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Saturday, January 05, 2008

STASIS 10: CURTAIN CALL

First off, apologies are in order to Plain Sunset and Freefallers as I had to miss their sets tonight at Stasis 10. I'm sure they rocked the house.
Overall, I think Stasis 10 was a massive success - not only in terms of the audience response but also in the sheer range of local bands that were featured. Apart from metal, almost every genre got a fair hearing today.
Predictably, the crowd was thin in in the afternoon sessions but those who stayed away missed great performances from You and Whose Army?, PeepShow and Leeson.

YaWA showcased a couple of new tunes and I liked the fact that the band took risks to push the envelope of its developing sound. Focusing on mid-tempo spacey rock, there was quite a lot of room for the music to breathe, so to speak. PeepShow is a hard-hitting, energetic powerpop outfit with a punkish edge. Frontman Zaki does a grand job in engaging the audience and he has a good set of pipes, to boot. Look forward to their EP coming out in April. Leeson specializes in Britpop approximations, aided in no small part by Jamie, their Brit vocalist. Brandishing influences from the Beatles to Oasis, the band entertained with their sharp pop smarts and witty banter. Crowd pleasers but on their own terms.


The highlights of the evening no doubt were B-Quartet and the Great Spy Experiment. A B-Quartet performance is always about finese and power - an iron fist in a velvet glove - their entire set seemed to disappear in an instant with Personal Space, Stupid Luxury & Disp R:S lighting up the proceedings. Willy passed me the B-Quartet album and it's now playing even as I write this - PHENOMENAL - but that's another blog entry (Shoebox - AWESOME!!!). Don't wait, though, get it NOW!

And GSE... wow! The crowd simply went ape shit. Although I can take no credit for anything GSE has achieved, I felt so PROUD. The crowd sang along, dance, waved, clapped their hands and appreciated the band - WONDERFUL! Late Nite Request sent chills down my spine...Yet, I sensed a little restlessness within the band as they tried to reinvent their oh-so-recognizable songs in an attempt to freshen things up.

Honourable mentions must go out to: -

Ivy's Vendetta - Local Radiofriendly pop-rock that draws heavily from 90s rock.

Fishtank - I'm not big on ska punk but they really got the audience going with their last song.

Vertical Rush - An energized display with drummer Daren an entertaining distraction. Poor Esmond was suffering from a sore throat (like many other performers today) but the honesty and passion of the performance shone through.

Amateur Takes Control - A modern take on classic instrumental bands like the Shadows, Dick Dale and the Ventures, it takes quite a bit of ambition and no small talent to touch the audience without words.

Kudos must go to the NUS Original Music Society, to Johnson and company for organizing this great showcase of local bands, albeit their final effort or so it seems. One caveat though, having the band on the same level (i.e. ground) as the audience is impractical. When the entire crowd stood up for GSE, noone past the second row could see anything and what's the point if you can't see the band?

A minor quibble as the local scene got a tremendous kick-off for 2008 today.

...still there's more...

Friday, January 04, 2008

BAND OF HORSES - DETLEF SCHREMPF

This is my song of 2007. Taken from Band of Horses' Cease to Begin album, it is a gorgeous ambient shoegazing take on a Neil Young ballad. I'm totally besotted with it - anyone agree?

STASIS 10 IS UPON US

Yeah, boyz and gurls, the 1st major local gig takes place tomorrow and here is the line-up:

2.15 - 3.00 - You and Whose Army?

3.00 - 3.45 - Ivy's Vendetta

3.45 - 4.30 - Peepshow

4.30 - 5.15 - Fishtank

5.15 - 6.00 - Leeson

6.00 - 6.45 - Vertical Rush

6.45 - 7.30 - Amateur Takes Control

7.30 - 8.15 - B-Quartet

8.15 - 9.00 - Great Spy Experiment

9.00 - 9.45 - Plain Sunset

9.45 - 10.30 - Freefallers

I must apologize that I could not feature every band in the promo lead up for one reason or another but I will certainly try to take note of every band when I write the review.

So, guess I'll see you there, ya? Remember to come up and say hi. I'll be the handsome dude with the silver hair. Hur hur.
... and there's more ...

THE POLICE - COUNTING DOWN THE DAYS...

Only a month to go before the Police concert at the Indoor Stadium – here’s an article I wrote for Fufkin.com in 2001…

After launching his solo career with Dream of the Blue Turtles, in 1985, Sting was asked if there would ever be a reunion of The Police. Sting's answer was typically contemptuous - "No, it would be like going back to kindergarten!" His jazz-tinged album had became an international hit, fuelling Sting's solo ambitions and confirmation that he could make it without his band mates.
By 1983, The Police were the biggest rock group on the planet. Their fifth album, Synchronicity, managed to put the philosophies of Carl Jung at the very top of the Billboard Charts and "Every Breath You Take" became the best-selling single of that year. The band had released five albums in six years and following an exhausting world tour embarked on a sabbatical from which they never properly returned.
In fact, Sting would go back into the recording studio with his band mates Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers in 1986 but severe creative differences - Sting wanted to re-record the band's greatest hits whilst Copeland and Summers insisted on new material. Sting, perhaps mindful of his own promising solo career was unwilling to let The Police record his songs anymore. The band only existed in name and the writing was on the wall. The mind-boggling success The Police would eventually achieve would have been unimaginable for the trio when the original Police line-up viz Sting (real name - Gordon Sumner) on bass and vocals, Stewart Copeland on drums and Henri Padovani on guitar, independently released their debut single, "Fallout" in 1976. The single's failure to attract anyone's attention made it all the easier for Sting and Copeland to allow Andy Summers into the band, a move which led to the eventual departure of Padovani.
Summers was a good ten years older than Sting and Copeland and had played with the New Animals and Zoot Money's Big Roll Band during the 1960s. Summers' arrival accentuated the main strength of the band - their differences. Copeland, an American living in England had played progressive rock with Curved Air and brought in the percussive ska/reggae influences; Sting, a erstwhile teacher and ditch digger, performed with many jazz-rock bands with the inevitable jazz inclinations and Summers, a veteran of the British invasion had the experience and the technical expertise (he was a classically trained guitarist) the fledging band required.
With the respective backgrounds in mind, it is ironic that in the latter 1970s, The Police had been closely associated with the punk-new wave movement - an association quickly discredited when they dyed their hair blond for a Wrigleys' commercial. This event would give The Police their enduring image of the blond punk trio. That image would give them the edge in getting their music heard. The fact of the matter was that in terms of the music, The Police were creating something new out of the fusion of reggae, punk, jazz and pop-rock.
Summers' precise guitar attack created dense, interlocking waves of sounds and effects reminiscent of Robert (King Crimson) Fripp, Copeland's complex and unconventional (for rock drummers anyway) polyrhythms providing the driving force and Sting's high, keening voice, infectiously catchy pop songs and drop dead gorgeous good looks translated into a potential that could take over the rock world.
And it was that final element that would bring them fame and fortune. The first three albums - Outlandos D'Amour, Regatta De Blanc and Zenyatta Mondatta - were overall spotty affairs but contained some of the best pop singles of its time. "Roxanne," "Message in a Bottle," "Walking on the Moon," "Don't Stand So Close To Me" and "De Do Do Do De Da Da Da" brought The Police into the Top Ten singles and album charts on both sides of the Atlantic and increasing worldwide audience that culminated into wildly received world tours.
However, the tensions within the band were beginning to take its toll as stories of in-fighting and disputes began to surface. One particularly telling incident was recorded at a French show in 1980 where Sting reacted angrily to a fan spitting on him but noticeably Copeland and Summers were unmoved. Instructive perhaps that written on Copeland's drums were certain expletives that were aimed at his lead singer!
By the beginning of 1981, the Police were able to sell out Madison Square Garden. The band returned to the studio in the summer of 1981 to record their fourth album. Sting's influence over the band was virtually sacrosanct. The resulting album - Ghost in the Machine - was more experimental with Sting playing horns and keyboards and carried a dark political overtone with songs like "Invisible Sun" and "Spirits in the Material World" However, it was due to the ska-jazz ditty "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic" - their biggest single to date - that made the album an instant hit. Which brings us full circle to mega-selling Synchronicity - The Police's finest hour and conversely the beginning of their demise…
The Police were a unique band - utilizing the energy of punk without being distracted by its nihilism. Whilst there have been imitators (Men at Work and the Outfield) and disciples (dada, Verve Pipe, Live), none of these bands have managed to re-create the spirit of The Police's freewheeling, genre-bending, appealing style.
Personally, the era the Police was viable (1978 to 1983) were exciting times - they represented many things to many people - commercial and cutting edge; romantic and political; studio perfectionists and powerful 'live' performers.
Just take a glance at the charts in 2001 to see how bad things have become - we could do with the next Police right about now…

... can hardly wait...

Thursday, January 03, 2008

B-QUARTET {TOBOGGANING}

... and yet another! Not sure what kind of tobogganing you're going to get in snow-less Singapore but you're gonna forget all that nonsense once B-Quartet hits the Playden on Saturday, 2nd February 2008 to launch their full-length CD Tomorrow Is Our Permanent Address.
Not to be missed, I'm sure...

JACK & RAI: IN STORES NOW CD LAUNCH

... and along comes another CD launch. Friday, 25th January 2008, Esplanade Recital Studio. Jack and Rai finally unleashes In Stores Now to the unsuspecting public. About time too...
Let's see if I can get the boys to share a little bit about the making of the album and the songs...
... stay tuned!

BISMUTH: IN/OUT SYNCHRONIUM LAUNCH

Better late than never... first CD launch of the year, I believe. Playden is quite an intimate venue so it's a good opportunity to catch Bismuth up close. Tomorrow night, 8pm.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

ROCK IN THE FINE CITY

Sub-titled "left of the dial ((( below the $ingaporean radar" Rock in the Fine City is the best blog bar none focusing on the first wave of Singapore indie rock viz. the 90s.
A labour of love from a creative, dedicated individual calling himself sojourner, this reviews blog is an indispensable resource for all fans of Singapore rock.
Whilst we celebrate the current Singapore rock revival, it is vital that we chronicle the great music that came a decade or so before. And Rock in the Fine City does this so well...
It is a well written, well researched site that I highly recommend.
Check it out!

HISTORICAL CASSETTES

Hahaha

Just digging thru a pile of old cassettes and see what I found -

The Oddfellows - Seven Year Itch
AWOL - Midnight in June
The Pagans - Hideaway
Livonia - Self
Eza - Ain't Ready for Monday
The Pilgrims - Away from the Numbers
S.U.D.S. - Invasion of the Killer S.U.D.S.
Various - M.I.S. Vol 2
Various - Gang Bang

Sad thing is almost none of these bands are still around...must be something we can do to preserve these historical recordings... any thoughts?

HAPPY 2008!

And so a new year has come… and everything seems fresh again. I mean, what’s the difference between yesterday and today? It feels good nonetheless…

Still, I just want to close out my thoughts on 2007 by talking a little about the bands that impressed me in our local music scene last year and what I hope to see from them in 2008. Bearing in mind that though I did certainly catch a few gigs in 2007, I believe that there are still many great bands out there that I still haven’t had the joy and privilege to witness and savor.

Allura – Yes, saw a lot of Allura last year and believe that 2008 will be a crucial year for the band. Great live performances, catchy jazz-inflected alt-rock material and a dynamic frontperson all add up to tremendous potential. With an EP coming up as well. Keep your eye on Allura!

Andrew Chen – Truthfully, I’ve only really seen Andrew once but was bowled over by his confidence and versatile vocals. With the right grooming, I think that mainstream success is a distinct possibility with his pleasing jazz-pop repertoire.

Bad Obsession - Genuine cock-rockers or just rockin’ cocks? These guys really look and sound the part with their authentic take on the Stones, Aerosmith and GNR. Having not heard their originals, I will reserve my comments but they blaze thru their classic rock covers with aplomb and some…

Bhelliom - Not my cup of tea but I recognize ability when I see it. It’s not hard to see why our local metal exponents obviously have the greatest chance to make an impact outside our shores & Bhelliom, with its hard hitting thrash metal chops and Vivek’s authoritative growl, seem to be a good bet to do so.

B-Quartet - Perhaps, technically, the best band in Singapore now. Modern progressive rock at its finest. Now beefed up to a sextet, the group blew audiences away whenever they performed though they may be more classified as a musicians’ band. Whatever, with a new album out to prime, it’s going to be a big year for B-Quartet.

Etc - Good old Ben Harrison has been reduced to a solo act but you know, with the kind of articulated, witty songs that Ben parlays, you never notice that too much. Don’t put too much stock in that “cerebral” moniker, Ben is a rocker and I’m hoping to see him cut loose in 2008!

Firebrands - Credit where it’s due. Firebrands have built up their reputation as a ‘happening’ modern hard rock band by investing into the scene and venturing overseas. The Deafcon series has gone a long way in establishing the rock/metal scene here and the kids certainly love it.

Goodfellas - One of the top covers band around – tight and entertaining – they do give the people exactly what they want. Despite myself, I often find myself singing along… Would love to hear their originals, if any, because they already have the base to build themselves around. What say you fellas?

Great Spy Experiment - Late Night Request, The Great Decay, Class ‘A’ Love Affair, A Kind of Love etc. Need I say more? Songs that will still be remembered a decade or more from now. Sure, performing with GSE, gave me an invaluable insight into what makes GSE ticks – believe me, talent and inspiration (and perspiration) – and the willingness to play to a disco beat (!) all make for a wondrous package. Now the challenge – new material…

Indus Gendi - Sometimes I think that Indus is trying a little too hard to be a baby B-Quartet. But you’ve got to admire the ambition. Actually, Esther is the key to propel the band to a different level. Then and Now is one of my fave tracks and if I had my way, that’s the direction I’d have them pursue. However, the melodic jazz-emo-postrock hybrid currently informing their repertoire will do nicely as well.

Jack & Rai/EIC - I love these guys. Really. Accomplished musicians & talented singer-songwriters. Definitely operating in the same milieu as yours truly and that in itself is appreciated! Much anticipated debut album has been delayed, I understand, so one to look out for this year. “FI-ONA!”

King Kong Jane - Mainstream indie is probably a weird term but I believe it applies to KKJ. The songs are muscular and sinewy pop-rock with an 'indie' edge. Frontman Colin is an excellent focal point for the audience to hook on to as well. Personally, I believe that KKJ has the greatest potential to replicate the success of GSE in mixing commercial and artistic concerns. One to watch out for in 2008...

Marchtwelve - Am beginning to appreciate Dewi, Joseph and co a little more and more. I guess reviewing their Not Just A Date EP helped me to value some of the tunes more, which at times did not really come off live. Still Dewi’s strong vocals always come across passionate but sensitive and Joseph’s arsenal of guitar skills always thrill, so definitely the complete live package. Hopefully, a full length album is in the works.

Pinholes - Ah, the people’s band. Pinholes always make me laugh – with them, not at them, mind. They look like they having so much fun on stage and that is so infectious, you cannot help but be swept away with the emotion. You’ve got to admire them for their dogged retro-futurist vision and those melodies! Sublime. New EP is out now so expect a review soon…

Plain Sunset – I must confess I have under-estimated Plain Sunset a little bit since returning to the local scene. You see, back in the day (mid-90s), they were this little punk-pop band that my only connection to was borrowing Ronny (the drummer) for a gig with Popland (we did 70s punk covers). However, I was pleasantly shocked by the response given to Plain Sunset at Baybeats ’07. That was a gig and a half. So props to the boys – I’ve been hearing a Plain Sunset song on Star World’s Heroes’ ads – amazing! A new album is due soon… can’t wait!

Stoned Revivals - Another veteran of the scene truly inspired me one night at the Singapore National Museum’s Homemade gig with ten musicians on stage. Truly awesome to behold and the jazz-soul-funk mix that resulted was a ride as well. What ambition, I thought. With leader Esam in KL, not much is happening with Stoned Revivals but I really hope to see more from this unique band.

The Fire Fight - Every few bands manage to connect with the audience. The Fire Fight achieves this connection with every succeeding show. Despite their music being a little complicated and heady at times, the showmanship and transparency of leader Josh Tan transcends any such difficulty to translate the songs into rock music of immediacy, vibrancy and yes, integrity. The next big thing…

Timmy/Ngak - The band that never rehearses is how Ngak described Timmy to me. The band did a wonderful job covering alt-rock tunes that catered very much to the twentysomethings. If anything, Ngak is a true blue Singapore rock star (I hesitate to use the term ‘Idol’), and it may well be in the Mandopop scene that he is finally recognized although he has written a couple of English rock songs that are phenomenal. Our eternal loss? After 881, guitar hero HYR is now the darling of the Chinese press so his time with Timmy is diminishing. It doesn’t really matter which scene, Ngak and HYR strike it really big, as long as they do…and they will.

You and Whose Army? - Another baby band that is still learning its trade, so to speak, YAWA has several secret weapons up its sleeve, that when fully developed, will take the scene by storm. Bonk’s songwriting, derived from diverse influences from Radiohead to Bjork; James’ stellar guitar work, grounded in five decades of rock guitar styles; Adam’s musicianship and Beni’s consistency. Not the finished package yet, by any means, but the possibilities are endless.

And I know that that’s only the tip of the iceberg. There was so much happening in the local music scene in 2007 but there is still a lot of ground to cover to bring it to a level it deserves both at home and abroad. You can do your part by attending gigs, purchasing CDs and supporting the bands you love. Oh and don’t forget to tell all your friends about local music.

… still there’s more…

Monday, December 31, 2007

STASIS 10: PLAIN SUNSET

A Plain Sunset gig is a sight to behold. Sunshine punk pop that generates a response that is at once energetic and passionate. A veteran of the local scene, the band shows no sign of slowing down, having wowed the kids at Baybeats and undertaking a tour in the Philippines this year. Sham kindly agreed to answer my nosy questions -

What kind of year did Plain Sunset have in 2007?

Oh we had a few hiccups with the recording but its all sorted out. We played a great set at Baybeats 07! Played shows in KL and the Philipines so it is a great year! We can't wait to release the new record in 2008 ... so watch out for that one.

What were the unforgettable moments in 2007?

The packed crowd at baybeats 07 and our Philipines tour ... that's awesome!

What are you hoping for in 2008?

Hope people buy our new record and play more shows!
As veterans of the local scene, are you optimistic about the years to come?

We just do what we like and think is right. It's ok if people don't really like what we are doing but the most important thing is that we are still having fun and enjoying what we do since day 1.

What can fans expect from Plain Sunset at Stasis 10?

A sweaty, energetic and fun set! Better than stasis 9!

What more incentive do you need?! More info about Plain Sunset here.

STASIS 10: PEEPSHOW

Melody junkies will be drawn exorably to the irresistible toons & the cool classic pop vibe of PeepShow. Sprinkle liberally edgy modern alt-rock sensibilities and you will be hooked! I must confess I've not watched the band live but if the vibrant, heartfelt songs on their myspace is any indication... then, hold on tight, baby!

OK, here's the interview...


What was it like to be PeepShow in 2007?


Well, for PeepShow, 2007 was a year of growing and developing into a better band than we were previously. With our previous bassist leaving us at the end of 2006, we found ourselves lacking as we played as a 4-man band in the 1st quarter of 2007. With the addition of Samuel, we found a new resolve to play harder and better than before.


Peepshow's favourite moments of 2007


PeepShow recently played at Esplanade for New Year's Eve, and that show was great. All that we've learned and practiced throughout the year came to fruition and PeepShow gave their best show to a packed audience.

What's in store for PeepShow in 2008?


PeepShow has begun recording their originals for their EP which will be launched in April 2008. We've been selected to audition for Baybeats 2008, and hopefully you'll see us performing at Baybeats 2008 with all the other local bands. We're also looking into adding a new member to the band - a keyboardist. Don't worry, you'll be seeing him play alongside us in Stasis 10. And, of course, we'll be working harder to make better music and put up a better performance for the whole of 2008.


Who are your favorite Singaporean/Malaysian bands?


We've got a lot of favourites, so it's going to be a long list: Electrico and EIC, upcoming bands like King Kong Jane and S.P.O.N.G.E., and Couple and Tragic Comedy.


What can fans expect from PeepShow at Stasis 10?


A really good show. PeepShow is excited to play for Stasis 10.


So. 5th Jan 08. Substation. Be there!