The Observatory interview 10 tracks keiji haino
Photo credit Henzy David

Ever since their fiery 2016 opus August is the cruellest, The Observatory have gone through an evolution in both sound and line-up.

What remains is their ever-present ethos — pushing past expectations set upon them, resulting in an electrifying body of work that defies the stagnant “art rock” category.

Now comprising of Cheryl Ong on drums, along with Yuen Chee Wai and Dharma on guitars and electronics, the three-piece have since ventured down the path of collaborations — beginning with Norweigian experimentalists MoE, along a split with prolific psych-rock outfit Acid Mothers Temple & the Melting Paraiso U.F.O..

The latter featured a recording of a concert where the band, in their last major concert, performed with a chorus of 30 young guitarists, conjuring an effect that they’ve described as “layering tiny tremoloes to create emotional earthquakes”.

It’s not an overstatement to say that their latest document dwarves that statement in sheer volume alone.

Authority is Alive captured the band during a surprise performance last year with avant-garde soothsayer Keiji Haino, whose ferociously prolific and boundary-pushing output has kept his cult-like following on their toes since the 1980s.

Within the first few minutes of the recording, the splintered potency of Haino’s poetry collides swiftly with the band’s improvisational approach. It makes for an intense listen — if otherwise bordering on inaccessible, if you find yourself stepping into this immediately after a propulsive rock album like August is the cruellest.

This edition of 10 Tracks not only captures the present earworms of the three-piece — they also freely exchange thoughts about performing with Haino, unravelling the power of free improv and Mandopop, and their current activities (they are, indeed, working on a new album).

Pore through their picks below and listen in to our conversation with them.



Kate Bush – ‘Mother Stands For Comfort’

Dharma: There was a period I was listening to just Kate Bush, almost nothing else.

Once during this period, I travelled to KL to play some gigs and visit my grandma. It was a much longer journey than usual due to rain and traffic. When I finally arrived at my grandma’s, she was sleeping on the couch in the living room. I sat on the floor beside her, just watching her, and this song just played in my head, lyrics and all, bringing back much memories spent with her. It truly was comfort just being beside her.

She passed away in July this year. I was not able to pay my last respects.


FKA twigs – ‘sad day’

Dharma: Suddenly in an FKA Twigs mood this week. Can’t say I like all her songs but this song especially stimulates my “Kate Bush receptors”.


Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band – ‘Peon’

Dharma: Initially, it can seem like “anyhow whack” but on closer listens this is an amazing gem. I always wonder how the Captain composed this. I don’t think he plays guitar. Lick My Decals Off, Baby is a very essential album besides Trout Mask Replica.


Lim Giong – ‘A Pure Person’

Chee Wai: Lately, the stuff I am reading has prompted me to revisit an era that played a significant role in forming my views of the world, the mid-90’s to early 2000’s. I am reminded of an era of the neon flush, a kind of decadence, self awareness and of course a lot of cyberpunk material from that time.

But this track — taken from the wonderful and unforgettable opening sequence of Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Millennium Mambo — served to be a soundtrack for my own interrogation of the city for a long period of time. Soundtracks played quite a big part for me.


Pat Metheny and Charlie Haden – ‘Cinema Paradiso (Main Theme)’

Chee Wai: I have been so familiar with this melody for decades. From since I was in my teens, this melody segued in and out as a soundtrack for growing up. But it took me a long time before I actually watched the film.

And I must insist for anyone who has not watched it, to not watch the director’s cut. Ennio Morricone’s melodies have an innate ability to touch one deep inside. The immensely talented Pat Metheny’s playing is sublime in this rendition, to say the least.


Faye Wong – ‘等等’

Chee Wai: Close friends who know me will probably know that I listen to Mandopop from time to time.

For me, while there is challenging music that I voraciously listen to all the time to open up my mind, there is also music that allows me to seek some kind of simplicity. Mandopop, amongst others, falls into that latter category.

This track was from her 2001 album where she collaborated with Tanya Chua for the first time, which resulted in a Leslie Low-esque folk song on waiting, longing and the etcetera. And with the lyrics of wordsmith 林夕 (Lin Xi), it’s hard to go wrong.

If there is space, I would also recommend Stefanie Sun.


King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – ‘Gamma Knife’

Cheryl: I’ve been listening to these two albums: Nonagon Infinity and Flying Microtonal Banana. They’ve been on repeat for the past week, so it’s been real hard trying to pick one song from the albums!

I love the energy of Nonagon Infinity, microtonal melodies over driving post-punk drum beats. I’m just in awe at the speed of their releases considering the fact that each album has something different to offer. Mad skillz.

Another pick would be the track ‘Flying Microtonal Banana’ from the album of the same name.


Dewa Alit – ‘Ameriki’

Cheryl: This is a composition that grows after every listen due to its intricacies. The displacement of the rhythms on the flute with regards to the percussion or vice versa is really amazing.

I have a lot of questions about how he composed this and how it was translated into a score. We are usually so used to listening to songs done based on a Western construct that listening to a piece like that really opens up one’s ears to what other types of music exist out there and what music can be.


Tzusing – ‘日出東方 唯我不敗’

Cheryl: I’ve been revisiting this older album of his after listening to his mix for Resident Advisor. If I could choose a mix, it would definitely be that. It’s hard to find a DJ who can seamlessly transcend so many genres in one mix while keeping it danceable.

Truth be told, a friend and I were kind of dissecting this song to try and see how he produces music, but I’m pretty sure we haven’t hacked it yet. Looking forward to hearing his new release on PAN.


Oren Ambarchi, Mark Fell, Will Guthrie & Sam Shalabi – ‘Oglon Day 1’

The band: We have been listening to this — collectively and individually — quite a bit since it was released last year.

It was said that the piece was not entirely composed and all the musicians met for the first time together when they headed for the studio. What resulted was a piece of rhythmic genius that traverses krautrock, techno and minimalist composition.

Chee Wai would play it in his car occasionally when we drive to places. Silence will immediately descend upon us, as we collectively listen deeply and marvel at the complexities and nuances of the piece.


Authority is Alive is now available via Ujikaji Records.

10 Tracks Fzpz Singapore Community Radio
Photo credit Fzpz

If you’ve paid attention to the Singaporean beat underground over the past few years, the name Fzpz would be familiar — even if you still struggle to pronounce his name (phonetically, it’s pretty straightforward: eff-zee-pee-zee).

The producer, real name Jarren Lim, has dutifully put out releases over the past few years — however, you’d find most activity on his modest Soundcloud page than anywhere else.

2018 was a significant milestone for him, as he teamed up with electronic music label Darker Than Wax for his EP Hidden Personas, which saw him delve deeper into his hip-hop roots. 2019 was a year in which Lim quietly dropped individual tracks sporadically, along with a “name-your-price” release on Bandcamp titled fourfour, a nod to the EP’s pervasive direction towards classic house music.

In 2020, Fzpz has taken the greater leap to release his debut album, titled Death Signs. Inspired by slow-burning R&B jams from nocturnal radio playlists, rather than the boom bap sound he’s made his name with, Death Signs is an accomplished piece of work that displays Fzpz’s versatility in full force.

On this episode of 10 Tracks, we spoke to him about putting the album together, its impressive list of collaborators, and the songs on his playlist that might have influenced his current sonic trajectory.

Listen to the podcast below and check out what he has to say about each track.

Fzpz – ‘Love and Resent’

Fzpz: This was the most personal work I’ve done to date until Death Signs. Heavily influenced by R&B elements from the late 80s and stealing a cheeky bass lick from Mike Porcaro, Toto’s bassist — I tried exploring chord qualities and progression that could steer the song into a brighter mood as it progressed.

Oftrt – ‘Takeout’

I’ve been listening to tons of local music for the past year and Oftrt is one of the latest producers I’ve been rinsing. Oftrt challenges the soundscapes time and time again in his tracks.

The first time I watched him live was at Intriguant’s Uploading event and he is, by far, my favourite local producer to date for the past year. He takes dub to the next level in this track, ‘Takeout’.

Tim De Cotta – ‘Lying Eyes’

His latest single, ‘Lying Eyes’, has got me in the disco boogie vibe and NAztyKeys totally slays it in the solos for this one. I’ve been a long-time fan of TAJ and L.A.B. , both oozing of Soul and R&B which he is part of. I’m a sucker for the synthesizers and jabbing basslines. I’ll also be doing a remix of it soon!

.gif – ‘LET’S GO’

Probably the most unique sounding duo of Singapore, in my opinion. They’re taking the electronic genre with stride and I loved every moment of HAIL NOTHING. Their live presence is a must-catch, coupled with Weish’s mesmerizing vocal looping and Din’s abstract tones.

‘LET’S GO’ is also accompanied by a music video which I adore, directed by VadBibes. He directed the MV of the remix I did for Charlie Lim’s ‘Better Dead Than A Damsel‘.

YRFN, Khally – ‘Tek It Slo’

Part of Allure Records, all tracks from the label are bangers. These guys make me reinstate my faith in the next generation’s drive for Singapore’s music. Most, if not all, tracks are produced by Danish, and this one’s modern take on baile funk was refreshing. I’ve been listening to a ton from these guys and I’ve got to say Khally is one to look out for.

Gema – ‘Tek It Slo (feat. MickeyLEANO)’

Sensual cuts from Jema. A sequel of his first album, Sextape II keeps up with time with Jema’s hush storytelling. I’ve always been a fan of his eclectic take on electronic music.

I played a little guitar in the intro track of the album as well. It was so raw when I doodled and he just took it. That’s what I vibe with when collaborating — everything going right, and not overthinking things.

Fauxe – ‘To the Moon’

Fauxe was the very first beatmaker I came across in 2013-2014 who was extremely proactive in pushing the beat scene.

He dug me up from the Bandcamp days and was very much like an elder brother to me. His latest endeavour, Altruism, celebrates collaboration and the live ensemble aspect of his music. This one, in particular, is my favourite of the album.

Flying Lotus – ‘Coronus, The Terminator’

Been listening to You’re Dead! a ton recently. I really can’t believe it’s been 5 years. My friend Go Yama ended off his 365 project with ‘Never Catch Me’ — a project where he records a short clip of music-making, guitar shredding, and the likes.

Needless to say, Flylo has been such an inspiration to me and to all beatmakers from all styles I’m sure. The entire Low End Theory and Brainfeeder scene has been such an influence in my music as well.

Intriguant – ‘Turn (feat. Charlie Lim)’

Recluse is probably my favourite album so far from Intriguant. In this one, the well-accompanied arrangements, coupled with Charlie Lim’s strong songwriting and docile instrumentation, are always something I go back to.

He’s got so many great artists on Recluse as well. I’ve also been listening to his latest album Kindred, which is much heavier and just goes to show how versatile he is.

Cravism – ‘white lights’

The epitome of lush jazz and lofi beats presently in Singapore, Cravis is one of the beatmakers I listen to when in my chill mode. I love the changes in particular from this track and the smooth and out of sight licks. I also managed to catch his set with Maya Diegel last year at Uploading as well. Excellent chill beats from the two to unwind to.

10 Tracks Fzpz Singapore Community Radio
Photo credit Fzpz

If you’ve paid attention to the Singaporean beat underground over the past few years, the name Fzpz would be familiar — even if you still struggle to pronounce his name (phonetically, it’s pretty straightforward: eff-zee-pee-zee).

The producer, real name Jarren Lim, has dutifully put out releases over the past few years — however, you’d find most activity on his modest Soundcloud page than anywhere else.

2018 was a significant milestone for him, as he teamed up with electronic music label Darker Than Wax for his EP Hidden Personas, which saw him delve deeper into his hip-hop roots. 2019 was a year in which Lim quietly dropped individual tracks sporadically, along with a “name-your-price” release on Bandcamp titled fourfour, a nod to the EP’s pervasive direction towards classic house music.

In 2020, Fzpz has taken the greater leap to release his debut album, titled Death Signs. Inspired by slow-burning R&B jams from nocturnal radio playlists, rather than the boom bap sound he’s made his name with, Death Signs is an accomplished piece of work that displays Fzpz’s versatility in full force.

On this episode of 10 Tracks, we spoke to him about putting the album together, its impressive list of collaborators, and the songs on his playlist that might have influenced his current sonic trajectory.

Listen to the podcast below and check out what he has to say about each track.

“We strongly believe that art and music go hand-in-hand,” Slimy Oddity tells us in an email interview. “two of the highest forms of human creativity/expressions. We are always constantly trying to sniff out opportunities to work with bands we love!”

This isn’t their first music-related venture. Last year, they designed the artwork for Shye’s catchy single Impatient. This collaboration with Khruangbin was borne out of mutual affection for each other’s work, despite being half the world away.

“If I had to describe how Khruangbin’s music makes me feel in a nutshell, it would be pure good vibrations, love and light!” Slimy Oddity explains further.

“Especially given the dire times the world is in right now, I think it’s crucial and important to balance out the darkness with hope and light. We try to spread messages of love and wisdom in every piece of artwork, reminding people of our true spiritual nature.”

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May you one day meet the person who looks into your eyes and sees the entire universe looking back. The one who sees you beyond all the matrixes and shellings of society's inprint and conditioning; beyond all the hurt and trauma you've inherited and accumulated. The one who truly sees you for your true nature, the very essence which you are. The one who sees themselves looking back at them. Soul to Soul, Awareness to Awareness, Consciousness to Consciousness ❤️❤️❤️

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Fzpz – ‘Love and Resent’

Fzpz: This was the most personal work I’ve done to date until Death Signs. Heavily influenced by R&B elements from the late 80s and stealing a cheeky bass lick from Mike Porcaro, Toto’s bassist — I tried exploring chord qualities and progression that could steer the song into a brighter mood as it progressed.