By Adlin Rosli
Azmyl Yunor – Tenets
Is there some strange community run by Neil Young, Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan over in Bangi that we didn’t know about? Judging from Bangi-based singer-songwriter Azmyl Yunor’s Tenets EP, the answer is possibly yes. The music in this CD-r release (with colour-copied-inlay cover) sounds uncannily like the work of some ragged American folk singer, right down to the southern drawl. Nothing could sound more removed from what we would expect from Bangi, or a cheap demo-looking album.
Don’t hold sounding mat salleh against Azmyl though, it’s not a big deal in our world of local hip-hop musicians sounding black and our Malay-language rock bands sounding Indonesian. What should be made a fuss are the five songs on Tenets. Just using his voice, harmonica, keyboards, e-bow and guitars, Azmyl has created a very haunting, soul-baring recording capable of making even hardened underwear gang members weep from the melancholia.
“Given up on finding any worth, some say it’s fate, some say it’s a curse,” he laments on “Charity Lane.” Recurring themes that Azmyl conjures for listeners weigh heavy with heartbreaks, longing and disillusionment. But Azmyl’s voice really gets it across. There’s a gruff quality to his pipes that makes every word sound perfectly desperate and necessary.
Azmyl himself is an enigma as strange as his music. Aside from writing his compelling solo material, he also plays drums for prank-punk band Ben’s Bitches (known for crass toilet humour) and guitar for experimental rockers Maharaja Commission (and we do mean “love it/hate it” experimental).
Given his versatility, the absence of drums on this album is unusual, but it also adds to the immense sense of sparseness and hopelessness. The instruments that Azmyl do use swell will massive resonance – nothing to distract us from his melodies’ poignant embrace. Remember the old drummer put-down joke? (What do you call a person who hangs out with musicians?) Tenets seems to prove that this is true once and for all.
Azmyl’s chirpier side almost comes through during “Coming Home.” It’s a sweet track that has Azmyl confiding in the listener on his attempt to stay in Malaysia after being abroad for so long. “Home is where I’ve never tried to live,” he croons. Is that you sounding almost happy, Azmyl? Whoah. Better calm down now, we don’t want you to stop writing depressing songs.
Word is that Azmyl is going to start work on a full-length album soon to follow Tenets. Hurry up man! We want to hear more. Get the album at www.yat.ch/yunor.
Tragicomedy – Songs That Won’t Sell
Amitabh Chandra, the man who is essentially Tragicomedy, is your regular brainiac. His intellect was stamped all over his previous band Amigone – from the complex music to the philosophical lyrics. His band was even dubbed “the thinking man’s rock band” while it was active in the late ’90s to the early ’00s. Amitabh went on a hiatus after Amigone ended its run.
Cut to the present and the man is back as Tragicomedy, an outfit he created (more like a name he adopted) to make radio-friendly rock and catchy songs. The kind of music you expect Hitz.fm radio would play – music designed to upset music snobs who get off from declaring anything on radio crap and only like bands that a maximum of three of their friends have heard.
Thing is, the masses don’t need intelligent – Cheeky Girls and Baha Men are musical winners in the ears of the mainstream. Amitabh’s music appears to be a little too clever for his target audience. Just look at the band name and the ironic album title: Songs That Won’t Sell. His lyrics carry profound observations like: “we sell our lives for minimum wage, but in our dreams we dream for free.” In all likelihood, the everyday person doesn’t really care for irony or existentialism. Your typical Ali, Ah Chong and Raju just want a good pop song they can hum to.
However, Amitabh does nail making great pop right on the head on a few tracks. “Never Lonely,” Tragicomedy’s first single, is exemplary pop craft. The song is ridiculously catchy, has a great hook and stuffed with memorable melodies. The lyrics, a sweet ode to his then girlfriend (now his wife), couldn’t be more apt. “Great New Life,” “Tomorrow’s Yesterday” and the album’s title track also display Amitabh’s talent for catchy melodies. The lyrics, however, become increasingly brainier over the other songs.
You can almost sense Amitabh’s inner conflict: trying to write songs that appeal to many while conveying thoughts that appeal to a few. This resulted in an album with an uneven feel. When Chandra wants to soar with his mushy pop-songs, he does. His uncertainty in conveying the thoughtful side of Tragicomedy, however, might make Songs That Won’t Sell just a little more self-fulfilling.
Shanon Shah – Dilanda Cinta
Kakiseni readers, you should know Shanon Shah, right? He was recently featured in a two-part article alongside Jerome Kugan where both parties discussed everything music. Music is definitely something Shanon knows plenty about. His album Dilanda Cinta is one of the most self-assured debut pop release to have hit the music shelves by a home grown musician in a long time. Whoah! Don’t get excited now, it’s not pop in a bad way. It’s more vintage Elton John than contemporary Lindsay Lohan.
Shanon wrote all but one of the songs on this ten-track CD. He sounds confident on all of them. The songs all swell out of your speakers thanks to the lush arrangement and use of various musical elements. From little ethnic touches in “Api,” orchestral leanings in “Beku” to bluesy vibes on “Jurutera,” the man’s music is an all encompassing giant rojak bowl of his varying influences.
In spite of the sonic grandeur, Shanon never loses his head, opting to combine the music with very personal lyrics. His love for making music is revealed most candidly on “Jurutera,” a tongue-in-cheek autobiographical ditty about how his music had to be put on hold while he became an engineer.
Ballads are obviously Shanon’s strength. His crowning achievement in this department is easily the album’s closer, “Angkasawan.” This isn’t an easy track to pull-off- he’s describing to his lover that he feels like an astronaut as he watches the stars with this significant other. “Angkasawan” could have been completely cheesy, but somehow, it works.
The album isn’t without its glitches though. Most glaring of which is the album’s opener, title track “Dilanda Cinta.” While you can hear that the song wants to be a seductive and breezy bossa nova piece, the result sounds more like an RTM montage than an evening at an exotic beach.
Thankfully, one little misstep does not ruin the overall enjoyment of Dilanda Cinta. The track likely to be Shanon’s first radio-saturating single is probably his cover of the old ’80s Gersang classic, “Masih Aku Terasa.” Yes, the old song that made the soundtrack to many people’s youth in 1989 is back! If there’s any justice in this world, this song will be all over Era.fm, attracting the masses in droves to check out Shanon’s other self-penned quality songs. Folks in the music circle have already been for a while getting all hot and bothered about Shanon Shah. After listening to his album, it’s not hard to understand why.
(Shanon’s album is available at major music stores)
Freelance writer Adlin Rosli was until very recently a full time writer with Klue. He is also the vocalist for Lied and a gig organiser.
First Published: 22.06.2005 on Kakiseni