There’s been disconcerting hubbub about the shortage of gig opps for music that’s original, indie, and local – yes disbelievers, unlike Nessie and Mr. Sasquatch, it does exist. So with a shared vision to quell this quandary, DUNCE was formed; a home-based collective of musicians, visual artists, designers, writers and everything in between. A glimmer of hope for the local scene, crafted by the local scene; it’s hard to belittle such intents like that.
Through past self-organised shows, DUNCE has promoted the likes of Pixel Apartment, .gif, Fauxe, Michaela Therese, Jaydah and Intriguant, just to name a few; alongside other invited overseas guests like Australian electronica outfit Spartak, and Korean math-rock noisemakers Sighborgggg. This intimate gathering at The Lithe Paralogue Studio was no different; this time, with music store Canopus Distro, hosting Malaysian math-rockers Dirgahayu before they flew off for their Japan tour, with opening acts from ANECHOIS, the Psalms, and first of the evening, sub:shaman.
“Never mind, we’re all friends here!” uttered scene multi-tasker and vocalist Weish as she casually shrugged off song introductions. True enough, a tilt of the head in any direction would’ve prompted a wave of recognition or a good-to-see-you handshake, especially among seasoned gig-goers who’ve been #supportinglocal all this while. But that didn’t mean sub:shaman skimmed on their performance standard, fluctuating between sinister-sounding ‘noir-rock’ with Hanis Isahak’s winding bass grooves, and dancefloor-friendly post-punk with Syahadi Samad’s astute, frenzied drumwork. Like their downcast, murder-mystery concept EP, Outsider, sub:shaman’s set was dominantly dark and brooding, with shockers waiting to lunge out from the shadows.
In our March issue, we had a rather deep conversation with the Psalms about societal morality and animal instincts, before it took a humorous, lighthearted turn with zombie apocalypses and talking Shih Tzus. Likewise, their performance was multifaceted in character, with elements being erratically tossed into the mix like a custom cocktail of ingenuity. Staccato synths, distorted riffs, free-formed drumming, vocal diversity that could swell from demure soul nuances to mighty, powerhouse belts – the Psalms presented an idiosyncratic noise-prog-art-rock hybrid of music, where meaningless genre-pinning would simply do it no justice. Besides, you can’t define art.
After a brief break downstairs, we adjourned back into the studio for a band we admittedly hadn’t caught in a while, ANECHOIS. It would’ve been convenient to clump these guys with those in the instrumental, post-rock category, but yet again, they showed us why they are absolutely unparalleled in our scene. Yes, post-rock’s ‘customary’ reverb-shredding was present, and vocals were relatively minimal, albeit for the intermittent, high-pitched verses from frontman, Haziq Hussain. But burrow deeper into the hefty layers of guitars and math-y time signatures which put the band on our radar back in 2012, and you’d have found features like celestial synth pads and melodic motifs pining for exposure through the audial density. We were watching a band possibly plunging intrepidly into placid dream-rock territory, and whether this is a transition that’s set in stone or not, the maturing prospect is indeed an exciting one.
Which brings us to DUNCE’s headliners from up north, Dirgahayu. ’Cos unlike the pensive maturity of ANECHOIS, Dirgahayu’s set was a cluster of chaos just waiting to explode. For one, these math-rockers played really, really loud, and Lithe Paralogue’s studio space wasn’t exactly the rolling fields of Glastonbury. It even made us wish we had brought earplugs, and we have ears of steel we tell you! Switching rhythms and time signatures at blistering speeds, the KL quartet combined math- and noise-rock with muddy bass licks, harmonised guitar-fingertaps and cymbals that were smashed as hard as an enemy most hated. We must say we were also astounded how there were no casualties as they pounced around the tiny stage area like deranged madmen, and even when they balanced guitars precariously on speakers and lay lifelessly on the floor (we thought they had passed out; they were tweaking pedals).
Comical concern turned to sincere applause as the band was back on their feet, marking the closure of the evening’s entertainment. “If you couldn’t hear what we were playing ’cos it was too loud, you gotta buy our album!”Dirgahayu eagerly and jokingly insisted. Many new fans and friends obliged their request by purchasing their merch through the Canopus Distro booth just outside, and bid farewell to one another with fist-bumps of respects and gross, sweaty hugs. Weish said it best – in this community where we’re all keen on supporting local and regional music, we are all friends.
Text Kevin Ho