Monday, April 06, 2009
ASTREAL- Ouijablash CD
(Springroll Creative Entertainment Agency Pte Ltd 1996)
Back in the early '90s, I had this serious infatuation with shoegazing bands and when I hear The Pagans (Singapore's version of Ride meets Chapterhouse), you can imagine me sobbing to its hip swaying headswim on Boss pedal effects. After that period we had bands like The Mother and Breed (pre-Astreal) with their wall of art-noise Curve sounding demos. But the biggest name in the history of shoegazing in Singapore if it's not The Pagans, then it is very much Astreal. After Pagit left Breed, the remaining members roped in a particular Melissa Lim for the vocals and they created their unique art noise dream homage of a My Bloody Valentine with Astreal. My first exposure to this band was with the BigO Singles Club 3, which features their song “Stay Awake”, leaving quite an impression with its interesting texture and engaging melody .
Somewhere in 1996, Astreal put out their debut “Ouijablush”, which upon first look reminds me of the cheap techno/dance compilations put out by VMP. But this is extreme indie, very dreamy and sonically rich ambient rocking high on helium. The opener “Just a Dream” is 11 on gain and grating to the max, but a beautiful tune is laid in its architecture, and here the vocals sounds like ghostly whispers which occasionally breaks into clarity. “Wait” is a much more melodic song with a strong Slowdive influence in its structure, and where I can get to hear Melissa's amateurish yet irresistably charming voices. Her airy vocalisation shines on “To The Velvet”, a song which is low on feedbacks and woven by clear, slightly reverbed guitars. The more upbeat songs on this CD are “Stay Awake”, “Vir-Uno”, “Take My Hand”, driven by infectiously energetic programmed beats. “A Blue and Yellow Glow” may be an instrumental, but it is ironically the most complex track on this album, with its beautiful layers of wonderfully chiming instrumentations that aids a spirit into heavenly realms under the right influence.
The debut itself is a very gentle, psychedelic foray into the kaleidoscope of dreams. Subsequently, the band has witnessed few lineup changes, with the participation of Ginette Chittick (previously from Psycho Sonique) in their rosters and the band has since ventured into a darker electronica realm with their sophomores, which is still good, if not better than the debut. However, there is an allure of the mid '90s Astreal that warms the heart in a way that is snug as a bug in the rug.
--sojourner at 2:28 AM