By Jocelle Koh
It was a cool evening as I hurried to Tan Quee Lan street to check out the homecoming stop of SG MUSO’s exhibition Singapore: Inside Out featuring some of the nation’s notable artists and creative types. My friend, an architect by trade strolled lazily through the maze of art instalments in admiration, iPhone at the ready while I scurried ahead with just one aim on my mind: Charlie Lim.
As most readers may be well aware, my expertise clearly lies within music of the Chinese persuasion, so what’s the big deal about this Charlie Lim? The singer-songwriter initially caught my attention with his physical semblance to Hong Kong muso Khalil Fong (Note: VERY much my type), but managed to retain it with his eclectic yet seamless fusion of electro-pop, R&B, soul and rock. But it was in fact his poetic and beautiful lyrics that dealt the final blow, winning me over completely. Intrigued also by his Singaporean-Australian background, seeing him perform live for the first time was definitely on my to-do list for my end-of-year trip back to Singapore.
And Lim certainly did not disappoint. Accompanied by a band of four, he breezed his way through a six-piece set during which he maintained a remarkable equilibrium between technical consistency and musical showmanship that few can master. Between songs, Charlie took the time to interact with the audience, throwing out fast, awkward quips and anecdotes about nothing much in particular which usually tailed off into an undecipherable mumble. Frankly, he doesn’t seem one for small talk, but his efforts certainly endeared him to the audience nonetheless. Though not much of a sweet talker, his vocals and body language albeit subtly yet strongly command the presence of the venue, rendering it that much more intimate.
Kicking off the set with “Pedestal”, a funky and jazz-influenced piece from his debut EP, the performance was off to a festive start. With vocals pumped full of Adam Levine-style masculine sass and band improvs that were hard-hitting and full of bite, the song certainly created a groove that just kept going, leaving audiences on a high long after the song had finished. After somewhat entertaining the crowd with the exploits of his absent band members, Lim jumped into one of the tracks from his latest album Time/Space, “Conspiracy”, which featured his electronically-altered vocals against the backdrop of a rock arrangement, blending the grounded, fast-paced feeling of rock with an ethereal quality in a way that explores the dichotomies of time and space in a simple yet clever way.
His third song, a jazz-soul piece called “What can I do” saw Charlie’s versatile vocals taking the lead, unleashing a more soulful, passionate and spontaneous side to the slight singer that I didn’t know he had. Transforming in an instant from sensitive soft crooner to rough-throated powerhouse, Lim proved to audiences that he was as much a talented and charismatic vocalist as he was a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer. Nicknamed “The Airplane Song”, Charlie went on to perform his first single from his latest Time/Space album “I only tell the truth”, transitioning smoothly back into his cool and collected image. A little pitchy on the high notes at the beginning, I wasn’t too fussed given the amazing crescendo Charlie had pulled off in the previous song. He soon got back into the rhythm of things, backed by an abstract, electronic-themed arrangement that created points of revelation amidst a reflective, timeless yet almost tangible atmosphere.
Nearing the end of his set, Lim performed crowd favourite “Bitter”, a tune with a folky, John Mayer-esque melody, and an arrangement with elements of Jazz, experimental electronica and rock. I especially loved the abrupt slowing down of tempos within the second half of the song which eked emotions out of every single note; entertaining indulgence by seemingly slowing down time. Lim ended the set on a personal favourite of mine, a single from his latest album called “Knots”, bringing his performance to an even more perfect closure. One of the more rock-influenced tracks on his album, its no surprise to those who know me why this was one of my favourites. With a rhythm that never lets up and Charlie’s throaty vocals that are absolutely to die for, what’s not to love?
One of the most important things that I look out for when critiquing any performance is confidence. Not merely how confident the performer is, but how much confidence the audience has in their ability to pull off a successful performance. Music at its core is a form of entertainment, a way for audiences to seek pleasure and relaxation. If the audience feels nervous for the performer, and anticipate their mistakes then in my opinion the performer has failed at their task. With the advent of recording technology, it is now rare to see performers who truly instill confidence in me. However, Charlie Lim is certainly one of the rare few. Cool, calm and collected, Lim radiates a kind of introverted confidence that stems from an unwavering focus and dedication to his music. And that’s enough to keep me coming back for more.
Charlie Lim-I only tell the truth (Music Video)
Charlie Lim will be guesting at Lenka’s Singapore show on the 1st of December. Check out his Facebook for upcoming events and updates. His latest album “Time/Space” is now available on iTunes, Bandcamp and Spotify.
SG Muso's Singapore: Inside Out Live Showcase is on in Singapore now until the 6th of December. Go to their Facebook for more information.
Click "Read More" to see photos from the performance!
The queen of my heart is finally back with her latest album Aphasia (Which means unable to speak). This time, it features ten songs composed by herself and written by lyricist Xiao Han entirely, to create something which is unlike anything Tanya has ever done before. Given the quality of the works Miss Chua has previously produced, I'm sure this latest album of hers is no exception.
Working together with a multinational creative team who bring influences from both Eastern and Western cultures, this time Tanya wants to put aside all the love songs and focus on creating music that is tied intimately to modernity and how technology has caused us to close off our lives and our emotions from the rest of the world.
Tanya says "This album doesn't have angels anymore, just devils, everyone has unknowingly walked into a cold world, losing interactions and communications between people."
Her words were in reference to her last album "Angel vs Devil", reflecting on a poignant link between the huge turnabout change in her music since we last heard from her.
In doing so, Tanya experiments with experimental electronic music to try and reflect upon the growing distance and disconnectivity we feel. In other words, Tanya's latest album represents the cold reality we live in, where we've lost our voices through a disinterest in interacting with others and a reliance on technology.
Feeling depressed, yet intrigued like I am? Check out her first two singles below. The album is out in stores now.
Tanya Chua-Strange Species
What do you get when you combine Stefanie Sun and Tanya Chua? Introducing EV, a talented newcomer with a husky, low tone and a startlingly bright voice when it comes to the high notes. One Million Stars contestant EV was known on the show for her unique voice as well as her eclectic Japan-inspired fashion sense. But that’s not all this girl is. Previously working with the likes of Malaysian singer-songwriter Yu Heng to write songs, she was discovered by producer Skot Suyama who took a shine to her interesting voice and wrote a couple of songs that she has released independently.
Surprisingly versatile for a singer who already has such a unique tone, her wide vocal range and vocal technique, at times takes on a Stefanie sun-esque quality but is equally emotive in a Tanya Chua-style huskiness; combining the best vocal qualities of two of the most prominent female voices on the Taiwanese music scene. If that’s not what you call a good sign, I don’t know what is. But unlike the two, EV is neither cold nor overly emotional; instead, her voice highlights a clear optimism to her personality, creating a warm, heartening atmosphere in each song.
Her first single “Beautiful Sadness” is an eclectic mix of mandopop and rock, with brit rock-inspired verses that lead into a mandopoppy chorus with a huge dose of heavy rock in the arrangement balanced against it. The song is tailored perfectly to EV’s voice, stripping down the arrangement to pair her husky vocals perfectly with guitar and a little snare, before upping the ante with a full rock band arrangement, shredding guitar and all to match her high-octane, passionate high vocals in the chorus. Although she doesn’t reach either of the extremes on point as Chua or Sun, her special vocals have enough bite to make listeners sit up and take notice despite this.
The second single “Goodnight” is right up my alley; an acoustic, laidback song that uses a simple acoustic guitar and bass block in the arrangement, along with a few backing vocals to round off the simple, but refreshing mix. I rarely hear the use of the bass (Not the bass guitar, but the block) outside of producer Suyama’s works, but I feel it adds such an intense layer of depth to each song, with this single no exception. It keeps the rhythm going, yet doesn’t detract at all from EV’s voice. I especially love EV’s Stefanie Sun-esque vocal inflections in the chorus, and the reflective quality of her low tones in the verses. The melody is likable and the chorus draws you in so strongly, filling your mind with a complex set of emotions and memories that make you feel breathless, stimulated, and strangely optimistic all at the same time.
Having the backing of producer Skot, EV’s first single already has over 100,000 views on YouTube despite an independent release. Her talent is certainly not to be underestimated. Keep an eye out for this girl, because she’ll be hitting the big time sooner or later with that voice.