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rock in the fine city
'80s-'90s singapore independent music archives
Saturday, April 03, 2010
HUMPBACK OAK- Oaksongs 4 CDs Boxset
(Humpback Oak 2010)

“Oaksongs” would be the last music I buy. “Pain-stained Morning” being the first Singapore album I bought. Humpback Oak serves up as the alpha and omega of my adventures in Singapore rock music and if not, any involvement in music at all. You'd have read somewhere that I am suffering from musical malaise and have gotten rid of close to 95% of what used to be my Cds, tapes and vinyls. And yet I have a survivalist bug-out bag with enough space for the “Oaksongs” boxset and it in itself can hold the rest of my Humpback Oak Cds. This bundle will be spared from my material world spring cleaning because it is of utmost importance to me. You'd see that the bundle of Humpback Oak stuffs occasionally holds my soul.

A more resolved person can readily identify the appeal of Humpback Oak as the most excellent representation of void decked acoustic guitar strummers from the heartlands endemic to reclusive Singaporean loners like yours truly. Not in the league of rock n' roll children of grand gestures, this is a gifted and humble gem that is most agreeable to the unassuming but critical.

For alot of people, “Oaksongs” is perhaps the last chance to hear all the lost classics of this band from the demos to the three highly acclaimed cult albums, which over the years just seemed more and more elusive. For longtime Humpback Oak fans like me, this is a celebration of its existence (and death). The boxset is limited to only 500 sets and held its launch at Books Actually, a cool place with the kind of customers you'd like to curb stomp to a pulp. On the day of its launch, I sneaked into that store and managed to get the boxsets before anybody turned up. For some strange reason, I was bestowed a #333/500 from Leslie for being the first customer, and my delusional state of grandeur sometimes tells me that this is my number, that of the half beast. I metaphysically ransacked the interior of Leslie's room captured in a diorama and found alot of cool things tucked under the bed and under the floorings, like the scribbled piles of SJI foolscaps, a custom-made guitar pick, photos of them looking dejected and serious, and last but not least 4 Cds packaged in origami! I think someone lost his head.

Finally, justice is done to the demos and rare tracks, immortalised here on digitally enhanced CD. The subliminally beautiful rawness and talent of the amateurish demos is like a Carpenter's “Yesterday Once More”, wrecking up ghosts stuck in the time loop of the past. I reached for my cigarettes while listening to it, and inhaled a lungful for kundalini's moment. Then while testing out the rest of the Cds more and more unsettling magma seeped into me. For a while, the infallible me have to grapple with sheer emotionality of the past without being reduced to a miserable wretch. I tried to shake off the haunting effects of Humpback Oak but to no avail. It is pain stained morning ad infinitum all over again.

--sojourner at 12:52 AM

VARIOUS ARTISTS- + 65 Indie Underground Digipack 3 CDs Set
(Universal Music Pte Ltd 2009)

First and foremost I would like to thank all the good people at Universal Music for citing “rockinthefinecity” in this compilation. Thanks to Teck Kheng especially. Secondly, it is about time that Singapore indie music gets its due recognition. I've said this so many times and I've even doubted the potency of my words but finally someone answered my call (or our calls). The magical significance of “+65 Indie Underground” is not just uniquely Singapore but YOUR Singapore. The number of songs here also do not add up to 65, but aside from the obvious: country telephone code, we have our final “Independence” (not counting the British one) in 1965. So it makes sense that 65 and indie go hand in hand. The underground part is open for interpretation. This handsomely packaged 3 Cds compilation features 50 exemplary Singapore bands and their music in retrospective, from the 1984 new wave of Zircon Lounge all the way to the 2009 supergroup TypeWriter. A large part of the material contained therein falls in the '90s range. And I thought that in this period, Singapore music sounded the best.

I'd wish that this compilation can hold more material than the three Cds worth of music, which is still already quite a feat in itself considering that alot of the older recordings are difficult to source and reproduce these days. Each CD represents an era, from the most current to the 90s mainstays and last but not least the pioneers. In my opinion (especially after hearing every tracks on this compilation), I find that the Singapore bands of this age have the technology and the bands of the past have the grit. The bulk of the '90s bands are a mix in between. Some popular '90s Singapore bands like Kick! are obviously not included here because the contenders need to be struggling amateurs with little radio appeal and bad sounding demos. Just note the word “Underground”. Some of these bands attained cult status over the years but alot of the others are forgotten and forsaken in time and oblivion yet sounding good and brilliant. Some people may ask, “if the bands are so good, why are they still underground?”. Well, to answer their questions, “because they are from Singapore.” Here you will find some of the underground gems unearthed and excavated for the first time on digital format, like Corporate Toil's “Johnny Says”, the Razor's Edge's “Winds of Change” (not a Scorpions cover), as well as Nunsex's “Ripride (Tons of Black Clouds)”, all very original sounding experiments created from the budding period of the Singapore underground, and which can also serve a lesson for some aspiring local avantgardists who thought Godspeed You! Black Emperor is the most special thing they've heard.

Chances are a second series of the compilation might be in the pipeline. I hope it will materialize because there are at least few dozen more well known Singaporean underground bands that didn't make it to this compilation. Take for instance Teck Kheng's own Mindrape Protestants and Kim, Raw Fish, Mortal Flower, Fection Dasche, Rocket Scientist, etc. And if somebody wishes to do an anthology on Singapore hardcore and metal a 10 disc boxset will not even suffice but that is another story altogether. .

--sojourner at 12:47 AM

Album Reviews

Anesthesia- Anesthesia CD Astreal- Ouijablush CD AWOL- Midnight In June CD Band of Slaves- 45 MCD Bird Brains- Peanut Butter Jelly Sandwich CD The Black Sun- The Black Sun CD The Boredphucks- Revolution 69 MCD The Boredphucks- Banned In Da Singapura CD Chris Ho- Nite Songs In Day-Glo CD Concave Scream- Concave Scream CD Concave Scream- Erratic CD Concave Scream- Three CD Daze- Sexy Little Boy MCD Do Not Ask- Just Play It! CD Edgar's Fault- Edgar's Fault CD Fection Dasche- Eternal Transgression CD Flying Pills- Flying Pills CD Force Vomit- The Furniture Goes Up CD Global Chaos- The Art of Listening CD Humpback Oak- Pain-stained Morning CD Humpback Oak- Ghostfather CD Humpback Oak- SideASideB CD Humpback Oak- Oaksongs Boxset Impiety- Asateerul Awaleen CD Kelvin Tan- The Bluest Silence CD Lilac Saints- Awake CD The Lizard's Convention- Here's a Funny Fish, Hurrah! CD The Mother- A Dark Trip On The Ill Tip CD Mutation- Void of Disharmony EP Neural Vibe- Mantra CD The Oddfellows- Teenage Head CD The Oddfellows- Carnival CD The Ordinary People- It's A Weird Existence CD The Padres- BigO Singles Club #1 MCD The Padres- What's Your Story MCD The Pagans- Stereokineticspiraldreams CD Radio Active- Eyes In The Attic CD Starfish n Coffee- Ghost MCD Stompin' Ground- Measured By The Richter Scale CD Stoned Revivals- Golden Lovesongs From The Evil Island of The Handsome Tropical Cannibals CD Sugarflies- And That's Why CD Watchmen- Democracy CD Watchmen- Love MCD Zircon Gov.Pawn Starz- Follywood CD Zircon Lounge- Regal Vigor LP Various Artists- +65 Indie Underground 3 CDs Set Various Artists- Left of The Dial CD Various Artists- The Substation 10 Years & Counting (Rock The Garden) CD Various Artists- 12 Storeys CD Various Artists- New School Rock MCD
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