By MC Galang and Ian Urrutia
Header Art by MC Galang
Here are our favorite releases from Asia this week.
‘삐뽀삐뽀 (Bweep-Bwoop Bweep-Bwoop)’ – 김뜻돌 Meaningful Stone (KR)
South Korean artist 김뜻돌 Meaningful Stone’s live performances feel cosmically different from the studio versions of her songs (pitifully scarce on Apple Music and Spotify—understandably so, since the latter is not even still available in the country). That said, this is not a dig on 김뜻돌 at all, whose overall demeanor suggests she is largely unfazed with most things in life as she effortlessly slays a song whose title is the onomatopoeia cousin of “womp womp” in her glittery pink guitar, no less.
Whereas the 2018 studio version of “삐뽀삐뽀” is a lo-fi electronica number, mostly drums (hi-hats and kick drum) than anything else, the updated live version is a funk-indebted pop R&B: generous in melody and groove but still strikingly brutal in its fatalistic outlook. She immediately follows bweep-bwoop with “I do not know when I’ll die / Even if I walk down the road and die on a high crane... I hope not to replace someone’s sacrifice.” It’s easy to get distracted with someone so seemingly self-assured while they harbor melancholy. But I guess that’s what 2020 is for all of us: being suspended in grim irony. Oh well, at least we got great music.
‘그림자 (Shadow)’ – 수진 SUJIN (KR)
In the center of SUJIN’s “그림자 (Shadow)” is despair, cunningly hidden and aggressively attacks when you least expect. It’s combative by design, its sequencers cold and mechanical even when it builds momentum—just firing off in every direction, hoping to inflict pain as much as it takes it. In this case though, there is no enemy, it’s just you and the face that looks back at you in the mirror.
“’Shadow’ is a wound and trauma caused by events that happened to me,” she explains. I heard from a TV show once: “What does a soldier do? He gets through the day.” Ultimately, “Shadow” offers neither comfort nor hope, at least not far off in the future. If she stumbles today, she says, she’ll get up and brush off the dirt from her pants. Then she’ll move forward.
‘คนเมาพูดความจริง’ – คนเมาพูดความจริง Kanont Charncliche (TH)
On his newest album Student, Thai hip-hop artist คนเมาพูดความจริง Kanont Charncliche chronicles his time in university as he adapts (gets shocked into) a rapidly changing environment. Loosely translated to “Drunk Man Speaks the Truth,” “คนเมาพูดความจริง” is a buzzed, lo-fi noise rap a la Veteran-era JPEGMAFIA, which somehow sticks out in a busy, 22-track mishmash of an album.
‘自躁浪漫’ – DJ Didilong f/ Jerry Li (TW)
Taiwanese hip-hop artist DJ Didilong knows that to wield good funk, a certain amount of unshakable faith in one’s self is required to make others feel good—and feeling good is desirable. With a cosign from R&B artist Jerry Li, DJ Didilong“自躁浪漫” (Self-impatient Romance) bottles up lust, energy, and longing and let our body talk.
‘Spilt Milk’ – Ylona Garcia (PH)
Ylona Garcia takes matters into her own hands with “Spilt Milk”—a spunky assertion of survival and strength amidst a terrible breakup. Over opalescent synths and bubblegum beats, the Star Magic celebrity stumbles upon the glow of moving forward, writing a kiss-off that’s precisely engineered to hit back at the person who broke her heart. “Again what you do is so goddamn shady / we all know the truth that you’re fucking crazy,” she sing-raps with the sashaying confidence of someone who’s finally found her worth. Ylona breezes past the wreckage and nails a pop song that’s smartly catered to her audience. I don’t mind being swept up in the bright, giddy, but shady headspace that is “Spilt Milk.” It has future smash written all over it.
‘Catwalk’ – LONER (PH)
Dance music has always provided a sanctuary for queer culture, allowing temporary escape and acceptance in a world that doesn’t wholeheartedly recognize the rights and welfare of the community. LONER nurtures this messaging with camp value and finesse on his latest track “Catwalk,” where he slams outdated perspectives rooted in machismo and anti-gay politics by producing a song that normalizes non-conforming and queer behavior.
The electronic music producer recently expressed his sentiment as an LGBTQ+ ally in an interview with The Rest Is Noise. “Dance music owes so much to queer culture because they’re the ones that first nurtured it. As an ally, it’s my responsibility to educate those that are ignorant and help correct their prejudice. I believe in equal rights for everyone.”
True to his words, the young producer and all-around musician drops a UK garage-influenced banger that pulses with unmistakable rainbow energy. The song throbs lightly in the darker corners of the club, while its production taps into exhilaration that feels freeing at best. It’s refreshing to hear a track that historicizes how much of dance music is shaped by queer culture, and whose motivation comes from a sincere place. It’s a fabulous track that’s worth a listen.
‘Tonguetied’ – Grrl Cloud (PH)
We’ve certainly seen no shortage of bedroom pop musicians whose music are confined by the aesthetic impulses of home-recording limitations and D-I-Y leanings. But amidst the mainstreaming of a movement propelled by streaming algorithm and commercial potential, Filipina artist Tamia Reodica a.k.a. Grrl Cloud sees to it that her work speaks for itself first, and not the brand.
On “Tonguetied,” Reodica writes a ballad with deep-felt sentiments that appear to be introverted in nature, but certainly sound confident in expressing straightforward, romantic lyrics about “how words get lost” when she’s with the person being pinned for. “Talk to me / don’t let the space grow any bigger,” Reodica sings over fluttering synths and minimal drums, radiating earnestness at the expense of dissolving away from her supposedly brazen confessional. There’s nothing that young love can cure at this point, and in Grrl Cloud’s narrative framing, its quiet intimacy is powerful enough not to fizzle. “Tonguetied” nurtures this memory with the necessary warmth to last for decades.
‘Feeling Blue’ – Aaliya (SG)
Singapore-based indie label Kribo Records has been churning out obscure and underground releases with traditional, vintage, and ‘60s/’70s pop sensibilities. From Thai funk to psychedelic Malay folk, it aims to preserve an era in Southeast Asian music that has slowly been blurred and erased in public consciousness.
Its latest release, “Feeling Blue” is a collaboration between indie songstress Aaliya and electronic producer The Kribo Brothers. Pivoting away from the collaged, retro polish that defines the aesthetic touchpoints of the record label, the dreamy pop tune glitters in its encrusted new form. Its heartfelt songwriting shines above the cut with tenderness that can’t be faked, while the production is handled gracefully to lend some authenticity to the track. While not necessarily game-changing by any stretch, it helps that “Feeling Blue” is trying to diversify Kribo Records by heading into a potential new direction that might do more good than harm.
‘Sound of the Rain’ – DUARA (ID)
There’s something about DUARA’s “Sound of the Rain” that forges an unlikely connection between Indonesian folk music and The Cocteau Twins’s the otherworldly expanse. Sure, it simulates the mood of after-hours melancholia with ethereal atmospherics, but the track never resorts to performative indulgences for the sake of drama. Instead, it welcomes light and love even as revelations of painful memories abound.
And can we just take a moment of silence to praise Renita Maradina’s lush but wraithlike vocals? It’s probably one of the most distinct singing styles in the realm of dream pop and indie music, one that sounds indecipherable at times, but evokes emotional fragility in a way that words can’t even pin down. Her voice is a lovely instrument that flows gently into the band’s distinct ethereal production.
‘Fly’ – Lazysofia (ID)
Noise-pop duo Lazysofia has recently released their full-length debut album, When You’re Mad, via Tarsier Records—a sub label from Indonesia’s Anoa Records. The underrated record contains the standout track “Fly,” whose layers of distorted noise, honeyed guitar screeches, and drifting melodies capture the band’s lackadaisical charm.
‘Spin’ – The Apop (KR)
Drawing the lines between Midwest emo and power pop, The Apop’s “Spin” hiccups its way through an earworm of a chorus that perfectly encapsulates the vibe of a coming-of-age flick. There’s no way to escape its anthemic youthfulness. The chords progress into inanely upbeat and empowering overdrive, while setting the stage for communal sing-along, which somehow works especially at a time when almost everyone is either yearning for nostalgia and a gut-wrenching musical experience. Songs in the service of feelings are worth a spin; this track included.