Words by MC Galang and Ian Urrutia
Illustration by MC Galang
Our latest roundup of music from Asia includes tracks from Southeast and East Asia.
On Sunday the 18th, we will be participating virtually at Singapore’s Music Day Out! 2020 edition, organized by SCAPE. We will be speaking alongside fellow music festival organizers around the world—Indonesia’s We The Fest, Thailand’s Bangkok Music City, and USA’s SXSW—on the “How to Get into Music Festivals and Tours” panelat 4:30 pm. You can stream the talk for free on SCAPE’s YouTube channel. To participate and ask questions, you can register for free on this link. See you there!
‘Ajisai’ – Daichi Yamamoto (JP)
On “Ajisai,” Kyoto-based artist Daichi Yamamoto delivers smooth, jazzy rap that gleans from the mood-based spectrum of hip-hop, one that looms large on his Elephant In My Room EP, a record that has the SoundCloud mixtape-era sound written all over it: analog samples interspersed with DAW sound packs, grunge inflections, poppy (and occasionally punchy) hooks—a style that defines modern underground rap.
Barely three minutes long, Yamamoto decenters himself and instead focuses on whipping up an ambiance: laidback, cavalier. In this instance—for me—like a summer night: prickly heat, eating alone (with a cat in the room somewhere), half-eaten cinnamon bagels, and iced tea.
‘모르겠다’ – Kim Suyoung (KR)
While I’m normally not that into TV soap theme songs (although I remain impartial towards My Name is Kim Sam Soon’s theme song), there’s something about the production of the second track of Kim Suyoung’s Don’t Know EP that reminds me of that OST—particularly Clazziquai’s “She Is”(coincidentally, the producer name for “모르겠다” or “I Don’t Know” is someone called CLAZZI)—which has its share of airy vocals and cloyingly sentimental arrangements, sure, but has its pockets of mellow R&B moments that anchor the weight of emotional peaks as naturally as possible, something I don’t mind indulging in. It’s rare, but it happens.
‘Bodak Yellow Swans’ – Teya Logos (PH)
Manila-based producer Teya Logos lays down the hammer with her hard bass, grime-y remix of Cardi B’s mega-hit, “Bodak Yellow,” reimagining the original’s swagger and self-ownership with a different brand of domination: transgression. Pain before pleasure. The tunneled vocals, oscillating synths, drills, and thuds plow through unhinged. So good.
‘Baily’s Beads’ – Hyph11e (CN)
Aperture, the newly released full-length album of Shanghai-based electronic producer Hyph11e, is a strikingly consuming work of brash consciousness and organized noise—convulsing, propulsive, and above all: purposeful. Its sheer velocity is fueled, driven by unease. Necessary unease. One that grows, unencumbered.
“Baily’s Beads” starts off small and gains ground rather quickly. It’s one of the few tracks in Aperture that alters speed and pressure (the record is designed in two halves: the first takes some time to fill before it devours; the latter tears and cuts in breathless pace). It demands attention at all times.
‘Fall In Love’ – Bleu House (ID)
Bleu House looks on the brighter side of romance with “Fall In Love,” a pulsing, animated bop that scales the heights with its distinct take on past music forms. The Bandung-based electronic band takes retro reboot seriously, taking cues from new wave, funk, and disco to come up with a jam for ages. It works more as a sonic therapy for those who are looking for an escapist diversion in the pandemic era, and it’s not the type to wore out of season. Even in this moment of unfortunate circumstances and uncertainty, this light that never goes out is gift that we didn’t know we need.
EP: Formosan Dreams – Prairie WWWW (TW)
Prairie WWWW has come a long way from defying the parameters of experimental folk on 2016’s excellent EP, Wu Hai, to leaping towards a more expansive and epic-sounding on 2018’s critically acclaimed release, Pán. This year, the eclectic quintet returns with a convergence of chaos, quietude, and contortions on Formosan Dream—a riveting attempt to navigate the spaces in-between Taiwan’s indigenous past and its progressive future. The 3-track EP injects traditional instruments, field recordings, abrasive sonic textures, and ethereal harmonies to explore a world beyond binaries and conventions, a musical pursuit that feels fully realized despite its lack of specifity and its insistence to flow freely.
‘Books’ – Sawa Angstrom (JP)
Sawa Angstrom displays languid sophistication on their independently released 2020 single “Books.” Achieving a deft balance between PC Music’s disjointed shimmer and Imogen Heap’s pop effervescence, the Kyoto-based electronic band pulls off an earwormy jam assured of its coherent musical statement. Captivating even in moments of surrender, “Books” is punctuated with surprising sonic turns and intricate vocal arrangements, all while taking advantage of its conceptual artifice to create something that is utterly compelling and human.
‘Dreamcatcher’ – Cinéma Lumière (PH)
By nature of its existence, Cinéma Lumière‘s “Dreamcatcher” evokes bittersweet memories that gather dust on the same shelf left years ago. It’s a showcase of elegant decay made more formidable by the passing of time, a luminously beautiful anthem that conjures drawn-out brokenness with a subtle bite. Even the way it’s intricately arranged tells us a story hounded by pleasure and sadness, its wingspan fuller to accommodate residues and cracks, but just enough to waltz through the corner of a space without the need for spotlight.