Continuing this instrumental theme which was created by Becky & Karen in 2014, this time we had four acts to showcase. The music genres performed by each band were so different from each other & so many of us in the audience stayed from the beginning to the end. Thanks to Carr on sound and to all the wonderful staff at Orange Peel. Extra special thanks for our lovely drink sponsor Jack Daniels Cola – yummy & refreshing. Big round of applause for The Underground team – you guys are so fun to work with! See you all in 2016 for more Underground events.
love Chris B xx
再度舉辦2014年Becky同Karen 構思出黎嘅純器樂音樂表演，今年我地邀請到4隊新樂隊。以因為每隊樂隊嘅音樂風格都非常特別，好多觀眾都由頭聽到未！好多謝Carr令到音色咁靚，重有一眾Orange Peel嘅同事都非常落力。特別多謝我地好味及清新嘅飲品贊助商Jack Daniels。當然唔少得The Underground嘅同事，同你地一齊工作十分愉快！喺2016再同大家見面，帶更多 表演俾大家！
love Chris B xx
2. Perfect World
3. Stay it strong
5. Again and Again
‘Post-hardcore…How the heck does that work?’ punters wondered ahead of the Songs Without Words II opening band’s set. It all started back in September when the quintet was set to play a show at The Wanch, but lead singer Edmond fell ill.
So the gang decided to do something that would strike fear into the hearts of many less self-assured bands: play an instrumental set. Spoiler: it rocked. Chris B, who’d been trying to put together another instrumental night for months, spied an opportunity and signed up the Edmond-less Last Digits for last week’s night at Orange Peel.
It was a nonchalant affair as the very unphased now-trio took to the stage to play their usual set, sans singer. What resulted was half an hour of rhythm-led jamming almost verging on drone rock as Kelvin’s staccato guitar and Mann’s bass riffs melded into a fuzzy pulse.
Without vocals, Last Digits’ usual angst-ridden early noughties emo aesthetic – think Taking Back Sunday or Alexisonfire – was stripped back to a sound with the desert rock atmosphere of Kyusss or down-tuned riffing of Audioslave.
Tracks like “Again and Again” lent themselves well with dramatic pauses and high-pitched fretwork. However, songs like “Stay it Strong” felt like a karaoke backing track – half of the experience was missing as the music amped up and pared back for the distinctly blank chorus-verse shifts. Had the music been designed for post-rock purposes, there’d have inevitably been more embellishment to replace the confessional lyricism.
Should Edmond be worried about getting ditched? Last Digits with vocals is a completely different animal, but the band’s foray into instrumentalism was a success, and one that could, and should be revisited.
– El Jay
Prune Deer 話梅鹿
2. The Shining 5
3. Tango Night
Hong Kong loves words. Against the ubiquitous neon signs, smartphone chatter, and blaring pop, the bands that are making music without the need for a lyric sheet are surely on to something. In a night exploring the boundaries of wordless music, Prune Deer were the archetypal post-rockers, with a sound most closely resembling post-rock behemoths Explosions in the Sky and God is an Astronaut.
That’s not to say the local group is derivative: Prune Deer draws influences from across the post-rock spectrum, layering languid melodies over steadily building walls of guitar distortion during a sinfully short set. The crowd stood enraptured as lead guitarist Hanz worked wizardry from floor level, while endearing bassist Narziss and rhythm guitarist Nature kicked their shoes off and made themselves at home.
With sparkling guitar and snug rhythms, gorgeous, gossamer melodies were spun into great crescendos. “Tango Night” evoked the same progressive math rock noodlings as And So I Watch You From Afar’s A Little Solidarity, before closing song “HeatDeath” was a shimmering spider’s web of flittering melodies building to a spine-tingling climax.
A must-see at Clockenflap 2015.
– El Jay
2. Collision Vector
3. Point of Contact
5. Trial by Li-bat
6. Mineral (Atheist cover)
A word used in ancient Greek, mathematics and astronomy, Omicron couldn’t be a better moniker for this instrumental prog rock outfit, which layers intense guitarwork over a solid rhythmic base. No moshpit-stirring indiscriminate riffs here: the HK-based quartet’s music is the kind that makes aspiring metal guitarists jizz and get jealous of.
Without the musical signposting of lyrics, Omicron’s set was lengthy yet transporting, with intricate soundscapes constructed from classic 80s heavy metal, fuzzy riffs, sharp synth-work, and jaw-dropping shredding from guitarist Li Heng Chan.
Covers of Atheist’s “Mineral” and Soilwork’s “Loyal Shadow” completed a seven-song set of otherwise originals sitting at a crossroads somewhere between Slayer and Opeth. Giving the nod to influences from Rush to The Faceless, they delivered an ear-ringing onslaught of precise prog metal, while incorporating elements of thrash and technical death.
Drummer Alex’s meticulous tempo shifts kept the guitarists’ more melodic noodlings tethered with an exacting approach – instinctively knowing when to tear it up and when to reign it in. But this is a new hat for him: “I’m new to metal, Adam is the boss,” he says after the show, gesturing to the Steinberger-wielding synth guitarist and apparent mastermind.
At this stage, there’s unfortunately little of Omicron’s work to be found online, but if their progression since February’s The Underground x Parsons Music Battle of the Bands is anything to go by, we’ll be seeing a lot more of them on the local circuit.
– El Jay
3. Feel It
5. Fucking drum patterns
6. The Opener
8. It’s Your Call
As Omicron’s shredded guitar and dirty riffs faded into the night, it was left to one man to usher in the twilight hours and bring Songs Without Words II to a close. It was a happy surprise to see Underground favourite JUNK!, AKA bonkers MC Glen Lloyd, as a last minute addition to the bill. Instead of his usual loud and colourful live show, JUNK! was trying out a new musical guise – one without words.
It was a risky move giving a headline slot to an artist not only playing untested songs, but looping live. JUNK! just about pulled it off though, with a danceable – albeit unpolished – set.
We’re used to seeing the Aussie rapper/sonic experimentalist donning a sparkly cape, shouting obscene and hilarious lyrics, and mixing comedy pop with cartoon samples, but tonight the music took precedence (even if Lloyd was dressed in Bruce Lee’s yellow jumpsuit and sweatband).
In a night so far focused on rock, JUNK!’s sound was the most far-removed – with a lulling mix of progressive house and velvety electro. Songs with titles like “Fucking Drum Patterns” bear JUNK!’s sense of humour, but it was a muted affair compared to the usual MO.
The trance-like, pulsing electro was reminiscent of modern video game music – think less 80s 8-bit and more of the celestial, sanguine soundscapes and post-apocalyptic minimalism of Borderlands or The Last of Us. Lloyd’s own distorted yells were incorporated into the mix as he laid down synths and beats recalling influences from Deadmau5 to Crystal Castles.
“It felt really good start something new from scratch – haven’t done that in about five years!” says Lloyd afterwards, before admitting “there’s lots to work on.” Indeed, his usual chaotic approach to stagecraft saw songs often end abruptly with a shout. “I think I like you better with words,” said Chris B. At this stage, we’d agree, but this is certainly a promising foray.
– El Jay
Photos by Angus Leung.
Poster by Sally Chan