BIGSOUND 2018: How the Sounds of Singapore Stole the Show
While Australian music is the centre of BIGSOUND, international acts can shine too - take the Hear65 Singapore showcase, for example.
Header photo: Linying at Hear65 Showcase, BIGSOUND. Taken by Jasmin Osman.
Believe it or not, Asia's musical output is a hell of a lot more than K-Pop, J-Pop and BABYMETAL. Singapore, in particular, has become a hot-spot for both local music and international music alike, with the densely-packed region putting out a vast array of music on the verge of breaking out internationally, while on the other side of the spectrum, Australian musicians have found success in Singapore too - with Laneway Festival even introducing a Singapore leg in 2011. "Much of the rest of the world thinks of Asians making music as K-pop or J-pop, but I feel Aussies know it’s a lot more varied than that," said Singapore musician Vanessa Fernandez in an interview earlier this year. "Singapore musicians are self-starters and hustlers, so most of them organise their own releases & tours without labels, managers, agents and less media promotion. On the one hand, a less established, well-oiled ecosystem means it’s much more hard work, but on the other hand I feel it results in artists who are savvy on social media, have a much sharper vision of their art, and a stronger work ethic."
While BIGSOUND - the multi-day musical festival and conference that descents on Brisbane's Fortitude Valley every September - is definitely a showcase of Australian music, international music can shine through too. In 2018, the ever-popular Australian names were joined by acts from both New Zealand and Asia (Singapore and Korea most notably), and this year, we left with one feeling - Singapore's music scene is on the cusp of something incredible. The Hear65 Showcase at this year's BIGSOUND proved that despite the geographical and cultural barriers, Singaporean music is strong enough to push through these, introducing our industry to the vastness of Singapore's music scene and just how versatile and dynamic it is, even if it was only through small, bite-sized pieces.
Taking over Ric's Big Backyard on the Wednesday night - smack-bang in the middle of the conference - the Hear65 Showcase displayed the versatility of Singapore's music scene through four budding musicians on the cusp of breaking out internationally. Through these acts - Charlie Lim, Linying, Intriguant and The Steve McQueens - we were offered a slight glimpse into the future of south-east Asia's music scene and what to expect from Singapore's quickly growing music scene as it slowly but surely makes its way into the west. Get to know them a touch better and what they brought to the stage below:
Having worked with Yeo and Kllo's Simon Lam - plus the fact that he's lived in Melbourne for much of his life - Charlie Lim is already well-accustomed to the differing music culture in Australia and let's just make things clear - he completely used this to his advantage. It seems that in recent years, Australian electronic music is pivoting to a more 'live' mode, with many long-time DJ acts - Cosmo's Midnight, for example - incorporating live drums, keys, vocals and even guitar into their live shows. Charlie Lim is one step ahead, with his electro-pop, SAFIA-esque sound being presented on stage with Lim in the limelight, his vocals, guitar and keys taking centre stage for much of the show. He's got a highly accessible sound and a highly accessible live show to match, and it wouldn't surprise me to Charlie Lim be the pack of the bunch to break out first.
The cross-over Linying has with the Australian scene is incredibly obvious. Her trip-hop-like electro-pop sound is probably the one that crosses over with Australian acts the most, comparable to acts like Vera Blue as her vocals strive over dynamic, synth-focused productions with ease. Live, Linying and her crew are slightly more akin to someone like Little Dragon, with the band bringing the thick productions to life as Linying moves - physically and vocally - over the top, bringing that theatrical nature that we'd expect from Little Dragon frontwoman Yukimi Nagano in their electrifying live shows. That is, of course, except for Paycheck - her latest single - which is a bit more of a stripped-back moment in the live show that gives a refreshing break amongst Linying's dominant madness. There's a reason she was one of our favourite sets of the whole week.
In recording, Intriguant is the brainchild of Bonobo and Flume, uniting intricate, hip-hop-based percussion with walloping synth lines that sit on the more experimental side of things. "I’m a huge fan of the hip-hop culture and the progression of the music inspired by the Los Angeles beat scene and Low End Theory," he said when we caught up with him before BIGSOUND. "Some of my favourite artists are Bonobo, Nosaj Thing, Shigeto, Prefuse 73 and Amon Tobin, to name a few." However, live, the Singapore-based DJ/producer becomes a whole other beast. His set at the Hear65 Singapore Showcase previewed a darker and more menacing side of Intriguant more in-tune with someone like Willaris K., the intricacy of many of his tunes making way for driving bass kicks and thick synth that bloat and warp amongst samples and vocals.
The Steve McQueens
Topping the night off is the act that actually kicked it all off - The Steve McQueens. Half Haitus Kayote, half Jungle, The Steve McQueens' large live show packs soulful neo-funk with the upbeat friendliness that comes with having such a large live show - something The Steve McQueens well and truly put to their advantage. Driven by multiple drum sets, The Steve McQueens' live show is a percussive journey through this captivating neo-soul sound, with the group's familiarity with each other coming through their live show's unexpected jams and riffs which added a refreshing touch to an otherwise quite light show to open things off.
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