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TAV's Top 20 of 2020!

TAV's Top 20 of 2020!

It's hard to know where to begin with 2020 - with all the anxieties and uncertainty that came with the pandemic. With that also allowed a much-needed pause to all the human activity, that for a long time felt like a loop, numbing our sensitivity to the precious gift of life.

Thankfully, music has helped us to communicate those intricate emotions, connect us to each other, bring about pathways of different perspectives and allow a certain ease to life. We could not ask for more to have the opportunity to spend 2020 in a record store, listening to all the amazing artists both past and present. Thank you for the gift of love! Here's a list, in no particular order, of some of our favourite releases this year - both in terms of reissues and new music.

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Thelonious Monk - Palo Alto | Impulse!

“It’s not the notes you play, it’s those you leave out,” - Thelonious Monk

The legendary jazz pianist’s 1968 concert at Palo Alto High School, recorded by a janitor and shelved for decades, captures some of the fiercest, most spirited versions of his quartet’s core repertoire. There were no plans to preserve the one-off concert, but a school janitor asked if he could record the set if he were to tune the piano (New York Times 17/9/20). Luckily for us, this special moment was allowed to be captured and 52 years later, Impluse! Records along with Legacy Recordings decided to release this gem for our ears. In true Monk style, hearing this record in 2020 still exhibits his spirit of creativity and shows us what "style" really means. Unique and inspiring! P.S. - Big up to the Janitor, whose name can't be found.

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Nujabes - Modal Soul | Hydeout Productions

This is a no brainer for us! Many have came through the vault looking for this throughout the year from different age groups - seeing their faces light up upon checkout brings a smile to us. It's truly a special LP for all music lovers dedicated from the one and only Nujabes.

This 2005 LP is still regarded as one of his finest albums, and it was the last studio album the prolific producer completed before his untimely passing in 2010. Here it gets the reissue treatment, appearing on vinyl for the first time, thanks to the Hydeout Production crew. Modal Soul presents a heartfelt spin on that jazzy hip hop sound back in the early 2000s - classic warm sounds of vintage samplers, perfectly curated loops, along with soul touching melodies that flow throughout the whole LP seamlessly. Featuring some notable collaborations  with both rappers and singers such as Terry Callier and Apani B, a must listen if you have not heard it! In our opinion, a timeless LP. 

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Black Jazz Records | Real Gone Music Reissues

Real Gone Music reissued some rare and extremely hard-to-find titles from the Black Jazz Catalog this year! The legendary Black Jazz Records was founded in 1969 in Oakland, California fronted by Gene Russell and Dick Schory. Home for many emerging African-American artists ranging from all sorts of styles such as Soul-Jazz, Free Jazz and spiritual Jazz. These reissues sounded mint to us and do justice to the complex sonic qualities presented by Black Jazz Records.

The legacy continues to live on with a new generation of listeners discovering its catalogue through prominent samples in Hip-Hop. Hints of Soul-Jazz , Free-Jazz, Funk and sprinkles of the spiritual can be found in most of the artists on their roster, truly makes for a special listen throughout. A must check out for all Jazz lovers!

Walter Bishop Jr. – Coral Keys

Piano man Walter Bishop Jr here with the strong follow up to Gene Russel's first outing on Black Jazz! A full album of original pieces recorded in 1971 that showed Black Jazz's commitment and quality as a label. Uplifting soul-jazz at its finest.

"Think Herbie Hancock's '60s Blue Note recordings gently polished with a soul jazz sheen; this is some tasty stuff that's been hard to find for way too long."
- Real Gone Music

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The Awakening - Hear, Sense and Feel

 

Hear, Sense and Feel lands right in that sweet spot between free jazz, afrocentric explorations of the Art Ensemble of Chicago and rhythm-rooted soul jazz. A wonderful excursion you'll be very glad you plunged into! 

 
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VA - Wamono A – Z Vol. 1

Grooves for days here on this great jazz-funk collection, compiled by soul, funk and rare groove specialists DJ Yoshizawa Dynamite and DJ Chintam. Guiding you through some of the best and rarest jazz funk and rare groove tunes produced in Japan between 1968 and 1980, needless to say this compilation is noteworthy and deserving of a place on your shelf! Shoutout to Zujago for the excellent in-depth feature about this compilation! 

 

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Blue Note Tone Poet Series



The excellent sounding Blue Note Tone Poet Series was born out of Blue Note President Don Was’ admiration for the exceptional audiophile Blue Note LP reissues presented by Music Matters. Mastered from the original tapes by Kevin Gray (Cohearent Audio) and vinyl is manufactured at Record Technology Incorporated (RTI). An amazing series - pressing is done with plenty of TLC and it really shines when you place your needle on each record. Definitely a winner for 2020! 


Bobby Hutcherson – The Kicker 



Recorded in 1963 - The Kicker was actually the first album by vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson but for some reason lost to time it was shelved. It was later then released in 1999 on CD and lucky for us, through the tone poet series, the music is revived on vinyl! A sequel to guitarist Grant Green’s masterpiece Idle Moments, The Kicker features the same all-star line up with saxophonist Joe Henderson, pianist Duke Pearson, Green on guitar, Bob Cranshaw on bass and Al Harewood on drums. Phenomenal album and an essential one for any serious Blue Note fan!



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Grant Green – Nigeria

 

An underrated from the guitarist's remarkable catalogue on Blue Note! Recorded in 1962, first released in 1980 and now available to us in true quality, this top-shelf band puts the blue in blue note! Sonny Clark on piano, Sam Jones on bass, and, in one of his only appearances with Green, Art Blakey on drums - going straight in from the very start and riding it smooth and tight all the way through. Absolute perfection!


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Ryo Fukui – A Letter From Slowboat | We Release Jazz



This year, we were also finally blessed with an official and excellent sounding reissue of the final, and most contemporary sounding album from the legendary Hokkaido pianist behind Scenery and Mellow Dream. Ryo Fukui's A Letter From Slowboat was lovingly remastered at half speed and put out to the world by We Release Jazz.

"This album was recorded on January 25th and 26th 2015 at Sapporo jazz club Slowboat, a venue founded by Ryo Fukui in 1995 where he played countless times. It is a magnificent and very personal contemporary jazz offering, fluid, skillful, and full of breathtaking solos. 100% love! With Takumi Awaya (bass) and Ittetsu Takemura (drums)." - We Release Jazz

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Verve / Acoustic Sounds Reissues



"Verve's answer to the Tone Poets" sees classics from the catalogue being given the audiophile grade treatment they deserve in 2020! Utilising the skills of the top mastering engineers and the unsurpassed production craft of Quality Record Pressings, all titles will be mastered from the original analog tapes, pressed on 180-gram vinyl and packaged by Stoughton Printing Co. in high-quality tip-on gatefold jackets. Definitely a series to watch out in 2021 and a blessing for all Jazz Lovers in 2020! 


John Coltrane –  A Love Supreme / Ballads



Here we have John Coltrane's most culturally significant albums, A Love Supreme for the spiritual wanderers and Ballads for the romantics. Without a doubt, one of the most prolific figures in Jazz next to Miles Davis, Coltrane's influence continues to be heard in today's music and beyond. If you've held off from getting a copy of these absolute essentials for whatever reason, 2020 just gave you a very good reason to give in!  

 

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Nina Simone – Pastel Blues / I Put A Spell On You 

Classic 1959 Nina Simone here in audiophile quality! Both albums here are 100% certified timeless, covering such important issues like race and equality, and remain as vital and relevant as ever years later.




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John Scofield - Swallow Tales | ECM Records

John Scofield's outing for ECM Records this year almost didn't get its fair rotation at the vault this year, but thanks to a friend at the vault, we had a listening session and boy were we glad we did! Absolutely classy and non intrusive, yet full of spirit and intricacies from the guitarist and backing trio. The whole LP was recorded in just one day, celebrating the music of friend and mentor Steve Swallow.

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Yanti Bersaudara – ST | La Munai Records

 

Yanti Bersaudara, aka the Yanti sisters here with their spiritual and magical album from 1971! Released by a dedicated label La Munai Records, also responsible for the reissue of Harry Rosli's Titik Api. Perfect for getting in touch with the strong Sundanese cultural heritage we have here in our region. The sisters were from Bandung (West Java) and were known for their beautiful voices and unique harmonies. A highly mesmerising and slightly psychedelic listen that only gets better as you go deeper into the album. 

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Nubya Garcia – Source

 

Blending numerous styles from her youth, Nubya Garcia takes us on a journey here with her 2020 release on concord jazz. Garcia has truly earned her place in UK jazz with this one. The mood on 'Together Is A Beautiful Place To Be' exemplifies what Source is really about - "being okay with reaching out to people and supporting one another." A much needed notion for getting through this year!



 

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Brahja – Brahja | RR GEMS



We got introduced to this album late in 2020 and we got to say that artwork is as striking as it gets, a head-turner for sure! The music doesn’t disappoint either and makes for a great listen throughout. Devin Brahja Waldam - Saxophonist, drummer, Composer / Artist out of New York City. Here he leads the ensemble BRAHJA, where they have been playing in one form on another since 2008. The group currently consists of 10 musicians coming out of Montreal, NYC, Chicago and Washington DC.

Overall the whole LP has an addictive quality to it, a cross between Kamasi Washington, Joe Henderson and a sprinkle of Pharoah Sander's spirit. The melodies draw you in like a crafty snake charmer, addressing both the dark moments and the brighter side of things. Thank you to RR Gems
, a label from Estonia pushing experimental sounds for releasing such a gem! Perfect LP to sum up 2020 - Highly recommended!



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Mong Tong – Mystery | Guruguru Brain

 

Psychedelic / Synth-wave/ Video-game music inspired outfit from Taipei! Here on their full-length debut Mystery - brothers Hom Yu and Jiun Chi put together seven tracks of celestial sounding psychedelia that fits perfectly into the catalogue of one of our current favourite labels - Gurugurubrain.

Largely based around samples, synths and a steady grooved out bass-line, Mystery is definitely worth a listen from start to end, with each listening session bringing about a special insight into the mystery world they have created.



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Meitei – Kofu | Kitchen Label

Meitei closes his trilogy of lost Japanese moods with his transportive form of ambient music, taking you through a journey of delicately crafted moods and emotions. Once again, Meitei continues his focus on a Japan that has Long ceased to be. Fractured Piano chords, nostalgic vocal chants and processed rhythmic patterns, Kofū is a special listen from start to end and a lovely conclusion to his trilogy.

Released by one of our favourite labels 
@kitchen_label - LP sounds amazing and the packaging & design is immaculate, complete with a 16 page insert! 

 

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.gif – Hail Nothing | TAV Records

Definitely fans of the artists we have released on our sidecar label here, so here's Hail Nothing! The anticipated 2nd album by @dotgifdotgif is also the 2nd release on TAV Records, and their love song to the void couldn't have come at a more fitting time.

Released right around circuit breaker, it's a literal ode to chaos and nothingness, and boy was it felt. A truly refined sound by the duo, working with Jason Tan on production to lay down a solid foundation for Weish’s haunting vocals and poignant lyrics. L
ovely artwork by @marcgabrielloh perfectly capturing the mood of the LP.

 

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Intriguant – Spirits | TAV Records


 
Spirits almost didn't make it to TAV before 2020 came to a close - delays due to the lockdowns put pressing plant Dublin Vinyl in a real pickle. But boy did they deliver despite this! Excellent quality once again, we couldn't have asked for more. Perfect way to close out 2020 on TAV Records here, with Intriguant dishing out his 3rd album for our label's 3rd offering!

Driven by 90s breakbeats, shaped 808s, imagined club sounds and bass-heavy Burial-like textures, Spirits is aimed both at late-night vanguards and personal home listening rooms. 

To celebrate the arrival of the LP, he's recorded a mix that's perfect for your NYE house party with your 8 socially distanced friends or loved ones. Put it on and turn it up! Check it out here.


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(Very) Honourable Mentions:

Narrowing down our top picks is always a challenge here at the vault, so here's some more favourite records were played here repeatedly: 

Hanging Up The Moon - For The Time Being



A breath of fresh air from one of our favourite bands in Singapore! HUTM has played for a fair few of our events now, from The Analog Assembly, to OutIn and our Anniversary Livestream on SGCR most recently. This EP was a lovely little surprise from the group this year, pressed on 7’’ at 33rpm. A bit more of a lighter mood in the instrumentation on this one, while lyrically retaining the signature HUTM wistfulness as they touch on themes like loss and resignation. Hard times for the time being only!

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George Chua - Smokescreen | Ujikaji



Through our many musical interactions at the vault, George has personally taught us to seek the meditative qualities in all sorts of music through our short but sweet listening sessions together. His release on Ujikaji this year is definitely fiercely experimental, and also begs the question; what's behind the smokescreen? Read more in our interview with George here. 



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Junius Paul - Ism | International Anthem



Another experimental one that got our interest, this time from the jazz world! A bridge between generations of the Chicago vanguard, currently playing in Makaya Mcraven’s combo and in the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Junius Paul pushes forward as a creative Musician, carrying with him the spirit and knowledge he’s gathered from those who came before him. The freedom expressed on Ism perfectly captures Paul’s artistic roots, while also nodding to his collective & current experience. A must listen for fans of the Chicago jazz scene!

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Avishai Cohen - Big Vicious | ECM Records

The debut album from Avishai Cohen’s exuberant band Big Vicious! A wonderful record to listen to on a cloudy, drippy day like this. Textures from electronica, ambient and psychedelia are part of the blend, with grooves and beats from rock, pop, trip hop and more. The group’s jazz beginnings root the entire record, making for a wonderful stylistic excursion.



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Thanks for checking out our top 20! If you'd like to peep at more of what we like, follow along on our instagram page where we post store updates, new arrivals and snippets of what's playing in store. Big thank you to everyone who has supported our shop and kept us going during this crazy year. Have a happy new year, and see you back here when the earth completes this rotation! 

Thank you from the TAV Team!

Thank you from the TAV Team!

Just wanted to express a big thank you to everyone who tuned in to our anniversary livestream, came by the store over the past 2 weekends, all the artists who took their time off to spend it with us, crew from BCUBE and team from SGCR for making this all happen. Thank you!!!  

Big love to our partners Singapore Community Radio for the awesome editorials and solid partnership putting the event together. Shoutout to BCUBE as well, the unofficial champion of the local scene here amplifying voices and instruments for years. Thank you for making the livestream possible! 

Congrats to all the winners as well and to everyone who participated in the giveaways, and welcome to all the new members! We hope to continue to provide a place for everyone to discover music as we continue to learn more with you. 💃💃

Both parts of the stream are archived on Singapore Community Radio's YouTube channel. 

Relive the streams here:

Part 1 ft. MZA, RAH and Darren Dubwise


Part 2 ft. Hanging Up The Moon, Intriguant and .gif


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In case you missed them, we've linked the excellent editorials on Singapore Community Radio's newly launched website here. Have a look!

1. A rare interview with store owner Sharon on the Outs and Ins of TAV through our five years and beyond!



Read at: https://www.sgcommunityradio.com/the-analog-vault-sharon-seet-interview/

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2. Intriguant gives us the lowdown on his forthcoming LP right here on TAV Records!



Read more at: https://www.sgcommunityradio.com/intriguant-spirits-album-interview-vinyl/ 

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3.  On cherished record store moments with .gif, Intriguant and Hanging Up The Moon:



Read at: https://www.sgcommunityradio.com/gif-intriguant-hanging-up-the-moon-record-store-memories/

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4. On Cherished record store memories with RAH and MZA:



Read at: https://www.sgcommunityradio.com/rah-and-mza-share-their-cherished-record-store-memories/

INside: Hail Nothing

INside: Hail Nothing

Photo Credit: Adriel Manoe

In this interview, the duo shed some light INside Hail Nothing, our latest offering on TAV Records.


Photo Credit: Din

"It’s eerily apt––and so surreal––to be releasing HAIL NOTHING in times like these; a time many of us are learning to cope with a very palpable nothingness, day to day. It's an album about embracing the void, dancing in the face of it, and we hope that in whatever funny or tragic or hopefully comforting way it helps you tide over these bleak months.- .gif

What was the writing and production process like for Hail Nothing and how would that compare to how you approached things for Soma?

Weish: We started way back in 2016, but hit bumps and lulls along the way. We perpetually had too many half-developed tracks but not enough time to complete them––we’d been travelling and gigging a lot, and got involved in a bunch of challenging projects and collaborations. By the time we sat down to revisit old sketches, nothing sounded fresh or exciting anymore.

So we decided to start from scratch. Hail Nothing was much more deliberate than Soma, both in concept and process. Production and recording were far more gruelling, too. 

Production with Jason was this ongoing conversation, with multiple revisions and new approaches to each track along the way. We love the way he used some of his own analog synths, too –– to layer over, counterpoint and complement our synths, which gave everything this raw human touch and unpredictability. It all culminated in this stark, aggressive sound that we were hoping to achieve, and more.

Vocals on past records were all done in my bedroom, where I was my own recording engineer (and worst critic). I could do hundreds of takes and cheekily patch in phrases I wanted re-sung. But this time Jason constructed a booth for me at his place, and limited me to very few takes and no punch–ins. Some of my vocal melodies have strange off–rhythms that don’t sit within the beat, and I had trouble memorising those idiosyncrasies (even though they were my own) in order to sing perfect harmonies or doubles over. I’m a nervous wreck and a perfectionist so it was quite a nightmare for me, but Jason managed to calm me and be firm with me all at once.

The entire album sounds so concise, how long was the writing process for you guys and how did you decide on the direction of the record? 

Din: “Let’s Go” was the first to be written fully and considered for the album –– I remember writing the synths for “Let’s Go” after watching Stranger Things and being blown away by the theme. From the first draft of that, to recording the last bit of vocals on “My Darling”… the whole process spanned about 4 years.

It helped that we finally decided to throw out all our folders of old ideas, and start on a blank slate. We wrote with a single vision, as opposed to earlier releases which sometimes felt like a collection of arbitrary songs we happened to have lying around.

But honestly, a big reason why everything sounds so coherent and the direction so clear, is Jason. He played a tremendous role in pushing us and reminding us what we wanted the album to convey, and with what sonic language. That’s the magic of having a producer like him. Not only is he a technical whiz, he also helped shape the overall sound. 


Pretty crazy to be releasing this right now. How were you feeling about the record as it developed? Any stand out moments?

Din: Honestly I think we were getting a bit tired of the material at some point, heh. At the time we just wanted to just release whatever we had. It was when Jason convinced Weish to re–record her vocals at a higher fidelity that things started to change I think. We buckled down to record and produce everything proper in 2019 and worked with Jason till like 2am almost every day. As we did that and heard everything being put together, it kind of renewed our faith in our own music, because we started to see (or hear rather) how nicely everything was coming together.


Very fresh collaborators here too, with Bani Haykal on the first track and Usaama Minhas on B2. How did each of these come about? 

Din: We’d always wanted to work with Bani Haykal. We’re both big fans of B-Quartet, and all of Bani Haykal’s projects, really. I remember ages ago when we were first starting out, we joked that the ultimate dream would be to collaborate with him––it was so funny at the time because we thought it was impossible. Fast forward 6 years, and we have “Only Yours”.

Weish: We met Usaama when we were playing in Cambridge a couple of years ago. He did a spoken word set so charged with conviction and emotion and artistry it made me cry. Like, sob.

Din: We stuck around after to tell him how much we loved it. He didn’t realise that we were also on the lineup and was getting ready to leave because he had to drive back up to... London, I think. He only stayed when he realised we were up next on the lineup. I think he enjoyed the set and we hung out for a bit after, and we’ve stayed in touch ever since!


Fantastic artwork too from Marc Gabriel Loh who also worked on the cover for Soma. The theme spills over really nicely too, how and why did you decide to do this? 

Weish: We really owe it to Marc for being so relentless in his pursuit of capturing the album’s essence. He went through so many rounds of drafts––all of which I loved and was happy to run with––but it took him quite a while to be happy with his own approach.

He wanted to convey the religious (well, more like a-religious) overtones in Hail Nothing –– our surrender to, almost worship of, nothingness… which was quite a recurring motif in the lyrics. So he decided to employ a visual language commonly associated with religious iconography –– the gold ornamental framing of the subject, etc. Cleverly, that also doubles up as a changing room divider for the women –– striking a paradoxical balance between the grandiosity of “Hail” and the silent, domestic vulnerability of “Nothing”. 

And these are the same women from old Shanghainese posters that he drew on for Soma –– he wanted to find some continuity with the previous record, since we’d still retained that raw, personal voice. This time, though, he glitched out their faces, rendering their identities irrelevant –– exactly the kind of erasure and emptiness that we wanted to express in the music.

He also added the “ø” –– the null or “empty set” symbol, which was such a nice touch.

Lastly, any shoutouts or people you'd like to thank for this? 

Of course. We cannot thank these people enough –– 

You guys, for putting faith in us and releasing our very first vinyl;
Jason Tan, our incredible producer;
Jonathan Kiat, Safuan Johari and our Syndicate fam for all the gruelling work;
Marc Gabriel Loh for engaging with the album so deeply;
Bani Haykal and Usaama Minhas for their special voices;
Lucius Yeo and Natasha Loh for their help in promoting the album;
Spotify Asia, Sarah Sim and her team for their support;
National Arts Council Singapore, for their patience and generosity;

And of course, all you listeners out there who have been showing the record so much love. It really means the world to us.



Listen to 'Songs that made Hail Nothing', a playlist by .gif:




Order your copy of Hail Nothing online: 
https://theanalogvault.com/products/gif-hailnothingpre-order

OutIn 011 - .gif

OutIn 011 - .gif
OutIn 011 - .gif 

This October, we're thrilled to present a rare DJ set from the indie-electronic duo, [.gif] :) 

Fresh from soul-stretching tours around the region and the UK, and with projects in film scoring and performance poetry tightly under their belt, we're really excited to see what the duo will bring to the table as DJs. 

Come through for an evening of beats, bops, tunes and company, with support from The Analog Vault selectors.

Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/726142974429649/

About [.gif]:
Tucked in between dark beats, deft lyricism and immersive vocals lies Singaporean indie-electronic duo .gif. Made up of weish and din, the pair started out in late 2012 as a passion project and shared hobby.

Following their debut of ‘saudade’ EP in 2013, the band has performed in London, Manila, KL and Jakarta, and at major festivals such as St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival, Singapore Inside Out, Singapore Writers Festival, Java Soundsfair, Baybeats, and Singapore Night Festival.

The duo have earned critical comparisons to the likes of Portishead, Little Dragon, Björk, and The xx through both local and international publications like Thump, VICE’s music channel, FasterLouder, Earmilk, Indie Shuffle, JUICE, Nylon, and Bandwagon. The pair often draws from literature, theatre and film in their music, and have most recently launched a critically acclaimed full-length album, ‘soma’.

Have a listen to 'Soma' here: