Archive Page 2


#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)


#007 Localbarboy – Lost My Head/The Girl from Katong [The Oddfellows/Serenaide] (live)

In 1994, I was the biggest local music fan in Singapore. I was twelve years old and I made it a point not to miss this radio programme on 98.7FM. It was on Sundays in the afternoon, probably hosted by Bernard Lim, and called The A-List–very apt, because they played a full hour of only music made in Singapore. I know–fuckin’ A, right?

Today, older, wiser and with sensitive teeth, I can appreciate how simple-minded my thinking had been. I mean–duh–the biggest local music fan in Singapore is obviously Joe Ng. Three years ago, Joe assembled a number of good friends and like-minded music fans and formed Localbarboy, a covers band that wouldn’t be caught dead playing Marooned 5 or Hoobastink; behold, instead, a set list that includes Humpback Oak, Force Vomit or even Naomi & the Boys! Going to a Localbarboy gig was like experiencing The A-List again, an hour of only fuckin’ A Singapore tunes.

Their maiden show saw the Prince of Wales backpackers’ pub filled to the brim and spilling over with bodies. Granted, the date coincided with the pub’s anniversary celebration and cheap booze on tap. Still, I’d be darned if at least half the punters weren’t there to relive, communally, select moments of our private musical pasts. To be perfectly honest, Localbarboy are a band with more heart than chops, which is why, at the end of their set and with the band having run out of things to play, the audience decided to lend a voice to sing our own encore–over me, over you–everyone of us a karaoke star, local bar, boys and girls.

mp3: Localbarboy – Lost My Head/The Girl from Katong [The Oddfellows/Serenaide] (live at Prince of Wales Pub One Year Anniversary, Jun 1, 2005)


#006 1234X – Sapporo Sex Pill (live)

Photo from

Coming on like a dose of Tongkat Ali into Singapore’s independent music scene, 1234X brought your root down with their primal brew of stripped down rock ‘n’ roll with slinky sex aplomb. As a basic drums, guitar/vox and bass trio, Ina X, Dino X and Marina X emerged into a scene increasingly dominated by post-rock histrionics and pedal pushers, only to show us that concise composition, lyrical wit and sartorial flair win over blustery effects any day. “Sapporo Sex Pill” typifies the band’s sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll approach. Ina X is your whiplash girl-child, all ringing cymbals and sultry poundings on skin; Marina X brings on the bass to rumble your lumber; Dino X croons off a decadent, if hazy list of sex pills on the rocks and protein jars (?)–“the things that make me sigh”– before an extended instrumental climax-cum-outro (that takes up half the song) comes on to bring us home in three minutes.

mp3: 1234X – Sapporo Sex Pill (live at Interpop, Dec 24, 2005)


#005 My Precious – I Love Daddy (For Baghdad) (live)

One moment, Zool is projecting the punchy, elastic groove of his roiling bassline while coursing overhead, hand-hoisted like a passing angel; the next–POW!—he’s carried off towards the back of the room by some merry pranksters and then–out the door! We crack up (someone in the audience has a wild cackle!) as the rest of the band holds fort. Our favourite screamo duo, Kyn and Rina, are in ferocious form, taking us through a feral climax but then sounding a little shaken during the breakdown in which Dyn manages to transmogrify a bummed chord into SY Evol-era arpeggios. At some point, Zool returns to the room, and everyone’s rallied together– here, a punchdrunk-singalong, there a clapped outro– these, all, precious moments.

mp3: My Precious – I Love Daddy (For Baghdad) (live at “The Venom in My Veins” launch party, Jun 18, 2005)


pleased to meet you

Being a fairly reserved person, blogging was long anathema to my sense of private space. Maybe that’s why I am told UNITY SONG feels hermetic, obscure–unfriendly, even. Okay, then how to make the site friendlier? “Post something personal,” goes one helpful suggestion. Ah– so I thought a bit about what bloggers like to put up on their pages: pictures of their pets, their food, themselves…

Well, given that I’m not quite ready to camwhore, here’s my shelf:

Let's get personal

Let's get personal


#004 I am David Sparkle – Apocalypse of your Heart (live)

An audience member's letter to Life!

An audience member's letter to Life!

Reply from the Esplanade management

Reply from the Esplanade management

Despite a truncated set, I am David Sparkle‘s Baybeats 2005 show went down as one of the most memorable performances in the history of Singapore’s largest annual “indie” music festival. Fans were talking about the event weeks after and an audience member even felt strongly enough to write to the national press about it. At the heart of the matter was a bureaucratic absurdist drama that began when a half-hearted drizzle ate into ten minutes of the band’s allotted half-hour set. For a foursome known to play lengthy, Mogwai-styled instrumental rock pieces, twenty minutes is not a lot of time at all; and as their second song began trundling past 11pm, the Esplanade’s stage manager appeared by the side of the drummer with an authoritative scowl on her face, gesturing reprobatively at the band to stop playing. When the band headed, instead, towards another climactic section, the crowd got in on the action, clapping and cheering alongside Zahir’s crashing drums and rallying behind the band to Stick it to the Man–or, perhaps more appropriately in this case, to Stick it to the Ultraman, as the stage manager affectionately came to be known by due to the churlish figure she cut, with arms akimbo and icy glare. Expectedly, many were annoyed with her, as she seemed to exemplify the sort of despised tunnel-visioned bureaucratic inflexibility found in government institutions of this country. Yet, relistening to those tense minutes, I do think we should all be a little kinder in our judgement of her; after all, with the structural twists, rousing climaxes and electric air of “Apocalypse of your Heart”, it’d be difficult not to be caught up in the drama–in a way, let’s just say that the music made her do it.

mp3: I am David Sparkle – Apocalypse of your Heart (live at Baybeats, Jul 16, 2005)


#003 Leslie Low – Time of Rebirth (live)

Photo by Julia

Photo by Julia

October 2002. Three years after the last Humpback Oak album and nary a whimper from the band. Have they broken up? Then a solo Leslie Low reappears in public and presents a new song at the old Substation garden that couldn’t be more appropriately titled…

Leslie eventually records “Time of Rebirth” with his present band The Observatory and it appears on their demo (2003) and first album (2004), but here is the song as some of us first heard it: the delicate picking, the comfort croon, collected wisdom in a guileless lullaby. This is music that quakes with such quiet fragility that just as the man begins playing, a motorcycle passing by on Stamford Road threatens to swallow him up in its gaping roar– instead, through some fortuitous twist of shape, human and machine weld in respectful accommodation. On this bootleg, the souped-up engine sounds like the reverberations of an anxious snare drumming up a lead-in to Leslie’s first words… “Count the mistakes… the chances we take…”

Two months later, The Observatory is unveiled at the inaugural Baybeats Festival as a trio consisting of Leslie, Vivian Wang and Dharma.

mp3: Leslie Low – Time of Rebirth (live at I’m Not Kylie Minogue, Oct 5, 2002)

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

thanks, debbie, for helping with the logo

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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

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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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