By MC Galang and Ian Urrutia
Illustration by MC Galang
Here’s our weekly recap of our favorite new releases from Asia.
‘Flow State’ – Escuri (PH)
Metro Manila’s sonic landscape is harsh, shrill, and invasive—an unforgiving city, for most part. Yet despite its lure of commerce and manufactured pleasures, for those who live in it, it’s nothing but impersonal. It does not merely invoke the sentiment of home and comforts of familiarity it affords, but how it shapes perception and awareness and how quickly it can skew both. We are used to this auditory atmosphere that may seem incidental to our daily routines, maybe even distracting; but it is this sonic fixture that renders Manila its immutable form and there lies its strange pull. Ultimately, the Philippine capital’s enduring appeal is obviously not cosmetic, but its seemingly inconsequential details parlayed from human activity, regardless of its motives and consequences.
On “Flow State,” Escuri recorded Metro Manila’s bustle, capturing urban noise: the most characteristic of which is the inarguable sound of public transport, piercing and grating. Produced for Goethe-Institut’s “Sound of City” series, Escuri incorporated synthesizers to the city’s natural and human-produced sounds, exploring the “impact of architecture, urban environment and soundscape quality… as perceived by the artist through observation, sound walk and space intervention.” What “Flow State” offers is a reconnection to the origins of these sounds, urging us to go beyond frequencies to better understand the city beyond impressions.
‘Reklamad’ – Premium Trash f/ Calix (PH)
On face value, “Reklamad” reminds me so much of Harlem hip-hop, its boom bap and ghostly trap production rise above countless one-trick codeine rap proliferating on SoundCloud these days that the latter all but lost its stylistic appeal. It’s precisely my chief complaint about it: it’s all reduced to a goddamn style, when its origins are rooted from class inequality and a public health crisis.
But dig deeper and the song’s creators manifests the delirium of Manila’s restless. Rap collective Premium Trash capitalizes on, instead of capitulates to trap’s appeal, each word spit with clarity instead of drowning in it. In some ways, their lyrical wit and charm (just one of the many strengths of their POZONEGRO MIXTAPE) reminds me of the great Evil Scientists, even with the abrasive assist from Calix. Highly recommended.
‘I Could Do It With My Eyes Shut’ – Feifei (PH)
As Feifei’s “I Could Do It With My Eyes Shut” winds down from its slick motley of pulsing bass and distorted synths, it ends—drifts—with a serene, ambient echo. This kind of artistic choice is often what draws or even demands my attention, switching from passive to active listening. This seemingly benign touch is an act of altruism, whether self-directed or towards others, something that lacks considerably in many works that overvalues skill than substance.
‘Girl’ – oceanfromtheblue f/ BLOO (KR)
At first listen, “Girl” is an unashamedly early aughts R&B-inspired track (if the intentions weren’t clear enough, it’s cut from a double single titled “a-side: 90s kid never get old”). But instead of any typical American R&B release, my first point of reference is Clazziquai’s “She Is,” an OST from the 2005 MBC Korean drama—and my favorite to this day—My Name is Kim Sam Soon. While it doesn’t appear to have any grander motivations beyond nostalgia, oceanfromtheblue succeeds in pulling in the audience who will appreciate this track the most: well, ‘90s kids.
Stream on Spotify
‘My Baby’ – The Kopycat (TH)
The Kopycat revisits ‘60s pop music with spare and sublime instrumentation on their debut single “My Baby.” It’s quite a revelation to hear the rhythm section harness a dreamy approach to the arrangement, lovingly delivered to capture longing and intimacy. But the best part of the track is Mariah Mu’s vocals, which soar above the delicate fretwork for as long as it can, while injecting unbridled smoothness and sensual brush to the mix. Her voice is an instrument that knows when to hold back when necessary and attains commanding presence, even as it balances restraint with soul.
‘เคลียร์อยู่’ (In Between) – Yellow Fang (TH)
Deeply satisfying on multiple levels, All of the Noise alum Yellow Fang’s comeback single “เคลียร์อยู่” blasts away the pandemic blues with an inspiring message that comes from a place of survival and hope. Sonically speaking, it doesn’t veer away from the distinct sound of The Greatest—the full-length opus that established the eclectic trio as one of Thailand’s biggest indie rock acts with massive crossover potential. You can hear the band expertly infuse dream pop, alternative rock, and ‘90s girl group influences with the pulsating groove of new wave. Despite wandering into the outlier to showcase their newfound range, Yellow Fang remains to be a tight unit whose music works within the confines of an anthem: the melodies widescreen and compelling, and the words rousing and insistent in making us feel things. It’s a gift that knows no bounds.
‘Wallflower’ – Moongazing And Her (ID)
Indonesia’s Moongazing And Her expands its indie-pop template with ‘60s girl group harmonies and gushing sonic details on “Wallflower,” a new song inspired by a range of offbeat teen flicks, from the severely underrated The Edge of Seventeen to the quirky YA (Young Adult) gem, The Perks of Being A Wallflower. The song gracefully examines the peculiarities of being an outsider, and what it feels like growing up, ignored and often avoided in parties. Yearning for attention, “Wallflower” relishes the sting of invisibility as it tries to hide the numbness inside. Its words cut through slow, tempered guitars and airtight melodies, revealing an unflinching account of a teenager coming to terms with her struggles, and eventually learning not to give a damn.
‘Unsung Rebel’ – Kagid (PH)
Kagid is an alt supergroup formed by Pastilan Dong!/Grows’ Kaloy Olavides and Eggboy/Tarsius/Pedicab’s Diego Mapa, together with Apartel/Oh, Flamingo!’s Pat Sarabia, and That Epic Reggae Set’s Ron Francisco.
On their first single “Unsung Heroes,” the indie quartet makes lo-fi music wrapped in melodic pop sensibility and jarring guitar work. Recorded on the premise of decidedly raw and imperfect production approach, Kagid’s latest track sounds like a deep cut from a basement jam session, but delivers on the promise of gut-level songwriting instincts that are at par with their other projects’ best songs.