Dirgahayu, The Psalms – C! Album Showcase at No Black Tie

hey so what happened? No2, I did not fall of the earth. Life happened! Two school going kids, heavy work schedule…bla bla bla..i also found out that writing is mentally exhausting lol. BUt you did not come here for a sob story. So onwards with the show…

When I found out earlier that Zulhezan ‘ s( ex-Akta Angkasa) new band, Dirgahayu was putting up a two night residency at No Black Tie, it really did pique my interest for 3 reasons. One, Dirgahayu, being the hot new band in town, has played a couple of shows now but the timing has been conflicting with my own personal schedule , so I havent been able to witness them live until last night. Two, its at fucking No Black Tie. I dont even remember when was the last time we had loud bands at this venue ( maybe there were, maybe i missed some lol). And third, one of the bands on the bill were Singapore’s The Psalms. My own band shared a bill with them last week in their hometown, they literally melted all our faces ( and everyone elses too), so no way Im gonna pass witnessing blow the roof off in KL. Funnily enough, back in 2012, I played with avant garde ensemble Space Gambus Experiment at Actor’s Studio and The Psalms were also on the bill but unfortunately I didnt pay close enough attention at that time.

One thing that kept playing in my mind prior to actually arriving at the venue was how the hell were the bands going to fit all those equipment & gear on such a tight stage. Well lo and behold, I arrived to a setpiece on the audience floor (!) ( where normally it would have been tables & chairs for jazz cats) centered around a 360 Degree setup, allowing equal opportunity to watch all the acts performing. Plus it makes such a cool fucking photo op at every angle. Having worked with Zul in 2013 for the Mull Debauch showcase, I knew aesthetics and design is as important as the music for him, so kudos to him for the set arrangement.


After two opening acts, singer songwriter Straw and post rock outfit Deepset, The Psalms casually sauntered with no pretense. The crowd initially thinned out, probably to seek refuge from the ringing delays of Deepset. It didnt take long for the crowd to fill up again, at the moment lead frontwoman Suhaili’s vocal started to pierce the air. To say the band was on fire was an understatement; there was only surging energy, no letting up. There were hiphop grooves, funk, metal, punk, odd signatures, jazz scat shrieks , all mashed up in a solid groove, the entire band tight as fuck. The band’s set drew mostly from their new record People Eating people, which had a more dynamic groove,compared to the abrasive tone of their earlier work  on the Ishamel’s Wishlist EP ( for the record, i love that EP too). Extra special mention to Suhaili, seeing all those neck muscles strained at every delivery makes me worry that something could go wrong, but nothing did and she remained a pocket full of energy, like a woman possessed with every word uttered. My only minor complaint: the mix wasnt the best, as the music constantly threatened to drown the vocals. Anyway, please buy their new record ( in white vinyl no less!) and go see them if they play in town again.


Ahhh, Dirgahayu, now where do I start? The host for two nights, they’ve only been a band since last October last year, but these guys are not fresh kids on the scene, what with each member having paid their dues in previous incarnations of other bands. The ever so effervescent Seikan ( drums)  keep the party rolling with his semi drunken banter and extremely approachable attitude. no divas present here at all! But what about the music? The band, after a quick setup ( complete with a broken straplock holder and saved by duct tape! long live duct tape!) , wasted no time for line check and launched into an all out assault. They remind of me of Japanese post rock/screamo bands, really powerful technically but without being show off-y, complete with interlocking arpeggios, furious tapping and start/stop attack. It may look sloppy on the outset but make no mistake – these guys are masters of their craft, picking up at ease even after going through some intense moments during the set. You could sense that all they took their time to craft each single note, each intricate part of the song had a purpose and this kind of flow does not just happen overnight ( or maybe it did LOL…there are mountainsize talents in this band). They blazed through the songs of their debut Commemorate! ( which I may add, had some nifty packaging, please go buy it), with only one minor hitch being the Korg Synth Bass ( see picture below, one i was looking forward to hear live, its  rare museum piece!) failing to operate during one of the songs.


Thank you Dirgahayu, Thank you The Psalms. You made a working night worth going out to the heart of KL .


Front of House: Moonshine presents: Janitor, The Maharajah Commission, J.M.S , Deepset


So I have been slacking off big time. Probably because I have been out shows on a more frequent basis then actually sitting down to write about it. Nonetheless, here’s the first review I am doing that actually features local artist.

It has to be said that I have not ventured into Laundry Bar for more than a year. It’s great that they are still doing shows for local bands here ( hey, ive played here twice) but something about the venue that feels so impersonal, so not audience friendly at all. Maybe because I find the layout to be a complete mess. Add to the fact that, over time, it was increasingly obvious that the acts playing there were not something I was into. So lo and behold , I saw the flyer for this event, moreso that these are the bands that I would not have thought to be “Moonshine” friendly.


First up, Janitor. Actually this was the band that made me crawled out of my self imposed Laundry exile and braved the brain numbing traffic jams of Persiaran Surian. I caught wind of this little known band earlier this year when some of their live performance videos started popping on Youtube. They really blew me away with their Sonic Youth/Jesus Lizard / Swans hybrid, what with long sprawled out drones and dissonant noises. Really, noone else is doing this right now here in KL at least and thats exactly what we need; diversity. To me, this band is so not Laundry material and thats a good thing! You can tell that they were nervous, but they did not disappoint. Launching into an almost 10min one note drone, probably confusing regular bar patrons, things got heavy really fast. And then it was an aural assault of discordant noises, one after another, tethering at the edge of chaos,  so much so the soundman apparently asked them to tone down. Definitely a band to watch in the future. Here are some short clips of Janitor and you can find out more about Janitor here


Next were my favourite shambolic noisy rock and rollers The Maharajah Commission. Fronted by the equally shambolic but totally unsober troubador Azmyl Yunor, these dudes never play bad show ever.In typical Azmyl fashion, the songs are preceded by (the seemingly meaningless at first but totally makes sense in the context of the songs) a short speech, introducing each songs. The tight rhythm section kept Azmyl and the rest from slipping into total annihilation of the audience although I must say, I am pretty disappointed Azmyl did not roll around on the floor. Anyway, great act this and seemingly underappreciated. Here are some short clips and find out more about Maharajah Commission here.


Lastly, a relative unknown band called J.M.S was up ( at the time of writing they still do not have a Facebook page). Kinda surprising when I found out that the dude fronting the band was a guy I knew who used to come to my semi regular radiohead cover tune jamming days many many moons ago. I guess the only way I could describe their sound was a mix of Muse, some The Bends era Radiohead, mixed in with some Pink Floyd and maybe even The Verve. Heck, even on of the songs they played, I could have sworn it was something out of DSOTM ( Great gig in the sky piano riff there fellas? haha),  Very tight unit and although Im not a fan of histrionic vocals ala Mat Bellamy, I think they are a very promising band with some good songs in their repertoire. Here are some short clips of J.M.S in action. I will have to find out what J.M.S stands for …

So yes, I said lastly even though there should be one more band on the bill. Unfortunately, I would have had a long day the next day, so I bailed early. Sorry Deepset fans!

Till the next show.

Incubate 2014 – An outsider review



Let me begin by saying that being a short Asian guy in a Dutch festival really sucks. It really does. The majority of Dutch people are TALL, with a whole lot of them being at least 6 ft. My impression is that this year, it got even worse ( possibly due to higher attendance). Could it be the daily cheese & milk diet? All I get is a lot of bloating.

Now that we have gotten the important stuff out of the way, I titled this outsider review because frankly, of all the 3 years I have been to Incubate, never once I have bumped into another SEA fan. Yes, this is my 3rd Incubate, the first being in 2011, i wasnt around in 2012, returned in 2013 & 2014. So it happens that I just happen to be at the right place & right time when this is all happening. No complains at all there.

The one major difference between last year’s fest and this year’s, was that for this year, I really went deep into the drone/psych/experimental/noise sets, as compared to last years electronica heavy sets. It could have been due to the major conflicting schedules but it could also be reflecting on what my playlist have been for 2014.  Ok, lets get the ball rolling!

Day One

Technically, Incubate is a week long festival, normally starting on Monday. However, for all 3 Incubates I have only managed to cover the last 3 days.

Tremoro Tarantura


One of the funniest things for me for this year is that , I dont know, or rather, am not familiar with the back catalogue of most of the acts. So it always nice to chance upon an act which you dont feel like you’ve just wasted precious festival time for. Tremoro Tarentura were part of the Norwegian Invasion portion of Incubate, where a number of excellent Norwegian bands ( including the great MoE and new favs of mine, Moon Relay, both bands I missed due to them playing during the week) descended upon Tilburg. The air was heavy with smoke machine atmosphere, I could hardly even make out the band on stage. They’re a five piece band , with a lead singer who looked and sounded like he would have fronted a garage rock band ( ala The HIves, for the sake of example) but instead, playing noise rock. The closest approximation I would give about their sound was that they sound like a much more heavier Thee Oh Sees. This was definitely very riffy and groovy noise rock and very , very loud. So much so that the PA tripped a few times during their set ( found out later , it was due to water spillage on the power outlets,still…..). The mix wasnt the greatest and i could hardly hear the (really cool looking) synth player but all in all, it was a very enjoyable evening set from a band I have no knowledge prior to this. Definitely keeping an eye on them. Find out more about them here and some video clips here

This Will Destroy You


I was a bit reluctant for this, as I was trying to decide whether I should catch this band or Mick Turner ( of Dirty Three) playing elsewhere at the same time. I decided to stay for TWDY as I have been reading ( but have not heard) that their new album incorporates new ambient textures and ” doomgaze”  influences, definitely interesting in my books as compared to the bog standard cliche post rock sound of late. Plus the fact that I saw them setting up cool gear onstage ( mini modular synths, a vintage Korg analog synth) intrigued me. As the set progressed, there were ambient textures present, gentle pads amidst the delayed tremoloed guitars. Unfortunately, I didnt get the doom vibe that I was so much expecting to hear, maybe PItchfork was exaggerating on that part a bit. To be fair, I thought TWDY played a very good set, judging by the response of the punters ( it was a full house) but naturally, I couldnt feel the connection and left 40 mins into the set. Find out more about TWDY here and some video clips here.



I promised these guys back when they played KL , read here , that I would be back in Incubate to catch them. I kept that promise and managed to say hi to the band before they started, even though I thought the venue they played in was the worst venue in all Incubate. It is not so much the claustrophobic environment ( it was held in this hotel seminar room??? in a narrow basement?? who does seminars in here??), with its crazy low ceiling, that bothers me. ITs just that it was filled with yapping audience more interested in loud chatter at the bar ( yes the basement has a bar) then watching the band play. Whats the point then of being there? Thankfully, Staer , as expected , delivered a pull no punches thread which rises above the crowd din. Find out about the band here and watch a clip here

Aidan Baker/Thisquietarmy/Hypnodrone ensemble


Aidan Baker fronts Nadja, a band with a solid back catalogue , heavier on the drone/doom side. I missed their Incubate set for this year but it was cool to see that he was involved in at least 3 special collaboration sets throughout the weekend. In fact, this was one of my heavily anticipated sets. Featuring 3 drummers and also one man drone band thisquietarmy, they quickly settled into a propulsive motorik backbeat, with Aidan doing the drones while thisquietarmy supplies the more melodic arpeggios. It was really really nice getting into the groove that the drummers were providing and im sure the rest of the audience agreed as well, judging by the high number of bobbing heads. As hypnodrone ensemble is a festival only ensemble ( purely on improv based), they have no permanent presence but you can find out more about Nadja here. Some clips of the performance can be found here.



I had no idea who Ramleh was, until my mate Azzief asked me to check them out. I mean, if not for him, I would have dismissed Ramleh purely by name ( “apa ni, band nama macam Ramli Burger??” you can google translate that). I would have done them a great disservice, as I found out that Ramleh had a rich, important place in the history of the noise/power electronics movement. What even suprised me more when I got to the venue, was that there were this two blokes, who, despite dressing in an all black matching ensemble, would look nothing like noise musicians. That amazement quickly went away as Ramleh launched into a rip roaring, throat searing intense set. It really made me smile, here were two middle aged men, whom on any other day I would have not even give them a second look, creating some of the nastiest sounds this side of Holland. Amazingly, there was a decent and attentive crowd, with a large number of female audiences. Thats we really need more of in Malaysia; more women involving in avant garde/noise! Anyway, find out more about Ramleh here and some clips here.

Angel Olsen


Eventually, this was the highlight of the day for me. I had been a casual fan of Angel Olsen, when she first broke out with her debut album Half Way Home and her appearance with Bonnie Prince Billy. Her earlier work was sparse and acoustic based and her voice, that golden golden yodel/drawl, can be regarded as an acquired taste. But it was not until her second album , Burn Your Fire For No Witness, that I really took notice of her. The acoustic remained in the background while she picks up the electric guitar for her sophomore release. This was far from being folk singer turned indie rock; the raw , fuzzy electric further accentuate her cryptic lyrics and that unique voice of hers. But hey, how about the performance?

The venue was a gorgeous theater in the center of Tilburg town, the same venue where during last years Incubate, Tim Hecker played in complete darkness. That said, I hated the venue this time for the same reasons why I hated the venue for Neko Case’s performance at Mosaic Festival Singapore earlier this year. This was a seating only venue and acts like Neko and Angel are not the kind of acts you want to watch sitting down. Anyway, i went early, grabbed front row seats, for because you do not want to miss that piercing , nonchalant stare of hers when she performs. There’s always this sinister smirk on her when she performs and combined with her dark twisted lyrics, makes for one amazing performance. Her backing band and her went through mostly songs from her new album and the stage mix was great, never letting the other instruments overpowering her already theater filling voice. This being a festival set, the set was a short one and hopefully in the future I can catch her on her proper tour. Check out Angel Olsen here and some clips here.

Be sure to come back for day Two!!!

Pianissimo Concert, Season 3, Vol. 2 – Black Packers & Staer


You have to hand it to the crew of Findars, an art gallery cum performance space cum coffee joint ( and soon to be some sort of culinary experiment lab as well??) I may have not known the collective for very long, but for the short time ive spend attending their shows in the past (both the previous shell and now this new space), i doubt they make any profit out of the shows they have been organizing. Yet they soldier on ! Inspite of these challenges, they continue to champion the fringe movement, so they have my utmost respect. Plus, they always make me feel at home whenever I visit there  ( as long as I buy the drinks! just kidding guys!)


The Pianissimo series is something the Findars crew created as a platform to expose generally more experimental/fringe acts that most other places would not even bat an eyelid in their presence. What I find fantastic is that, unlike any other performance nights that have been mushrooming all over KL, this series will have performers  performing in very different and artistic settings. No 2 shows are ever in the same setting. How’s that for passion? It’s performance / art installation, all rolled into one. Nobody else is doing something like this in KL, yet these series of performances remain under – appreciated . Im not sure what the media partner JUICE is doing in terms of helping to spread the awareness, other than a small mention on their website. But I digress. (Disclaimer: my band also played this series for season 2)

Word of mouth is indeed a powerful thing and outsider musicians from abroad have been choosing Findars as part of their tour itinerary. So, for Vol.2 of Season 3 of Pianissimo, we have 2 incredible acts from Norway: Black Packers & Staer

Black Packers


Black Packers is John Hegre ( one half of the infamous Norwegian noise act, Jazkamer, whom, with little fanfare, played KL back in 2009!) and Jean-Phillipe Gross.  John “plays” the guitar while Jean-Phillipe plays his Serge suitcase modular synth and they are describe as a “feedback based” duo. Now, I’ll be honest and say that prior to the show, I had no idea who these 2 acts were and had no time to digest how these acts would sound like. Well, for my ignorance, i was rewarded with 30 minutes of blissful feedback, well orchestrated and improvised by this two musicians. Feedback music, IF you can even call it music, has no grey area; you either get it or you get the fuck out. Feedback itself , plays an important role in the history of music and even pop culture. Go do yourself a favor and read up about the creation of David Bowie’s Heroes.

With nothing more than a polite hello, these two stately looking gentlemen launched straight ahead into a glorious cacophony of sound. To make feedback work in the context of improvisation is an artform and takes years of refining your skill and this is something you can clearly see during Black Packers’ performance. The way John was manipulating  his pickup volume, the constant shuffling of guitar & man in relative to the distance of the amp, the mid performance de tuning, this is no walk in the park.

Adding to the chaos is Jean-Phillip, looking very calm  despite creating a howl out of his Serge, the modular patches feeding back into itself and looping back into the PA. This kind of performance, its best to be non confrontational and you dont seek the melody, because there isnt any and there are only frequencies. You just give in and let the feedback envelope you like a tidal wave. 30 minutes of being subjected to wave after wave of non stop feedback, it feels just nice to stop at that. Even euphoria can be quite draining.  Im just glad to be able to witness the duo performing and hope they will swing by KL in the future again.



Staer is Kristoffer Riis (guitar) , Markus Hagen (bass) and Thore Warland (drums) . They have been described as an instrumental,improv noise rock trio.  Reading the bio , I went in expecting a Lightning Bolt sound-a-like. Of course i was proven wrong, because they sound NOTHING like Lightning Bolt. They also sounded like 10 ton hammers pounding continuously into your precious little skull and eardrums.

In what seems to be a pattern started by Black Packers, Staer, with little fanfare, launched into a full on assault of the senses. Drummer Thore ( what a name eh, THOR WAR LAND, befitting the instrument he plays!), like his Asgard namesake, plays all this complicated poly rhythms with brute force , never even once stopping to play a “linear” beat. With Markus providing the low end and Kris pitching in on the glorious metallic & harsh interludes, you can sense that this tight little unit can pull things together just when the “songs”  sounds like they were about to fall apart. The songs melt into one another but you can clearly see, inside all the intensity, there is a structure to these compositions, but Staer does not let it get in their way, preferring to improvised around the songs . If Black Packers performance were meant to pull your soul inwards, Staer’s performance pummels and never lets go of its grip. This is noisy prog rock without the indulgent excess and whiny vocals.

If there is only one minor complain, is that some of the lower end got lost in the mix and the concrete surrounds of Findars did not do the overall band dynamics to shine through. But there is no fault of the bands nor the venue, as both parties had put 100% inspite of the limitations. Staer’s set ended at about 40 min mark, but the audience, even with blocks of harsh noise thrown at them wanted more. And an encore was granted, to which Staer finished with one last song. To ask more would be unfair to the band as they gave their all to these new audiences.

Personally, I’d like to thank Goh Lee Kwang and Findars for organizing this. Keep a lookout for an interview I did with Black Packers and Staer and also, keep supporting the Pianissimo series.

An Introduction

So, “here we are now, entertain us”. Now before you get a hardon thinking this is another music blog recalling the “glory days of music” , whatever that means, you have stepped into the wrong realm. Make no mistake, i am the child of the 90’s, if the term child of denotes to being in that most crucial musical period of your formative years.


but no, i created this blog to talk about the present and the future. I created this blog as a response to what is available locally (or lack thereof), in terms of music dissection. You could say I was frustrated that nobody is actually TALKiNg about music that comes through this region, or most importantly, music created in this region. Sure, you get the odd reviews here and there, most obligatory due to deadline commitments, but those dont even begin to touch the surface. Dont get me started of the prefunctionary band writeups most sites are peddling, it feels like most writers are employing a generic template to fit any particular genre. So yes, this is a response to all that.


Content is king and im no writer. Dont expect pseudo intellectual prose in here by me. Here i will let the musician to do most of the talking (which should be in ANY case anyway). In their own words. Straightup, honest, no bullshit inbetween. Dont expect me to cover everthing under the sun. This is NOT an open minded blog. I will only focus on stuff that i like. If you dont get featured, dont take it personally.  As this is currently a one man engine, content will come as time permits.


so yeah, lets hope this is a start of SOMETHinG. I dont intend to fucking change the whole industry. The very least though, is to get people to start talking and discussing about music again, with no allusions to whats cool, whats hip and who s wearing what underwear. You get the drift la ok?