Posts Tagged ‘live


#014 Livonia – Vengeance is Mine (live)

Photo by Mark Wong

For a band whose second EP was self-mockingly titled Three Years Late, my experiences of Livonia have always been marked by some kind of delayed gratification. For example, the last time I’d seen the band was at the Stasis 2 gig in 1999. What I took back from that gig was less the band’s actual performance and more the sensations of suspense and anticipation, of wondering whether the band would even play at all. The band had been due to play earlier in the evening but kept getting pushed back until they became by default the closing act of the evening, their lead guitarist delayed on his return flight from Australia. In fact, my memory of Daniel Sassoon at that gig was less his flamboyant guitar solos than the image of him lugging his guitar and bags into the old Substation Garden, straight off a cab from Changi Airport.

Fast forward to 2010 and I found the prospect of seeing the band live again after more than a decade quite exciting, more so since I really didn’t expect them to ever regroup again after a reportedly acrimonious bust-up. As a familiar synthesiser melody began playing, I was reminded of the fact that I’d never actually seen a live performance of their radio hit, “Vengeance is Mine”. Somehow, I’d missed their earlier performances when the song still featured on their setlists, and after it topped local charts, the band had gotten sick of the song and had refused to play it live anymore. And so as the extended synthesiser refrain droned on (there’s your dose of heightened anticipation again), the band gamely trooped out: Robin and Alfe to their respective drums kits, Ami picking up his bass, Daniel his guitar and Joseph with his guitar to the mic stand. Then…

Before we know it, Robin taps out a 1-2-3-4, Daniel and Joseph begin chugging their machines and Joseph’s rich tenor finds its way into the mix after a momentary false start. The rest exists for me in vivid snapshots: Ami going footloose and dancing in perfect rhythm, Joseph’s lanky stature and commanding presence, Robin and Alfe thumping away in unison like little boys set free, Daniel’s delicious guitar licks, any other number of gravity-defying leaps by band members…

Here was Livonia. Back with a vengeance, as they say. And boy, did it taste sweet.

mp3: Livonia – Vengeance is Mine (Live at +65 Indie Underground pt. II, Apr 11, 2010)


#012 Astreal – Losing You (live)

If there was ever a song to perfectly capture the sex and turbulence of an abusive relationship, that song may well be Astreal‘s “Losing You“. From seduction (“touching/burning”) to destruction (“falling/dying”), “Losing You” chronicles an affair gone painfully wrong, the caged-up rage and repression of an unhealthy relationship perfectly mirrored in the song’s naturally repetitive structure, in which all the pent up intensity of the verses is released by the slash n’ burn guitar and thrashing drums of the chorus. Ginette Chittick’s vocal performance here is inch perfect, dripping both sex and, subsequently, a brilliant sardonicism embodied in the refrain of “Funny, how it hurts to love”. This line, delivered with a wry and twisted glint, turns a story of victimisation into one of revenge. Who fell? Who died? Surely not Ginette’s protagonist, who has lived to tell the tale of her abuse. Seen in this light, “Losing You” acquires a chilling resonance, making a twisted statement on self-defence and female empowerment.

mp3: Astreal – Losing You (Live at Baybeats, Jul 18, 2004)


#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)


#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)

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

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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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