Archive for the '2008' Category


#011 Stellarium – Paddle Pop (live)

The first sound we hear from shoegaze revivalists Stellarium at their debut gig is a caterwauling guitar screech set aglow in crashing hi-hats. Then, just as the title “Paddle Pop” suggests, a sticky sweetness follows as a pop structure emerges and the boy-girl voices of Az and Mar appear, wrapped snugly round a collapsed melody like an unstable double helix. This immediately brings to mind My Bloody Valentine, and the wavering melody doesn’t stray too far from “When You Sleep” (even though Az has more of a Jim Reid sneer, a point emphasised by the fact that his vocals are turned up so unforgivably high in the mix).

In a Guardian article about the shoegaze revival of recent times, James Chapman (aka Maps) is quoted describing “nu-gaze” as “music that doesn’t stare at its shoes. It stares at the stars.” This sounds like what the five young musicians from Stellarium might have had in mind when they named their band after the 3-dimensional mapping of star systems. Whether star- or shoegazers, Stellarium wear their noise pop influences proudly and loudly. 

mp3: Stellarium – Paddle Pop (Live at Even Ruder, Nov 28, 2008)


#010 Manic Street Preachers – You Love Us (live)

Useless Generation

Useless Generation

The Manics live in Singapore? 4real? When I was fifteen it was difficult enough trying to get my hands on their music. Their albums were banned (or so I was told)– even the venerable Chua Joo Huat (old record store at Far East Plaza, R.I.P.–they brought in a copy of Marilyn Manson’s also-allegedly banned first album for someone I knew) refused to take my order. After scouring countless record stores, I finally bought a copy of Generation Terrorists for $30 (bargained down– he gave me a “student discount”) from a place called The Musical Shop. More than ten years later, Generation Terrorists is still the Manics album I listen to most (even more than the intense tour de force that is The Holy Bible) and for the same reasons that it hijacked my devotion all those years ago. Where else to experience such a ridiculously uncool agit-pop blend of glam, heavy rock and punk powered by youth, sex and militant boredom? One of the tracks on the album, “You Love Us”, was actually released as a single about a year before the album came out, and here it is seventeen years later, live in Singapore with our Middle-Aged Preachers (minus Richey, R.I.P.) in the flesh– still that wanton energy, incredible Guns N’ Roses riffs, spit n’ soar vox and Burroughsian cut-up lyrics.

mp3: Manic Street Preachers – You Love Us (Live in Singapore, Nov 24, 2008)


#009 Furniture – False Start (live)

Photo by Mark Wong

Photo by Mark Wong

Furniture‘s modus operandi is to confound expectations and break down assumptions. That’s why their forward-looking music completely belies the sedentariness their name suggests- more desiring avantpop forage than wallpaper background fittings. “False Start”, an unlikely seven-minute pop song, starts with upbeat, sunny electrolines before band leader Ronnie Khoo’s wafer-endearing, fingernails-on-board vocals break into a winsome melody that induces in listeners a liminal sensation between a cringe and a smile. Just before the five-minute mark, the music changes tact and sets forth on an unstoppable rise- climbing, doggedly climbing- gone! Instruments drop out and a glorious choral blast breaks on through to the other side. Believe it- one the most inventive pop bands operating in this corner of the world, Furniture renews my faith in pop.

mp3: Furniture – False Start (live at We Came Down From the North, Oct 4, 2008)


#008 Deepset – Every Instance in Time is a Journey of Hope (live)

Sometimes, things just get a little too intense in sardine-can Singapore. That’s why I always love the six hour coach ride up to Kuala Lumpur. It never feels like a long or short ride, just an all right, motorik trip up an ever-rolling highway, past isolated prefab low-rise apartment slabs, wicky thickets or neat rows of palms to an open sky. For me, a trip out of Singapore invariably means a recovery of space. Reprieve from encroachment. Shot of rejuvenation.

Photo by Mark Wong

Photo by Mark Wong

While in KL recently, I caught wind of Deepset‘s album launch at Wondermilk Cafe in Damansara Utama, Petaling Jaya. From Central Market, this took us an hour and a half to reach–first by rail to where a friend’s car was parked, then on vast highways, a light drizzle clearing the Friday rush hour smog. Wondermilk Cafe was hidden in a quiet commercial row in the heart of suburbia–just a crossing away from terraced residences. Getting there after nine, most shops were closed or closing, workers heading or already back home after a long work week. By the time Deepset started playing, past eleven, Wondermilk Cafe was the only beacon of activity in the vicinity (save one auto-repair shop nearby). This gave the sixty of us, spilling out of the shop front, a sense of knitted community, gathered out there as we were for a singular purpose. The music of Deepset provided those threads of nexus, gentle lines of flight. The band’s instrumental forays have that searching quality, where every note is an open node of patient possibilities. Starting with an introspective guitar melody before the advent of an accented motorik march, the first half of “Every Instance in Time is a Journey of Hope” was a music that rose gently but powerfully, all flags fluttering magnificently. The second half transformed into a dainty sidestep, a slow dance in courtly waltz that ended on a simple flourish. Deep in Malaysian suburbia, under a cover of black, Deepset took us all home that night, wherever that was.

mp3: Deepset – Every Instance in Time is a Journey of Hope (live at Closer to Cure: an Evening with Deepset, Aug 29, 2008)

a paean to bootlegging,
to memory,
to ubiety,
and to the Unity
of the Song

please leave a comment if you were there too. i'd love to hear from you

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if you enjoyed the writing, do consider donating to help me keep this going. thanks so much xx

UNITY SONG at Blogged

July 2018
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cd reviews

i'm always looking forwards as well as backwards, so i'm opening up the site for cd reviews of new music

if you're a band in singapore, malaysia or southeast asia with an album or ep out and would like your music savagely torn apart and skewered on a fat stick, drop me an email with UNITY SONG in the subject line at:

reviews will be done the UNITY SONG way: i will choose one song from your release to feature and provide an audio stream. cheers

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