Photo credit Aloysius Lim

Electrico is our latest guest on 10 Tracks. They’re a Singaporean band with a history of their own and in 2021, they’re marking a new chapter in its books.

The trio — made up of David Tan, Desmond Goh, and William Lim, Jr — were representative of a new brand of indie rock in Singapore in the 2000s, and while they’ve spent the 2010s mostly under-the-radar, they’re back with a new EP titled B-sides, Live at the Power Station.



The EP consists of reworked songs from their discography, performed with an expanded live band that includes strings and horn players, and it comes with a newly-minted concert film.

They’re here to talk to us about this project, along with the 10 tracks that mean the most to them. Watch the full 10 Tracks episode below and read their picks accordingly.



Neil Sadaka – ‘Laughter in the Rain’

David Tan (vocals/guitar): I’ve always felt that music was the closest thing we had to a time machine. For me, the songs that came out of the Rediffusion box and filled my home during my childhood stamped that period with a raw and beautiful sense of innocence and joy. This song in particular sums it up and never fails to take me back to those carefree afternoons just sitting in front of the radio. Music was so soulful and beautiful then.


Josh Rouse – ‘Winter in the Hamptons’

Tan: I had Josh Rouse’s Nashville album on repeat during our tour in the states for our South by Southwest (SXSW) show in Austin. It proved to be an amazing soundtrack to the scenery and landscape we got to experience. His voice and the melodies are so sincere and poignant, they made a moment out of practically everything we saw.


Tears For Fears – ‘Bad Man’s Song’

Tan: When Tears For Fears came out with The Seeds Of Love album, I had just bought a new Walkman and decided to listen to the album for the first time as I went to sleep. The album turned out to be such a mind-blowing journey, it kept me awake through to the end.

It was such an amazing way to experience the album that it became my lullaby every night. Each time, I would discover more sonic and melodic textures that just sealed Tears For Fears as one of my favourite bands ever. There are so many killer tracks on the album, but this is one of my favourites for sure. ‘Oleta Adams’!


Oasis – ‘Cigarettes & Alcohol’

Tan: Oasis was such a huge part of Electrico’s early years, they showed us that you could jangle some simple chords with attitude and rock out with it, and that’s exactly what we did! We covered a lot of their songs then, having such a blast feeling that rock and roll channel through us.


Kon Kan – ‘I Beg Your Pardon (I Never Promised You a Rose Garden)’

Desmond Goh (bass): This song was especially memorable as it had an edgy sound and broody verse melody. Not to mention, it was the soundtrack for my crush during primary school!


Spiritualized – ‘You Know It’s True’

Goh: I was into fast, loud and intense music growing up, but this song helped me to appreciate the nuances of a slow number. It would help my messy mind stay calm and put things into perspective.


The Beatles – ‘All My Loving’

Goh: When we first got together as Electric Company, this was one of the songs that we covered for a church funfair. Performing it for the first time made us felt like a band that clicked!


Oasis – ‘Roll with It’

William Lim Jr. (drums): This was one of the first songs we played together! We played it pretty close to the original version, and it inspired us to further broaden our ideas and experiment with that style of a jangling melodied rock.


Mutemath – ‘Typical’

Lim Jr.: At SXSW ‘07, I was inspired by Mutemath to take my drumming into different directions, this includes trying different time signatures and playing off-beat, which you can hear in ‘Hail To The Friends’ and ‘Shadow’.


Foo Fighters – ‘Everlong’

Lim Jr.: This song inspired me to take more chances and experiment more with our second album Hip City, whereas for the first album So Much More Inside, we were more inspired by Radiohead and Doves.


You can find Electrico on Instagram and Facebook. B-sides Live at the Power Station is now available on all digital platforms.

Photo credit Netflix

The duo behind Genre Equality puts out a monthly review of the best and worst each month — whether if it’s a new series on Netflix to binge, a film to catch in cinemas (if you use TraceTogether, that is), or a book to simply plug out from the outside noise.

While you can listen in to their latest episode for a full breakdown of their verdicts, scroll down to dig into what they’ve loved (and disliked) from the first month of 2021.

Follow Genre Equality on Facebook for more updates.



The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

TV/Marvel
Where to watch: Disney+

Both a fun buddy cop adventure and a complex exploration of the geopolitical realities of a post-Blip world, this series strikes a perfect balance between thoughtful and thrilling.

Whether dealing with radicalization stemming from a global refugee crisis, or interrogating whether a Black man could (or should) reconcile historical racial injustice with hope for the future to honour a symbol of America — TFATWS’ greatest strength is the potent commentary it weaves alongside superheroics.


Invincible

Season 1

TV/Skybound
Where to watch: Prime Video

Based on Robert Kirkman’s (other) acclaimed comic book, Invincible is a smart and subversive satire of the superhero coming-of-age genre. Combining the realism and violence of The Boys with the brightly-coloured optimism of Saturday morning cartoons, Invincible sucks you in with plenty of twists that you won’t see coming.


Infinity Train

Season 4

TV/Cartoon Network Studios
Where to watch: HBO Max (VPN required)

The fourth and final season of Owen Dennis’ imaginative and emotionally complex cartoon continues to be a wonderful treat. Set on an endless locomotive where each carriage contains a different universe, Infinity Train takes its passengers (and us) on a ride to help us deal with a variety of traumas and insecurities.


Shadow and Bone

Season 1

TV/21 Laps Entertainment
Where to watch: Netflix

Based on the Grishaverse novels, Shadow and Bone is a dense and immersive series that improves upon the source material in many ways — especially when it comes to adding depth and nuance to the book’s “chosen one” story. However, it does fall into a myriad of Netflix YA fantasy cliches at times.


For All Mankind

Season 2

TV/Sony Pictures Entertainment
Where to watch: Apple TV+

For All Mankind is a meticulously crafted alt-history that imagines what would happen if the Soviets landed the first man on the moon instead of America. While its first season was wildly ambitious, it was also uneven. This astonishing second season corrects nearly flaw to deliver an engrossing and enthralling vision of a very different Cold War in space.


Mortal Kombat

Film/New Line Cinema
Where to watch: Local cinemas

Mortal Kombat does justice to the game’s violent and gory legacy. But were the good fights enough to compensate for an utter dumpster fire of a movie? Only partly.


Yasuke

Season 1

TV/MAPPA
Where to watch: Netflix

Netflix’s anime about a Black samurai fighting mechs and magic in alt-reality feudal Japan is buoyed by sublime visuals and an incredible score from Flying Lotus. Unfortunately, it’s also dragged down by a highly derivative story.


Them

Season 1

TV/Sony Pictures Television
Where to watch: Amazon Prime

This 1950s tale of a Black family moving into a white suburban neighbourhood is harrowing. From the horrors of racists next door to supernatural entities indoors, Them does a good job of depicting the exhaustion of a Black family living in America.

However, its similarities to Lovecraft Country, alongside its exploitative violence that borders on degradation porn, hampered our enjoyment of this series.


Made For Love

Season 1

TV/Paramount Television Studios
Where to watch: HBO GO

A woman tries to escape her controlling tech mogul husband. Unfortunately, he’s implanted a tracking chip in her brain. This dramedy is sometimes a smart sci-fi nightmare deconstructing the intersection of romance and technology.

But most times, Made For Love is a narrative mess that frustrates viewers with its unnecessary non-chronological structure.


Thunder Force

Film/On the Day Productions
Where to watch: Netflix

Melissa McCarthy’s superhero comedy is undoubtedly the worst movie made in 2021. It’s unfunny, tedious, and feckless. Avoid at all costs.


The Handmaid’s Tale

Season 4

TV/MGM Television
Where to watch: Hulu (VPN required)

This dystopian series has reached the point of diminishing returns. With nothing new left to say and Margaret Atwood’s cautionary allegory milked dry, The Handmaid’s Tale has become a repetitive slog of female torture and terrible decisions in its fourth season.


The Way of the Househusband

Season 1

TV/Nippon TV
Where to watch: Netflix

This adaptation of the popular manga about a yakuza boss who retires to become a domestic spouse is faithful to a fault. While it retains the charming humour, this is less of an anime and more of a cheap-looking PowerPoint motion comic.


The Nevers

Season 1

TV/Mutant Enemy Productions
Where to watch: HBO GO

Following the myriad of allegations made against Joss Whedon’s toxic behaviour, Hidzir is forced to reevaluate his fandom as he reviews Whedon’s tonally-awkward new show about superpowered women in Victorian England. Listen to the full episode to hear more.

Imaginary Regions is a series of mixes made by Ricks Ang, head honcho of KITCHEN. LABEL. These mixes comprise of new age, ambient, environmental, and relaxation records, compact discs, and cassette tapes.

This episode, New Age Stories 1980-1989, serves as an exploratory look at a form of music that widely pervaded the modern sensibilities of its time. With its meditative qualities once the soundtrack of yoga studios, boutique stores, and late-night television transmissions, not much attention was given to the artists who pioneered new age — save for anomalies like Yanni and Kitaro, who commanded stadium-sized crowds in their day.

Recent revival efforts, on the other hand, have shined a new spotlight on a form of music that was once deeply maligned by an uninformed majority.

Ricks Ang adds to this ongoing conversation with his mix, featuring music ripped from his personal collection of cassette tapes, along with an impassioned argument for its value in these uncertain times. Read on below.

Ricks Ang, pictured.

Listen to “New Age Stories 1980-1989”, the second Imaginary Regions mix:


Perhaps no genre of music has had as much misinformation foist upon it as new age music. Since its emergence in the 70s, new age music was derided as simply a convenient marketing category by the mid-90s.

Everything from solo piano renditions of Barry Manilow pop ballads, traditional folk such as Celtic music, to the bombastic forms of pop instrumental music such as recordings of Yanni have been lumped together. Interestingly (and to his credit), Yanni has stated he does not play new age music, and most will agree with him.

So what is “authentic” new age music? It depends on whom you ask. Ambient record aficionados would describe it as music created by artists who pioneer new acoustic vistas, music that employs time, space and silence as a sonic vehicle to get listeners into closer contact with the environment and their spiritual nature.

Despite being a much-maligned genre, any sound-seeker will not find it hard to reach into New Age music and dig deeper to discover what else is in there.

In this era, the process of rediscovering vintage new age music comes without the baggage that initially surrounded it the first time around. A series of well-received vinyl reissues by musicians such as Laraaji and Suzanne Ciani — coupled with present generation musicians Ana Roxanne, Joseph Shabason releasing new music in the genre — are contributing to its revival.


Suzanne Ciani, featured in a clip of a 1980 episode of The David Letterman Show. Ciani is documented as a pioneer of electronic music and new age, with The Guardian naming her “America’s first female synth hero”.


This latest episode of ‘Imaginary Regions’ covers new age muzak from the golden age of the genre in the 1980s, when its cassette releases were also at their peak.

Featuring original audio recorded from cassettes salvaged from dusty new age and general used tape bins, the mix dubbed “New Age Stories 1980-1989”, dives into the genre’s curious, wondrous world within. To paraphrase Serenity label’s fundamental goal to bridge New Age and Healing Music, it is “music that stirs the soul and warms the heart”.

Opening the mix is Steven Halpern, who, to no other single composer, can new age be so aptly applied to. Since 1975, his albums, which he would call “inner peace music”, channeled their way through specialty bookstores and notably (or notoriously) at natural food & health stores.


Steven Halpern explains his “inner peace music” ethos on a US news segment in 1991.


The genre that utterly lacked definition has a knack for creating subgenres, making the genre branch out even further.

“Imaginary Regions” takes you through the new acoustics and prototype vaporwave of Mark Isham’s Vapor Drawings, released on Windham Hill, the neo-classical piano solo of David Lanz from Narada, Sonic Atmosphere’s (once the label home of space music legend Michael Stearns) brand of exploratory instrumental music from ambient jazz musician Don Harriss, environmental sounds of Nature Recordings to the cozy ambiance of little-known new age musicians Max Highstein and L’esprit from the aforementioned Serenity.

German composer Deuter once wrote, “The main thing is that moment of silence that I hope to create in the listener, a chance to go inside oneself, to leave the world behind and get recharged.”.

And this is what new age music, in essence, wants to accomplish — music that is healing, showing contours of a memory one couldn’t concretely recall, yet one could sense. It gives listeners the opportunity to, for a moment, leave this hectic, noisy world behind and enter a haven of tranquility.


Follow Ricks Ang on Instagram and visit KITCHEN. LABEL’s official website here.

saying out loud singapore community radio column asiapac books chong lingying
Photo credit Chong Lingying

Saying Out Loud is a new recurring column by Chong Lingying — a book publisher, editor, and writer — where she shares her unfiltered views on work, creativity, and the conversations happening around her in Singapore.

She manages Asiapac Books, an independent publishing house specializing in illustrated and comic books on Asian culture, history, philosophy, folktales, and life skills.

In this piece, Lingying talks about the often-arduous (and thankless) job of editing.


What is editing in Singapore, today?

It’s been a while! Please excuse my absence. I’ve been busy editing books at work and other projects, including more editing of personal writing, which leads to this story.

I hesitated to finish this piece, just as I hesitated to call myself an editor, for one reason: editing is a paradox to me.

Even though an editor corrects mistakes, there is no “correct” way to edit a work. Instead, there seem to be many “wrong” ways. Do too much and you might kill the work, the author relationship, or the production deadlines. Do too little and you might as well not do it at all. (Editor’s note: *Shouting from the balcony seats* Yeaaaah!)

And for all of your efforts, there will always be something that you missed. You will wake up to an email from a co-worker, the author, or a reader, asking you why a female character was referred to as “him” on page 6.

It is human to be imperfect, and to create imperfect things through imperfect processes. To edit is to see all of these imperfections, to understand them, and to improve on them. But to what end? To create better work? To create a better world? (Editor’s note: It’s just a job, I guess.)


Photo credit CHONG LINGYING

Before we get to this – what is editing anyway? What is good editing? What is editing in the here and now, in a world that’s flooded with media platforms, formats, channels, and creators? Particularly, what is editing for a Singapore whose media imports massively outweigh its exports?

These questions are important to creatives who undoubtedly spend much of their time self-editing or editing media, as well as those who consume said media. This includes everybody.

All writing needs editing! Photos, videos, and music too! The imagination needs to run wild and free, but somebody has to rein it in at the end of the day. Word processing can be messy work, and somebody has to keep the shop tidy. To smoothen things over. To arrange it better. (Editor’s note: Don’t mind me. I added italics for dramatic effect.)

There’s almost no content out in the world that isn’t edited. And yet, it is in the nature of editing work to be invisible, so that another’s work can shine brighter. What a wonderful thing that there are these countless hands that shape everything around us, while cleaning away their traces. They are the secret-keepers of typos, grammatical errors, expletives, nudity, dead bodies, and everything else that you can imagine. (Editor’s note: No dead bodies were found in the submitted drafts.)

In the book world, an editor might proofread while checking production proofs but they aren’t just a proofreader. An editor might write a lot, especially blurbs and auxiliary content in books, but they aren’t only a writer. There are also many editors who don’t touch the text in a work, like acquisition editors or managing editors. (Editor’s note: I am “managing editor” here but, like many other creatives, we juggle some hats.)

In Singapore, the term, “editor” is used loosely because most publishers and editorial teams here are small. An editor is the external creative partner, who serves the audience and the work. An editor is an essential part of publishing. The midwives of creative labour.

“Editing” is a term even harder to explain. From the acquisition of a new manuscript, to structural edits, to rewrites, to fact checks, to proof checks, to marketing, to new editions, an editor is busy with a book from its very beginning until it goes out of print. Editing is not just these tasks — it’s the overall responsibility, skill, and sensibility to identify the need for such tasks, and to complete them.


Photo credit CHONG LINGYING

What proofreading marks look like – some editors still use this in PDFs.


Among the editors I have met, the best ones give off the vibe of an… elite soldier. They get in, hit the ground running, and finish what needs to be done. That’s up to their attitude and confidence as much as it is experience and skills. (Editor’s note: For clarity, I did not add this part in.)

Anybody can spot a typo, but that’s not all it takes to be an editor. There are lots of books and courses out there on editing but, really, the best way to learn is to practice.

I picked up proofreading as a primary schooler reading manuscripts that my mother brought home, hunting for typos in exchange for extra pocket money. My childhood training equipped me with the hypervigilance (and hubris) to become a school magazine editor. My amateur editorial career took off in university as I ruthlessly chopped through my friends’ academic papers. (Editor’s note: Lingying has spent more of her life editing than I ever have. Props!)

Spending a few years in the banking industry did even more for my editing skills. My first boss was an ex-journalist who enforced strict editorial standards from day one. Keep the text tight, effective, and accurate. Regardless of how inconsequential the document, errors were absolutely forbidden. This helped a lot when I had to draft contracts and term sheets for equity derivatives. Typos are embarrassing and damaging for all of us, but they can also land bankers in jail.

When I finally started working at a book publisher, I was ready to start annotating stacks of paper and PDFs with a red pen. But you know what? Manuscripts don’t come ready-made. It was going to take a lot of work to get even close to that stage.

I found that most of the time, being an editor is, weirdly enough, talking. There were afternoons and phone calls with the blind author, Tan Guan Heng, reading out paragraphs of his novel that we were revising for a new edition, and writing as he dictated. There were meetings with children’s book authors, going through the illustrator’s mockups.

Meetings, phone calls, and long coffee sessions are all part of editing. Editing is about making decisions as a team. And sometimes, inevitably, making those decisions for the team. (Editor’s note: We had coffee before publishing this, but the conversation eventually deviated to other unrelated topics. This is my fault.)


Photo credit CHONG LINGYING

A 1998 editorial work schedule from Asiapac Books’ archives.


It gets stressful but I found some help: in more reading. Not the style guides and editing articles, that’s all the boring stuff.

Read everything you can get your hands on, just to stay in touch with the global superconsciousness of the readers you serve. Learn from other editors. Read books for children. Books for adults. Books from different countries. Books in different languages. Books for readers with special needs. Books from another era. Magazines, newspapers, Twitter, even Reddit. (Editor’s note: Plenty of aspiring writers are covertly hanging out at r/relationships, the eternal writing prompt zone for lovesick weirdos.)

Don’t just read. Watch, and listen too. Music editing is fascinating, and for most popular songs there are many b-sides and edits available online. I am constantly wondering about editing in video, music, and even video games. What do different editors do? How do our unique and different processes enrich our understanding of media? What can we all learn from each other in our approach towards humanity? (Editor’s note: *Shouting from the balcony seats again* Thelma Schoonmaker! There’s plenty to learn from mixing engineers, too.)

This is what’s on my mind now, after spending the past few months almost entirely editing the Return of the Condor Heroes Collector’s Edition Boxset. It’s been more than a year managing editorial work on this project and I’ve re-read its thousands of pages more than twenty times by this stage.

I feel that pain which I’m sure all editors know well. Knowing that as I approve things for print, I inevitably also approve the mistakes that slipped past my grasp, the team’s grasp.

But maybe being an editor isn’t about being perfect. It’s about dedication to a work and its readers. It’s all about time. Before a work has seen the world, it’s the editors who have spent the most time with it. Sometimes, more than the creators themselves.

And to end, well, editing is a process that doesn’t end. Like all creators and editors, I’m obsessive-compulsive about it. I just can’t let it go. You’ll have to pry this story out of my decomposing hands as I stubbornly attempt to rewrite it for the fourth time since January. (Editor’s note: That’s what happened. Sort of. There were no decomposing hands guarding the absolutely dead body-free draft.)

“It’s not terrible, but it could be better if…!!!”


What’s going on at Asiapac Books?

On top of editing the behemoth Return of the Condor Heroes Collector’s Edition, the Asiapac Books team has been busy writing articles, hosting livestreams, producing videos, and for the first time ever, voice acting!

This summer, we are releasing an audio drama adaptation of the comic book, Sacred Guardians. Not only did writer Aydeel Djoeharie write and direct the entire audio production, he is also the voice of several minor characters including at least one demon.

Our editor Viency voiced a curious passerby, while I voiced a refugee whose town was destroyed by demons. Voice acting is difficult to pick up but thankfully, I had an immense well of deadline anxiety to inspire my performance.

Catch our updates and more fun content on our new Medium, Facebook, and Instagram channels!

Genre Equality podcast Hidzir Junaini Isa Foong Singapore Community Radio

The duo behind Genre Equality puts out a monthly review of the best and worst each month — whether if it’s a new series on Netflix to binge, a film to catch in cinemas (if you use TraceTogether, that is), or a book to simply plug out from the outside noise.

While you can listen in to their latest episode for a full breakdown of their verdicts, scroll down to dig into what they’ve loved (and disliked) from the first month of 2021.

Follow Genre Equality on Facebook for more updates.



Zack Snyder’s Justice League

Film/DC Films
Where to watch: HBO GO

The fabled #SnyderCut of Justice League delivers a four-hour epic that significantly improves upon Joss Whedon’s version. While a much stronger and more coherent film overall, your mileage may vary in this indulgent combination of the best (operatic grandeur) and worst (slow-mo, style-over-substance excess) of Snyder’s artistic vision.


Raya and the Last Dragon

Film/Disney
Where to watch: Local cinemas & Disney+ (additional fee required for Disney+ subscribers)

Disney’s first Southeast Asian princess leads this thrilling fantasy action-adventure. Buoyed by breathtaking fight sequences, stunning visuals, ambitious world-building, excellent humour, and a star-studded voice cast – Raya proves to be a fun, all-ages fable about the power of trust.


Dota: Dragon’s Blood

Season 1

TV/Studio Mir
Where to watch: Netflix

Dragon’s Blood is an exceptional adaptation of the DOTA 2 video game franchise that should delight fans and newbies alike. Featuring compelling characters, spectacularly violent action, beautiful animation, and emotional complexity on all sides – this stunning adult anime is a must-watch.


Godzilla vs. Kong

Film/Legendary Pictures
Where to watch: Local cinemas

This heavyweight monster battle is a jaw-dropping spectacle. However, the movie is severely hampered by bafflingly stupid human subplots that distract from what we came to see: two titans clobbering each other.


La Llorona

Film/La Casa de Producción & Les Films du Volcan
Where to watch: Shudder (requires VPN)

This sophisticated horror film blends together the terror of myth and reality in a modern retelling of the genocide against the Mayan community in Guatemala. Smart, elegant, and suspenseful, director Jayro Bustamante uses folkloric fears to unpack even greater political atrocities.


Come True

Film/Copperheart Entertainment
Where to watch: Amazon (VPN required)

Come True is helmed by the one-person filmmaking crew of Anthony Scott Burns, who wrote, directed, edited, and composed the 80s synth-wave soundtrack under the pseudonym Pilotpriest.

The indie film is a surreal, unsettling, and genuinely disturbing horror sci-fi. Filled with nightmarish sounds and imagery that trigger deep, primordial fears, this film is one for fans of minor-key arthouse horror.


Solar Opposites

Season 2

TV/Justin Roiland’s Solo Vanity Card Productions!
Where to watch: Hulu (VPN required)

Rick and Morty co-creator Justin Roiland returns with the second season of his hilarious animated sci-fi comedy. This fresh spin on 3rd Rock From The Sun flies with a breakneck pace — it coasts on a witty mix of goofy absurdity and good-natured warmth.


Chaos Walking

Film/Lionsgate
Where to watch: Local cinemas

A loud and tedious dystopian mess that should be avoided at all costs. Stars Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley need to be more careful about the roles they pick.


Boss Level

Film/Highland Film Group
Where to watch: Hulu (VPN required)

This fun time loop adventure is like the action hero version of Groundhog Day. Starring Frank Grillo (of Captain America: The Winter Soldier fame), Boss Level is a muscular popcorn movie with plenty of thrills and little brains.


The Irregulars

Season 1

TV/Drama Republic
Where to watch: Netflix

Take pretty much any established cultural touchstone — here, it’s Sherlock Holmes — add a group of teenagers, and you’ve got a TV show. To play it safe, inject the storylines with supernatural mumbo jumbo for color and special effects. Voila, a perfectly mediocre Netflix show to put on the background at dinner parties.


Pacific Rim: The Black

Season 1

TV/Legendary Television
Where to watch: Netflix

Clunky cell shading animation and shoddy character work hinder what could have been a fun mecha vs kaiju romp.


Snowpiercer

Season 2

TV/CJ Entertainment
Where to watch: Netflix

Aided by the addition of Sean Bean, season two proves Snowpiercer to be a perfectly watchable yet totally inessential show. We’d still recommend Bong Joon-ho’s film version instead.


House of Leaves

Book/Pantheon
Where to buy: Local bookstores

In light of the book’s 21st anniversary this year, Genre Equality explores House of Leaves, which originally released in March 2000.

House of Leaves is one of the most disorienting and creative novels ever written. Mark Z. Danielewski’s cult classic book is an incredibly complex work of existential horror that plays with a variety of formatting and writing styles. The result is a story that is both intellectually challenging and profoundly disturbing.

There’s no doubt that hip-hop has been a dominant cultural force in recent years. While a genre celebrated for decades around the world, its assertive presence on the public airwaves has been a fairly recent phenomenon in Singapore.

For the formative years of Yung Raja, somewhere in the late-2000s, hip-hop opened up new worlds for him. And he was compelled to dig deeper on his own.

Now an emerging face in Singaporean rap, skillfully mixing club-ready hooks with an ear for low frequencies, Yung Raja is cultivating his own path owed to years of studying the greats.

While music geeks would spend hours on music blogs unearthing obscurities, Yung Raja dug into the then-popular sounds that populated the iTunes hip-hop charts, which allowed him insight into the cultural power the genre held in the rest of the world.

Fast forward to 2021 and he’s promoting his newest single ‘MAMI’, his first under US label Alamo Records. Yung Raja spent time talking with us about the 10 tracks that have shaped him.

He begins the list enthusing about the formative songs that clinched his love for the genre, but down the line, his love for the greats take different forms — from their work ethic, to their choice of producers, to the powerful moves they make culturally.

The full episode of 10 Tracks provides greater insight into Yung Raja’s own personal journey, but read the list below for a glimpse into the hip-hop blueprint that has guided the rapper all these years.



Lil Wayne – ‘A Milli’

I was 13 at the time and my dad got me my first iPod. I didn’t know who Lil Wayne was and Tha Carter III had just come out. ‘A Milli’ was on the Top 10 iTunes chart so I bought it. When the bass hit, a part of my soul just left — like, “What was that?”

It was a song I looped on my way to school and back home. I listened to it about a thousand times. It was one of the first few times I fell in love with the “sound” — the drums, the subs, the 808s. Lil Wayne was, at the time, somebody who showed me what the world had to offer in 2009.


TI – ‘Swagga Like Us’

The first song by him I discovered was ‘Whatever You Like’. It was everywhere, it was even the number one video on YouTube at the time. I got hooked on that song.

I dug a little deeper, and I found he had a song with Lil Wayne. I listened to ‘Swagga Like Us’ and that was the first time I knew what sampling was — with the M.I.A. sample (‘Paper Planes’).

It was just, like, “Wow, this is so cool!” This became the next song I kept looping on my way to school. That was the beginning of me understanding the other huge figures in the game at the young stage in my life.


Sid Sriram, AR Rahman – ‘Thalli Pogathey’

My parents have always been obsessed with A.R. Rahman. The South Indian entertainment space has had many greats, A.R. being one of them — especially as a musical prodigy. There isn’t another A.R. Rahman. He’s made so many evergreen songs since the 1990s.

In my household, one of the biggest South Indian influences for me was A.R. Rahman. At a much later stage in my life, I realized I’m now at a place where I can connect with other musicians. I connected with Sri Sriram, who’s also another trailblazer in the South Indian music space, and he’s worked with A.R. Rahman.

I went to India and met Sriram and he told me to come through to the studio. Once our schedules were aligned, and we were kicking it, he played the original demo of ‘Thalli Pogathey’, the original demo that A.R. Rahman sent him to work with. I was just blown to smithereens. It was so crazy.

A.R. Rahman basically freestyled the entire song — every chord and vocal melody, not one part of it was changed from the demo sent to Sriram. I was already a fan of the song, but to now understand the backstory of it, there’s not a song I would rank above it. I got to take a sneak peek into how it was made, so it’s cemented as one of my favourite songs.


50 Cent – ‘Ayo Technology’

My brother-in-law gifted me a $50 Amazon gift card, which I bought a bunch of CDs with. Curtis was one of them. I saw the music video for ‘Ayo Technology’ and it had a sound that I was not previously exposed to. This was when I had a liking to heavy production.

I wasn’t able to verbalize these thoughts then but I was attracted to the production side of things. The word is kilat, bro. 50 Cent’s sound was so kilat, and I fell in love with it. From that moment in time, I wasn’t just looking for the artist, but I was looking at Timbaland and what he was putting out.

I bought Nelly Furtado’s album [2006’s Loose] because he produced it. That kind of direction only came for me after listening to a production-heavy song like ‘Ayo’. I’m pretty sure that was the tipping point for me.


The Notorious BIG – ‘Unbelievable’

By the time I was 16 or 17, I had thought to myself “I know everything about rap there is.” Someone told me about Biggie and Tupac and I asked “Who’s that?” That person said “How could you be a fan of hip-hop without knowing these guys?”

I went home and did my research. I went pretty in-depth when it came to Biggie and Pac and all the other artists who were around them at the time. That trickled down into learning more about that music period in the 1990s, so it includes Michael Jackson, Prince, and whoever was making the dopest music at the time.

At a later stage, I went deep into Biggie’s music, and I was drawn way more to Biggie’s music than Pac. I was trying to understand it over the years, but now I finally get it — he had a sauce and a groove that nobody else could copy. He had a way to flow over beats that was very inimitable.

It was a style he had that took the world by storm. Biggie could claim a spot next to Pac as the king of New York. He claimed his lane like no one else did, and I was very inspired by that.


Kanye West – ‘Can’t Tell Me Nothing’ & ‘Blood On The Leaves’

It wasn’t the most pleasant time for me in secondary school. I was constantly trying to fit in, and it wasn’t pretty, man. Hip-hop was instrumental in making me feel empowered and dope inside.

It was something that I constantly had as a pillar of strength. It was that one thing that made me feel strong, so I relied on hip-hop for that strength. I’ve never come across a personality in the hip-hop space that was so bold as Kanye.

‘Can’t Tell Me Nothing’ was the record I heard from Kanye that made such a big impression — that boldness was a source of strength for me at that time.


Drake – ‘Is There More’ & ‘Headlines’

I would say that Drake is the GOAT because of what he’s achieved with his day ones over the last 10 years. It’s not even debatable at this point. It’s just a consistent display of greatness. That’s just how I view it.

He’s someone who reps his hometown, his team, celebrates his life, his people, and the different parts of life he goes through in each album. The way he tells stories is what I’m working towards.


Snoop Dogg – ‘Vato’

Tha Blue Carpet Treatment was one of the other albums I bought with that Amazon gift card. ‘Vato’ is a very funny song, because if you listen to it, he uses the hook as somebody else talking to him, while he’s sharing a story from a Spanish dude he calls Vato.

The hook is what Vato is telling Snoop Dogg. Conceptually, it’s mad, and the song is a banger. Snoop Dogg’s sauciness is inspiring. ‘Vato’ is a song that is hard, and it has a creative storytelling element to it. It has his stamp, his sound on it.


Yung Raja’s ‘MAMI’ is now available to stream on digital platforms. Thank you to Universal Music Singapore for arranging this interview.

Genre Equality podcast Singapore Community Radio
Photo credit Disney+

The duo behind Genre Equality puts out a monthly review of the best and worst each month — whether if it’s a new series on Netflix to binge, a film to catch in cinemas (if you use TraceTogether, that is), or a book to simply plug out from the outside noise.

While you can listen in to their latest episode for a full breakdown of their verdicts, scroll down to dig into what they’ve loved (and disliked) from the first month of 2021.

Follow Genre Equality on Facebook for more updates.



WandaVision

Season 1

TV/Marvel Studios
Where to watch: Disney+

This wonderfully weird love letter to vintage sitcoms is easily the most daring and experimental thing the MCU has ever done. Formatting flourishes and the versatility of Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany finds charmingly inventive ways to plumb Wanda’s traumatic history.


Saint Maud

Film/A24
Where to watch: The Projector

Rose Clarke’s directorial debut is the first great horror movie of 2021, and a great addition to A24’s arthouse horror canon. Led by fantastic performances from Morfydd Clark and Jennifer Ehle, this character study of religious fervour vs. mental illness is deeply unsettling.


Little Fish

Film/IFC Films
Where to watch: Amazon Prime (VPN required)

This melancholy indie sci-fi romance focuses on a world plagued by a contagious Alzheimer’s-like epidemic. Little Fish is a dreamy and devastating film about the disintegration of relationships without reason or closure.


Space Sweepers

Film/Bidangil Pictures
Where to watch: Netflix

This South Korean space opera may look great, but its story is a derivative slog.


The Watch

Season 1

TV/BBC Studios
Where to watch: BBC America (US cable access required)

Fans of Terry Pratchett’s satirical-fantasy Discworld novels will be sorely disappointed by BBC America’s moronic mess of an adaptation.


Superman & Lois

Season 1

TV/DC Entertainment
Where to watch: Amazon Prime (VPN required)

The latest entry into the CW’s Arrowverse is a mixed bag — buoyed by the charisma of Tyler Hoechlin and Elizabeth Tulloch, but dragged by clunky melodrama.


Earwig and the Witch

Film/Studio Ghibli
Where to watch: HBO Max (VPN required)

Studio Ghibli’s first-ever CG film is ironically flat and lifeless, lacking the sense of wonder and whimsy of its hand-drawn predecessors.


Tribes of Europa

Season 1

TV/W&B Television
Where to watch: Netflix

From the creators of Dark comes this German post-apocalyptic series that feels like a tired re-thread of a million other YA dystopian stories. Disappointing.


Attack on Titan

Season 4

TV/MAPPA
Where to watch: Netflix

The insanely popular anime finally sheds its perennial problem with poor pacing. Now with mysteries revealed and questions answered, Attack on Titan steadily progresses to the exciting and action-packed conclusion to the saga.


Re:Zero − Starting Life in Another World

Season 2

TV/White Fox
Where to watch: Crunchyroll (VPN required)
Season 1 available on Netflix

Subaru-kun is back for more crying, suffering, deaths, and resets in the second half of the franchise’s returning season.


That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime

Season 2

TV/White Fox
Where to watch: Crunchyroll (VPN required)
Season 1 available on Netflix

Building upon a very well-received first season, overpowered slime lord Rimuru Tempest and his newly founded nation of monsters face threats from enemies new and old.

 


Dr. Stone

Season 2 (Stone Wars)

TV/TMS Entertainment
Where to watch: Crunchyroll (VPN required)
Season 1 available on Netflix

Senkuu and his allies in The Kingdom of Science finish their preparations. Armed with a host of new science gizmos, they begin their preemptive attack on Tsukasa’s Empire.


Beastars

Season 2

TV/Orange
Where to watch: Netflix (scheduled for release in July)

Beaststars is back. The herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores at Cherryton Academy continue their tense coexistence while navigating their own complex emotions and interpersonal relationships.


Cells at Work!

Season 2

TV/David Production
Where to watch: Crunchyroll (VPN required)
Season 1 available on Netflix

We continue the journey with our favorite hardworking Cells, including lessons that important cells can make mistakes, and not all bacteria are bad. Cells at Work! (stylized for season 2 as Cells at Work!!) continues to be one of the best educational animes that we’ve seen.


Cells at Work! Code Black

Season 1

TV/David Production
Where to watch: Crunchyroll (VPN required)

Cells at Work! Code Black is a much darker, more mature spinoff of Cells at Work!, set in a human body that’s in constant turmoil from poor life choices — making this a very different but no less enjoyable viewing experience.


The Promised Neverland

Season 2

TV/CloverWorks
Where to watch: Hulu (VPN required)
Season 1 available on Netflix

Having escaped Grace Field House, Emma and the older kids try to survive as they continue to escape capture from the demons. They are, instead, afflicted by the troubles of a missing story arc that has drawn the ire of fans.


World Trigger

Season 2

TV/Toei Animation
Where to watch: Crunchyroll (VPN required)

Six years after their initial 73-episode run, World Trigger picks up where it left off with a second season. Ardent fans are treated to more great world-building, the continuation of Team Mikumo’s adventures, and some impressive improvements in animation and soundtrack.


Log Horizon

Season 3 (Destruction of the Round Table)

TV/Satelight
Where to watch: NHK Educational TV (subject to scheduling)

Log Horizon’s initial two-season run garnered a fair number of fans for their very different, detailed, and expansive take on the trapped-in-a-game-world genre. Now seven years later, we are brought back to the world of Elder Tale, starting Season 3 off with a heavy look at the political turmoil Shiroe and gang have become embroiled in.


Wonder Egg Priority

Season 1

TV/CloverWorks
Where to watch: FUNimation (VPN required)

With its gorgeous art style, amazing animation, and a top-notch soundtrack and sound design, Wonder Egg Priority is an arthouse film of an anime. Coupled with a compelling story, great voice acting, and some unexpectedly awesome fight scenes, this might easily be one of the best animes of the year.


HoriMiya

Season 1

TV/CloverWorks
Where to watch: Hulu (VPN required)

A solid high school, slice of life rom-com about two teens living double lives, dishing out spot-on doses of romance, comedy, and drama in equal measure.


Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation

Season 1

TV/Egg Firm
Where to watch: Hulu (VPN required)

In yet another entry to the Isekai genre, a 34-year-old NEET has his fateful encounter with Truck-kun and gets reincarnated into a fantasy world with swords and magic. But with his memories from his past life intact, old trauma and wounds continue to haunt him even as he is given a new lease on life.


So I am a Spider, So What?

Season 1

TV/Millepensee
Where to watch: Crunchyroll (VPN required)

Basically, this is That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, but instead of slime, you get a spider instead. Despite the familiar (and at this point, frankly done to death) premise, this anime is a fairly hilarious take on the well-worn genre.


Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki

Season 1

TV/Project No.9
Where to watch: FUNimation (VPN required)

Top-tier gamer Tomozaki thinks that real life is a crappy game, with no proper rules and no way for a bottom-tier character like himself to ever beat it. An unexpected encounter with his gaming rival convinces him to give this game life a shot. An interesting and funny look at the idea of the “gaming” life.


Heaven’s Design Team

Season 1

TV/Asahi Production
Where to watch: Crunchyroll (VPN required)

What if God decided to outsource the creation of all the creatures on earth to a design agency? This anime is what you get. It’s an easy watch that’s funny, irreverent, and even educational in parts, and hits close to home for anyone who has lived the agency life.

Photo credit Ricks Ang

Imaginary Regions is a series of mixes made by Ricks Ang, head honcho of KITCHEN. LABEL. These mixes comprise of new age, ambient, environmental, and relaxation records, compact discs, and cassette tapes.

This episode, Fourth World SBC, features music channelled and shazamed from BGM used in shows by the now-defunct Singapore Broadcasting Corporation (SBC), which was active in the 1980s and early-1990s.

Most record finds were unearthed from the vaults of the legendary Red Point Records who had previously acquired the albums in job lots from defunct radio libraries in Singapore.

Here, Ricks Ang pens a piece about the music that defined this era — how new age and ambient tracks helped soundtrack stories of a reimagined and fantastical Singapore, and how he found these records at a local record warehouse.

Ricks Ang, pictured.

Listen to “Fourth World SBC”, the first Imaginary Regions mix:


How do we go beyond the “fourth world” musical ideas of pioneers like Eno and Jon Hassell?

Defined by Hassell as a kind of folk music from “unknown and imaginary regions”, the method behind making “fourth world” music was to disengage and create some other world while blurring our very own.

Subliminally, in television, fantasy/sci-fi/horror and melancholic drama series in the 1980s, produced by the then-SBC (Singapore Broadcasting Corporation, now Mediacorp) such as Mystery (迷离夜) and Romance of the Season (恋曲 1991) — to name a few — are fine examples of what happens when you dive into this world.


Stills captured from existing footage of Romance of the Season.


The directors responsible for these works, hailing from Hong Kong, decisively chose to disengage from everyday Singapore life to draw a new myth of where we live.

From perfectly-dubbed Chinese dialogues, proto-vaporwave graphics, 80s interiors, and fashion, dreamy pastoral landscapes, to unrealistic story plots of a world reimagined, there was also a curious mix of music that straddled the line of pop, smooth jazz, new age, ambient music, and pure synthesizer noodling.

Before the advent of Netflix, reruns of these shows would air after midnight during weekdays. With the use of song identifiers such as Shazam, it has helped to find matches to musical accents and deep cuts, which unleashed a whole new music discovery level. There are some saxophones and a lot of crystalline synths, and that is a different kind of obsession I cannot escape from.

Aside from more prominent names like Enya, Kenny G, and Ennio Morricone, there was a treasure of musical delights by artists less-known in the public spotlight but prolific in their work. Keiko Matsui’s ‘Under the Northern Lights’ is found on the drama series The Magnate (叱咤风云), and the track ‘Chakra 4’ by Mannheim Steamroller was captured on an episode of Mystery.


The theme song for Mystery, which is currently available to stream on Netflix.


The first few seconds of the track ‘Belissima’ by Atmosphere (released on krautrock giant Klaus Schulze’s iconic label Innovative Communications) were often used on various scenes of heartbreak and shock throughout the era.

There are cuts from obscure Taiwanese ambient pioneer Chen Shyh Shing — released on Rock Records before the label’s mainstream success — and Toshifumi Hinata.

During this era, the latter was a much sought-after composer for Japanese film and TV, such as Tokyo Love Story, Long Vacation, and Gift, and whose work was recently reappraised by ambient music label Music From Memory with the compilation Broken Belief).

The old broadcasting station also had a streak of using instrumental pieces from labels such as Windham Hill (in particular, George Winston and Will Ackerman), New World Company, and Narada Mystique. For an extended period since then, the artists from their rosters were somewhat detested for being associated with that tag: New Age. Thirty years after, they have somewhat come full circle, regaining contemporary relevance among ambient music connoisseurs.

During this time, I started to put a lot of effort into research, and the experience made me understand what I wanted to reach for with my sound as a music selector. At that point, I began to buy records.

I buy most of my stuff on Discogs or during trips to Japan. In Singapore, I spend the most hours digging at Red Point Record Warehouse.

The owner Mr Ong is a massive collector. He helped me with the records that I wanted, always simplistically streamlining my preference as “the Enya type of music” (not that I mind) before unloading crates of 80s-90s new age LPs and CDs, inherited as job lots from defunct sound and radio libraries in Singapore.


The pile of CDs, vinyl, and cassette tapes used for this mix.


A lot of these have library reference numbers written on labels in marker pens. The album Crystal New Age by Robert Haig Coxon Jr even has a handwritten note to describe each track’s moods, quite likely as a reference to how it can be used as background music for films.

I might have completely missed out on Chen Shyh Shing’s album Emptiness if not for the fact that I vaguely remembered seeing the name on my Shazam list. I scored the LP for $15, and today it is worth US$150 on Discogs(!).

Coincidentally (or not), many of these songs and albums on my Shazam list were rediscovered at the record store. We cannot be entirely sure, but we hope to be optimistic in thinking that some of the rediscovered records at the record store might have been the same original source where the music was sampled for TV in those days.

The lost moods of old SBC drama serials and 80s new age records found at Red Point Record Warehouse have been an immense source I can draw from to create the mix “Fourth World SBC” as part of my new series “Imaginary Regions” on Singapore Community Radio.

I selected songs from tracks found on Shazam and mixed them with music from vinyl records, compact discs, and cassette tapes salvaged there, leading me to this imaginary atmosphere.

These are tracks that everybody could listen to with pleasure — but, at the same time, to be able to dig into strange elements that can be appreciated on a deeper level. It comes to mind a term I often use as “hard easy listening”.

I think you can find something in this mix to reimagine some of the inner scenery around you. And sometimes, these sounds have a way of coloring our memory in ways that we’ve yet to imagine.


Follow Ricks Ang on Instagram and visit KITCHEN. LABEL’s official website here.

deformed 10 tracks interview singapore syndicate
Photo credit deførmed

Energy is everything to deførmed, the main project of Abdul Hakiim.

A talented multi-instrumentalist in his own right — best displayed in his absurdly fun covers of songs from anime and Animal Crossing on his Instagram page — deførmed’s latest EP, LATE TO THE LOUDNESS WAR (all caps), is a jolt of frenzied breakbeats and engaging sonic detours that leaves an indelible mark just as it ends at 15 minutes.

Although this EP is not wholly representative of the music he makes under this project, it kicks off an ongoing exploration of fury and mayhem that draws from hardcore, gabber, hip-hop, and anything else that vibes with him.

His latest release — a two-track single release with the lead song ‘my crush should confess to me instead’, dropped just in time for Valentine’s Day via Syndicate — is a pleasant and offbeat side-step into heart-swelling indie rock, so there’s no guessing where else he might turn to.

Hakim’s ten tracks run a fascinating gamut from Indonesian jazz fusion to Aphex Twin and sprightly video game music, so listen to our conversation and read through his picks below.


Machine Girl – ‘DUMBASS!!’

Raw energy. This is my favourite track at the moment — the displaced rhythms, strong driving vocals, and unusual electronic timbres just activate my hormone glands.


Wet Floor – ‘Rip Entry’

Love the quirkiness of this track and this fictional band. It also fits perfectly with the wacky setting of (video game) Splatoon 2.


Hokago Tea Time – ‘Fuwa Fuwa Time’

This is the song from K-On!, my favourite anime. This is the song I’d always play when I pick up my guitar.


batta – ‘chandan’

I love the organicness and tightness of the band. It screams raw energy and chemistry which I absolutely love.


Krakatau – ‘Egrang Funk’

This one really transports me into an intermediate of another dimension and the current dimension. They blend tradition and modernity really well.


Hiroyuki Sawano – ‘亡KEI却KOKU心’

It’s from the soundtrack of the game Xenoblade Chronicles X. I love how Sawano is able to blend acoustic and digital sounds so naturally. It really paints the danger and atmosphere of the area in-game through the music.


Aphex Twin – ‘Funny Little Man’

The lack of a tonal center — yet still using pitches from the 12 tone equal temperament we are all conditioned to — makes it all the more ambiguous yet danceable with its four-on-the-floor beat.


Reizoko Cj – ‘CirnoRHTL’

Reizoko Cj is the mashcore/breakcore guy. Honestly, any of Reizoko’s tracks would do — all of them bang hard.


Manami Kiyota – ‘On The Fallen Arm’

Another track from Xenoblade Chronicles, my favourite game. The reason I like it is nothing more than it being a calm and melancholic song.


Razihel & Virtual Riot – ‘All for One, One for All’

This is the song that got me into the heavy bass style of music and sound design synthesis.


deførmed’s music can be found on streaming platforms. Follow deførmed on Facebook and Instagram.

Photo credit Jet Tone Production

One of cinema’s most beloved auteurs is getting a retrospective at Asian Film Archive in March.

Retrospective: Wong Kar Wai is the latest programme put together by the institution, which will be screening eight of Wong’s films at Oldham Theatre from March to April 2021.

Seven of these films have recently undergone brand-new 4K restorations, which will debut in Singapore under the programme. The list of films are as follows:

As Tears Go By (1988)
Days of Being Wild (1990)
Chungking Express (1994)
Fallen Angels (1995)
Happy Together (1997)
In the Mood for Love (2000)
2046 (2004)
Ashes of Time Redux (2008)

Ashes of Time Redux is a re-edited version of 1994’s Ashes of Time, and will be screened in its existing form since its premiere in 2008.

“The eight films presented as part of this retrospective are an invitation into the charismatic and wistful world of a deeply influential artist,” Asian Film Archive writes.

“Whether tragically romantic, soaked in blood, or quirkily comedic, his distinctive works have enthralled a worldwide audience and inspired countless filmmakers with their bold stylistic strokes and an enduring enigmatic beauty.

Watch the latest episode of Coming Attractions with Asian Film Archive below, where programmers Thong Kay Wee and Viknesh Kobinathan talk about film on Singapore Community Radio.

The 4K restorations first premiered in New York last year at Film at Lincoln Center. With the programme, Wong provided a Director’s Note on the multitude of changes made during the restoration process, which he deems most satisfactory to the original vision for each film.

This includes remixing sound and restoring aspect ratios for Chungking Express and In the Mood for Love, along with creating entirely new credit sequences for all films.

He also mentions that for Happy Together, the tragic drama starring Tony Leung Chiu-wai, portions of his monologues had to be shortened due to original negatives perishing in an accident.

“Since the beginning of this process, these words have reminded me to treat this as an opportunity to present these restorations as a new work from a different vantage point in my career,” he writes. “Having arrived at the end of this process, these words still hold true.” Read the full note here.

The full schedule of screenings will be released on Feb 15, with tickets going on sale Feb 17.