to a scarce audience, the show was moved to TAB.

Against this backdrop of disorganisation and poor market research, we began to wonder: what would the attitude of White Lies be? Surely there must have been a certain level of disappointment that came with the relocation. No doubt their promotors had puffed them up with promises of multitudes of fans.

This was their second attempt at a show in Singapore. The first was unceremoniously cancelled at the last minute (a common theme to their shows) in 2011. The crowd, having waited three years to finally see them strut their stuff, were unfazed. At first glimpse of the band, the screams set tone for the rest of the set.

And it seemed like White Lies were equally unaffected. Stirring the crowd into a sea of clapping hands, lead singer Harry McVeigh revelled in our adoration. At one point he stood centre stage, arms aloft in messianic fashion, soaking up the raw passion of the audience.

The band never failed to please the crowd, injecting their well loved hits ‘There Goes Our Love Again’ and ‘First Time Caller’ in-between the album tracks such that even a casual listener would have had a good time.

However for all the punch and bite that their set possessed, White Lies suffered the usual mid-set fatigue that seems to plague most acts these days. There came a point when the songs seemed to meld together as one long post-punk jam, leaving us feeling somewhat as drowned as McVeigh’s reverb drenched vocals.

They made us wait until the very end for ‘Bigger Than Us’, but it was well worth it. The good showing more than made up for the build-up. However it begs the question, how well do the promotors really understand the landscape of Singapore’s music scene?

by Andrew Koay

Lucy Rose @ Esplanade Recital Studio (7:30pm, 16.03.14)

“This is so surreal,” Lucy Rose Parton says, adjusting the guitar strap over her shoulder and shaking her head as if trying to wake from a dream. “How do you guys even know who I am?”

She’s addressing the hundred or so people before her, but especially the ten in the front row who have worn their Lucy Rose merchandise tees to the gig.

It seems almost an odd question to ask after such an intimate gig — as if one had played songs written in a diary on the guitar to a bunch of friends then asked them what the hell they were doing in her living room. Never mind that these were friends who were half in love with her and who could sing along to every one of her songs, and scream ‘AAAHHH’ right on cue after that line in the refrain of ‘Bikes’.

[youtube width=”457″ height=”343″]http://youtu.be/xym69qVmrec[/youtube][spacer height=”10px”]

At one point, Lucy (we’re on first-name terms now, right?) also shares that she’s written a new song titled ‘Nebraska’, inspired by a book she’s read by Willa Cather, and we all feel as though we should ask her if we could borrow it for the weekend — we’d return it to her the next time we hang out.

Honest, fragile and personal, it was a set that made us all voyeurs to her emotions and insecurities. But as flawless as the set was, and as flawless as Lucy Rose was, and as flawless as her vocals were, one couldn’t help but yearn for a tad more bite in the music.

As one critic put it more aptly, Like I Used To creates “a hazy sound that leaves you feeling as if you’ve bathed in lavender oil – lovely, but lacking the acerbic touch that would elevate her to a leading role.” Lucy’s talent is quite apparent, and her rising fame quite unsurprising despite her own bewilderment at it; but if she were to shed the comparisons to Laura Marling (not that that’s not a compliment by any measure) there will need to be more elements of surprise — like that amazing version of ‘Shiver’ she played on electric guitar instead of an acoustic (“We were flying, so I couldn’t pack too many guitars”) that added a dream-like patina to heartache.

Nevertheless, it was an unquestionably beautiful performance made literally up-close-and-personal when the audience swarmed the stage within centimetres of her, in response to her quite misinterpreted invitation to ‘stand and boogie’.

“This is insane. Who knew?” She mutters into the mic but not to the audience. “Who would have known that my best show would be in Singapore?”

By Zixin Lin

Charlie Lim @ Esplanade Theatre Studio (10pm, 16.03.14)

You never leave a Charlie Lim show without feeling like your mind has been blown to pieces. It’s a phenomenon. Everyone who attended the show last Sunday stepped out of the Mosaic Club in somewhat of a collective daze, still trying to figure out what exactly happened in there, for that one-hour set. Suffice it to say, Charlie and his band members really know how to put on a good show.

Even before the show, the fact that tickets for the first show had been sold out, and another one had to be added afterwards, already hinted that this was not going to be an ordinary gig: as the Mosaic Club filled up, there was definitely some sense of expectation among the crowd.

Once the band emerged and settled into their places, it began with a short but intense prelude before seamlessly launching right into an old favourite ‘Pedestal’, off Charlie’s debut EP. There was little sign of lethargy from the band despite having played another set earlier that night – everything was right on cue, and the energy was irrepressible.

The Mothership, as Charlie’s band (Euntaek Kim, Jase Sng, Wen Ming Soh, Kerong Chok, Adam Shah and Mark John Hariman) is affectionately known, shared such a level of chemistry that only long-time collaborators are able to perfect. Clearly seasoned musicians in their own right, throughout the set they were able to support Charlie’s vocals and yet not overtop them.

‘Conspiracy’, a new single slated for release on the upcoming Time/Space EP, marked a departure from familiar territory: a swirling electronic haze of autotuned vocals, throbbing beats and a restless bassline. It was an invigorating change, with an observably darker mood beginning to set in for the rest of the show.

Compared to the confident and assured grooves of the earlier songs, following songs like ‘Bitter’ and the tentatively named ‘The Airport Song’ were far more controlled and considered; stripped down, the songs were laid bare to emotional honesty. The gently straining croon of, “But I won’t catch you if you let go, I’ll pick apart the things you let fold” evoked a bittersweet romance, the irony and ambivalence of love.

From full-on jazz to dreamy electronic tones, the versatility and musicianship of the band were again on display with the transition to a more alt-rock leaning Smashing Pumpkins cover, ‘1979’. The Mothership seemed happy enough to be playing along, taking a breather from the more musically challenging earlier songs and jamming easily to this classic tune.

The encore was, of course, a given: the crowd was hungry for more, chanting and shouting after Charlie disappeared backstage. Thankfully he came out again, obliging the audience with three more songs. ‘There Is No Love’ was perhaps the best song to end the set with, probably one of Charlie’s best songs and a crowd favourite.

The set had come full circle, from beginning with old songs off his EP, going on to explore new depths, new dimensions of sound, and then back to the well-loved favourites again. Alternating between the extremes of full-blown intensity and quiet restraint, Charlie and his band had traversed the entire spectrum in that one-hour set.

With the end of the show, the tenth Mosaic Music Festival was over – hard to believe, but nevertheless a deserving closure. Charlie’s upcoming double EP Time/Space will be highly anticipated, for sure, as he promised the audience that he would be back in Singapore at the end of the year with the launch of the new release. Till then we’ll be savouring the memory of this last night of the festival to tide us over.

By Li Shuen Lam

Atlas LP Launch @ Beep Studios (15.03.14)

Atlas launched their debut LP Here Be Dragons with an intimate performance supported by post-rockers Sphaeras and Paint The Sky Red on Saturday, 15 March 2014. Beep City Studios set the scene well with two softly lit Persian carpets that demarcated the stage and put the performers on the same plane as their audience. Perhaps it was this deconstruction, or simply the fact that many in attendance were family and friends, but it felt like you were slipping right into something comfortable and familiar.

Sphaeras opened the proceedings with a set that gave just the right taste of things to come. A recent addition to the scene, their sound tilted towards the textural, exploring emotions with urgency and filled with yearning to paint a landscape for the mind. This made for a nice contrast with the wordless narratives of Paint The Sky Red, who looked completely at ease delivering what felt like chapters of a tale well-told. Their set was composed and patient, revealing layers that spoke of the trials of experience. At the end of it, there was much anticipation for Atlas, who finally took to the carpets to belt out their unique brand of genre-bending music.

One of the most satisfying aspects of Atlas’ predisposition to combine elements across genres is that they have a keen understanding of how to make something coherent out of the fragments of their various influences — the carefully structured songs that made up their set all had a density of rich flavours that blended gently with each other.

The combination of acts for this LP launch – whether deliberate or by accident – provided a curious snapshot across time, with each band representing a different phase in their development. Atlas were marking new ground with the culmination of Here Be Dragons and at the same time sealing a memory of their present lineup. Sphaeras, still quite fresh from the cradle, were carving out their range and proving their mettle. Paint The Sky Red, on the other hand, displayed the quiet intensity that comes from playing together for years.

Highlights of the evening included the punishment that Sphaeras’ Zakhran Khan meted out to his drum kit, the eerily sampled fragments of conversation that framed the PTSR set. and the improv by Atlas’ keyboardist Zac Yeap. The venue and set-up was icing on the cake, and we hope that the success of this in-studio performance is the first of many to come at Beep City Studios.

By Manoj Harjani

The Big Pink @ Esplanade Concert Hall (14.03.14)

It would be too easy to write about The Big Pink’s gig at Esplanade Concert Hall in terms of size; too obvious to point out the irony in how everything about it was in fact small. Oh no, it would be artless journalism to dream up headlines like “The Big Pink Play To Tiniest Concert Hall Crowd Ever”, or “The Big Pink’s Short Set Disappoints, or “The Big Pink — Half The Band It Used To Be” (literally: they’re officially a duo now).

But it would also be wrong not to, because all of the above is embarrassingly true. The London electro fuzz-rockers were shockingly mediocre, putting on a show that felt more like a dress rehearsal than a proper concert. Where did it all go wrong?

Perhaps it was the poor attendance. It couldn’t have been very encouraging for frontman Robbie Furze, drummer Vicky Jean Smith and Furze’s wife-cum-sessionist Mary Charteris to be told they were booked at a world-class 1,800-seater venue, then walk onstage to see it less than a quarter full. Or for them to get only the first two rows on their feet, while the rest of the patchily-filled auditorium sat and looked on for the better part of seventy minutes.

Maybe the band was over-ambitious, debuting no less than four new songs. If The Big Pink were of — well, bigger — stature, like Radiohead or Arctic Monkeys, this would’ve been a defining moment, and the envy of fans worldwide. But they aren’t, and four new songs in a set of eleven seems more like an experiment by a band playing to a low-stakes audience they feel they can afford to alienate (especially considering how they aren’t currently touring, and the Singapore gig is a one-off). It wasn’t all bad, though. ‘Here I Am’ has a leather-clad badassery which The Raveonettes would be proud of, and signals a possible progression from the anthemic pomp of the first two albums. But there was a palpable hesitation in the way the new material was presented, with each song preceded by an uncomfortable silence, and marked by tense concentration.

Or it could be that The Big Pink is just one of those bands that sucks live. It’s clear enough from listening to A Brief History of Love on headphones that their massive sound is a contrivance of good production and electronic overdubs. This doesn’t always translate well in a live environment, least of all when you’ve lost two members, and you’re relying on the frontman’s model wife to pick up the considerable slack by triggering samples, sequences and vocal effects. Goodness knows what made The Big Pink decide not to bring along a bassist for the Singapore show, and relegate their low-end to a computer. The result was a really half-assed visual presence, and a noise which clearly aspired to be huge, but stopped short of it.

To be fair, Furze and Smith were most in their element with the older material like ‘Crystal Visions’ and ‘Too Young To Love’, slamming overfuzzed power chords and driving beats with full-on rock posturing. Alas, it was too little and too late, in a concert that simply lacked too much.

By Don Shiau

tricot @ Home Club (14.03.14)

tricot is a curious case. From the land of crazy fads and music (kawaii metal, anyone?), Japan has once again brought something out of the nary; a surprisingly punishing math-rock band formed by three girls in their mid-twenties and a lone dude.

tricot, fronted by the affable Ikkyu Nakajima (vocals, guitars), kicked off into hard-riffing numbers at Home Club with songs which were melodic, yet had a certain sense of frenetic, unbridled energy to it. This had obvious showing in the crowd, who responded unfalteringly with fervent cheering and applause every time a song went out.

Before that, local experimental/post-rock outfit 7nightsatsea opened for tricot, and performed to a largely stagnant crowd with songs from their new EP. Still fresh off their release of their debut Drift Easy, Heavy Hands EP last year, the band thrilled audiences with numbers such as soft-brimming track ‘Heralds’ and progressive track ‘Quiver (In Turmoil)’. The band was ethereal in their own right, building highly textured layers of guitars over rumbling beats.

tricot rocked hard, and sung mostly in their native Japanese tongue. The band was amiable towards the crowd, and divulged halfway that they’d “had pizza at Riverside Plaza” and “visited Marina Bay Sands” earlier that afternoon. Tricot was a furious amalgamation of styles; jazz, punk, rock, indie and even had an interesting post-rock complex to their music. Performing songs off their latest release, T.H.E, the band showcased complex rhythms and timings in songs such as ‘おもてなし, おちゃんせんすぅす’ and ‘99.974℃’. There was an interesting reminiscent to math-rock bands such as Don Caballero, Fall of Troy, Minus the Bear, and even Foals, who were seen performing here earlier this month.

The girls charmed throughly with their music, as well as with their adorable personality. The band would engage with the audience after every song, using their smattering of English to interact with the crowd. They were surprisingly down-to-earth, and took time to read notes thrown from the crowd and replying to random Japanese words called out. Vocalist Ikkyu took things up a notch when she got the crowd singing Happy Birthday to lead guitarist Motoko Kida. After that, the band kicked into the encore performance of their last song.

tricot’s music was purely transcendental, and it didn’t take a grasp of the Japanese language to understand where these girls (and guy) were coming from. tricot was the epitome of the age-old saying “don’t judge a book by it’s cover”; if three surburban-looking Japanese girls could rock harder than any seasoned rocker — and give a wildly entertaining show to boot — then so could you.

By Evan Woon

View the full photo gallery here.