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 2020’s last gasp.



The Mandalorian

Season 2

TV/Disney
Where to watch: Disney+ (coming to Singapore Feb 23)

Season 2 of The Mandalorian was an exciting, emotional triumph! Economical episodic storytelling made it a breeze for casuals, while us hardcores freaked out over how the show organically weaved elements of Dave Filoni’s animated series, the expanded universe books, and video games into its plot.


Wonder Woman 1984

Film/Warner Bros. Pictures
Where to watch: Local cinemas

While we appreciated the film’s powerful message and brightly optimistic tone, they barely redeemed this overlong sequel’s many flaws — namely its nonsensical internal logic, horrendous pacing, and cheaply earned character beats.

Soul

Film/Disney & Pixar
Where to watch: Local cinemas

Pixar hits it out of the park again! Featuring the studio’s first Black protagonist, this poignant exploration of jazz music and the afterlife tackles weighty existential questions about mortality and the meaning of life, while still offering lots of broad comedy for kids.


Wolfwalkers

Film/Cartoon Saloon
Where to watch: Apple TV+

‌Easily the most dazzling animated film of 2020. This underseen gem from Ireland’s Cartoon Saloon impressed us with its intricate and lush hand-drawn visuals alongside its potent themes of empowerment, anti-colonialism, and environmentalism — which reminded us a lot of Studio Ghibli’s canon.


Big Mouth

Season 4

TV/Titmouse, Inc.
Where to watch: Netflix

From Missy’s identity crisis as a biracial girl (which elegantly leads to Jenny Slate being recast with Ayo Edeberi) to episodes hilariously tackling gender transition therapy, handjobs and tampons – season 4 of Big Mouth continues to mix obscene humour with genuine insight into the confusion of adolescence.


Hilda

Season 2

TV/Silvergate Media & Mercury Filmworks
Where to watch: Netflix

Season 2 of Hilda remains one of the most charming, wondrous and magical children’s animated shows on Netflix. Its blend of Nordic folklore adventure and warm family dynamics between the free-spirited Hilda and her worried mom makes this one of our favourites.


The Midnight Sky

Film/Smokehouse Pictures
Where to watch: Netflix

George Clooney’s bleak post-apocalyptic thriller tries to evoke the melancholy, thoughtfulness, and introspection of films like Gravity or Ad Astra. Unfortunately, it lacks the dramatic heft to pull it off. A worthwhile effort that’s watchable but ultimately forgettable.


Archenemy

Film/SpectreVision
Where to watch: Amazon (VPN required)

This isn’t the best entry to the “grimdark deconstruction of superheroes” trend, but its raw energy, colourful palette, and Joe Manganiello’s lead performance makes this a fun if middling action-adventure.


The Walking Dead: World Beyond

TV/AMC
Where to watch: Amazon Prime

The Wa‌lking Dead franchise continues to milk its undead premise for all its worth with a 3rd spinoff. World Beyond focuses on the kids who grew up during the zombie apocalypse, but it fails to add anything interesting to the franchise while continuing to bore us with contrived cliches.


Alice in Borderland

TV/Robot Communications Inc.
Where to watch: Netflix

Finally anime to live-action that works! ‌While it still pales in comparison to its source material, Alice in Borderland manages to engage with breakneck pacing, exciting survival challenges, and striking imagery of an empty Tokyo.


Detention

TV/Outland Film Production
Where to watch: Netflix

This Taiwanese supernatural horror movie is a failure on nearly every level. It fails to use its “White Terror” period setting to craft any meaningful allegory, it fails to develop investment in character and, worst of all, it fails to be scary.


Monster Hunter

Film/Sony Pictures
Where to watch: Local cinemas

The king crappy video game adaptations, Paul W.S. Anderson, returns for another crappy video game adaptation. Due to a racist controversy over a distasteful joke, Monster Hunter was banned in China, but that’s the least of the film’s multitude of problems.


Piranesi

Susanna Clarke

Book/Bloomsbury Publishing
Where to buy: BooksActually, Littered with Books

After 16 years, Susanna Clarke’s long-awaited sophomore novel proves that she remains one of the best fantasy authors living today. Though this isn’t the 800-page behemoth of her debut, this slim new story is just as weighty. Piranesi is a complex, challenging, and transcendent puzzle box of a novel that leads readers to profound rewards.

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 her inaugural piece, Lingying talks about the misfortune 2020 brought upon to Singapore’s creative scenes and how it affected her own workplace.


It was going to be a great year. The best ever!

Asiapac Books had an exciting publication plan for 2020: a graphic novel retelling of Elizabeth Choy’s World War II story, a Southeast Asian superhero saga, an illustrated book on the goddess Mazu, and more. A fan-backed collector’s edition of Return of the Condor Heroes was on the way.

As is the norm in book publishing, we had scheduled the new releases a year in advance, not including the years of development that each creation required.

Beyond our own publications, my team and I were starting work on Comix.sg, a new platform for Singapore comics. I had scheduled trips overseas to promote the new titles at book fairs and comic conventions. There was so much to do and so much to talk about!

And it was the last year of my twenties! I wanted to fall in love, write my first novel, publish a volume of poems, and do a painting show.

What happened? Everything was postponed, or cancelled, or downsized.


Comic artwork by Wee Tian Beng from the upcoming collector’s edition boxset of Return of the Condor Heroes. Buy it here.


The hardest thing was losing all expectations of perfection. You might think that with a great idea and great plan you’re at least somewhat likely to succeed. But none of that matters when you can’t see what’s coming. All you can really do is execute, fail, learn, and move on. Don’t forget to lubricate the painful process with copious glasses of wine, sake, beer or whatever you have in the fridge.

Bookstores were closed at one point, which was downright terrifying. If it could be done online, we did it online. We had already cancelled all new book projects. Then we let go of the warehouse and downsized our office.

Even during the Christmas season, I could see that the industry was still hurting. Bookstores are dependent on tourist dollars and lose out to international players online. I don’t think any of them are on the way back to recovery yet. Publishers have been running on the bare minimum, knowing that the little demand we have now could disappear overnight.

The small Asiapac Books team knuckled down to get through the first few months with Zoom calls, live-streaming, Facebook ads, and all that jazz.

My colleagues and I didn’t talk much about it, but as we sat one metre apart from each other there was a shared realism about the state of the company, the industry, and the economy. The company simply couldn’t take care of us. We’d have to find our own way out of the hole.

At the end of the office move, the company had one full-time employee left: me.


The messy remains after Asiapac Books’ move from their former warehouse and office.


I wish that I could say something good. I wish that I could reflect some positivity back on the smiling faces, wholesome thoughts, and balanced ruminations in my friends’ social media updates. They’re comforting, inspiring, even if a little grating on the nerves.

Wasn’t it a hellishly painful year? Wasn’t it exhausting? Reaching and grabbing non-stop for months, asking for help, frantically filling up forms? How quickly one realizes that there’s no end to it. It’s not a matter of managing risk when the uncertainty is this extreme. There’ll never be enough client work to pay the bills.

Government grants and subsidies, even loans — for most of the time, it’s less than what we asked for and with strings attached. What can we do? There aren’t many choices if you want to survive.

So, to be honest, I’m struggling. My publishing house is struggling. The book industry is struggling. The whole creative and arts scene in Singapore is struggling.

Things have been scary, but soon they’ll be just plain bad. All of the help we have had over the past few months has shown us one thing: it’s still not enough.

So what do I have for you today? A moment of catharsis, if anything.

2020, what the fuck was that?

Let’s forget about 2020 and everything else that came before it. It’s up to us to support and keep each other alive. If you’re still here, it’s because you chose to survive. Find your energy and confidence and hang on tight. Nobody will give you the power to go on. You’ll have to make it for yourself.

For 2021 and beyond, there are no rules in the game, only what you can get out of it.


Follow Asiapac Books on Facebook and Instagram.

Squelch Zines interview Singapore Community Radio
Photo credit Squelch Zines

The tradition of making and publishing zines spans decades. But even in our overwhelmingly digital, post-social media age, the zine remains an expressive medium for anyone looking to tell their own stories. Whether if it’s about punk music, film photography, obscure comics, or poetry, the art of zinemaking is resolutely DIY and accessible.

Squelch Zines was put together as a platform to showcase zines of different stripes, shapes, and interests in Singapore. Formed by enthusiasts Nicholas Loke and Janice Chua in 2013, Squelch now exists as a collective within the country’s niche and blossoming zine community.

Their Instagram page features titles from their vast repository of zines, and their ongoing show on SGCR — Squelch Zinecast, hosted by Janice — leans closer into the topics and spaces that these publications emerge from.

Get to know more about Squelch Zines through the words of Janice, who also shares a list of favourites that experiment with the medium itself.


How did Squelch Zines first come to be?

Squelch Zines was started back when Nicholas and I were still in Lasalle. We wanted to do something out of our curriculum, so we started Squelch Zines. It only started to become a zine platform after our first Singapore Art Book Fair in 2013.

Since then, Squelch Zines have evolved its platform into a library, as we see it more fitting for the local community.

Since its formation, how has the platform developed and grown into what it is now?

It first started as a project for ourselves. Since the art fair that year, we decided to use our space for people to sell their zines, which led us to have Zha Zhi Dian, which became our Squelch Zine Shop. It was short-lived as logistics and accounts got to more than we can handle.

Since then, we focused on our workshops (Zine Jams) so that more people can get exposed to the making of zines. As our collection of zines grew, we decided to turn it into a library to share with people.

Listen to the latest episode of Squelch Zinecast,
where Janice speaks with Joy Ho of Queer Zinefest,
an annual gathering of queer zine-makers from Singapore.

What draws you to zines?

The versatility of the medium and its history.

What do you look for in a zine?

Personally, I look for content that’s more controversial — something that mainstream media does not cover as much.

Otherwise, cultural stories are something I enjoy as well. I get intrigued by some of the interesting ways zinesters make their zines, where it isn’t just stories but also interaction. It’s a whole experience!

Could you share some examples of zines that take a unique approach with presentation and content?

Baby Driver
by @donutpie_mi

These are zines that explore layout and presentation — how different materials and treatments are applied, to the way content is laid out even when taken off the Internet, provided insight for me. (The photo I took of this is accompanied by another Baby Driver fanzine by Zinema)

A FriendZine
by Superandom Zine, Alif Seah @fueledbypotato

It’s a compilation of film photos of Alif’s friends, but he decided to lay them out in a uniquely shaped book that’s fit to be rolled up and stored in a regular film roll container. It’s such a cute and smart way to present a photography zine.

Letters in Arial
by Beverly Ng, @madebybeverly

Letters in Arial comprises of scanned images of envelopes, but the letter contents are neatly patched together like a collage. The little design embellishments, like the barcodes on top, add a nice relation to the experience of receiving letters. The cover piece was the fun part: it’s a little word search game on its own!

10 things you should do after you died
by Benyatip Sittiwej, @paundz

The make of the zine is nothing like a traditional zine — this one toys with the folds and layout of the paper. Benyatip uses a paper fastener as the binding tool choice. Another fun bit is that there is a page with a transparent sticker — a detachable line illustration of a ghost for you to use.

Instructions for Instructions
by Atelier HOKO, @atelierhoko

Is it still a zine? Is it just a folder of postcards? I don’t really know. But I do know it is a form of documentation and the whole content has a message to it. Atelier HOKO’s works are always something in a form of documentation.

The cover folder gives “instructions” to follow instructions. Take a postcard and you will get an instruction to do something.

There are a total of 60 postcards: each one instructs you to perform an activity in the comfort of your own home, and then to record the encounters down on the flipside of the postcard.

How would new readers find zines? Especially ones that would cater to their interests.

With the internet so available with information, we can just search with keywords! I always search for the kind of content I want and end it with a “zine”, eg. “queer” + “zine”.

Another way is to go to Instagram and search using hashtags. There are many accounts of different zine groups and initiatives post their zines and submissions! Activist zine groups are even easier to find there.

I also find artists and zines through zine fests.

Some of my go-to zine sites are:

Printed Matter
They are an online catalog — they have one of the most comprehensive databases.

Nieves
One of the oldest and most established platforms I know of. They have an online shop that sells a wide catalogue of zines.

Five O’Clock Zine
If you’re looking for a zine to get but want to know more about it, this dude here publishes zine reviews. He also has a podcast!

Broken Pencil
This is another platform that I’ve been checking out recently. They have reviews on their website and information on zine fests, with handy descriptions of each event.


Squelch Zinecast will be back with a new episode on SGCR later this January. Follow Squelch Zines on Instagram.

Photo credit Tiffany Ho

Chances are you won’t find a bigger advocate for Taiwanese indie music in Singapore than Tiffany Ho.

The effusive fangirl helms High Tide 開台, our monthly show on all things Taiwan indie — from its consistent output of accomplished albums to its staple music festivals.

The last episode of the show saw Ho and her guests relieve their memories spent at Wake Up Festival last year, an event billed as “the biggest summer music festival in Taiwan”. For these music junkies, recording the episode was simply filling in the void of the lack of travel this year.

 

But the conversational elements and laid-back nature that tie the show together, along with Ho’s extensive knowledge, is what makes High Tide 開台 a fun peek into its scene. Less music history, more music conversations that would last till 3am (if not for our programming restrictions).

Bands such as Sunset Rollercoaster, Elephant Gym, and No Party for Cao Dong are some of the successful crossover examples from the country, each gaining fanbases around the world. But ask Ho, and she’ll immediately dig out at least ten more acts worth a listen.

“I could count on one hand the number of people I know who listen to Taiwanese indie and I really, really want to be proven wrong,” she says, “that there‘s actually a lot more people who like the music than I’m personally aware of. I just haven’t met them yet.”

Read on to find out more about the host of High Tide 開台 on her fascination with Taiwan (and feel free to reach out if you’re part of the people Ho doesn’t know yet!)


When did your love for Taiwan and its music start?

Since it’s US election season this week, we can trace everything back to Trump.

As Singaporeans, our media diet is dominated by the West. Back in 2017, when Donald Trump was newly elected as president, the entire western world was going through a collective mental breakdown — every headline was a reaction to what Trump did and it got really overwhelming overtime.

I was looking for an alternative to this madness and that’s when I stumbled into the Taiwanese indie renaissance.

It started on a drowsy weekday afternoon — Spotify was blocked on my office computer and I was secretly looking for music on YouTube.

God knows how YouTube algorithms work, but Sunset Rollercoaster’s ‘My Jinji’ started playing in the background and that brought me down the rabbit hole of Taiwanese indie gold.



My love for Taiwan kicked into full gear during one particular trip to Taipei in 2018.

It was a short three nights, but my friends and I were so well taken care of by our friends from a local production company.

One of them couldn’t make it for dinner because he had to get some drinks going with some triad bosses to convince them to make an investment in a film they’re producing.

It felt like a plot straight out of the movies, but it was nothing more than a regular, even common business practice in Taiwan. I was so intrigued — like I found a secret basement into the mechanics of how Taiwan functions.

After reading more into Taiwan’s history, it made me realize that there’s a whole different layer to Taiwan that I didn’t know about. I never knew that Taiwan is actually an extremely young democracy — that it was ruled under martial law for a period of 30 years and it’s first presidential election was held only in 1996.

Since then, Taiwan has been the main exporter of cultural soft power until China’s recent emergence. What was the catalyst for Taiwan’s vibrant cultural landscape? Could Singapore do the same?

We’ve barely scratched beneath the surface of Jay Chou, bubble tea and the old-dated variety shows that we grew up watching. The cultural anthropologist in me has been hooked ever since.

How do you usually look for new music?

I think about this question a lot. With social media, YouTube and Spotify, the discovery process is a lot more convenient — but I do miss how deliberate looking for music used to be.

Online, Streetvoice is probably one the best platforms to discover new music from Taiwan — think Bandcamp but Taiwanese.

There is a recent trend of shows online that are more music-centric — my favourite is Shot Gun, a weekly 90-minute programme on YouTube hosted by the lead guitarists of Wayne’s So Sad and Bisiugroup.

[The video below contains content in Mandarin with no English subtitles.]

The show is filled with industry gossip and insider jokes about the indie scene. They have a dedicated segment where they make recommendations of the latest releases — often from bands who are their friends.

The set-up might seem overly casual and nonchalant but you’ll be surprised by how informative it can be. I learnt so much about the music industry business just by watching that show.

Offline, nothing beats walking into a record store and keeping your ears peeled to whatever playing in the background.

Plus, music festivals will always be the best way to be exposed to new bands. Can’t go for one? Here’s a cheat code: look for the line-up and start listening to every band on the list. Works for any kind of music.



Your episodes for High Tide features friends who share your enthusiasm. Did this mutual appreciation grow over the years? Who was responsible for turning the other onto new music?

I have to thank Instagram stories for this.

If a friend is posting about Taiwan/Japan too often, you could probably guess that they might be into Chinese indie, but nothing confirms it until they start sharing a track from one of the bands you know.

It’s almost the equivalent of seeing someone wear a band tee or carrying a gig tote bag — the low key signalling of “I really hope someone out there knows, and if you know, you know.” Knowing how small the circle could be, my friends and I would slide new releases and good tunes into each other’s DMs regularly.

I could count on one hand the number of people I know who listen to Taiwanese indie and I really, really want to be proven wrong — that there‘s actually a lot more people who like the music than I’m personally aware of. I just haven’t met them yet.

I like to think that the ultimate goal of High Tide 開台 is to bring everyone who shares that same enthusiasm together.

High Tide started off with a primer for Taiwanese indie music. For those unaware, explain what has been the most exciting thing about its scene over these past few years.

For one, the generation handover from Mayday to No Party for Caodong, when the new band beat the old guard to the Best Band award at the Golden Melody Awards, the Emmys equivalent of the Mandarin-speaking world. If there was any indication that a new generation has arrived, this had to be it.

Another is the stronger crossover between mediums.

Along with music, we see an entire new generation of filmmakers, content creators, and bands collaborating together.

There are many outstanding pieces of storytelling in music videos – I highly recommend the music video for deca join’s 海浪, the works of 郭佩萱 Pei-Hsuan Guo, Jung-Kuan Chen a.k.a 陳容寬, and Spacebar productions.

You’ve made a playlist for some of your favourites. If you could list five modern Taiwanese indie albums people should check out, what are they?

Selecting these albums was a lot tougher than I thought! There are so many good albums that represent the many different facades of culture.

These five were picked ultimately for being each genre’s best, their rootedness in the Taiwanese culture, the way they‘ve blended influences to create a soundscape unique to them, and their potential in appealing to audiences worldwide.

Shallow Levée – The Village

Sunset Rollercoaster – Cassa Nova

拍謝少年(Sorry Youth) – Brothers Shouldn’t Live Without Dreams

Soft Lipa – Homely Music

Soft Lipa has made Homely Music available for digital purchase only. Preview the album here.

Prairie WWWW – Pán

What can we expect for future episodes?

As a long-time closet listener of hip-hop, I’m really excited to do a proper introduction of Taiwanese-hip hop. That should be happening pretty soon! (fingers crossed)


The next episode ofHigh Tide 開台 is scheduled to air on November 17th.

Photo credit The Hummingbird Co.

Community Spotlight is an ongoing editorial series by Singapore Community Radio to feature the creative minds behind some of our shows.


They’re famously known as an “online visual magazine for experimental video content”, but it barely touches upon the work done by Not Safe For TV (NSFTV).

A glance over their YouTube page gives a brief glimpse into the kind of stories they tell — from the fictionalized tales of four schoolgirls navigating the treacherous waters of teenagehood, to the real-world insights into singular figures from all over Southeast Asia.

The latter series, compiling brisk shorts under the title UNDONE, profiles a Filipino restauranteur who serves “mood healing food”, along with independent designers paving a new way forward for fashion.

living in SIN — which they aired as part of their SGCR debut Say Reel last month — took them out to the streets and beyond to tell the stories of Singaporean rappers, visual artist Sam Lo, and notorious felon Roland Tan.



That still leaves out the several tales that they’ve accomplished in just over a year.

Beginning with One Take, a coming-of-age chronicle of the lives of three Singaporean youths over ten years, NSFTV took it upon themselves to tweak the viewing experience for an online audience, adding a Spotify playlist for each character.

Fast forward to our pandemic year and the team had already accomplished a full series for Instagram Stories, filmed entirely over Zoom.

At the heart of their content is a consistent drive to tell Singaporean stories, especially narratives that haven’t gotten as much time in the mainstream spotlight.

Or, as they articulate it, to focus on “the overlooked nuances hidden beneath these issues” and develop “narratives that help to shed light on that.”

Their output and dedication to the craft were what drew us early on, and we had the chance to ask the team — creative leads Tan Hui Er and Ben Yeo, and business strategist Jerrell Chow — about looking beyond “COVID-friendly” content, handling pressure, and why empathy is important in the creative process.

We also spent some time with them on The Potluck Club with a freewheeling discussion helmed by SGCR producer Hwee En. Read below and tune in.


In short, tell us how NSFTV came to be!

Not Safe For TV first started with a creative idea between Hui Er and Ben, which turned into a potential passion project, which then turned into NSFTV’s very first web series One Take.

We’ve said the spiel many times: One Take was a fictional drama series featuring three young individuals over nine episodes, all done in single takes.

But more than just its filmmaking approach, we wanted to use these One Take characters and their stories to shed light on some of the unseen and unheard social issues that all of us modern youth deal with. This eventually set the foundations for the channel.

Once we had that defining trait, we guess you could say that the rest of it fell into place.

Your output has been incredibly consistent over the past year! Did the circuit breaker period change plans for the NSFTV team?

Definitely. In January, we had this whole content calendar planned out across 12 months which now looks nothing like what we’ve actually put out haha. But it’s 2020, so what’s new right?

With everyone scrambling to make “COVID-friendly” content (i.e. within new limitations), we felt the urgency to find our place in the content landscape as well.

Filming had always been the essence of what we do. So when we weren’t able to do that anymore, we were forced to reframe the way we approached stories and even reexamine the word “experimental” that we so often used to describe ourselves.

We ended up trying a whole bunch of stuff — from stock footage and animation pieces to even narratives directed and filmed over zoom.

To be honest, some things worked, while others didn’t. But gradually, we realised that beyond just finding formats that were “COVID-friendly”, what became more important for us was the tone and stories that we told.

One piece of content that was really well-received was An Instagram (Love) Story, an Instagram Story fictional mini-series that was completely filmed over zoom about a Singaporean-Malaysian couple separated by the lockdowns.

We were all pretty shocked at how well received it was. On hindsight, it was probably because it carried that sense of authenticity that all of us were looking for while in our homes, and the intrinsic desire for these personal struggles to be articulated through narratives.

Has the constant content churn from different platforms affected the way you approach your releases?

We’d be lying if we said we’ve never felt that pressure to constantly churn out content as well.

Looking at how fast other content creators jump on social issues and current affairs, it’s impressive. We used to really feel that pressure to push stuff out and for viewers to continually think of and engage with us.

Over time, that’s changed a little bit. Earlier this year, one of our friends outside of the content scene made a casual mention of how NSFTV’s brand and style felt different — in the sense that our works were a little more polished and that it usually added value by offering a different perspective.

Of course, we’ve always had these aims but it did help us to articulate the space that we wanted to occupy: by looking at the overlooked nuances hidden beneath these issues and developing/highlighting narratives that help to shed light on that.

And, in most of these instances, you need more time than the average content creator can afford. But for us, it goes back to having a voice and more importantly, knowing when to use it (or not to).


“…we realised that beyond just finding formats that were “COVID-friendly”, what became more important for us was the tone and stories that we told.”


Share with us some of your own personal inspirations with approaching or developing stories! It can be in any form of media.

Hui Er: I think empathy. There are universal experiences/stories/themes that people cling onto that remind us we are human and make us feel less alone.

Ben: It used to be an “if it’s not fun to do, then do for what?” kinda mentality. But now it’s more along the lines of what people actually find fun in watching.

Jerrell: I’m not as involved in the creative process, but when it comes to things like brand development and content strategy, music actually helps me a ton.

It’s weird, but I have playlists like “NSFTV 2019” or “NSFTV 2020” that capture a certain approach or emotion that I hope for us to convey in that specific year or period. I guess it helps to keep me aligned with where we’re headed.


In clockwise order: Jerrell Chow, Tan Hui Er, Poh Yan Zhao, Ben Yeo. Photo by The Hummingbird Co.

The first series that you debuted under Say Reel is living in SIN, and it covers an array of stories and people that aren’t explored — at least to this degree — elsewhere. How did you first decide who to cover?

We started by asking ourselves what were some of the aspects of our city that weren’t normally covered in mainstream media.

Most Singaporeans would agree that our own experience of the city goes beyond MBS and our clean and green image. In fact, we might even challenge it. We wanted to cover specific individuals and communities that represented this alternative image — that which gave us a little more to get excited about as Singaporeans, and also to be proud of.

There was that sense of contrast that we wanted to convey — such as underground hip-hop against mainstream pop, local motorsports against F1 racing, etc.

Even for the profiles with higher recognition like SKL0 and Pann, we just tried to identify what perspective we could add to their current image. And most times, that meant going deeper into who they are as humans.



There’s a wonderfully delicate approach you take with your interviews that doesn’t feel restrictive. Were there any obstacles when developing the series?

Definitely. living in SIN probably had one of the longer runways in terms of production timeline, as compared to other micro-doc series that we’ve created. The biggest obstacle was probably having to really stretch that time, but we think it ultimately benefited the series.

The intimacy that you see with the profiles took time for each director to build — both in the sense of relationship and access, and that’s what tied most of the episodes up together.

Authenticity was important for us, and we tried to protect it as much as we could.

Tell us what is up next on Say Reel!

For the next two instalments on Say Reel, we’re excited to share our past original series — One Take and Girls Girls Girls.

Some of these characters are actually going to feature in our upcoming series which is dropping this December, so be sure to catch them first on Say Reel for some hints of what’s to come!


Catch the next segment of Say Reel on Singapore Community Radio on November 17th.

Follow NSFTV on Facebook and Instagram.

Lim Brothers Travel Singapore Community Radio
Photo credit Singapore Community Radio

Community Spotlight is an ongoing editorial series by Singapore Community Radio to feature the creative minds behind some of our shows.


Every month, we have the distinct pleasure of hosting Lim Brothers Travel — not quite a travel agency, but their three-hour odysseys are, to put it succinctly, a trip.

The brainchild of BGourd (who has put out sterling hip-hop EPs under the same name) and Beansprouts, Lim Brothers Travel are a DJ/VJ duo whose unbridled love for music is united with a green screen.

Disorienting visuals are jumbled up with memes, tongue twisters are knotted up with voice messages — all sourced from the various corners of the internet.

It’s a unique take amongst a surge of DJ livestreams since quarantine began, and — like the windfall of content we all now consume from independent creators — it began in their bedroom.

“We wanted to find another way to connect with our friends and what better way to do it than through music and quality laughs,” says BGourd.



The show initially ran through May to June as a weekly special on Twitch, before taking a breather that finally ended with their SGCR debut last September.

Now a monthly pursuit, the show is guided by the masterful selections of Beansprouts — who can switch to hip-hop, metalcore, soul, dance-pop, or house music at any moment — and BGourd, who takes over the mic to engage with viewers, commandeering the green screen madness along the way.

Beginning with the farthest reaches of space in September, last month’s edition was a trip to hell, just in time for Halloween.

Audiences are encouraged to send in memes, voice messages, and anything else BGourd is able to squeeze in, while Beansprouts always leaves room for requests.

Instead of attempting to replicate the club experience online, Lim Brothers Travel push the DJ streaming experience to its limits, and they’ve only just begun.

Get to know the duo before their next departure this month on Singapore Community Radio.


Tell us how Lim Brothers Travel came to be!

BGourd: The idea started during Circuit Breaker. We wanted to find another way to connect with our friends and what better way to do it than through music and quality laughs.

Beansprouts: I was inspired by the DJ/MC setup I saw in various club events, and thought it might be fun to replicate that with BGourd. All the better that he knows how to work visuals as well.

We think anyone who tunes into a Lim Brothers Travel session is taken aback by the unfettered chaos that happens. Was it always this way?

BGourd: Yeah! Chaos is definitely the backbone of every Lim Brothers Travel episode and it’s usually derived from our interactions with the viewers.

Chaos usually arises when they request a funny song or, most recently, when they get me to do a Mandarin tongue twister.

Beansprouts: I actually didn’t expect it to get this crazy. In hindsight, however, I should’ve known the chaos was inevitable.

We try to be as spontaneous as we can when interacting with the audience, on top of the show we’ve pre-planned and curated. But I’m all the happier for the havoc, because it keeps us on our toes.


“We try to be as spontaneous as we can when interacting with the audience, on top of the show we’ve pre-planned and curated. But I’m all the happier for the havoc, because it keeps us on our toes.”


2020 has kept everyone indoors, and we’ve seen DJ after DJ find ways to intimately engage with audiences. How important is the audience to you?

BGourd: Super important! We’re very new to the DJ game, so I would consider our audience now to be our core-listeners/fans and I think I couldn’t have wished for a better group to tune into every show.

Beansprouts: I personally think our show is as much an interactive radio show as it is a DJ mix — taking requests for tracks we’ve never even heard of, flashing tweets we’ve not seen before, or playing voice messages sent to us live.

We try to play off that spontaneity and uncertainty as much as we can, and we’re thankful that it works as much as it has done so far.

Are there any DJ streams you would recommend?

BGourd: I’d recommend every DJ stream on SGCR!

Beansprouts: I don’t listen to as many streams as I should, but when it comes to mixes I’ve been putting Leon Vynehall’s 2019 DJ-Kicks on repeat. The way it amps up the energy is fascinating. I’m just studying mixes, at this point.



What do you miss most about clubs and the dance floor?

BGourd: Oooo, I really miss Headquarters. It’s was fun to hang around with my friends and, after a night of hydration, sit down by the edge of the Singapore River and admire the Singapore Parliament building.

Beansprouts: There’s many things to miss, but I miss most the visceral, palpable thump of booming club speakers. That’s not something that a pair of headphones can exactly recreate.

Music-wise, you guys aren’t afraid to explore different corners of genres — but have there been tunes or styles you wouldn’t touch? Why?

BGourd: I’m considering putting Vira Talisa’s Walking Back Home on a blacklist. Can we get requests for her other songs, please?

Beansprouts: By principle, we would like to keep exploring new sounds as much as we can. But it’s more a question of personal limitations: I’m not as clued in on the Soundcloud community as much as I should be, so I inevitably won’t be playing as many tracks from that digital realm of music. We’re always down for recommendations however, on-air or off-air!


BGourd Lithe House
BGourd performing at Lithe House. Photo: Chris Sim.

We’ve been to space. We’ve been to hell. Where else are we going?

BGourd: (no comment)

Beansprouts: We’ve got a couple themes planned already, but we’re always open to requests! Literally everything lies between the planes of space and hell.

Last question: as veteran globetrotters, would you pay $321 to sit in SIA’s business class right now?

BGourd: …unfortunately, no. Maybe if it came with a Lim Brothers live DJ set XD.

Beansprouts: No. But I’m content that they’ve come up with a relatively harmless way to generate cash flow between people who can afford to throw that kind of money at such experiences, and the people whose livelihoods have been severely affected by the pandemic.


The next voyage by Lim Brothers Travel is happening on November 18th on Singapore Community Radio.

Follow Lim Brothers Travel on Instagram.

Genre Equality podcast Hidzir Junaini Isa Foong Singapore Community Radio
Photo credit Genre Equality

Community Spotlight is an ongoing editorial series by Singapore Community Radio to feature the creative minds behind some of our shows.


It’s perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed listening to an episode of Genre Equality.

The long-running podcast, helmed by Hidzir Junaini and Isa Foong, requires the duo to cover a vast terrain of content — a gargantuan feat in itself that demands plenty of focus and an unwavering critical lens.

The sprawling list of titles that accompany an episode each month is enough to crowd any watch queue, but their discussions guide you along with ample contextual knowledge and criticism to help nudge your way towards curating your next binge session.

The show began life as an outlet for their freewheeling pop culture conversations spent in private. Genre Equality has since become a space passionately advocating for the merits of genre fiction, and for the shows worth your attention amidst algorithm-powered recommendations.

“I’ve always felt that genre storytelling got a bad rep among the film, television and literature critics I knew,” Hidzir says.

Genre fiction — which include sci-fi, fantasy, adventure, horror and more — has remained a popular realm within literature, film and TV. But Genre Equality argues that the artistic strengths of such works can be as “valid and intelligent” as the usual award contenders.

In recent times, the duo have lovingly dissected recent works such as The Boys — the increasingly-popular superhero web series — Disney’s live-action adaptation of Mulan, and the genre-blending adventurousness of Lovecraft County.

Their critical lens have since extended to a second show, titled BEHOLD!, where the works discussed don’t fit the usual Genre Equality mould.

Here, the duo speak on their love for genre fiction, their daily routines spent on reviewing shows, life in quarantine, and the one under-the-radar TV show you must catch.


How did Genre Equality start?

Hidzir: Most of the time when we hung out, we’d naturally spend hours and hours just talking about pop culture — debating the movies and TV shows we watched, discussing the books and comics we read.

So, around three years ago, I figured why not just put a mic in front of us while we did it? We’re obviously grateful for the listeners we’ve picked up since, but we mostly did it because we thought it’d be fun.

I had already started a podcast about pro wrestling at the time called Hard Hidz, and was doing one about music at Bandwagon [with SGCR editor Daniel Peters], so I already had a bit of know-how on the technical side of it.

Genre Equality felt like a logical next step into my amateur podcasting foray.

Isa: It pretty much happened as Hidzir described. For me, it was a ‘sure, why not’ situation. I have always been interested in podcasts, so it felt like a fun way to get started on it.

For most of us, your podcast name was what drew us in — and it’s reflective of the wide range of shows you both talk about. How do you decide what to cover?

Hidzir: Well, in storytelling terms “genre” actually refers to fiction with sci-fi, fantasy and horror elements. And I’ve always felt that genre storytelling got a bad rep among the film, television and literature critics I knew. It was typically disregarded as dumb, low-brow entertainment.

I strongly disagree with that assessment, so our flagship show started out by trying to talk about the artistic merits of genre — explaining why this kind of fiction is just as valid and intelligent as more “serious” stories like Oscar contenders or Booker Prize winners. Hence, the name Genre Equality.

Being a monthly show, every episode we look back on the crop of genre fiction released over the previous month. Naturally, not everything that comes from that world is great, and we’re pretty proud of how candid and nuanced our reviews are.

The idea is not to fanboy over superheroes and spaceships. And we don’t want to be like The Simpsons’ Comic Book Guy either — angry, nitpicky condescending nerds. We just want to apply a clear critical lens to genre fiction to explore the pros and cons, strengths and failures of such stories.


The latest episode of Genre Equality — which airs on Singapore Community Radio on November 10 — explores the world-building horror of Lovecraft Country, produced by Jordan Peele (Get Out, Us). The episode is currently available to stream on Genre Equality’s Mixcloud page.


How do you avoid content fatigue?

Hidzir: My job as an entertainment journalist really helps with this. I already spend most of my days watching films and shows to review them, so carrying my thoughts over into podcast form is easy.

Of course, I do get fatigued from consuming so much content, so it’s important not to strain ourselves by doing too many podcasts. Genre Equality is monthly and our spin-off BEHOLD! is biweekly, which gives plenty of room to balance our lives with other things.

Isa: I certainly do not need to cover anywhere near as much content as Hidzir does, so for me avoiding fatigue is more about balancing what I have to watch and what I want to watch.

Most times, those two are the same thing, which helps greatly — though that’s not always the case. There’s just so much good stuff out there to watch, so I try to make sure that I’m not just watching stuff that’s within the scope of the two podcasts.

How much time in your daily routine is set aside for watching and reviewing shows?

Hidzir: I watch a lot more than Isa so I normally set aside six hours a day to watch stuff. The rest of my day, I spend writing about the stuff I watched (or talking about it on podcasts).

But I always make sure to set aside a couple of hours a day to hang out with friends, or read a book, or get some exercise, just so I don’t get burnt out.

Isa: I probably spend an average of two hours a day to watch and review stuff.

That being said, my actual consumption patterns aren’t as regular as that — I much prefer being able to binge one thing over a day or two, and maybe have another day to mull over it and make notes, before moving on to the next thing.


“The idea is not to fanboy over superheroes and spaceships. And we don’t want to be like The Simpsons’ Comic Book Guy either — angry, nitpicky condescending nerds.

We just want to apply a clear critical lens to genre fiction to explore the pros and cons, strengths and failures of such stories.”


Did quarantine offer you more time to binge watch shows?

Hidzir: Oh, it definitely did! Like everyone else, my social life came to a crawl. A huge part of my life pre-pandemic was nightlife, and COVID-19 meant no more all-night raves at techno clubs and stuff like that.

I guess I still hang out in small groups in the evenings, but my free nights gave me more time to catch up on the shows and films I previously didn’t have space for.

Isa: Yes, absolutely. Before quarantine, I had already accumulated a substantial list of shows and films to catch up on, so having more time on my hands during that period really allowed me to whittle away at that (although the list is still pretty long).

BEHOLD! allows you both to step back and talk about shows in a more retrospective manner.

Do you feel this approach — relooking at certain franchises and titles you’re already familiar — allowed you to understand/appreciate some of your favourites differently?

Hidzir: BEHOLD! actually started because we have so many interests outside the realm of sci-fi, fantasy and horror.

We couldn’t discuss a Safdie Brothers film, or series like Fleabag and The Wire, or a musical like Hamilton on Genre Equality, so we decided to spin-off.

Our main topic for each episode is typically something both of us have seen and would like to revisit in greater depth. But the rest of the show consists of us recommending things that the other hasn’t seen, read or listened to.

This way, we get the contrasting perspectives of a long-time fan and a newcomer.

As for discussing titles in a retroactive manner, it definitely gives BEHOLD! a very different flavour from our reviews on Genre Equality which are more immediate. The benefit of time and hindsight has allowed my understanding or feelings on certain ideas, themes and storytelling styles to evolve.

Revisiting these titles, I’ll usually pick up on many things I was too young to process at the time. Sometimes I’ll even change my opinion on certain things because my palette has changed. Our discussions on BEHOLD! are definitely more thoughtful because we have the room to consider our favourites with more context.

Isa: A great deal of our (pre-podcast) conversations about shows consisted of either gushing about things we’ve already watched, or recommending new things to each other.

I think that BEHOLD! felt like a way to continue those conversations, outside of the constraints of the Genre Equality format.

Personally, being able to revisit shows in this way has been incredibly eye-opening. You start to realise how much of your understanding and appreciation of your favorites hinge upon the context in which it was first viewed, and your perspective at the time.

Since both context and perspective expand and change over time, it’s been a refreshing experience looking at these shows with a new lens.


https://www.mixcloud.com/GenreEquality/behold-the-cabin-in-the-woods-one-cut-of-the-dead-wes-cravens-new-nightmare-scream/

The last episode of BEHOLD! waxed lyrical about meta horror, and the referential delight that exists in the Scream franchise, The Cabin in the Woods, and One Cut of the Dead.


If you were to boil down to one under-the-radar TV show for people to watch, what would it be and why? 

Hidzir: I absolutely adore an Italian series called My Brilliant Friend on HBO.

It’s adapted from Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, and it’s a gorgeous immersion into the lives of two impoverished young girls growing up in 1950s Naples. [It’s such] a visually sumptuous and emotionally subtle coming-of-age story with exceptional depth and richly drawn characters.

That’s the elevator pitch, but you can also listen to more long-winded praise on this episode of BEHOLD!.

Isa: I feel beholden (ahem) as the self-proclaimed anime guy to recommend an anime, and I shall do just that.

Mushishi is one of my all-time favorites. It’s set in an imaginary time in Japan’s history where humans coexist with these supernatural, primal life forms called Mushi.

We follow the journey of Ginko, a Mushi Master who travels around to research these creatures and resolve the inevitable conflicts that arise from humankind coming into contact with Mushi. Mushishi is a masterclass in the art of storytelling, that while tonally whimsical and visually beautiful, is at the same time a potent allegory of humankind’s often fraught relationship with nature.

Whether or not one considers themselves “into” anime, Mushishi is one of those titles I feel will dispel any preconceptions or what anime can be or should be. You can hear us gush about it at length on this episode of BEHOLD!.


You can catch the next episodes of Genre Equality and BEHOLD! on Singapore Community Radio, which are scheduled to air November 10, 3pm and November 13, 5pm respectively.

Follow Genre Equality on Facebook.

Photo credit Ravi Manthovani

Like most local events happening this year, the annual Singapore Writers Festival is moving online.

Instead of the lack of a physical space impeding their plans, the literary-focused festival will move forward with a wealth of talks, workshops, interactive programmes and Q&As — all conducted online.

In tradition with past editions, the list of esteemed speakers is thrilling: Margaret Atwood, Art Spiegelman, Zadie Smith, Liu Cixin, Naomi Klein, amongst others.

However, taking advantage of the festival’s newly-minted virtual setting, they have taken the admirable leap to experiment with formats. Night Spin 182.7FM is a festival highlight that rethinks our enduring relationship with the radio.

 

Transforming The Arts House into the festival’s radio station, Night Spin 182.7FM is a series of podcasts and vodcasts, including radio plays, artist interviews, insightful dialogues, and segments surrounding literature in Singapore.

The Love Radio segment, hosted by poet Deborah Emmanuel, allows listeners to make love poem dedications to a loved one. Emmanuel will curate & read out a poem especially for them.

On Shades of Self, MAMA MAGNET team up with writer Nyshka Chandran and Ashley Erianah for a series of conversations with notable Singaporean creatives, ranging from rapper Masia One and multi-hyphenate artist Rizman Putra to drag queen icon Becca D’Bus and writer Shivram Gopinath.

Malam Seram reaches back to the age-old tradition of horror storytelling. Abdul Karim Sadali, known to many as DJ KC, brings to life spine-chilling tales adapted from Singaporean short stories.

Access to all Night Spin 182.7FM shows come at $20 and can be purchased here.

To get a sense of the world behind Night Spin 182.7FM, we had a brief chat with The Art House’s programming manager Shridar Mani. Read it below.


What sparked the idea behind Night Spin 182.7FM?

With the festival this year moving to an entirely digital platform and coupled with the theme of intimacy, we tried to think of a way in which these two elements could come together in a cohesive way.

For many of us, the radio has always been a device that very intimately connects us whether it’s through music, listening to an audio documentary on a news station or in conversations with personalities.

We decided then to transform this experience into a digital radio station for SWF that would bring together all these elements of text, music and conversation.

How was it like putting together the various programmes?

We had quite a number of approaches in putting this together.

Some programmes were ideas that the team had about specific content that we thought worked well in this medium but that would also add an edge to the programmes.

For example, radio plays by Edith Podesta and Grace Kalaiselvi that explore the relationship between the female body in mythology and history and its relationship to the contemporary world. Or Deborah Emmanuel’s Love Radio, which plays off the love song dedication idea.

Others were programmes proposed to us by partners whose work we felt with within the radio station concept, such as radio plays adapted from Singlit texts by The Second Breakfast Company and specially curated podcast episodes by well-known podcasters in Singapore, Nicole Lim and DJ KC.

Writing’s On The Wall is a series of interviews with singer-songwriters, and it boasts a diverse range of lyricists! what stood out about their skills to group them for this show?

The selection, made by Aravin Sandran of Neighborhood, was done on the basis of singer-songwriters whose work was recognized for its poetry and lyricism, exploring songwriting as a literary form in and of itself.

The range of shows itself stretches quite far — was there any consideration into the kind of audiences you’re hoping to tune into Night Spin?

​We just wanted to reach out to a wide range of interests so there really is something for everyone — whether you like theatre, music, literary conversations, poetry readings or podcasts. We consciously chose and developed the programmes based on this range.


Singapore Writers Festival 2020 is happening from Oct 30 to Nov 8. More information can be found here.

.gif Intriguant Hanging Up The Moon The Analog Vault
Photo credit .gif

Hang around a record store for a while and you’d hear enough people groaning about prices — or catch some sneaking a pic of a record to look up on Amazon later.

We’re not skeptics of online bargains, and there are undeniable merits to the convenience of mail. On the other hand, the realms within a physical store, with a curated space specially made for conversations, are simply hard to match.

But instead of fine-tuning our argument, we thought to talk to some musicians about their own priceless stories forged at various record stores, before coming together this Saturday to celebrate one of our own local vinyl establishments.

Their tales span the globe, but Sean Lam of Hanging Up The Moon summarizes the shared sentiment nicely: “We also need brick and mortar stores because music appreciation shouldn’t just be a passive experience. It should be a communal experience.”

From hunting an elusive record, to picking up favourite new music on tour, here’s what .gif, Intriguant and Hanging Up The Moon have to say about memories made at the humble record store.


INTRIGUANT

The one record that eluded me for a long time was Delegation’s ‘Oh Honey’ on 7”.

It’s my all-time favourite soul track and I wanted it on vinyl. I had been looking for it everywhere for quite some time — asked many record stores and no one carried it.

When I was in Tokyo, I saw an event called Captain Vinyl which was run by DJ Muro, happening at the basement club Contact. It was a soul-funk music night — good vibes all around and it was packed on a Tuesday night.

There was an area in the club where a couple of guys set out tables and were selling their records — just like a mini record flea market — in the club. That’s where I found the 7”. The whole experience of finding that record brings back so many good times in Tokyo.


.gif

Din: I found these while .gif was on our UK tour in 2018. We had an extra day in Hastings and decided to explore the shophouses by the beachside.

We randomly found this record store — I don’t even know what it’s called. I really didn’t want to buy anything because I already had too much gear to carry on our tour.

I decided to anyway — against my better judgment — and came away with these really cool finds. No ragrets.

Photo provided by Din.

Weish: I remember discovering Sunset Rollercoaster at The Waiting Room in Taiwan, before they got famous!

.gif was on tour there and in the care of the coolest and most hospitable guy, Dan, who runs a dope live house called Revolver Taipei. He brought us to Waiting Room to hang out and listen to Taiwanese music and I just recall being so happy. Taiwan’s indie scene has some legit cool stuff.


Hanging Up The Moon

Sean Lam: If I were to pick one, it would be the compilation album A Secret History by The Divine Comedy that (if I recall correctly) I bought from the long-defunct HMV at Heeren.

This “record”, like most of my collection, was on CD, as this was in the 1990s and vinyl records had yet to make a comeback.

It’s special because while I have gone through many phases and genres of music, this particular record is one that I still listen to every now and then.

I know I’m showing my age here (laughs) but listening to it also reminds me of my younger carefree days. I clearly remember listening to this album at the testing booth with my girlfriend, now wife and mother of my child. We both agreed it was awesome and bought it there and then.

Like most music lovers, I have fond memories of record stores growing up.

There were the local independents like DaDa Records and Sembawang Music that were crucial to local musicians as they were key distribution points, as well as global giants Tower Records and HMV that brought a unique shopping experience and entertained many restless youths over countless weekends. Unfortunately, none of them are around anymore.

Thankfully, because of the vinyl resurgence since 2010, there’s now a growing number of new record shops in town. From a musician standpoint, record stores are an indispensable part of the local music ecosystem, even though there’s a lot going on digitally these days.

Just like how music is making a comeback in physical format, we also need brick and mortar stores because music appreciation shouldn’t just be a passive experience. It should be a communal experience.


The Analog Vault will be celebrating its 5th anniversary this Saturday, 10th October with live performances by Hanging Up The Moon, Intriguant, and .gif.

The event will be streamed on Singapore Community Radio at 3pm. More information can be found here.

The Analog Vault Interview Sharon Seet Esplanade Singapore
Photo credit Hafizh Rizqi Laksmana (left) / The Analog Vault (right)

A name like The Analog Vault suggests an obscured zone of the rarest records, hidden to many and attainable to few.

In the game of vinyl records, where arbitrary prices of early pressings can limit the access of certain records to a distinct class of collectors (read: ludicrously rich ones), that may not be completely surprising.

However, it would be a supreme misjudgment of The Analog Vault. Since 2015, the store has served as a reliable refuge for a repository of vinyl records — spanning the worlds of jazz, soul, indie rock, hip-hop, electronic music, among other specialized genres.

While the store has had Nick Bong and Leon Wan holding fort as the store’s main faces and store managers — and hosts of our Analog Club podcast (previously AV Club) — the store’s genesis is owed to the ambitions of Sharon Seet, who established the store five years ago at a cozy unit, which now faces its current, much larger location.

Working in the finance industry by day, Seet first forged her love for the format while living in London during her early 20s.

“While I was meant to be focused on studying and working, most of my time was instead spent immersing in the amazing music scene and vinyl collecting culture,” she says, “particularly at the record stores where I learnt so much about different kinds of music.”

The Analog Vault Singapore Community Radio

Having spent time in London with its particularly rich culture of record stores, steeped in decades of iconic music, Seet carried those memories back home — gradually nursing the idea of opening a store in Singapore that captures that same exuberance she felt flipping through endless racks of records. It was with Eugene Ow Yong, owner of Vinylicious Records, who contacted her about pursuing such a venture together.

A long-standing customer of his store, she seized the opportunity to try her hand at curation, zeroing in on the kind of music she adored. “I agreed to work with Eugene on starting The Analog Vault on the premise that I could forge it to become an establishment championing jazz, hip hop, soul, electronic, and world music,” she says.

As Sharon has continued to run the store without Eugene — “[he’s] no longer part of TAV, but we remain close friends till today!” — the selection offered at The Analog Vault has only grown to include more styles of music, with a substantial section dedicated to obscure Japanese titles.

At the root of the store’s curation, however, is an undying appreciation for jazz music.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to the casual customer entering its confines — boxsets of John Coltrane and Kamasi Washington albums are proudly displayed behind the counters, along with recent arrivals of the long-overdue Black Jazz Records reissues sitting comfortably on nearby shelves.

Bar Martha Tokyo The Analog Vault
Photo credit Sharon Seet

“Apart from financial sustainability, I also personally measure success for TAV in terms of customer happiness, employee meaningfulness, and how TAV can support, contribute to, and help grow the music ecosystem in Singapore.”

Sharon Seet, on running The Analog Vault all this while.

“While I enjoy music across a broad range of genres (and languages!), I have forged the deepest connection with the jazz genre particularly,” Seet says. She attributes it to a chance encounter listening to the 1963 self-titled album by Coltrane and Johnny Hartman on vinyl.

“It was a transcendental experience for me — listening to Hartman’s sexy baritone voice set against Coltrane’s poignant saxophone, in pure analog delight. I had stumbled onto one of the greatest albums in the jazz canon,” she recounts. “That experience alone had me hooked onto jazz and vinyl, and it is a love affair that has continued to this day.”

The album continues to be revered as a high point in the saxophonist’s career. But it also served as a gateway for Seet into a vast, almost unceasingly creative world of music that she considers “akin to a complex and engaging piece of intellectual artwork.”

The genre has also blossomed in recent years, thanks to an outpouring of newer musicians from concentrated scenes in the US, UK, Japan and Australia.

The store regularly brings in titles from these artists, including new releases by Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids, Nubya Garcia, Zeitgeist Freedom Energy Exchange, Irreversible Entanglements, and even Jazz Sabbath, a tongue-in-cheek jazz project attempting the cavernous canon of Black Sabbath’s music.

As such, there have been several mainstay record labels that Sharon relies on for the kind of vinyl that belongs in TAV. Legacy names like Blue Note, Impulse!, Verve, Riverside, ECM Records, Columbia, Analogue Productions, along with newer ones like Brownswood Recordings, Mr. Bongo, International Anthem, 22a, Strut Records, !K7 are mainstays in the store’s catalogue.

Sourcing records from Europe, Japan, and the US, Seet makes it a priority to constantly devour new music through “record label websites, music review websites, Instagram pages, online vinyl stores, and Discogs”.

Reviews, sometimes found on Discogs, have been crucial to decide if an album’s vinyl pressing is adequate enough to be stocked in her store. The website maintains a database of over seven million vinyl records listed, each title armed with a comments section for users to pour effusive or critical reviews onto. “Good quality vinyl pressings are key,” she maintains.

Honing her analytical skills from years of collecting vinyl — and subsequently running The Analog Vault — led her, Nick, and Leon to establish TAV Records, an independent record label focusing on local and regional artists.

Beginning with the vinyl pressing of Fauxe’s Ikhlas, a collection of hip-hop beats playfully recontextualizing samples of old Singaporean and Malaysian music, it’s an extension of Seet’s mission to solidify the store as “one of Asia’s leading proponents of analog music culture and fine music.”

Just this year, amidst the perpetual pandemic, the label has put out .gif’s Hail Nothing in April, and are now preparing the release of Intriguant’s third album, Spirits.

While record sales of these titles have been made primarily through the store, Seet has used this outlet with Nick and Leon to build out a network of worldwide distribution, although that has proven to be no easy task. “Increasing our distribution continues to be a focus and challenge for us,” she admits.

Intriguant Spirits vinyl mock-up Singapore Community Radio

The vinyl mock-up for Intriguant’s Spirits, which will be released on vinyl on November 20th.

The pandemic has been a considerable obstacle for the vinyl record industry — the annual Record Store Day holiday, where exclusive titles are pressed in limited quantities for ravenous customers, accommodated social distancing measures by splitting its list of releases into three consecutive monthly release dates.

Record pressing plants have faced temporary shutdowns, and the obfuscation clouding the fate of the US postal service has made future imports uncertain.

The Analog Vault, like many stores, have taken to selling their titles online to feed and nurture demand — their debut podcast episode, which you can stream below, explains further.

All of this, coupled with the uncertainty that comes with any independent business selling a niche product, results in a venture some would consider risky. For Sharon, she has her sights fixed on the long-term.

“Apart from financial sustainability, I also personally measure success for TAV in terms of customer happiness, employee meaningfulness, and how TAV can support, contribute to, and help grow the music ecosystem in Singapore,” she explains.

Like how The Analog Vault was shaped by her vivid memories of London record stores, her plans for TAV beyond 2020 is inspired by another cherished analog destination of hers: Japanese jazz kissaten, enduring old-school hideouts where music lovers congregate for listening sessions and fine alcohol. The ongoing photography project Tokyo Jazz Joints documents this domestic phenomenon in all its classy glory.

Ideally, what would this space look like? She imagines it “flanked by superlative audiophile analog systems, amazing whiskies, and a space for live jazz performances”. It is still a dream — made all the more distant with existing nightlife restrictions — but the lasting work of The Analog Vault makes a convincing case that there’s always room for spaces like these in Singapore.

Even if that New Yorker cartoon can ring true for some, it’s the memories and stories made around these slabs of wax that make the “expense and inconvenience” worth it.


The Analog Vault will be celebrating its 5th anniversary this Saturday, 10th October with live performances by Hanging Up The Moon, Intriguant, and .gif.

The event will be streamed on Singapore Community Radio at 3pm. More information can be found here.