WEEKLY PICKS: 25th October 2020

feature

Written by JX Soo

Published on October 25, 2020

WEEKLY PICKS: 25th October 2020

feature

Written by JX Soo

Published on October 25, 2020

Our top picks this week - featuring earthshaking screamo from Naedr, a sparkling hyperpop debut from Cayenne, and intoxicating beats from mastermind Intriguant.

Naedr

“The Prodigal Son”

Past Is Prologue / KittyWu Records

Naedr - The Prodigal Son

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The first time I saw Naedr live was pretty a visceral affair. Supporting Sans Visage, the quintet were playing their debut show on an evening at Lithe House – and as they exploded in volume, I quite literally felt my skull shake. It might have been the post-rock contrast, or it might have been vocalist Timothy Wong’s (also from emoviolence outfit Bethari) piercing screams, but it was clear from their very first show that they were one of the most promising screamo acts on the island right now. But with their credentials, why shouldn't they be? After all, they share their members with veterans and great new bands alike (Bethari, susurrus, Paris In The Making, multi-genre madman Bennett Bay) - altogether, they synthesize into a bombastic whole that more than compares with their KittyWu Records brethren.

Emerging last year with their debut single the Waltz of Fate, they set the tone with a powerful emoviolence-tinged formula, boasting frantic energy and searing blast beats – on The Prodigal Son, they deliver the same earth-rattling energy in half the duration, with a physicality that it’s predecessor somewhat lacked with its hollow mix. Here, its 74 seconds deliver a fierce salvo of self-reflection and futility, with a mix boasting an aggressive fuzz-filled signature that gives the track a much needed tone of abrasion.

This glues together the quintet into a punishing whole. A muscular bass tone sets an earth-shaking foundation for the track, upon which the band builds and builds with its razor-sharp guitars and drums pounding with relentless fury. Impassioned screams howl over the suffocating riffs, and the track feels like a constant attack, and with the lyrics carrying a further literary quality, the single intensifies its already powerful emotional potency - bringing a majestic sweep reminiscent of cathartic European screamo outfits the likes of Raein and La Quiete. The Prodigal Son is a swift burst of intensity that showcases Naedr as a band ready and firing on all cylinders - and as a band named after the lowest point, its 74 seconds only show that the only way to go is up. After all, there's probably no better time to be louder.

The Prodigal Son is out now on all platforms, released by KittyWu Records. Naedr’s upcoming debut full-length album, ‘Past Is Prologue’, is scheduled for release in November.

Listen to "The Prodigal Son" here:

  • - by JX Soo

Cayenne

"Drivin' Away"

Drivin' Away

Cayenne - Drivin' Away

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Wanting a primer to bands in the Singaporean indie rock scene, I remember once showing Sobs to one of my online friends. “I wasn’t expecting a popstar,” she commented, perhaps expecting me to show her the more ‘rock’ side of things. It wasn't a comment that I was expecting either, but it's also somewhat telling of Sobs’ appeal. Riding on the sparkling, pristine songcraft that the trio conjured on 2018’s Telltale Signs, frontwoman Celine Autumn's sweeping vocals managed to anchor a swoon-worthy magnetism that helped establish them as one of Singapore’s brightest sparks in indie pop. It’s a presence that has not only made their sound influential here in Singapore's indie scene, but has also helped create an image that's propelled them into the teenage hearts of simps in bedrooms worldwide, Southeast Asia and beyond.

This project knows that – with Cayenne, the pop-star fixation is no longer an undertone, but instead the M.O. The backdrop responds accordingly, with confidence – its spotlight throwing away its pastel glow of jangling riffs for saturated, hyperpop sheen. With the simps in arm, twee innocent heartbreak is off the menu today, as she asserts her newfound alpha energy, chardonnay in hand (All the dates I’ve been on/Got me bored out my head/They could never). But the facade doesn’t last for long – and the yearning and heartbreak remains at her core. (Am I getting on your nerves/It’s been a bad day/And you thought I needed something worse/So you went and stood me up again). Colored with just the right degree of autotune, her inner conflicts and bright delivery synthesize to create a winning pop formula – and none come more timeless to romantic drama than mixed signals city.

But as a song, Cayenne probably has even larger things to shake than the crushes. Despite Celine having the charisma to wield a pop-star guise, her vocal delivery still somewhat lacks the personality that sells the XCXs and Kim Petras of the world – instead becoming slightly consumed by the sonics that surround her. But that’s not necessarily a stroke against her – rather, it’s a case of her partner-in-crime outshining her. Produced by Sobs bandmate Jared Lim, also producing under the name of jorud on his solo efforts, Drivin’ Away instead becomes a vehicle for him to completely morph into the role of a masterful pop producer. The result is as they describe on their Bandcamp – clank!, bangers, huge.

Announcing itself with a volley of pitch-shifted samples and chime-like synths, the track bursts into technicolor, with waves of distorted bass hitting like digital sledgehammers, crisp kicks and snares galore. Some signatures remain from his experimentations as jorud – notably the chippy staccato guitar stabs, playfully dancing behind the beatwork – but for the most part, Lim conjures a track compressed and engineered to perfection, its beats ducking and filling spaces masterfully. The track feels less like a statement by Celine, but more a sonic dopamine shot, engineered with a sense of polish exceeding anything jorud has done previously. It’s nothing new, but the hyperpop stylings are down pat, and it commands attention.

Despite the Celine XCX-aspirations that the track holds (and boy the simps will still come nevertheless), the wheel of Cayenne's Porsche still doesn't feel entirely in her hands. Even with her presence, one can’t help feeling that the one driving away with the spotlight is not Celine’s popstar parade, but rather Jared’s A.G Cook-ian foil. The track is an electrifying debut for Cayenne (as we welcome hyperpop to Singapore with open arms), but even more so a coming out party for jorud, as he proves himself as one of Singapore’s most talented producers. The biggest question this debut holds might not be about Celine's tears on the curb, or the shirts that she's torn and tossed - but this question that lingers: why isn’t jorud blowing up?

Drivin’ Away is out now on all platforms.

Listen to “Drivin' Away” here:

  • - by JX Soo

Intriguant

“Your Love”

Spirits / TAV Records

Intriguant - Your Love

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The heart and soul of Intriguant’s work lies between the interplay between atmosphere and space – and for him, those precious spaces have long been the musty underground dancefloors, with their hearts beating in soulful 4/4. Following his outstanding sophomore work Kindred, which dedicated itself as a love letter to the underground club scene, Your Love continues his explorations - in linking spiritual sonic sensibilities with a dancefloor-driven affinity.

That focus is apparent from the first few seconds. A kinetic breakbeat opens the track, with its shuffling hats and kicks driving the track forward with a propulsive energy. Atmospheric pads and pulsating bass set up a hauntingly chopped vocal sample - emerging and becoming the anchor of the song. It acts as a lingering shadow casting over his beatwork’s architecture. Like a remnant spirit, it takes on different forms as the beats mutate, returning as the drops reappear.

At certain junctures, the beats stall and repeat in place, giving highlights to glitching digital synths. On others, they squeeze through filters, obscuring themselves with aural smoke, waiting to reemerge. The beats eventually drop, foreshadowed by squelching bass frequencies, and the track is draped with a layered, haunting ambience, accompanied by cavernous reverb and scattering textures. The result is an evocative effort in garage atmospherics – a nocturnal moodpiece yearning for liminal spaces and dancefloors, waiting to return. Your Love is not just a strong first scene for his third full-length effort, but also further proof as to why he's one of Singapore's most respected producers.

Spirits, Intriguant’s third full-length album, will be out on the 20th of November.

Listen to "Your Love" here:

  • - by JX Soo

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