Words by MC Galang and Ian Urrutia
Illustration by MC Galang
Last week, we published our first electronica selections for Heavy Rotation and had a chat with Nick Lazaro about his label Eclectic Kiss—which released brand-new singles from its all-female roster—and how he’s determined to create a new breed of artists.
Meanwhile, here’s our weekly roundup of standout releases from Asia.
‘Roots Magic’ – Akio Nagase (JP)
The title track to Osaka-born producer Akio Nagase’s upcoming EP glides between house and its stylistic influences like disco, jazz, and funk with sophisticated ease. It takes its time, unhurried: like a meticulous one-take shot that carries us all the way to the climax, while simultaneous things happen peripherally. “Roots Magic” possesses the rigor of a seasoned producer: one who can synthesize sounds into sensory trips tastefully and organically.
Roots Magic EP is out on September 4
‘It Won’t Stop Hurting’ – It’s Your Fault (TW)
Taiwanese neo-soul band (and personal favorite) It’s Your Fault spins an on-the-nose visual interpretation of heartbreak for “It Won’t Stop Hurting,” their latest single off their User Guide: I LP. The Pei-Hsuan Guo-directed music video stars vocalist Hana Lin as a meat vendor undergoing a series of rejection, offering her “heart” to a medley of strangers who are the least bit interested. Swathed in soft lighting against stunningly rich reds and oranges and mellow silhouettes, Lin slowly descends into fantastical madness. “I gotta reveal all the illness in me / I’m a little violent / And I’m too silent about it,” she sings, and the video wastes no time or detail in underscoring her physical and metaphorical heartache, as well as the occasional cyclical darkness that surrounds this experience. She can—she has to—dress her wounds and carry on, with no guarantee the pain will stop.
‘晶片金融卡已退出’ – Banyan Gang (TW)
Our society’s overemphasis on the value and possession of material wealth is also one of the most enduring criticisms about it, though rarely reaching any meaningful resolution, if there’s one at all. What we’re often left with are endless discussions and conjectures about its ills: some are brilliant in its deceptive simplicity, others have pursued the liberties (and pleasures) wealth affords while indicting its power, and then there’s hip-hop trio Banyan Gang, who are fixated on its matter-of-fact quality.
The title translates to “your ATM card has been rejected.” One can glean a lot from a simple statement: maybe the machine itself is not working, maybe there’s a problem with your bank, maybe your card is defective, or maybe you don’t have money on your account. Directed by Parker Shen, the entire video plays out on an ATM screen, showing a montage of daily routines, “the loop that we’re stuck in,” Banyan Gang tells The Rest Is Noise. “It’s a daily struggle…. you can’t escape it.”
‘Slow’ – fzpz f/ Shelhiel (SG)
The first few moments of “Slow” sound vividly similar to Seal’s 1994 hit and Batman Forever OST, “Kiss from a Rose.” Both songs speak about intoxicating romance, a consuming affair—as if every moment physically apart is unbearably wasted. One of the two slowburn tracks in his newest album Death Signs, Singaporean producer fzpz deploys contemporary R&B’s velvety instrumental bed featuring Malaysian singer-songwriter and producer Shelhiel’s lush vocals primed for late-night trysts.
‘On Repeat’ – Hey It’s Your Birthday (PH)
Hey It’s Your Birthday mark their return with a ‘70s-inspired psychedelic pop tune that straddles the line between Nancy Sinatra and Lana Del Rey. “On Repeat” feels like a renaissance of exquisite melodrama filtered through the lens of stoner daydreams: it’s got old soul, a warped sense of delicate beauty, and a lullaby-like charm that wouldn’t feel out of place in montage clips of Wong Kai Wai’s Chungking Express or In The Mood For Love. Most surprising of all, the song takes the familiar romantic themes to somewhat alienating and trippy places, with the goal of making it sound closer to home. It’s an experience worth the wait.
‘Wants You Not’ – Pikoy (PH)
At this rate, Pikoy can be anything that she wants to be: an ethereal cyborg, an avant-garde pop star, a hyper-pop fairy, a retro-futurist cheerleader from your San Junipero dreams. Her chameleonic approach to pop music borders on the fearless and the absurd, and like the visionary personalities that came before her—Grimes, Bjork, Kate Bush and Yoko Ono—she proves that it’s possible to be both weird and accessible, while openly exploring playful eclecticism with bubblegum energy and charisma.
“Wants You Not” reveals yet another side of Pikoy that we haven’t heard yet: a starry-eyed punk princess trapped inside a virtual game. This time, she leads the pep rally to the sound of technicolored explosions and 8-bit dance-pop, while allowing her producer, Nicolas Lazaro, to wear the hat of a mad sonic scientist, and concoct the sound of doomed future with theatrical largesse.
‘Special’ – Midwife (PH)
When prolific multi-instrumentalist Zephra Lagos isn’t terraforming the post-rock landscape with apparitional mystery on her other music project, Tim Äwä, she moonlights as an indie singer-songwriter who writes compelling music nurtured with a sense of purpose and intimacy. Her work as Midwife maintains her singular place in the current roster of Nick Lazaro’s Eclectic Kiss artists: a visionary herself who comfortably makes the kind of music that leans toward the sparkly, indie pop spectrum of Camera Obscura and the homemade eclecticism of acts like Mitski and Jay Som.
“Special” draws from this specifity in style and form: it feels at home as it delightfully mixes swirling guitars with melodic swoon. Lagos taps into vividly colorful soundscapes without resorting to over-stylizing a particular moment or detouring into an obscure left-turn to reject values and ideals that one can associate with other mainstream-leaning artists. What makes the song a stand out is the effortlessness in the production, the little subtleties that showcase her great ear for details, and the big ball of sunshine that is her personality. Add them up, and you have an infectious pop gem in your hands.
‘Takeaway’ – Coates (PH)
On ‘Takeaway,’ Coates succeeds where so many others have failed—at least with her theatrical take on jazz-infused pop. It’s quite a dense listen: a frothy jam with Broadway tendencies, in which Coates delivers the goods with big-time sensuality and big-hair flavor. Producer and Eclectic Kiss label founder Nick Lazaro indirectly calls Rachel a blend of different pop personalities from the past: there’s a little bit of Karen Carpenter, a sprinkle of Basia, and a generous serving of Swing Out Sister. There’s some truth to it at least to an extent, especially on how the pop newcomer maps a landscape out of the retro sounds from the ‘70s and ‘80s that we’ve grown accustomed with. But Coates builds something new out of it on “Takeaway,” reconciling her influences while retaining a keen pop sensibility that fits her mold.