Fringe: Outside the Pop Periphery

source: Rizki Maulana


A work consisting of intense, piercingly sharp beats composed from a bedroom – made using a desktop computer to boot – Adam Kasturi’s Jaguar came out of nowhere to a local scene that doesn’t quite have a niche for it. Sure it garnered him attention and acclaim from a few music critics and enthusiasts, and prior JUICE coverage, but Adam is still very much the outsider that he claimed to be. This isn’t someone you’d see hanging out with the cool kids at a gig in Publika or partying with the rest of the scenesters in Changkat.

Nevermind the shows that he’s gotten since the release of his free album, Adam is more interested in composing music as therapy than being seen. “[Music] is a great way to tackle depression and express my feelings creatively,” he said, adding that Jaguar is something of a ‘report card’, a collection of emotions and sounds. No wonder his compositions frequently abandon recognisable song structures in favour of mood. And not necessarily his own, as he put it; “A song should provide space for [listeners] to get lost in, and provoke emotions without telling them blatantly what they should feel or think.”

Like a lot of his peers in – for lack of a better term – the beat scene, he’s the product of the age of digital audio workstations. Adam first made music using PS1 Music Maker at 14, when he used to record his finished beats on a tape (a process he described as tedious but fun). Even now, he hasn’t equipped himself with better gear, preferring to use FL Studio on desktop to the disappointment of many once revealed to them (“I used to feel f*cked up [about it].”). He has since stopped letting this get to him, saying that knowing the sounds you want trumps expensive hardwares.

“You have to know what you’re doing. It’s okay to have the best gears but don’t be dumb, don’t just follow the herd and get too attached to all these machines, these fancy gears in the market, and end up feeling clueless — that’s ugly.”

Due to the nature of his music, too often people have misguidedly thought him as a live act (“Some people mistake me for James Blake (laughs).”). But as you can surmise from reading this, he doesn’t even have the right equipment to play live, in fact in his own words, he “can’t play sh!t.” He’s purely a composer whose aspiration is more about producing for other artistes and working with artisans of different fields, from architecture to visual design (visual artist Zulamran is a frequent collaborator). Hell, his childhood dream was to handle an orchestra.

“I want people to see myself as a serious composer, producer or something like that, not a poppy sensation or someone who is enslaved by zeitgeist.”

From Henry Miller to Kobo Abe, with the amount of literary influences on his works Adam shouldn’t worry about not being taken seriously. An aspiring poet and novelist himself, it’s not surprising to know Douglas Coupland’s Life After God was the existential inspiration for ‘Kau Bukan Badan Kau’. His non-musical artistic stimuli stretch elsewhere too, with films being the pinnacle of it. “Films have the full [artistic] package – you have the poetic side covered, sick music, meaningful visuals,” explained Adam, naming the likes of Godard, Herzog, Woody Allen, Roy Andersson, and Gaspar Noé as some of his favourite directors.

Musically inclined to the field’s artistic alcove as well, Adam has explored everything from dada, fluxus to New York’s no wave. Don’t mistake him for a pretentious act though, he’s still very much into hip hop – the genre he grew up with (“The first record I used to listen to religiously and got me into making tunes was The Marshall Mathers LP.”)

Recently, Adam was signed to aesthetic compatriot Gema’s Order Records, based in Singapore, which will be releasing his debut physical release Mitos. Sonically more sinister and focused than the haphazardly arranged Jaguar, Mitos will feature Pinoy vocalist Aina Sevilla. Beyond that, his long-gestating collaborative effort with Nights of Rizal, Kereta, will also finally have an EP, Sprawl, after 4 years of production. Not bad output at all for someone who doesn’t have a niche.