Klang Valley’s music scene is ripe with talents from all over the genre gamut – some exist on an ephemeral plane, seemingly impressing us with potential only to dissipate into oblivion later. This makes JUICE’s self-imposed position as the tapper of new talents difficult, yet it doesn’t dissuade us one bit. Regardless of how long they’d last in the scene – we would like to believe they’d be around for a very long time – we firmly believe in their talent and worth as musicians. We don’t really need this preamble though, look at Kyoto Protocol, one of the acts on last year’s list, they’re arguably the most ubiquitous indie band now.
This year, these are our personal magnificent seven in a scene of hundreds. They are the dance punks, the would-be indie darlings, and the obscure.
WOULD-BE INDIE DARLINGS
THE IMPATIENT SISTERS
FAME CAN WAIT
“We’ve gained considerable fame? Oh no! We don’t think we’ve gained considerable fame.”
That was the immediate response Soraya, the eldest of last year’s JUICE Best New Find The Impatient Sisters, gave us when asked about the sibling trio’s sudden prominence in the Moonshine-dominated singer-songwriter scene. She was being modest of course, the band is well on their way to becoming the next YouTube sensation turned actual star, like Zee Avi
Speaking of whom, Zee herself once tweeted a video of The Impatient Sisters well before their relative fame, which was surreal for them. Continuing with the modesty, Soraya, claiming embarrassment, rather self-effacingly said this of their videos; “they’re pretty low-quality and because we uploaded them for fun, we look very the ‘busuk’.”
Consisting of eldest Soraya, middle child Nazeera, and youngest Irena, all of whom took music lessons as children (anything from piano to drums), they initially did music individually. Being a band was something they had joked about, yet they were always harmonising with one another for fun.
Realising that they can do this as a trio for fun, the sisters opened for a friend’s band at Lepaq Café in 2010 – covering favourites Eisley, Pete Yorn, and Scarlet Johansson. Impressed by their performance, the café’s owner asked them if they had originals, which resulted in their writing the track The Impatient Sisters are most well-known for; ‘Comets and Stars’.
Despite describing their music as “fluffy, romantic, and quirky,” there’s a darker undertone to The Impatient Sisters’ music. Our personal favourite song, ‘Forever I Know’, has a dark undercurrent to its sappiness, it’s a lovelorn track embracing oblivion. Their songs are never written from real experiences though. The band cites Civil Wars as an influence, because they “secretly play country music,” and Bon Iver, because Irena “wants to live in a cabin in the woods.” But their most obvious influence is Eisley, who happens to be a family band with insane harmonisation skills too.
Being infinitely affable, The Impatient Sisters see their fans as just friends – “we’re still not used to that term [fans].” What if they got too big? “I guess we’d have more friends then?”
It’s hard not to be smitten by their mawkish responses. It’s not just a façade either, they love their fans so much that every single t-shirt they’ve sold (and given away for free) was handcrafted at home.
Despite their name, The Impatient Sisters are capable of waiting. They’re not in a rush to put out materials just yet. As of now, they are still jamming with a band, discovering new ways to present their music with a full band. With a good idea of the kind of sound they’re going for, Soraya hopes fans, we mean friends, are patient enough to wait for their first few recordings. With two out of three sisters still in school, it might take a while.
“We don’t know how far this train ride is going to take us. We’re enjoying the journey though. But I don’t think we’ll stop singing and writing together. We’re always in each other faces anyway, since we’re sisters and we live together.”
And that’s perfectly fine for us too – watching The Impatient Sisters singing their hearts out as just that, sisters, is what works best.
Darren Ashley is a busy man. Being the drummer of Busco and sessioning for Paperplane Pursuit as a bassist – don’t ask him which instrument he prefers, he doesn’t know – he hardly has time on his own. In the course of getting Darren for the feature, he had to fly back from overseas, shuttle to and fro from rehearsals to photoshoot, and communicate with JUICE through the magic of smartphones. Despite that, no offence to the two aforementioned bands (they’re fine), it is Darren Ashley as an individual musician that caught our attention the most.
Asked if it’s hard juggling the bands and his solo venture, Darren answered with a hesitant “uh” before putting it straight, his passion lies in music, period. This is evidently true in his music as a solo act (described as “electronica whateverness” in his own words), where electronic instruments and knickknacks, such as his performance staple Kaoss Pad, meet with his rocker roots to dive into genres and melodies that are, again in his own words, “anything and everything.”
We can attest to this, when we say talents from all over the genre gamut, we almost meant just Darren’s genre hoping and mixing. His music is simultaneously electro pop perfection and acoustic singer-songwriter fluff at the same time, and other times they’re separate entities. The first song we heard, ‘If I Don’t Stay’, has the capacity to get both your feet and soul moving. But then there are tracks like ‘Weather Endeavours’, the kind of song you’d expect to hear at a No Black Tie night instead of neighbour Palate Palette.
Each one of the tracks he had released so far are neatly categorised by him as either organic or electronic (personally we feel his electronic tracks are both). The former category has enough tracks that they complete an album called Backwards Stuff due out sometime this year – we love the self-aware title. As for fans of his computer music, Darren promises to try to release an electronic album by this year too.
While Darren has always dabbled with his computer to make music, it was only recently that this bloomed into something sonically concrete. This is probably indebted to Darren’s current influences; James Blake, Beardyman, Justice, Capsule, and Cornelius. This doesn’t mean he had abandoned his old loves though; “of course I still have my favourite doses of Mew, Bobby McFerrin, Two Door Cinema Club, Asoka Toki, and Underoath.”
Which is imperative, we wager, for someone like Darren to still be influenced by everything his ears have had the pleasure of listening. “The interpretation of music intrigues me, I get excited with new ways to send a sound or feel across, kind of scatter-brained I must say,” elaborated Darren.
Scatter-brain approach or not, it works so far. So much so that electronic whateverness is our new favourite made-up genre.
CLOSEST THING WE HAVE TO JUSTICE
Hit by a cacophony of trendy electronic genres that have become barely distinguishable from one another, Dizkopolis (Taufiq and Adi) is a dash of French the dance scene badly needs. Much like most indie bands of today, this DJ duo aims to add an ‘80s feel into modern electronic music as vintage and analogue remain the gold standards for them.
“We grew up listening to a lot of different kinds of music, but it’s the French touch sound that really got us hooked.”
This is obvious from their French disco-influenced remix of Zee Avi’s ‘Concrete Wall’, which we dare say improved upon the original. The sounds of Justice and Daft Punk are undeniable in the blueprint of that track. In fact, the latter was what instigated the duo’s love for music production. Daft Punk’s film Interstella 5555 had a self-composed score that communicated narrative purely through instrumentals, affecting Taufiq and Adi’s idea of composition.
The duo was formed in 2010 and started off using only FL Studio (“which we still use today, it’s really a fantastic piece of software”), they got their first gig with We Are Mutants and The M.I.A boys, all of whom had gotten considerable repute since. This isn’t something that the boys particularly care about though, as they say “we were the underdogs, in fact we still are the underdogs.”
This could very well change though, the aforementioned Zee Avi remix had gotten them recognition and unbelievable view counts. It was even featured on a French dance site (whatisthefuque.com). Then there’s the amazing video to ‘Class of ‘91’ shot by IkanPaos Kolektif for Astro’s The MV Grant, an initiative for independent musicians to fund their music videos, which choose their winners solely by public voting. If we can surmise anything from this, Dizkopolis might just have amazing pull power.
Currently working on their debut EP, Renaissance, slated for release before this year ends, the duo have a few remixes planned in the offing. Don’t expect them to perform that often though, aside from being busy with the EP, Taufiq and Adi are students trying to balance their music production with their studies.
If you insist on knowing what they’re like on stage though, they have this to say;-
“[Imagine] a set with a heavy dose of funk and euphoric synthy journey.” Better yet, just come to the Dance Punk Party: Joy Division Tribute this 9 June at DoPPel Kafe.
LIVE LONG & PROSPER
With a name like that, you would think these guys are huge Trekkies but as it turns out, only two are while the rest are Star Wars fans. They actually got the name from the home studio they recorded at called, unsurprisingly, Enterprise. Also, c’mon now, nerds don’t look that good.
The band belongs to the new wave of bands that fall under the dance-indie-electro smorgasbord. To put on our music journo-academician hat, these guys are the after-effect of years of indie club nights like Twilight Actiongirl taking a hold of the underground music scene’s collective attention. They make music that is informed by that very phenomenon – indie rock-sensible dance music played at clubs.
An enterprise of good friends and 2 brothers – Hanafi, Helmi, Tariq and brothers Ahmad & Is – the band originally began when Hanafi, Helmi and Ahmad decided to start playing music after a long sabbatical from the scene due to a troika of commitments; work, education and personal issues. It’s only later when Tariq and Is joined their messing about in the studio that they realised they might be onto something.
Being from an indie rock and post-hardcore backgrounds (Is being a former member of Melbourne-based Super Metronome) but doing what sounds like synthy indie dance now, it’s hard to blame others for pestering them about the music they make. Genre names like dance punk, indie electro, synthpop and what not get thrown around a lot, ask them for their personal opinion of what their music sound like though and they’d tell you it’s “jungle digital frontier” in theme and mood. Don’t ask us what that means though.
Although they’ve only just started recording, a peek at their Soundcloud page would reveal 2 live sessions ‘Dreams’ and ‘LHFT’. Both telling of exactly the kind of music you can expect from these guys. However these guys have nonobvious influences in Men at Work, Erasure, Tears for Fears and Kool & The Gang.
Keeping to the mantra of a party hardy night, their music is composed for our full enjoyment, like a good night out at TAG where you don’t even have to notice Bunga on the deck. Just you, your friends, the music, and some booze to get you in the groove.
Only having performed at a handful of shows, their showing at any gig is still considered an introduction to them for the audience at large. Last Future Music Festival Asia in March saw the fledgling band performing at their first big music fest, an insane accomplishment considering how new they were. For those who stayed to watch local and regional bands play, Enterprise was one of the surprises amongst already established bands, DJs, and artistes.
With the increased amount of attention they’d gotten post-FMFA, you can expect the band to appear at more shows and an EP coming out sometime this year. Like the ship their namesake is based on, we expect them to defy insurmountable odds and crush non-believers and Borgs.
FOLLOWING OUR HEART DRUM
Diminutive boy-girl duo Eff Hakim and Mohd Faliq describe their collaboration as Pastel Lite as just “two like-minded souls having fun creating art together.” Fortunately as listeners we’re having fun too from their art. The duo came from disparate music backgrounds, Bornean lass Eff was in a pop punk band called Larissa and Faliq played in blues band The Streets. Wanting to break free from the shackles of their previous bands they found each other online.
They discovered that one thread that connects them is electronic music, something both only recently decided to dabble in. Eff describes their music as “catchy minimal electronic music combined with classic vocals that sounds like a hint of chillwave, ‘80s pop, and dream pop.” Apparent in their list of influences; Beach House, Cat Power, Joy Division, Primal Scream, and Gorillaz. Okay, maybe not in Joy Division and Primal Scream.
Sounding like Tenderfist with female vocals, Pastel Lite’s music is synthy, dancy indie pop that combines harmonic vocals with minimal electronic melodies. To date they’ve only released 4 tracks, ‘Drum Heart’, ‘Have Me’, ‘Assassin’ and ‘Winning Anthem’. The first is a bittersweet tune with anodyne vocals singing compromisingly to a lover that he “could be my best friend, and I will be your special girl.” Second is the quintenssential unrequited love dirge with Eff promising her worth as the better lover.
The third is as an aggressive of a track as the job description of its namesake. And finally the last is a winning anthem – a meta-commentary on the trifecta of tracks leading to it. And you know what? We believe them in all incarnations.
Yet Eff says that there might be a possibility of divergence in genre for Pastel Lite; “we strive to be as experimental as possible to keep our music fresh.” Which is rather vague. Whatever it is we hope they won’t stray too far from the formula they’ve established.
While things are moving at a pretty slow pace, the band’s progress is still steady. Their fanbase on Facebook seems to be increasing at a pretty respectable rate, and the band themselves have grown brave enough to be more active on social media sites. Recently they even put up a home video of their live performance.
As it is with new bands, an EP is expected soon. Pastel Lite might be a bit more ambitious than the rest though, they plan to actively tour locally by next year.
BRAINS AND THE EYE (B.A.T.E)
FUTURE DECK MASTERS
From the onset of meeting them, Waihong and Ethan Curzon come off as quintessential chipster DJs. These guys are dressed like they are ready to be recognised, both adorned in Pestle & Mortar tees (they’re sponsored), the former was more restrained with his folded khakis and the latter came complete with a retro sartorial traveling bag, the kind you’d see on a Wes Anderson movie.
If these two youngins were just any random mallrats, we would have pointed at them and quipped some trite hipster putdowns. Alas, they make up Brains and the Eye (BATE), new breeds of deckmeisters aspiring to be “the next upcoming DJ duo in the local scene.” Their eagerness and ambition are almost endearing, and for good reasons. Having regular nights at Lust KL (NOISE, every alternate Wednesdays) and Zouk (HOUSE THIS?!, every fourth Saturday of the month), these rookies are no strangers in the party scene for those who know how to look for alternatives to the usual club nights.
Try asking the two of what a typical BATE night is like and their enthusiasm translates to proclamations. “Crazy! It’s just pumping tunes after pumping tunes, which will just make you wanna move!” says Ethan, before Waihong one-ups him with a staccato of excited dance edicts; “FUN! ENERGY! GOOD VIBES! GOOD TUNES! ALL NIGHT LONG!” If you read that out loud shouting, then you imagined the right amount of fervour for their work.
Influenced by the likes of EDM greats such as Boys Noize, Laidback Luke, and Diplo on Waihong’s side, and Steve Angello and Steve Aoki on Ethan’s side, their song selections are naturally top notch. Unfortunately according to them it is hard for new DJs like them to try new things here, as Malaysians haven’t opened their ears to new sounds. But again with their eagerness and enthusiasm, the duo collectively promises to “educate them,” before guffawing at their own ambition.
Waihong and Ethan met each other during high school and had always had the same taste in music. They even graduated at the same DJ academy, Goldsounds DJ Division, and continued their bromance well after that – playing at house parties to where they are right now. Which is admittedly not that far into their career.
The duo has yet to dabble in production, but they’ve done edits here and there and will begin producing this year. And that’s exactly what we can expect of them this year, production and amplified amount of gigs and parties.
… IS THINKING OF YOU
“Only an outsider musician could know the answer to that, but I can imagine how bad it must feel to be removed from the scene.”
Only one question into our conversation with Sudarshan (Sudar) and we already made a gaffe – despite his association with the Dada antics of Kuning Pening (a frequent collaborator and bro for life), Sudarshan doesn’t identify with being an outsider musician. Maybe we were too obsessed with the idea of putting everyone into this collective scene, which is a wrongheaded move considering there is a no-wave, art school music scene where the weird reigns.
JUICE readers might have remembered Kuning Pening’s Think! Tadpole! Think!, featured 2 times in the mag last year, and their bizarre answers and seeming lack of seriousness. Sudar having been in, what, 10 of Kuning’s 100 sideprojects, we expected the same from him. But rather surprisingly Sudar answered us with the solemnity of a tortured artiste than the inexplicable responses of a performance artiste.
Another flaw in thinking Sudar is an ‘outsider’ is the accessibility of his music as a solo act. The Cloud Atlas-esque ‘Foolish’ is depressing unrequited love dirge that should have gotten wider recognition, it has none of the din of noises that would make up a typical Tiga Segi Tiga’s (or any of Kuning’s other projects’s) performance. Then there’s ‘Clubbers Mantra’, labelled as “technical r’n’b” on his Soundcloud (we have no idea what that is),
“I have always considered all my compositions for Sudarshan to be accessible and I do not intend to change this,” Sudar explained. When asked about the less than accessible tracks he’d released – such as the ones with genre names like acoustic grindcore and acoustic death funk – Sudar rather seriously described the perceived eccentricity of the tracks as “that of production quality,” which he promised to improve upon.
There’s no need for such though, latest track ‘Everlasting Acronychal Innocence’ (black metal according to Sudar) is an apotheosis of both emotionality of ‘Foolish’ with the louder instrumentals like ‘My Love’. This lack of care for genre conventions is intentional; “the various genres were picked to compliment the various feelings I was trying to express.”
The bands Sudar are associated to usually don’t last very long, if they involved Kuning that is. We wondered if there were anything by him and his peers that would stick for the long run, which turned out to be a gaffe question much like our first;-
“Sudarshan is a musical incarnation of myself that hopes to stick around for the long run. Sorry and HKPT are incarnations of myself and friends as groups that hope to stick around for the long run. I also hope to stick around for the long run with Kuning as a set of many shortlived projects.”
And we might be wrong in thinking they’re that likeminded either, Sudar listed Queen, Enya, and John Williams as influences. We expected the likes of Captain Beefheart, Stevie R. Moore, Daniel Johnston, and some weirdo beatmaker to come from his mouth, it’s either we were either trolled or Sudar just happened to make avant garde music despite his rather sterile musical influences.
It’s difficult to gauge Sudar’s seriousness and humour when talking to him. When we asked what the future holds for him, he simply answered; “death is the only certainty for Sudarshan, but I hope to penetrate the market and make a name for him before that happens.”