Silence speaks volumes
Chiang Mai-based independent label Minimal Records serves up a collection of delectable indie-folk offerings that brilliantly demonstrate the time-honoured spirit of DIY.
Various Artists/ Minimal’s Less
While a handful of emerging Thai bands are busy exploring shoegaze and post-rock elements (see Ziriphon Fireking in our Playlist, right), the delicate, laid-back allure of folk rock still strikes a chord with many local musicians and music fans in a very big way. Much like pop, the gentle sound of acoustic guitar combined with uplifting lyrics is something most people can comfortably get into and never seem to quite get enough of.
Based in the vibrant city of Chiang Mai, Minimal Records is home to a new crop of young, talented artists who mainly trade in these simple, yet gorgeous melodies. The label’s first compilation, aptly titled Minimal’s Less, showcases its talents through 11 wonderful tracks courtesy of eight different DIY bands and musicians.
Setting the tone of the compilation is Archemidis by Boy Imagine. The architect-turned-folk troubadour possesses the fluid songwriting skills reminiscent of the early Jason Mraz and vocal inflection that recalls Jack Johnson. “So where is this so-called true love? I’m never satisfied with what I’ve found/So I continue to measure it profoundly/Until I get to all the centimetres, millimetres, micrometres and nanometres,” he half sings and half speaks against the acoustic guitar.
Boy Imagine’s second contribution, Post Modern, continues in the same musical vein, with the lyrics that seems to draw inspiration from his days of being an architect: “When you came into my life/The sketch that I’d never been happy with suddenly turned perfect/You don’t have to change a single thing.”
Both View From The Bus Tour, a side project of Solitude Is Bliss frontman Thanaphol “Fender” Chumkhammool, and Mike Sriviengping also contribute two tracks to the compilation. The standouts amongst these are A Day of Realism by the former, and the five-minute acoustic instrumental A Little Man by the latter.
Another lush acoustic instrumental arrives in the form of Yung Lai [Yellow Fever Mosquito] by Sapap Supap guitarist Joe Enso. The only complaint we have about this particular number is its economical length (two and a half minutes — the shortest on the entire album). Album closer, Sha Ta, by Chor Hor Mor has elements of plaeng pua cheewit (literally “songs for life” — folk rock and socio-political protest music). Its poignant lyrics remind us to stay humble by “looking up into the skies, then down into the waters so that you realise your place in the world”.
Is Minimal’s Less a groundbreaking collection? Definitely not. But it is perhaps the most sincere album you will have the pleasure of listening in a long while. What’s more, the spirit of DIY that emanates from each track offers the kind of warmth that’s lacking in most albums available today. Minimal’s Less is one of those introspective collections you could dedicate hours mulling over. It is soft-spoken and taciturn, but most of all it feels remarkably human. n
Ziriphon Fireking/ Prom (Ready)
It would appear shoegaze/post rock is becoming a go-to sound for a lot of local indie bands these days. Following our review of Harigeum Zaboy’s debut album last week, we have on our shoegaze roster another up-and-coming quintet with a curious name, Ziriphon Fireking. Their instrumental single, Prom (Ready) calmly starts off with strummed electric guitars, and like an oncoming wave, it begins to surge towards you with swirling walls of sounds. Before you know it, you’re entirely engulfed in warm instrumentation. The track may push near 10 minutes, but it’s packed full of pure sonic bliss.
Petite Noir/ Chess
Petite Noir is a solo project of singer/producer Yannick Iluga, a Cape Town implant whose musical styles are often elusive and hard to pinpoint. His excellent latest offering, a little heartbreak ditty called Chess, possesses a whiff of sonic influences that are as polarising as TV on the Radio and LCD Soundsystem. Iluga deftly manoeuvres in and out his cool baritone, and then surprises you with a feathery falsetto when you least expect it. Liking what you’re hearing? There’s more where that comes from on Petite Noir’s recently released five-track EP, The King of Anxiety.
Ben Haenow/ Something I Need
Scruffy 30-year-old Ben Haenow is the latest commodity churned out by the pop-star manufacturing machine that is the British talent show The X Factor. Here, the winner of the 11th season of the programme gives us a cover of OneRepublic’s 2013 hit Something I Need. Haenow’s version is a faithful and straightforward rendition of the original, so expect nothing else apart from infectious stadium-pop goodness paired with a vaguely uplifting hook about wanting to die with that someone special because you only die once.
The Bohicas/ XXX & Swarm
Made up of Dominic McGuinness (vocals), Dominic John (guitar), Adrian Acolatse (bass) and Brendan Heaney (drums), British four-piece The Bohicas trade in cool, swaggering rock ’n’ roll that feels both nostalgic and modern. Technically two separate tracks, their double lead single with an equally cool title, XXX & Swarm, are best experienced as a whole. The former comes equipped with brooding, buzzing guitar riffs and unrelenting drums before the latter picks the pace right up, flirting with the metal-rock territory complete with cowbells and booming electric guitars. Signed to famed Domino Records, these guys could be the new Arctic Monkeys minus all their latter-day pretensions.
Years & Years/ King
After releasing a trickle of singles last year including Real, Take Shelter and Desire, the London-based electro-pop trio Years & Years celebrate their entry into the finals of BBC Sound of 2015 with a new one called King. As with their last cut, King bursts with the potential to become a legitimate club banger with its bright Balearic beats and glorious synths. “I was a king under your control/I wanna feel like you’ve let me go,” frontman Olly Alexander croons before breaking into a euphoric falsetto. n