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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’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.
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)
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.
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).
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ever since their fiery 2016 opus August is the cruellest, The Observatory have gone through an evolution in both sound and line-up.
What remains is their ever-present ethos — pushing past expectations set upon them, resulting in an electrifying body of work that defies the stagnant “art rock” category.
Now comprising of Cheryl Ong on drums, along with Yuen Chee Wai and Dharma on guitars and electronics, the three-piece have since ventured down the path of collaborations — beginning with Norweigian experimentalists MoE, along a split with prolific psych-rock outfit Acid Mothers Temple & the Melting Paraiso U.F.O..
The latter featured a recording of a concert where the band, in their last major concert, performed with a chorus of 30 young guitarists, conjuring an effect that they’ve described as “layering tiny tremoloes to create emotional earthquakes”.
It’s not an overstatement to say that their latest document dwarves that statement in sheer volume alone.
Authority is Alive captured the band during a surprise performance last year with avant-garde soothsayer Keiji Haino, whose ferociously prolific and boundary-pushing output has kept his cult-like following on their toes since the 1980s.
Within the first few minutes of the recording, the splintered potency of Haino’s poetry collides swiftly with the band’s improvisational approach. It makes for an intense listen — if otherwise bordering on inaccessible, if you find yourself stepping into this immediately after a propulsive rock album like August is the cruellest.
This edition of 10 Tracks not only captures the present earworms of the three-piece — they also freely exchange thoughts about performing with Haino, unravelling the power of free improv and Mandopop, and their current activities (they are, indeed, working on a new album).
Pore through their picks below and listen in to our conversation with them.
Dharma: There was a period I was listening to just Kate Bush, almost nothing else.
Once during this period, I travelled to KL to play some gigs and visit my grandma. It was a much longer journey than usual due to rain and traffic. When I finally arrived at my grandma’s, she was sleeping on the couch in the living room. I sat on the floor beside her, just watching her, and this song just played in my head, lyrics and all, bringing back much memories spent with her. It truly was comfort just being beside her.
She passed away in July this year. I was not able to pay my last respects.
Dharma: Suddenly in an FKA Twigs mood this week. Can’t say I like all her songs but this song especially stimulates my “Kate Bush receptors”.
Dharma: Initially, it can seem like “anyhow whack” but on closer listens this is an amazing gem. I always wonder how the Captain composed this. I don’t think he plays guitar. Lick My Decals Off, Baby is a very essential album besides Trout Mask Replica.
Chee Wai: Lately, the stuff I am reading has prompted me to revisit an era that played a significant role in forming my views of the world, the mid-90’s to early 2000’s. I am reminded of an era of the neon flush, a kind of decadence, self awareness and of course a lot of cyberpunk material from that time.
But this track — taken from the wonderful and unforgettable opening sequence of Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Millennium Mambo — served to be a soundtrack for my own interrogation of the city for a long period of time. Soundtracks played quite a big part for me.
Chee Wai: I have been so familiar with this melody for decades. From since I was in my teens, this melody segued in and out as a soundtrack for growing up. But it took me a long time before I actually watched the film.
And I must insist for anyone who has not watched it, to not watch the director’s cut. Ennio Morricone’s melodies have an innate ability to touch one deep inside. The immensely talented Pat Metheny’s playing is sublime in this rendition, to say the least.
Chee Wai: Close friends who know me will probably know that I listen to Mandopop from time to time.
For me, while there is challenging music that I voraciously listen to all the time to open up my mind, there is also music that allows me to seek some kind of simplicity. Mandopop, amongst others, falls into that latter category.
This track was from her 2001 album where she collaborated with Tanya Chua for the first time, which resulted in a Leslie Low-esque folk song on waiting, longing and the etcetera. And with the lyrics of wordsmith 林夕 (Lin Xi), it’s hard to go wrong.
If there is space, I would also recommend Stefanie Sun.
Cheryl: I’ve been listening to these two albums: Nonagon Infinity and Flying Microtonal Banana. They’ve been on repeat for the past week, so it’s been real hard trying to pick one song from the albums!
I love the energy of Nonagon Infinity, microtonal melodies over driving post-punk drum beats. I’m just in awe at the speed of their releases considering the fact that each album has something different to offer. Mad skillz.
Another pick would be the track ‘Flying Microtonal Banana’ from the album of the same name.
Cheryl: This is a composition that grows after every listen due to its intricacies. The displacement of the rhythms on the flute with regards to the percussion or vice versa is really amazing.
I have a lot of questions about how he composed this and how it was translated into a score. We are usually so used to listening to songs done based on a Western construct that listening to a piece like that really opens up one’s ears to what other types of music exist out there and what music can be.
Cheryl: I’ve been revisiting this older album of his after listening to his mix for Resident Advisor. If I could choose a mix, it would definitely be that. It’s hard to find a DJ who can seamlessly transcend so many genres in one mix while keeping it danceable.
Truth be told, a friend and I were kind of dissecting this song to try and see how he produces music, but I’m pretty sure we haven’t hacked it yet. Looking forward to hearing his new release on PAN.
The band: We have been listening to this — collectively and individually — quite a bit since it was released last year.
It was said that the piece was not entirely composed and all the musicians met for the first time together when they headed for the studio. What resulted was a piece of rhythmic genius that traverses krautrock, techno and minimalist composition.
Chee Wai would play it in his car occasionally when we drive to places. Silence will immediately descend upon us, as we collectively listen deeply and marvel at the complexities and nuances of the piece.
Authority is Alive is now available via Ujikaji Records.
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.
Patterns, the new album by Hauste, strikes the tough balance between instrumental prowess and melodic charm.
While the band’s dexterity remains on full display, the three-piece are keen to step out of indulgence to allow hooks and textures to shine. Watch their recent Baybeats performance below for a taste.
It’s no wonder that for 10 Tracks, the band — comprising of guitarist Daniel Lim, bassist Bennett Bay, and drummer Ian Tan — handed in a remarkable selection of catchy indie pop, club music, post-rock, and old-fashioned screamo.
Where most instrumental rock bands rein in on their comfort zones, Hauste remains wholly inviting and engaging to the outside world.
Listen to our conversation with the band below and pore through their 10 picks.
Daniel Lim (guitarist): ‘Lotus Eater’ encapsulates this simple and effective form of arrangement that is really inspiring.
Daniel: [This song] showcases the perfect balance between technicality and musicality. It’s complex yet it is effective in conveying the musician’s intention of invoking a specific mood.
Daniel: This took me by surprise. I never would’ve expected this song to change the way I perceive music. The fact that it was a remix reinforces how malleable music can be.
Ian Tan (drummer): Feed Me Jack breaks the “math rock” mould by infusing different styles to form something so tastefully raw and unique.
Ian: The drummer creates such texture in his beats — [it’s a] balance of intricate drum n’ bassy playing that still feels light and delicate. The texture and mood lie in the subtleties.
Ian: [It’s] just straight up groovy. You can’t help but bob your head with a stank face on. He encapsulates an infectious funk vibe mixed with a modern dreamlike sound for a whole new experience.
Bennett Bay (bassist): My go-to song when I’m feeling down and need a pick me up, and when I want to analyze a really good song. It’s a long song that runs about 11mins but it doesn’t feel boring or overly complex, and instead feels therapeutic.
Bennett: [It’s] your quintessential punk-ish math-rock song. The density they are able to create — despite being a two-man band — always catches me by surprise and always reminds me of the importance of dynamics in instrumental songs.
Bennett: [It’s] twinkly and light yet heavy and raw at the same time. They’re somehow able to weave the interlocking nature of math-rock-like guitar lines with gritty and emotional vocals, while at the same time making sure that it does not sound too harsh. While the song isn’t instrumental it is a good reminder as well that the voice enhances the sonic capacity of a band as instruments do.
In the podcast, the band explains that their early exposure to math rock was through a live set by Sphaeras.
Bennett: After that gig, we were all searching for math rock bands to listen to as well. I found Elephant Gym, and I was like “Dan, listen to this!”. We thought, “Okay, yeah, let’s do a band that’s kind of like this.”
Hauste’s Patterns will be available on streaming platforms on October 23rd. The album is now available on CD, cassette tape and digital download on Bandcamp.
Now that we’ve shared some personal anecdotes forged at the record store, as told by musicians, we thought to ask some of our cratedigging local DJs about their own.
It’s no secret that DJs have been the ones keeping record stores and vinyl alive all this while — even before a vinyl resurgence of any sort, DJs from underground scenes were the ones still holding fort with piles of 12” singles and new discoveries with every visit.
RAH and MZA, both record store fiends themselves, share their own unforgettable experiences in different record stores — from finding a deeper appreciation for culturally-embedded samples to nabbing a long-elusive record.
Watch RAH, MZA, and Darren Dubwise perform at The Analog Vault’s fifth anniversary here.
Ok first of all, lemme just say that I don’t think there’s a record (yet) that eludes me – I recall really wanting Lata Ramsar’s The Greatest Name That Lives, and that’s still the only thing on my Discogs want list. And still so expensive.
I’m quite the lazy digger and would only really buy stuff when I’m travelling. Visiting record shops is always a trip, and something I always look forward to when travelling.
So two special moments that come to mind — the first was in Rotterdam’s Demonfuzz Records, highly recommended by Dutch friends (“it’s Madlib’s favourite record shop!”).
I really like Rotterdam, and this record shop is amazing — I must’ve spent hours there — picking out stuff, putting them back, chatting to the guys about stuff. Anyway, there’s this one record I got, it’s a Soul Jazz Brazilian comp, called Tropicalia. It’s a double LP and I was like “Ok, dope, am def getting this.”
Fast forward to a week later I was in Berlin and listening to the Tropicalia record and Jorge Ben’s “Take It Easy, My Brother Charles” comes on, and I’m like whaaaaaaat this is the OG sample from Drumagick’s “Easy Boom” — which I also have on vinyl, also a comp “Gilles Peterson WW2”, and how I discovered the track (great Brazilian D&B).
I think just being on a great holiday and listening to a Brazilian record in a hipster Airbnb in Berlin just elevated the experience for me.
The same week, still in Berlin, I went to another record store, a friend Nip who runs Potatoheadz Records (really good label, check it out) brought me there — I forgot what it’s called.
So looking through their 45s and was over the moon when I found Tilahun Gessesse’s Lanchi Biye on Philophon, another great OG sample from K’naan’s America feat Mos Def & Chali 2na. Two OG samples in one trip! I was ecstatic. Nobody could take me down. Invincible.
The record that had eluded me for a while was Alfa Mist’s Antiphon, a modern UK jazz classic, if I have to say.
I was close to picking up the second pressing in 2017 but hesitated somehow — ended up never getting that close again till one day in 2019, midday scrolling through Instagram and I happened upon The Analog Vault’s account posting it as a new arrival.
Immediately, I texted Nick asking to hold it and promptly headed to the store after work to pick it up. Victory in my hands, finally.
Record stores mean the world to me — from being just an emo The Smiths-loving poly student collecting records at Vinylicious Records till eventually working in the store. Eight years on since that fateful first shift as a record store clerk and I’m still in music retail pushing music culture.
There is truly nothing better than opening a new record or seeing a customer enjoy one of your recommendations. It’ll be a sad day if the only “record store” left was Amazon so I urge everyone to support your favourite independent record stores today.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.