Friday, July 29, 2005
VARIOUS ARTISTS- 12 Storeys Soundtrack CD
(Springroll Creative Entertainment Agency 1997)
"You did not make this place, had no hand in poising there; twelve storeys against the air. You only live here, and living alter its space..." (Simon Tay)
Empty providences, propping concrete skeletons and soul, "12 Storeys" is an austere reflection upon the average heartlanders of this island metropolis. The sophomoric film by Eric Khoo of the "Mee Pok Man" fame is a collective tale of urban tragedies; depicting a day in the life of the sad, mundane existence of your very average residents living in the cramped government housing known as HDB flats. Apart from great cinematography employed in it, the film succeeded in digging deep into the Singaporean psyche and making sociopolitical commentaries subtly, reflecting on the apparent destitute of the forgotten "losers" trapped in the dark recesses of urban alienation, in between the four concrete walls. The film was played to full houses in overseas film festivals and received positive acclaims, but this greatest cinematic moment in Singapore film-making made a quiet fizzle within the local shores, barely making an impact on a herd of self loathing robots who had long forgotten conscience and identity.
This review takes a look at the soundtrack of the film, which is a collective effort of some of the best bands in the Singaporean music scene. The soundtrack features samples of dialogue taken from the film, and is used to mould a conceptual context to the album. And many of these are selected from the highlights of the film, with the infamous Cantonese nagging of the amah, the bickerings between the siblings and the yelling of the Chinese newlywed. Kevin Matthews of The Crowd/ Watchmen fame is responsible for composing the backbone, the main themes of this soundtrack, and if the viewer can recall, the light morose tune "The Playground" creeps through the opening quietness into a montage sequence of various shots from the wee hours of a quiet morning, from long shots of the apartment block's exterior into close up shots of different Singaporean residents in the privacy of their concrete quarters. The "12 Storeys Closing Theme", is a reprise of "The Playground", which sees the night crawling in, curtain drawn... and dreaming another tomorrow. There is a tongue-in-cheek sample of coffeeshop uncles' Hokkien conversation tagged behind the closing theme, including several dialogue that were previously unavailable on the film, and it is definitely mandatory listening material for anyone who understands Hokkien.
Humpback Oak takes the lead with their acoustic melancholy in "If I Am Weak", "Stressed Out", and "Bridge". These numbers, characteristic of Humpback Oak's gentle, sepia-tinted suicide ballads, made frequent appearances throughout the film, as a dreamy prelude before suicide. "Stressed Out" takes a light stride, a mere shrugging shoulder acknowledgement to the state of being and society. The casual, hearty and laidback vibe of this song is beautifully augmented with the gentle voice of Leslie Low. Leslie also managed to hook up with the forever 27 rebel X'Ho with a brooding acoustic moment "We Are Always 1/2 Way There". This folksy angst-ridden tune sees X'Ho and Leslie lamenting the futility of society and falling behind in the cog and mills of the ratrace with 'there’s a future, no one knows where'. X'Ho also hooked up with Martin on "My Perfect 10", a soulful hip swaying groovy tune, and let's hope that it does not refer to that radio station. The next track pops up a sample "how many times you had sex with him.." Well, May Yee tried explaining with the cover of Watchmen's famous "My One And Only", which is a watered down version of the original, hardly doing justice but not surprising considering that this is the maiden singing feature from the model casted in this film. Jacintha carried her upbeat versions of Kevin Matthew's "12 Storeys theme", a dance beat-charged pop number with catchy hooks and ecstatic rhythms. Her other track "Charge me Your Fare" is a diva material in the making, accentuating her marvelous voice through the same charged up dance rhythms. Yeow also attempted a "12 Storeys (Dance Mix)" which delves towards the techno spectrum, with pulsing bass beats and complex synth layers and loops. Following Yeow, Najip Ali belted out a very engaging trip hop number "Moody", which has a very loungey ambience to the whole package. One of the highlight of this album is The Lilac Saint's "Wasting Time", with their very elegant, dreamy pop rock, which has some very exceptional melodies intertwined in the composition. The beautiful harmony of this piece, works in the same casual stride like Humpback Oak's "Stressed Out", a lazy shrug. Stoned Revivals came up with their brand of old-school boogie "Goodil", which showcases their excellent talent in original, cool and slick deliverance with very catchy psychedelic hooks in the chorus. And who can forget the good ol' The Oddfellows with their exclusive feature "Breach", which rocks the house with their simple, catchy pop punk, reminiscent of The Replacements on prozac. Last but not least, The Sugarflies gave us melodic indie pop rock with its beautiful "Wrong Again", with melodies that linger in the thin breeze, with the crisp delicacy of a feminine touch.
Ten days to go before the 9th of August, and what better way to evince the spirit of the nation with anthems from the voices of Singaporeans? No fanciful extolling of blind faith and 'feel good' confidence. The discourses of the state and the ideology of the nation are put in the question mark because the people cannot stand up for Singapore anymore. These are the genuine outcries from suppressed voices desperate to be heard. Yet, they are still dreaming for a better tomorrow. No other soundtrack to your unfulfilling life comes better than the "12 Storeys Soundtrack" because it is quintessentially Singaporean, and the essence of it is tragic.
--sojourner at 4:15 AM