Words By MC Galang and Ian Urrutia
Illustration by MC Galang
We keep plowing through this increasingly morbid situation at home. We hope everyone is safe and doing okay.
Meanwhile, here are our favorite new releases from Asian artists. We highly commend and support Bandcamp’s latest effort of empowering creators by extending their Bandcamp Fridays initiative throughout the year, which directs 100% of music purchases towards artists. Maybe other streaming giants should follow suit, ‘no?
‘Liwanag Sa Gabi’ – LONER (PH)
LONER unravels a dancefloor romance in “Liwanag Sa Gabi” using the framework of deep house to convey sensuality and desire with ease. Off from his upcoming Into Midnight EP, “Liwanag Sa Gabi” pulses differently, completing LONER’s transition from a band-based musician to a full-fledged dance producer. The track departs not just from non-traditional arrangements but within dance music itself (an iteration often described as “more mature” and sensuous): no splashy tricks and beat patterns, no build-ups, no climax.
There’s no tremendous pressure required to visibly participate or enjoy compared to its more kinetic, bombastic counterparts. “Liwanag Sa Gabi” revels more, if not exactly in its mellowness and its understated stylishness. It’s not the kind of music that throbs in big, seizure-inductive clubs and performative clusters, but in smaller, dimly lit spaces where bodies assemble more intimately.
‘Yellow’ – x2 (PH)
The collaborative electronica-infused music project by tide/edit’s Clarence Garcia and AOUI’s Paolo Yazon merges their math rock backgrounds as x2, approaching introspection and ambience as brief exercises in contemplative grace. “Magenta,” one of the tracks in their first EP, cmyk, is warm and reassuring even in its abruptness. It finds its comfort exploring within the spectrum of electronic music, with looser rhythmic structures unlike its creators’ stylistic origins that thrives more in tension but without the full weight of post-rock’s more expansive textures. The duo lists down the Wikipedia entry for “music as a coping strategy” on their Facebook page, effectively stating their intent. On “Magenta” and cmyk in general, the duo offers digestible treatments without too much idiosyncrasy nor tedium.
‘water me down’ – Vagabon (Pamcy remix) (PH)
One of my favorite newsletters I received from a week ago was a feature story on Bandcamp detailing New York-based artist Vagabon’s favorite records on the streaming site, including a remix of one of her hits, “Water Me Down,” by none other than Filipino producer Pamcy.
Vagabon shared that a friend sent her a link to Pamcy’s music and instantly connected with her music, “I’ll bet she could make a remix of ‘Water Me Down’ that elevates its house-y aesthetic,” she says. Pamcy’s remix rhythmically expands “Water Me Down” with classy and chic sonic details that kept the balminess and familiarity of the original intact. Pamcy’s intuitive choices keep getting better and better: deconstructing pop, R&B, soul, and electronica and knowing which sections to stimulate fully to their potential. The result always demonstrates tenderness and a genial kind of sophistication, and this remix is no different.
‘กักใจ’ – LUSS (TH)
The latest from Thai alternative hip-hop duo LUSS is an unassuming, radio-friendly R&B-hip-hop cut that knows how to wield its charm brightly and effusively, most of which can be credited back to vocalist Pun’s sugary vocals. It’s one of those songs that would’ve been a hit at music festivals (hopefully something we can all experience soon), washing over the sunset as the crowd brims and moves.
‘PIANO PIANO’ – pandagolff (JP)
The Yokohama-based post-punk duo just started making music as pandagolff early last year but the two have established themselves as one of the most exciting purveyors of structured mayhem in the contemporary Japanese rock (J-rock?) scene, wildly oscillating between krautrock and noise rock at times. Their newest single, “PIANO PIANO,” is an electrifying spectacle that mashes some of the plaintive moods of Warpaint (particularly 2013’s “Disco//very”) with the anthemic jaggedness of Shonen Knife and No Cities to Love–era of Sleater-Kinney. In a year where women-led projects are not only thriving, but killing it in a pandemic-ridden music industry, I submit pandagolff for your consideration.
‘Somerset Boy’ – Louie Indigo (SG)
I HAVE BEEN WAITING for some good raps to come out of Singapore and my prayers have finally been heard. Hip-hop artist Louie Indigo‘s baleful “Somerset Boy” saunters with the grit of East Coast production (which reminds me of how A$AP Rocky’s “Peso” utilized S.O.S Band’s “No One’s Gonna Love You” sample) and melodic lyrical clarity I crave most of the time.
I’m not sure though about the “honey-silken voluptuousness” characterization in his bio, which neither seems to fit his delivery and production style, unless it specifically pertains to the syrupy, chopped and screwed beat of this particular single. But, hey, as long as more of this keeps busting out his vault, then I can live with however they define his music.
‘Plastic World’ – Pyra (TH)
For starters, “Plastic World” is a great introduction to the world of Pyra’s wild imagination: exotic and grandeur visuals, hyperbolic statements, and bleak narratives. The visionary artist from Thailand takes a swipe at excessive consumerism and greed, singing “diamonds, pearls what’s the worth / It’s all a plastic world plastic world” over a chorus of disjointed electronics and bubblegum hooks. It’s remarkable how Pyra uses the spectacle of pop music to reject common tropes within the genre, and takes advantage of the platform to reaffirm her appeal as a provocateur rather than a lapdog. Maintaining artistic autonomy despite being signed to a major label is what makes her an unstoppable force, and on her latest single “Plastic World,” she isn’t afraid to articulate a messy kind of dystopian future on her own creative terms.
‘Paris, Texas’ – The Chairs (TW)
There’s something peculiarly moving about songs that are drawn to the beauty of sepia-tinged melancholy. Maybe that’s the reason why The Chairs’ “Paris, Texas” works: it’s a nostalgic pop tune that glimmers in the crumbling wreckage of missing someone far away from home. The perpetual ache lingers beneath the sun-dappled instrumentation, which is subtly arranged to reveal a smooth kind of yearning. The singing is relaxed and warm, and plays well to the pastoral mood of “Paris, Texas.” It’s refreshing to listen to a song that embraces bittersweet calm in vivid, broad strokes with little to no frills, and nothing but pure easygoing perfection. The Chairs’ latest single packs the punch effortlessly, while soothing your senses with the right blend of sadness and golden hour imagery.
‘Plunder My Heart’ – Ely Buendia x Cheats (PH)
Here’s another supergroup collaboration that deserves your attention. Ely Buendia teams up with indie-rock darlings Cheats for the second time on the new single “Plunder My Heart.” Off to a good start with lush, stripped-down arrangements and psychedelic flourishes, the song evolves into a sprawling, six-minute jam that veers away from sacrificing the melodic strengths that both artists are known for, in exchange of exploring sonic possibilities outside of their usual material.
While it’s not necessarily a quantum leap from their respective projects, “Plunder My Heart” demonstrates a sense of adventurousness that gives us something to hope for in a musical partnership. It’s completely devoid of creative tension. What we’re hearing instead is a surprising new release that fits within the framework of both artists’ individualistic vision, carefully put together to unleash a coherent piece of work.
‘Naughty’ – Red Velvet – IRENE & SEULGI (KR)
While precisely engineered to dominate the charts all over the world, “Naughty” pushes K-pop forward to a refreshingly cutting-edge sheen. Red Velvet‘s Irene and Seulgi are doing the legwork here with their perfectly synchronized choreography and saccharine vocals, delivering a larger-than-life spectacle that basks in finesse and vigor.
‘Tien Shinhan’ – Polka Wars (ID)
Polka Wars returns with another anthemic rocker that resurrects the uncompromising grit of both grunge and Britpop, while finding a way to streamline the familiar sound with a more contemporary flair. “Tien Shinhan” ushers the mood upwards with stadium-sized riffs, chest-beating theatrics, and thunderous drums. It forgoes any hint of restraint for something that inspires bombastic, fuzzy feelings in scope and scale. While it refuses to tone down the virtuosic tendencies, Polka Wars succeeds in making a song that ratchets up the tension to non-conforming conventions.
‘Need Ya Now’ – Jungsu (KR/US)
Korean-American rapper-singer Jungsu pleads mercy on his new lo-fi jam “Need Ya Now,” released independently under his moniker. While it doesn’t exactly plow a new lane for minimalist rap and its various algorithm-driven iterations, the new track explores spiritual themes as a primary outlet for musical expression. It taps into something that Christian/pop crossover radio wouldn’t mind playing on repeat.