Archive for the ‘ music ’ Category

The Future is Rend Collective Experiment

Rend Collective Experiment (RCE) is the future. I’ve noticed that I’ve been saying that a lot lately — be it about the iPhone or iPad or the ebbs and flows of social media — but RCE here is the real deal.

Imagine this: the Rend Collective is a bolt of blue, a breath of fresh air, a streak of light across a night sky. Throwing out what we understand about modern worship out of the window, right with the baby and bathwater. Completely redefining what we consitute about the ‘sound’ of worship, infusing a whole new sense of what it should be like, and presenting with such honesty, realness and verve. Oh, I could wax lyrical about their music the whole day long if I had to. But more than that, more than the bright-eyed, whimsical musings of star-struck wonder, more than just plain good music, you can touch, feel, experience the joy of the Lord reverberating through their notes and melody.

What truly sets RCE apart is the sense of freedom that propels their music, best expressed in ‘Movements’ — in which the video perfectly illustrates their sound — it’s the liberation, the elevated joy, that we possess because of Jesus. No longer prisoners of sin but of hope. What would your reaction be if you, a slave born to a life of servitude, wretchedness and death, were told that, ‘You are set free from your slavery, your bonds are undone; you are now a king, a beloved son, and all that is in the kingdom is now yours’? Would you not shout, dance and sing? Would you not give praise to the One who broke the chains, bought you liberty?

What RCE does is reveal that freedom and that joy. And it is all too evident in their music. Like in ‘You Bled‘, it’s a song of praise, of exultant worship, contemplative but without the sombre weight that accompanies most of the music we hear from Christian bands nowadays. It’s a celebration. One that frees you to be who you are, whoever you may be, but also welcomes you with open arms; it’s not a commission or an exhortation, but an invitation! Worship in the Father’s house is always one that includes and never excludes. We are brothers and sisters all, each different and every one unique, all belonging.

And there is always dancing, that expression of pure joy, that spreads and suffuses every inch of your being, that you can’t help but sing and smile and move; united together with the sharing of that same rich exhiliration that can only come with the revelation of the price and purpose of Jesus’ sacrifice of love. It’s faith and hope and love, wrapped into one person, expressed in this music. Community.

Rend Collective Experiment shows us a whole new way of expressing worship. ‘Radical’ is not the word. Nor is ‘transcendent’. But it is real. And inclusive. And maybe that’s what we need to know most about God.

P.S There is so much to be said about the individual videos as well. iPhone worship is one example of their boundary-breaking efforts. I love their use of brass instruments, the collective scenes of fun and celebration (in ‘Movements’ and in the end of ‘You Bled’), and the mash-ups of old hymns in ‘You Bled’ (How wonderful/how marvellous and Yes, Jesus loves me) and the narrative of children. How it alludes to how we must approach the things of God like a child, and how God is best seen through their eyes of simple faith and open hearts.


You Are The Answer


I believe you are the answer
To every tear I’ve cried
I believe that you are with me
My rising and my light

Give me strength when I am weary
Give me hope when I can’t see
Through the crosses I must carry
Lord, bind my heart to thee

That when all my days are over
and all my chores are done
I may see your risen Glory
Forever where You are

Corrinne May, ‘The Answer‘ (melody adapted from Gustav Holst’s Planets Suite “Jupiter”)

Not much to say — except that I’m loving this song.

The Troubadour Aimee Mann


The lights dim. On cue, the crowds scream, hoot, catcall and cheer. Aimee, lean and long-legged, strides on stage. She slings her guitar and whips out a camera.

“Let me take a picture of you first.”

The lights come on. And the crowds cheer.

It was that kind of gig that was less a pitch-perfect performance than an authentic, stripped-down conversation with the audience. The kind that you’d be more likely to find at a live music bar around the corner in town with wooden floorboards and the chink of beer glasses than at the swankiest concert venue in the country.

It was really, a gig for the memories. And one of the reasons why listening to music on your iPod is all well and good, but to listen it to live, from a truly seasoned and accomplished performer, is a transcendent experience. You can’t really explain shelling out a not-inconsiderable amount of money to hear music you can replay a million times until you’ve been to live gig.

Before she played Save Me, one of her hugest hits:

“This song was Oscar-nominated but lost out to Phil Collins.”

Scoffing sounds reverberate throughout the audience. A loud BOOOOOO! comes from somewhere behind me.

“But I heard he’s retiring, so I’m.. glad.”

The crowd laughs.

It was just that kind of thing. She took on requests from the audience, tuned her guitar and practised for a bit on stage, even forgetting the lyrics, apologising, thinking for a while, before playing it flawlessly. No pretenses. No jitters. No pre-packaged manufactured bullsh*t. Just witnessing something great from someone who’s been in the game for more than twenty years.

Who would sing a couple of verses, stop, say, “I’m sorry, I just got better from being sick, so my voice’s a little raspy. I just need a drink of water.” She would then take a swig from the bottle perched on her music stand, and then get back right into it. No brattiness or prima donna behaviour. No hollow rousing of the audience. There really wasn’t any need to.

The best part? Her final encore piece of Voices Carry, the hit from her 80s band Til Tuesday when she had poofy hair and impeccable makeup. What a treat.

And Words


1. Miranda Lee Richards – Early November
2. The Swell Season – Falling Slowly
3.惘闻 -缘
4. Sun Kil Moon – Gentle Moon
5. Bluedawn -친절한 나의 길
6. Brendan James – Manchester
7. Caribou – Sunsesame

惘闻: Post-Rock From Another Universe

sevenobjects7 Objects In Another Infinite Space

This is striking gold. Like laying eyes on fresh manna for the first time in the day. The moment when you’re arrested by something (or someone) so perfect and beautiful that you have the wind knocked out of you and it takes everything in you just to keep a calm smile on your face.

Well, I might just be exaggerating. A little. But 惘闻 ‘s post-rock magic from northeastern China comes pretty close. Especially after the 4568th replaying of all of Explosion In The Sky’s albums.

I’m savouring this beauty on anniversary of the most important Friday in the history of human existence, laying back in bed with the sun on my skin, eyes closed, whisked off into a different universe.

Star-Filled Evening


Even before the gig had begun, it started playing out with Run Lola Run type of intensity, set to ‘Ageless Beauty’ and ‘Set Yourself On Fire’: three sets of characters trying to get into the gig venue together, because one person had all the tickets, and all were arriving at different times.


F strolls around the Esplanade with his girlfriend. Bright fluoroscent lights from the ceilings, while soft glows from the shops around beckon. Excited-looking youths stream around them, each trying to outdo each other with white Doc Martens or huge geek glasses or skinny jeans or fashionably-tossed bed hair.

“Is this band any good?” she pouts.

“They’re great, lah. Trust me.” F reassures her.

“But I don’t think I even know one of their songs.” she frowns, unconvinced.

“You will, after the gig. The band is tight, okay.” F brushes off her concerns, fully confident in his musical aesthetics.

“Where’re your friends?”

F looks at his watch. Eight-thirty. “Dunno leh. R said he’ll sms when he’s coming.. he’s got rehearsals or something.”

“Okay. How many albums they have?”


Close-up of a big, chunky watch on lean arms and wrist. It reads eight-thirty. It’s outdoor, with the overhead street lamps washing a warm amber hue over the empty streets. Funky beats from the soundtrack gives a quirky discordant tempo to the tranquil surroundings.

“Wah lau, the taxi is late..” R complains. He tugs at his vest in annoyance.

J, his wife, smiles. “Dear, you sure you told them the correct place?”

“Of course, lah. I even told her it was Kallang..”

“Better SMS JZ and F.”

“Yah..” R whips out his mobile from his bag.


I’m emerging from the City Hall MRT and entering Citylink when the message comes in, playing the familiar tune of piano keys tinkling.

Hey, J and I will be late, waiting for the cab we called. See you at the entrance. Closeup of my mobile phone, noticeably beat up and patched together with ugly brown masking tape.

“Heng ah, I thought I was the latest.” I think to myself, breathing a sigh of relief.

I strain my legs as I open my stride and try to walk fast without looking like a dork half-walking and half-running. I dodge and weave through the crowd with distorted guitars and Amy Millan‘s voice overhead.

I cast a quick glance at the breakdancers at the halfway point, slowing my pace down as to glimpse, regrettably, at the photo exhibition held along the walls leading toward the Esplanade. Quick shots of the prints and text interspersed with my scuttling legs.


“Crap lah, we go in first.” F is moving slowly through the teen-hipster crowd with tickets in hand. His other hand is clasped around his girlfriend’s, making sure she doesn’t get separated in the thick of the throng.

“But later how? Their tickets?” she asks.

“I’ll come out when they SMS me.” he hands two tickets to the usher, who directs him into the concert hall.


Quick cut back to R&J, who are bundling into the back of their blue-coloured cab, shifting their bags around.

“Esplanade?” He looks over his shoulder in his faded brown checkered shirt.

“Yes uncle! Hurry!” J points ahead with her index finger from the backseat as R fiddles with his iPod.

Ground-up POV as the taxi takes off in a cloud of exhaust fumes. Close up of R&J’s hands brushing each other’s, before panning to their anxious-looking faces. The city skyline appears in the distance through their windows, sky already dark, cast with a faint glow from the city lights.


Scene cuts back to me, typing a message out on my phone.

“H…e….y… m..a…n,… I’…m… h…e…r…e… W..h..e..r..e…. a..r…e… y…o…u.. g..u..y…s..?”

Message Sent

I stroll aimlessly around the foyer, watching the crowd stream into the concert hall. I lean on the railings, trying to spot F or R&J in the masses.

A while later, a mobile phone tune causes my attention to shift. I whip out my phone and read the new incoming message.

“Just got into the cab. On the way now and will be slightly late, sorry… call F.”


“Wah lau, the seats suck, man..” F complains as he leads his girlfriend to their seats in the bleeder areas of the concert hall.

“What to do.. still can hear the music what.”

“But the band will be tiny specks. That is not good, leh.” F replies, indignant.

The girlfriend says nothing, but rolls her eyes in response. Quite obviously, she’s heard it all before.

“Basket sia, dunno why they not here yet..”

“Check your phone?”


Quick cut again to R&J. They’re pouring out of the cab, grabbing the change without looking, R almost pulling J along by the arm.

“Oh man, it’s past nine already…” R says, stealing a glimpse at his wristwatch.

“Oh, no! I don’t want to miss the first song!” J pouts.


The number you have just called is currently unavailable..

“Eh wah lau, why cannot get thru..”

I hit the “End Call” button and try again. The same message plays.

“Man, he must already have gone in..”

I flop onto one of the benches, tapping my fingers on the surface. I watch the last few stragglers dash to show their tickets to the ushers, before running into the concert hall. The tempo of the soundtrack increases, reflecting my impatience.

My phone rings.

“Eh! JZ! Where are you ah?” F asks.

“I’m right here. At the entrance!”

“Where? I don’t see you..”

I start walking around, looking out for F.

“Eh, I see you!”

I turn my head and see F emerging from the concert hall. I hang up and wave at him.

“Alright, man. Were you trying to call me?”

“Yeah, but couldn’t get through. Inside have no reception, you know.”

“Yah! That’s why I came out.”

“Oh yeah, you have the Mogwai tickets too?”

“Yup, here..” he fishes out the tickets from his wallet.

“Ahahahaha..  yes!!” I flash them about in triumph, for no reason in particular.


Two pairs of legs are puttering across the clean marble floors. The background blurs as the camera follows R&J dashing to the concert hall entrance.

The walkways are nearly empty, and the shutters of the shops in the Esplanade are halfway down. The soundtrack fades into the foreground, beats intensifying.

“Quick quick quick..”


“Eh! They’re here!” F says.

“Hey guys!”

R&J come down the steps, looking flustered.

“Hey, sorry man..” R says.

“Never mind. Let’s go!” F strides to the first level entrance, whipping out the tickets to the usher.

“Sorry, sir. Please go to your left and take the escalator to your right.” the usher smiles. “Please hurry as you will not be allowed into the concert hall if the performance has begun. You have about one minute left.”

“Wah lau, where is the escalator?” F says.

“There! Come, follow me!” I point out the escalator, back up the same steps R&J had just come down from. They both laugh when they realise this.

F hands the tickets to the usher at the other entrance.

“Bag check, please.”

R&J with their barang-barang have to accede to the compulsory, time-wasting affair.

“Where now?”


We take the escalator up, where another usher greets us. “You have seconds left before the performance starts. You probably have to run.” He points us to another end of the hall.

“Man, this is like running to catch a bus or something..” R huffs as we sprint up the stairs.

“Or a flight.” I grin, taking two steps at a time.

“Yeah, this place does look like an airport..” J offers.

“Hahaha! Yah lor, this place really like an airport!” F says, already metres ahead of us.

Finally, we reach the magic entrance leading into the concert hall itself. But it’s too late.

“Sorry, the performance has already started..” the usher says, stretching a forbidding arm across the entrance.

And the soundtrack fades out as we look at each other in dejection.

Details are as I recall and reimagine at 3AM in the morning


First gig of 2009, and it’s been a blast. After the performance we talked about how uncool the band looked but had such energy and verve that when they pranced and grooved to their own music that it didn’t really matter. Because it was really all about the music and the wholly transforming experience that it is to hear them live.

They threw flowers into the crowd, from the dozens of bouquets they had on stage, and hurling up clouds of flower petals as in caught up in some private celebration, not caring what it said about them because they were rock stars and they were on the stage with fifteen hundred people paying good money to watch and listen to them and they were just really glad to be there for the first time ever.

When they played ‘Calendar Girl’ I immediately thought of you and thought about how I had let you down. But the music was so good and I only wished that you could be there listening to the same song I was listening to, even if it meant that we could only do so  seated in different corners of the hall.

It’s really amazing how Torquil Campbell‘s and Amy Millan’s voices meld so well together; so well that I couldn’t help feeling we take it for granted, that we don’t realise how special and rare that is, especially when so much of the music we put through our ears is so slickly manufactured and packaged that we can’t tell where it really comes from.

But Millan’s voice is something else. It’s silk and cream, willowy soft but also so full and rich that it becomes something so unreal in a way you can’t really put the words together to describe it. It eludes you, infuriatingly, but beautifully, because you don’t really need to understand why it makes you feel the way you do; you just need to stop thinking and allow yourself to listen.

And as you just hear and feel that liquid gold trickle down your soul you don’t need to wonder why Millan’s voice makes you think of the most beautiful person you know. You just do. And you remember that person’s smile, or how her eyes look when she does, or the way her voice sounds in the morning.

with thanks to Justin

The Brilliant Isolation

Listening to Bon Iver‘s For Emma, Forever Ago (thanks again, Robin)

I don’t know if listening to Justin Vernon’s debut album would not be as impactful or moving without the knowledge of what went into the making of For Emma, but it is the knowing of the context surrounding what he put into this record that allows one a deeper understanding of the layers found in his music.

At the end of 2006, Vernon retreated into three months of wintry solitude in a log cabin after losing his band of ten years and his girlfriend, hunting deer for food, sawing logs for warmth and in that isolation poured everything out into this solo effort, all recorded using ancient equipment.

“To hide away, to just have some stillness. I had nowhere else to go … there were a lot of things underneath a lot of surfaces in my life that I needed to deal with. And I think the space given to me by the woods, both the mental and physical space, gave me so much room to breathe and excavate and examine.”

Then the record plays out to me stark, hyperreal, infused with some sort supernatural quality in his searing, airy falsetto; acoustic guitar solitary, isolated, swept on the winds of the winter chill, and his voice so light but deep and haunting, carrying his silent anguish, his tenuous grasp on hope, his bitterness, regret and his defiance.

His is a kindred voice, and through this marvel of a record he takes us with him on his journey of self-realisation and reveals, with wonder, the purest form of personal expression.

Listen to this alone, in the quiet, with no one else around you. Close your eyes. And let yourself go into that brilliant isolation.

Solace my game, solace my game
It stars you
Swing wide your crane, swing wide your crane
And run me through

And the story’s all over you
In the morning I’ll call you
Can’t you find a clue when your eyes are all painted Sinatra blue

What might have been lost
Don’t bother me

– from The Wolves (Act I & II)