By MC Galang and Ian Urrutia
Header art by MC Galang
Our New Music We Love playlist will be refreshed on Friday with our NMWL picks for April. Make sure to give our selections from March a spin and save your favorites!
Meanwhile, here are our top tracks from Asia for this week.
‘Underworld’ – Sawa Angstrom f/ Kan Sano (JP)
Japanese electronic trio Sawa Angstrom teamed up with singer-producer Kan Sano on “Underworld,” a glitchy electronica cut soundscaped by skittery synths and staccato-laden rhythms. Vocalist Marina Kodama articulates both her anxiety and resolve—not being able to express and create, as well as fighting her way through hurdles: physical and metaphorical, in order to maintain control.
The assist from Kan Sano adds a layer of frothy melodies to register the emotional core of “Underworld,” complementing the signature sleek IDM interiors of Sawa Angstrom’s: the result is a brooding club track ideal for isolated nights.
‘Volumes (Reprise)’ – Oh, Flamingo! (PH)
There is much to unpack on Oh, Flamingo!’s latest EP, one that probably requires deeper analysis or connection to their artistic influences than I can possibly convey.
But I would be completely remiss not to attempt at least to express my profound appreciation for its title track, and especially its reprise. While the opener, “Volumes,” exudes a somewhat novel rustic charm in its quietness, as it lulls but doesn’t quite build— the reprise, however, underlines that emotional plateau with gorgeous, pattering synths, spattered horns, and a canopy of washed out drums. The vocals, both intimate and extraterrestrial by design, are deeply affecting. It’s a moving piece of work, one that says so, so much with so little.
‘אՇչɭςչןเợ’ – Chinese Plastic Toys (PH)
A new favorite: searing, hardcore techno with grating distortions—a no-bullshit experimental noise track that pounds, scrapes, and tears from Filipino producer, Chinese Plastic Toys. Timely? Always.
‘No.1 Prayer Warrior’ – Kristo Baal (PH)
Kristo Baal, an experimental project by Itos Ledesma, released “No.1 Prayer Warrior,” last month, a culminating track that starts off mechanical and distant, that went off on a spatial tangent—an otherworldly ambient atmosphere that feels colossal in scope (underwater acoustics, the remote vastness of space), yet imperceptibly familiar (a womb, a forgotten dream).
‘Fashion Angel (Asia Remix)’ – Shelhiel (MY)
The remix to the original version of Malaysian electronic producer Shelhiel’s “Fashion Angel” is a powerhouse Team Asian bop with Ninjaboi, SOWUT, jiafeng, Orang Malaya, and Laze, which I heard first on his Infinite Summer set.
Rare is it to find a commercially-pleasing, accessible dance track that has the ability to occupy a beloved space from party-loving crowds and dance-loving, introverted folks alike, but sometimes, we get lucky.
Album: ‘Wander Studio’ – Escuri (PH)
Just a few days ago, I was aching to hear a good collection of field recordings. I wrote, “I’d like to hope that in the absence of noise (especially for y’all in the cities), the stillness doesn’t frighten you.” A few days later, I came across this.
The latest release from Filipino musician Escuri explores “the impact of architecture, urban environment, and soundscape quality of Koganecho, Yokohama and its neighboring places to the people around it, as perceived by the artist by composing music and sound notations through site-specific interventions,” according to his Bandcamp liner notes.
Created as a project for the Koganecho Bazaar 2018, a Japanese art festival that aims to revitalize the city through art, Escuri absorbed and documented city fixtures and ambience through sound design, specific to mood and memory rather than latent noise or nonnative elements.
“Hair Salon,” my favorite, touches on math rock arrangements and twinkly synths, capturing the bustling liveliness of the space, and the immediate delight that often follows a job well done. There is almost a sacredness held in hair salons, where patrons—often women— congregate; as much as ministries provide spiritual rejuvenation to its congregates, so does salons which offer anyone who steps in for an uplifting fix. Escuri’s “Hair Salon” memorializes that joy glowingly.
‘Estetika Stroberi’ – Winona Dryver (ID)
There’s more to Winona Dryver than its perpetually cool moniker. The indie rock trio from Yogyakarta, Indonesia has recently released their new track “Estetika Stroberi,” which trades epically scaled drama of early ‘90s shoegaze for lo-fi charm. Blanketed with balmy haze and unceasing energy, the song turns its focus on capturing indelible pop melodies while discarding the uneasiness of being trapped in a cloud of fuzz and distortion. The guitars spin in and out of focus, but never go off the rail; and the voice hover above the foggy noise, beaming proudly as it points directly toward its destination. It’s beautiful even in its disorienting form.
‘Glitch’- Beetleflux f/ Dara Delila (ID)
Beetleflux’s 5-track EP, Moonstruck, conjures the lighter side of dream pop with the fragile tenderness of The Pains of Being Pure At Heart and the melodic punch of bands like The Real Estate and Beach Fossils. Among the fine gems in the latest EP, “Glitch” emerges as a clear standout: a spare, jangle pop tune that arrives with glorious subtlety and impressionistic elements. The second track from the Indonesian act’s latest EP features Moongazing & Her’s Dara Delila, whom delightfully trades and harmonizes vocals with the band’s very own Iqbal Arvin.
Lyrically, the song reflects on a kind of relationship that is capable of saving you even at the most difficult time in your life. The words are as equally mesmerizing as its reverb-laden shimmers and delightful arrangements, inviting you to join the inescapable mantra: “Hold my hands, no distance left to go / Let’s take a walk into the haze / See the dim lights shed the fake frown in our face.” Singing along to it feels like a great relief, comparable to a light that leads you to the end of a very long, dark tunnel.
‘Aquor’ – Fuzzy, I (ID)
In less able hands, “Aquor” would have sounded like a misplaced magic—its lack of subtlety mistaken as empty spectacle, the instrumentation’s ghostly hysteria seen more as an ornamental flourish rather a fortitude that keeps everything from falling apart. But the Bandung-based band is capable of stifling expectations. At its most imaginative, the psych-pop outfit makes detail-rich music that moves in unpredictable twists and turns.
On “Aquor,” Fuzzy, I gets lost in the beauty of not knowing where their home is. Suddenly the music feels boundless and freeing rather than reductive, its endless pursuit to plod along without a clear destination leads to astounding new discoveries. No doubt that there’s reward in allowing sonic ambition to take over, but when its met with the right blend of esoterica and composure, it gives discerning listeners more room to swoon, appreciate the subtle innovation and immerse in the aural experience.
‘Blue Hawaii’ – Mitsume (JP)
Initially released in 2015 as a 7” record, Mitsume’s “Blue Hawaii” is finally serviced digitally on streaming platforms worldwide last week. Five years down the line, the groovy single still sounds monumental as ever with its uncomplicated breeziness and Graceland-inspired motif. And yet, this bright disposition in terms of musicality had such profound effect on the song’s longevity, winning us over with a sound that spans continents, melding indie rock sensibilities with West African music, funk, and Japanese city pop.
‘Moments’ – Alextbh (MY)
Rising Malaysian star Alextbh knows the feeling of being broken in the aftermath of a relationship. He’s endured countless of emotional scarring, and regretfully, he told Earmilk in an interview that “instead of channeling that into something good, I chose to hurt people instead.” His latest single “Moments” thrives on the narrative of guilt, and being able to get away from the vicious cycle of hurting other people. Striking a diarist perspective over a backdrop of darkly crystalline atmosphere and synthetic comedown, the queer artist coats the production with much-needed warmth and validation; his laid-back vocals offering a meditative space that allows listeners to comb through the lyrics. It’s a stellar vocal performance that shatters everything to dust.
‘Tumayo’ – Juss Rye x KJah x Mhot x BLKD (PH)
While not exactly a response to the inexcusable propaganda that was “Iisang Dagat,” which made an attempt to distract us from the maritime situation in the West Philippine Sea, “Tumayo” serves its purpose as a critique on the Chinese regime’s commanding and intrusive presence in our waters. Juss Rye, KJah, Mhot, and BLKD trade barbed verses that denounce the superpower’s aggressive assertion over our territory, while encouraging listeners to fight for our rights and claim what is ours. “Tumayo’t lumaban sa naghahamon / Itayo ang bandila sa dagat na puno ng alon,” goes the anthemic chorus. The message is loud and clear: Now’s the perfect opportunity to take a stand and defend our sovereignty. We’ve suffered enough from the common enemy; we are not the type to be bullied.