Our featured picks this week - electronic experimentation from ila, neo-soul hip-hop bangers from Chriskris, and hard-hitting alternative metal from Solvant!
Armed with a Microbrute and Volca Drum in hand, visual and performance artist ila’s first sound-based works manifest themselves in a spiritual collection of techno-adjacent beatscapes. Meaning to lose your temper, or to (literally) ride on air, naik angin’s captivating synth experiments intriguingly mirror these nervous energies, with its colliding rhythms and textures underpinned by an enticing tension. As she warps her synths and percolations with a fluid touch (aided also by artist Bani Haykal), these nine tracks charm in their microscopic moments, in a state of perpetual motion – from the neurotic alternations on bukan-bukan, from the wonked-out fluctuations of the title track, to ‘eh ah’’s meditative, droning pulse. Occasionally, the synths take on somewhat comedic grooves, from korek-korek cium’s insistent squelching backbeats, to the off-kilter chipped synth of neng tendo. On other occasions, they form sparse, discordant textural studies, like lemas semangat’s balancing act between harsh industrial clatter and erroneous glitching. But within these variations, a common thread weaves through her skeletal experiments. As they evolve, a free-spirited energy accompanies the music, always somehow morphing into a joyous joget that feels alive amidst its discordance. On the 10-minute hiruk pikuk, it’s demonstrated at its best – as her rhythms extend over hypnotic lengths, she accelerates an insistent, kraut-ish like frenzy towards a percolative breakdown. As the music charges forward with a primal energy, ila manages to conjure in these tense beats a meditative wind – a response strangely appropriate for an emotionally intense time. Holding onto their ever-dynamic flow, naik angin’s music feels transportive: one that spellbinds and takes away from an anxious present.
Listen to "hiruk pikuk" here:
- by JX Soo
WISHFUL THINKING / Closed Door Collective
Going all out with a keen pop sensibility, dense vocal arrangements, and head-bopping trap rhythms, Chriskris’ debut EP WISHFUL THINKING is an inspired take on soulful RnB-tinged hip-hop. As hard-hitting drum samples and trap hi-hats cement the track’s groove, standout track INFATUATED blends the songwriter’s endearingly honest demeanour with pretty bossa nova guitars and plenty of captivating vocal harmonies. Here, it’s Chriskris’ soul-baring honesty that takes centre stage – delivering a heartfelt performance consisting of equal parts admissions of flaws and jealousy (“Wishing I was blind to hues of envy/ When I see her laughing with him carefree”), he brings both charming professions of attraction as well as (like the title suggests) infatuation (“Baby maybe lately/ I’m thinking I’m sinking/ Cos I’m infatuated“). There’s an inherent likability instilled in Chriskris’ songwriting and performance – one that stems from both wholehearted commitment to his craft and a sincere honesty. It’s a sensibility that shines through his lyrics, delivery and every track’s fervently detailed arrangement and production. Coupled with a penchant for crafting gorgeous pop melodies, it makes for a standout within a genre otherwise oversaturated with mediocrity, presenting a well-crafted and heartfelt take on a trendy sound that hopefully is able to break through to the mainstream. If Chriskris was on the radio more often, I’d actually have a reason to listen to it - here’s to hoping that actually happens.
Listen to INFATUATED here:
- - by Isaac Yackem
“March of the Infidels"
March of the Infidels
Perhaps it is my bias for heavy music – but Solvant's latest release, March of the Infidels, might be the alternative metal outfit’s best so far. Having been around for quite awhile in the Singaporean music scene, with their veteran members having a foothold in acts such as General Lee, it's no surprise that March of the Infidels turned out as it did. Hell, if it doesn't gain any steam, it might be one of the better songs to fly under the scene’s radar this year.
What got me hooked on first listen was the vocals. Sounding like a mix between Breaking Benjamin’sBenjamin Burnley and Killswitch Engage’s Howard Jones, the first verse slowly builds up to that amazing chorus, with the melody they chose between the first and second stanzas particularly memorable. The band also manages to not overlook the overall mix’s low end – something which, for some reason, a lot of local bands neglect. I'm not only talking about the bass guitar tone – which was thick and provided the low end necessary for the song to shine, but also the tones in the songs’ standalone sections, such as before the bridge and during the outro. Props to their mixing and mastering engineer.
However, the vocals could perhaps have been a little more forward in the mix during the verses. Even with a strong chorus with great melodies and harmonies, I wish it just stood out slightly more – whether through vocal doubling, some more reverb, or maybe even pushed back just a tinge in the mix during the choruses. Nevertheless, March of the Infidels is a marked improvement to Solvant’s work so far. Having seen them live a number of times, we’re looking forward to the band giving sick live performances again once the time comes – without seemingly having lost a step.
Listen to "March of the Infidels” here:
- - by Chester