As far as the history of Singapop goes, we've had local bands trying their darnedest to get heard for ages to little avail. Back in the '80s and early '90s, numerous obstacles stood in the way of bands trying to get their music out: disinterested record companies, shoddy recording facilities, limited expenses.
The irony of Singapop then, is that while we've tried so hard to promote our rock bands over the years, spatterings of bedroom DJs have actually managed to spark a mini electronica revolution in Singapore. Given the advancements and increased affordability in technology, given the rise of CD-Rs and MP3s, and given the cultivation of a clubbing culture, we've actually seen quite a number of local electronic music CDs in the last one to two years, including The Sleepwalker/Carp 3000, Tofu, A Sharp Pencil OST, Skrooloose, Case and Paul T.
For now, you can add MUON and Naive Art to the list.
MUON is a new project by a trio led by Swilk, whose gingerly-prepared press kit presents Reprogrammed: Modules For Serial Killers as a high concept art that the band hopes would "(bring) across a contemplation of the very essence of a moment in time, something beyond music as an artform itself."
But music built upon such hifalutin concepts counts for nothing if the music itself isn't inspired and that's why MUON are such a welcome release for the Singapore electronica underground.
Modules, their debut EP, is five tracks of spacey, chill-out vibes that seem to hover in the air, swirling in large random loops before penetrating your pores. Call it Body, Mind and Soul music of the computer age.
Immanence is a deep, dark look at the soul, with soft tablas that offer tender respite. Mythic Resolve features Joyce on spaced-out vocals over warm synths and intricate beats. Eulogy floats on a slow, trip-hop rhythm, paying homage to "black and white, love and hate, time and eternity, life and death." Prologue To A Myth offers a brief rush of revolving electro-lines before the EP finishes up with Bloodrush, which has the sort of cut-n-paste beats that might have ended up on a DJ Shadow album.
Of his band's music, Swilk reminds the listener to "use it and let it use you." This writer couldn't agree more. (7.5)
Naive Art are actually an old band and have been around since 1991. They started out as a four-piece but today consist of Jeff Fun, Ray Wong and Kevin Fong.
Naive is their fourth release (after albums Cybernetics, Hindrance Of Illwill and the Fields OF Fire EP) and is an immersion in gritty, upbeat techno mostly invested in a verse-chorus-chorus structure with vocals. What mars many of the songs here are the banal (and very ungrammatical) yet pretentious (not to mention laughable) lyrics, for instance, "Do it has to be this way?/Fear comes on this golden day/We work as we work on our mind/Just able to know the sun goes down/I never will to be this way/Would you please just come inside?/And show me what's on your mind/We never talk like we used to talk/And never realised it's our fault/It's our fault!"
Worse is Jeff Fun's singing, given a very murky mix that one suspects was used to mask an untrained and very raw voice. The muddy vocals are only excusable on a song like Discrimination that is wholly bathed in '80s production values. Unfortunately for much of the rest of the album, the result of bad lyrics and bad vocals is going to give this release an unfortunate "ah beng techno" tag.
For what it's worth though, the two purely instrumental tracks seem to work best. Fury stands out with its breakneck skiffle and sonic whistles all held in place by a thumping house beat while Samsara is a dark and dynamic spin of tech-house. (3.5) Mark Wong
Note: Connect with MUON at email@example.com. Rave with Naive at www.geocities.com/naive_art/naive.html and sample their MP3s at artists.mp3s.com/artists/329/naive_art.html.
For more... email firstname.lastname@example.org with the message, "Put me on your mailing list."