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

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 Expanse

Season 5

TV/ Amazon Studios
Where to watch: Prime Video

This continues to be the best sci-fi show on air. Season 5’s gamble of splitting up the Rocinante crew to explore the nature of family, survival and the politics of radicalization pays off with richly layered stories.


Star Trek: Discovery

Season 3

TV/ Secret Hideout
Where to watch: Netflix

To a superfan like Hidzir, Star Trek is religion, and Discovery is blasphemy. In season 3, Discovery further abandons Trek’s thoughtful explorations of culture, faith, race, science and diplomacy in favour of dumb action.


Carmen Sandiego

Season 4

TV/ WildBrain Studios
Where to watch: Netflix

The fourth and final season cements Carmen Sandiego as one of the best kids cartoons Netflix has ever made. This educational espionage caper remains stylish and enormously fun till the end.


His Dark Materials

Season 2

TV/ Bad Wolf/New Line
Where to watch: HBO Go

While managing to be a slight improvement on the wonder and spectacle of season 1, this HBO adaptation of Philip Pullman’s beloved fantasy novels remains frustratingly imperfect and devoid of excitement in season 2.


Last and First Men

Film/ Zik Zak Filmworks
Where to watch: Vimeo via Anticipate Pictures (link)

The last project of late Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson is an experimental and immersive sci-fi documentary about the survivors of an advanced society two billion years in the future. It is profoundly haunting, poignant, beautiful, and ethereal.


Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

Part 4

TV/ Warner Bros. Television
Where to watch: Netflix

The final season of Sabrina is bolstered by familiar strengths (it’s queer, horny and Satanic af) and hindered by familiar weaknesses (messy stories, too many characters pulled in too many directions). In the end, this show remains a mixed bag of untapped potential.


Doctor Who: “Revolution of the Daleks”

TV/ BBC Studios
Where to watch: BBC/Prime Video (requires VPN)

Doctor Who’s New Year special is a contemplative endeavour focusing on why the Doctor is always the centre of the series’ universe — and if her companions should break free of her orbit. A good, if inessential, episode that clears the slate for Doctor Who’s upcoming season.


We Can Be Heroes

Film/ Double R Productions
Where to watch: Netflix

Robert Rodriguez’s loose sequel to The Adventures Of Sharkboy And Lavagirl has its lo-fi, campy charms. But it’s ultimately too insipid and uninspired to enjoy.


The Stand

TV/ Vertigo/CBS/Mosaic
Where to watch: CBS All Access (requires VPN)

The latest miniseries adaptation of Stephen King’s iconic pandemic/supernatural novel is bolstered by great performances and production values. Unfortunately, it’s also dragged down by horrendous pacing, hollow exposition, and muddled stories.


The Promised Neverland

Film/ Shueisha Inc.
Where to watch: Golden Village

This live-action adaptation of the popular manga and anime is faithful to a fault. Sadly, condensing 12 episodes of story and character development into one movie isn’t the wisest of moves.


Equinox

Season 1

TV/ Apple Tree Productions
Where to watch: Netflix

Based on an acclaimed podcast, this Danish series uses Scandanavian folklore to propel a captivating mystery and investigate philosophical conundrums such as determinism vs. free will, alongside the toll of grief and loss. A decent binge that is impeded by a rushed climax and occasional leaps in plot logic.


Shadow in the Cloud

Film/ Automatik/Four Knights
Where to watch: Local cinemas

Centering on a WWII pilot (played by Chloe Grace Moretz) who fights off gremlins on her B-17 Flying Fortress, this indie sci-fi could have been a fun adventure. Instead, it devolves into something excruciatingly stupid.


Outside the Wire

Film/ Automatik/42 Films
Where to watch: Netflix

This Training Day-meets-Terminator hybrid is a flat, dour, snoozefest.


We Only Find Them When They’re Dead

Comics/ Boom! Studios
Where to buy: Local bookstores

Al Ewing’s gorgeous, cosmic series is one of the best new indie comic books out right now. Set in a future when Earth’s resources have depleted, this tale of poor miners who strip the corpses of giant space gods to survive is fun and propulsive.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin

Comics/ IDW Publishing
Where to buy: Local bookstores

Kevin Eastman’s climax to the TMNT series jumps to a post-apocalyptic future where only one Ninja Turtle has survived (his identity is a mystery). Seeking vengeance for his murdered brothers, The Last Ronin returns TMNT to its dark and gritty comic book roots for its heartbreaking final story.

If you’ve followed along the musical path of Isa Ong, the music of Claude Glass might come off as a startling left-field turn.

The songs of Isekai are rich and unfettered, with only a twinkle of his skillful guitarwork peeking out amidst the startling electronic production that defines this new project.

Ong is best known for bringing his instrumental chops to several Singaporean bands, on and off the stage — in the revered technicality of Amateur Takes Control, the theatrical experimentation of sub:shaman, and the infectious pop of Pleasantry.

Claude Glass is his outlet for pure studio work. These songs were only made with solitary listening in mind, although he has not ruled out pulling off a live show in the near future.

Glitched-out passages, assertive breaks, and melodic vocal lines glide over everything so smoothly, and it’s only the start. Claude Glass joined us to talk about the forward-thinking music that helped nudge some inspiration his way.

Listen to our conversation with him below and read through his picks.



Aphex Twin – ‘Flim’

Since hearing this for the first time in my teens (probably 10 years after it came out), I’ve been consistently obsessed with its drum arrangement.

It’s just so human, and yet it isn’t, which was mind-blowing to me at the time — there was so much human-ness in the programming and yet it still had that drum machine quality to it.

It’s brutally simple in its instrumentation too, and it’s exactly that combination of drums, synths, and those sweet, sincere pianos that makes it so unique. A timeless classic.


JPEGMAFIA – ‘Baby I’m Bleeding’

The first time I heard this track, I was amazed by his use of sounds — especially because he was sampling stuff that I would think to be seemingly unusable (or just difficult!) to form the base of a track.

In this one, he made an entire track out of “eh’s” and “ah’s”. How cool is that? And it works so well with his vocal performance and style to form this chaotic, f*ck-all energy that’s so infectious.


Son Lux – ‘The Fool You Need’

They’re probably my favourite band for the past two years or so. Their music hits so many spots — technical, emotional, and wondrous.

What astounds me is how each member has such a unique style and sonic characteristic that’s so distinct (from their own solo projects), and yet, in a band setting, it all comes together perfectly to form something so new — all the while still allowing each of their individual characteristics to shine.

It’s so masterful in production, arrangement, songwriting, and importantly — on navigating individuality in those aspects.


Gabriel Garzón-Montano – ‘Someone, Agüita, Bloom (Medley) | A COLORS SHOW’

I’m cheating a little bit here with the medley. I was floored when I first heard this on COLORS — there was so much freedom in his performance, and what really struck me was how he seemed to defy any need to have a set musical style or genre. He just did whatever he wanted, and that was so freeing and inspiring to me.



Nat King Cole – ‘Autumn Leaves’

This is one of my grandfather’s favourite songs. It always takes me back to a very special moment when we both sat down in silence listening to this on vinyl at my parent’s old place in Tampines.

I have a soft spot for schmaltzy love songs, especially from this era — it’s that sincerity and those idealistic musings in the lyrics and melody.


Golden Blonde – ‘We Begin’

Probably only came across this track by sheer luck while surfing through Bandcamp. I particularly love the way they used drums and percussions — that main drum section seems to be composed almost as a riff, and it had such a peculiar yet groovy rhythmic pattern to it.

It also had this melodic quality to it, through using different parts of the drum kit. It had an almost lyrical sense to it too.


alva noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto – ‘By This River’

This is a re-imagining of a Brian Eno track. I fell in love with how tactile the entire track is, and its use of glitch in such a controlled, warm, and melodic way.

Working so closely with the piano chords, the stutter-y glitches throughout the track never once felt intrusive or annoying. Instead, it elevated the emotion in those chords, with the perfect amount of restrained tension.


skillkills – ‘Count 2.9’

Heard about this band when sub:shaman was playing a few shows around Japan in 2017. We were working with a Japanese-based live sound engineer, So-san (who also did sound for The Observatory, and also for Boris!), who played some of their songs during a long van ride.

This band’s sense of rhythm is so insane — they create these badass, yet quirky and alien-like grooves that I’ve never heard or thought were possible before. It’s like dub on speed. It really has made me rethink what “groove” is and what it could potentially be.


Mun Sing – ‘Giant’

Mun Sing’s one half of Giant Swan. In this track, he created such an immersive world out of just drums and percussions. I fell in love with the track’s texture, chaos, and drive, and especially at how intense and hard it got while still preserving intricacy and groove.

His re-pitching of percussive elements was also really cool — using that gave so much interest without hammering down a clearcut, on-the-nose melodic hook.


Jockstrap – ‘Acid’

I was so enamoured by this track that I had to listen to it several times a day, every day for a few weeks. It captured some of that old school sweetness, while keeping things fresh and unique with its arrangement and choice of instrumentation — from those lilting violins to the vocal treatment and drums.

There’s so much good taste behind the songwriting and production of this track I actually teared when I heard it — half from its beauty and half from jealousy. (laughs)


Claude Glass’ Isekai is now available on streaming platforms and Bandcamp. Follow Claude Glass on Facebook and Instagram.

10 Tracks JAWN Interview Singapore Community Radio
Photo credit Cherlynn Lian

For many, exploring music is fulfilling and deeply personable — and sometimes the best songs arrive by happenstance. For JAWN, it happened in school.

If not for a chance encounter with a classmate putting on Kings of Convenience, he might still be hanging onto Contemporary Christian Music and Symphony 92.4.

Since then, he’s latched onto that feeling and turned it into a body of open-hearted work that evolves as he grows. While known for sparse acoustic arrangements, his latest single ‘Feel Too Much’ is pure joy, with an upbeat arrangement recorded with friends that still retains a personal touch.

“I actually recorded most of the guitars and violins in my room,” he explains. “It was an interesting experience because I thought, “You need to be in a treated room” but I was like, “F*ck it, I’m gonna record it in my closet and see what’s what”, and it turned out okay!”

To JAWN, the process is just as important, and many artists have helped him understand how that process does not need a large studio or a cavalcade of professionals to get things done.

In this 10 Tracks, he talks about the artists that have opened his eyes to music, and the ones that showed him how making it your own way is crucial — and also why Damien Rice isn’t an artist he wants to go back to anymore.



Kings of Convenience – ‘Know-How’

I was doing my art project in school because I had an art module in Junior College when I was 17. Someone put that on and I really liked it.

From there, I jumped into a lot of things, but here it was when I realized there were whole worlds of music that are apart from Delirious? or Planetshakers or Hillsongs.


Jon Chan – ‘Security’

There was this artist called Jon Chan I found while on Google just because his name was the same as mine. Turns out, he was the frontman of Plainsunset.

I discovered his album Pencil Tracings, which was among his first material. I wanna give a shoutout to his track ‘Security’ because that was the first local track I listened to that I liked. Thank you, Jon!

Listen to the track on Bandcamp here.


Sufjan Stevens – ‘To Be Alone With You’

Naturally, I had the transition from church acoustic music to inhabiting that realm of rationalizing your faith and who you are. Sufjan Stevens, very big shoutout to him!

He had his own struggles and rationalizations of sexuality, faith, and violence. One of the first tracks I heard from him was ‘Seven Swans’. It’s a beautiful track. It was the first time I heard a banjo in a track that sounded nice.


Bon Iver – ‘Blindsided’

For me, For Emma, Forever Ago broke down my preconceived notions of how a track can sound. You don’t need to have polished vocals — he recorded it all on super shitty mics. I also really like his way of song construction, because he would do vocalizations that fit that particular phrase and will find a word for it after.

He had really interesting ideas that I initially rejected — I listened out of hatred for a while, but it started to grow on me.


Sigur Ros – ‘Fjogur Piano’

The Valtari album was interesting for me — it was one of the first times I experienced an album through film and music. The great thing about Sigur Ros is that there is no barrier to appreciation.

You may never understand their language (aside from Icelandic, a good amount of Sigur Ros’ music is sung in Hopelandic, the band’s form of wordless vocals) and that’s fine.

You don’t need to in order to access whatever he’s trying to build or paint or say with these word images and music. It’s a whole moodboard that encompasses you in this world of soft voices and feelings.


John Mayer – ‘Gravity’

I can’t go through a list without talking about one John Mayer track. He’s been one of the most formative influences in my guitar playing and how I approach “band” music. he’s one of the rare modern guitarists who can make a guitar sing like a human voice.

It has inflection and imperfections. It plays into how he’s talking through his guitar, and I really like that. That was something I tried to bring into my own practice. He has really cheesy but effective lyrical imagery.


Dry the River – ‘Bible Belt’

I like the way they construct their lyrics, it’s basically biblical poetry. There’s a certain gravitas to whatever comes off the page from them.

It helps that they come from the UK — there’s the whole experience of church and state that informs their life experiences.

They have so many effortless metaphors about the practice of religion while noticing the shortcomings of life and happiness. They’re not a Christian band but they have a natural affinity for Christian imagery and metaphors.


Matt Corby – ‘Resolution’

This track is here just for his voice. If there was any voice I could have in the world, I would kope his.


Damien Rice – ‘Chandelier (Sia cover)’

It was something I found recently, and I didn’t even know he was still active in music. I was listening to it thinking, “I can get why I was into his music but that’s not a mental space I want to inhabit today.” Still, I wish him the best!


Samm Henshaw – ‘Broke’

He modernizes gospel music and there’s this element of joy I seldom get from other music nowadays. There’s a celebratory aspect to his music-making.

I just enjoy his energy. you can find it in Chance the Rapper’s stuff too — the references to family and religion, adding it all up to figure out what makes life good for them.


Follow JAWN on Facebook and Instagram.

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.

Slodown interview 10 Tracks R&B singer Singapore
Photo credit Slodown

The New York-based, Singapore-bred Slodown is adept at conjuring resolute moods that are now familiar territory in modern R&B.

His latest single ‘Ample Fruit’, released on Dec 18, is powered by warped sounds and twinkly synth-pads courtesy of producer WY Huang (who recently turned in an astounding Guest Mix for SGCR.)

‘Ample Fruit’ capped off a slew of singles from the artist, who has kept himself busy despite a year like 2020. It arrives at the kind of hushed intimacy that harks back to older soul records, and it’s no surprise that Slodown himself is a seasoned student of the classics.

But instead of handing in a laundry list of the usual suspects for this 10 Tracks, Slodown highlights a handful of lesser-known delights, while schooling us on the up-and-comers he believes will come to define the genre in the years (or even months) to come.

Of course, there’s also D’Angelo. No discussion of R&B and soul can omit that name.

Pore through his picks below and listen in to our conversation with the singer during his brief return to Singapore last month.



Piero Umiliani – ‘Ricordandoti’

I know very little about this guy. It’s something Spotify algorithms fed to me. I’ve been listening to a lot of movie scores recently just because I love films as well. There’s always something about how movie scores can conduct and play with your emotions without needing words or lyrics.

At the core of it, that’s something I try to do with my music — to conjure certain emotions. So for me, I feel like movie scores are a really good place to get inspired by.


Mustafa – ‘Air Forces’

This guy has only two songs out right now, both similar in vibes, but I was immediately drawn to this guy because he wears his identity on his sleeves.

He’s not shy to have symbolism and references [from his Muslim faith] in his work and he uses that. He just speaks his truth. The nature of the content is familiar — it’s still street tales that we may be more familiar with, almost doing this folk/R&B thing while drawing so much from his heritage.


D’Angelo – ‘Send It On’

That’s my favourite D’Angelo song, and probably my favourite song of all time. That’s my most-played song ever.

I’m always in the mood to listen to this song. It’s the kind of vibe that inspired me to make music the most. The feeling that I got from this song was something I wanted to create with my music.


Xavier Omär – ‘FIND ME.’

I found Xavier Omar on Soundcloud, never even knew how he looked like. No photos up. But that song ‘Blind Man’, I was like “Shit!” I think now he’s finally gotten bigger – I wouldn’t say he’s mainstream but he has at least come out of that. There’s a phase to his music now.


Jae Stephens – ‘Emergency’

I found out about her from Xavier Omar, she was featured in one of his singles. She’s a new LA artist and her shit is all upbeat and dancey, and somehow it feels really fresh. I wouldn’t be sure to call it R&B but it’s fresh to me.

I’m a bit bored – to me, the sound of R&B has become so mainstream that PARTYNEXTDOOR almost sounds like it could be on the same playlist as an Ariana Grande playlist now. There’s still the new Ty Dollar Sign album, it’s still done very well, but I’m always more excited by fresher takes on R&B that retains the genre’s soulfulness.


Lucky Daye – ‘Love You Too Much’

Lucky Daye’s blowing up, and he’s probably going to be mainstream soon. He’s blowing up in the States, and he’s also super talented. His sound is fresh and different from the regular landscape of R&B right now.


Shelley FKA DRAM – ‘Sweet Va Breeze’

Love when Shelley gets on his soulful shit, especially when it’s in that old-school vein like that.


Benny The Butcher – ‘Trade It All’

Been really enjoying this Benny the Butcher album — gives me the same feeling classic rap albums like The Infamous and Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… used to give me.


The Fuzz – ‘I Love You for All Seasons’

It just puts you in a good mood. Every time summer hits New York, that’s the song I go back to. It’s another vibe I’m trying to recreate with my more summery songs.

There’s a certain thing about it — I don’t know if it’s the “old” quality of the music, or the vocals — but it’s just so warm and soulful. It’s a blanket statement lah but a lot of new music nowadays is made to be played in the clubs or parties.

A lot of old music was meant to be played outdoors, like at a picnic. This is one of those songs that puts you in that mood.


Donald Byrd & Booker Little – ‘Quiet Temple’

This is the shit I pour whiskey and chain-smoke cigarettes to during the winter. It gets me to an emo place, but not a bad kind of emo.

As a kid, I’d always wanted to move to New York, even before I had ever seen the city myself. This song felt like New York to me. When I hear this song, I think of movies like Taxi Driver, like old New York. It’s a special song for me.


‘Ample Fruit’ and other Slodown singles are available on streaming platforms.

.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.