Sub Terra #5

25-02-17

IMG_0770.JPG What an amazing line-up of Hong Kong bands, Thank you sooooo much to‎ The Hub, This Music Studio and Jon Lee for continuing to make these events possible. Thanks to Sam Sam for providing us with those awesome visuals. Biggest thanks to Sherman (and of course Jon) for making it sound so good and to Calvin for coming to help us setup. High five to Angus for his spectacular live band photos. Shout out to Sophie & Prada on the door and Kendrick on intern duties. Lastly thanks to Polaroid who donated cool headphones + earphones for us to give away. See you at a future Underground event!
真係非常精彩嘅香港樂隊line-up﹗衷心感激The Hub, This Music Studio同Jon Lee出力支持令活動得以持續順利舉行。多謝Sam提供超棒嘅視覺效果。最需要多謝Sherman (當然仲有Jon) 好正嘅音效同埋Calvin黎幫手setup。另外唔少得Angus為活動拍攝出色嘅拉闊表演相片。仲有門口嘅Sophie, Prada同埋實習生Kendrick黎當席。最後多謝寶麗來捐出耳機同耳筒比我地送出。期待未來Underground嘅活動中再見﹗
❤️ Chris B xx


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Albert

1. Hawaii
2. Modest Beauty
3. Tell Me Again
4. Jumper Cables
5. Rush
6. I Lose Control

As a music writer, there are few finer feelings than coming across a young, hungry band oozing with talent and a sound of their own. They do the simple things right, driven by Joel’s rhythmic lead guitar which has noughties band The Kooks written all over it. The languid, distorted rhythm guitar that’s right down the neck is the main ingredient for first song Hawaii, which gets Sub Terra 5 up and running for the Underground.

Bassist Gabriel leads on vocals and he seems to start very apprehensive, but then this gig is a big deal for these guys so it makes sense if there are a few nerves tonight. On Modest Beauty the verse is a little in the lower register for him. This gives us a feeling of him kind of holding back a bit. This all changes though when they hit the chorus and he really shows us the real meat and tone to his vocal.

I love how these guys look like if they weren’t here they’d probably be hanging around a park somewhere. They label themselves as garage rock which as a concept comes from the 1960s. A genre for relatively inexperienced bands who were still learning their instruments and sound. Albert though are a solid one-dimensional band, doing the simple things right. They don’t seem like they’re still learning at all.

On Tell Me Again Joel switches to lead vocals and for me he doesn’t quite have the same strength in his pipes as Gabriel. Martin also definitely looks like this is his first gig with the band. He sort of seems a bit disconnected from the rest of the guys and I also can’t quite tell what he’s playing on guitar. Possibly helping fill out the rhythm so Joel can focus more on lead riffs. Max as cool as anything is just quietly going about his business on the skins.

They close out their set with I Lose Control and I’m not sure if there is a conscious doff of the cap to Joy Division in the opening bars of the verse. It gets more cheerier thankfully and Gabriel is now full of confidence vocally. A few flicks of Brandon Flowers in there too. Loved it.

Albert, welcome to the Hong Kong music scene. There’s a place for you here and what you do with it is very, very exciting for us.

– Simon Donald Jones


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Teenage Riot

1. Cigarette Song
2. Wag Jeng
3. I Will Be Whatever
4. Laika
5. Movement
6. New Romance

Self-described as ‘copy rock’, Teenage Riot peaked people’s interests as the 7-piece launched into their opening number ‘Cigarette Song’. Walls of feedback amongst a haze of cymbals and percussion swiftly gave way to the soft synth sound of Sabina Wong and clean picked guitars in the ilk of Nirvana from Lam Hood and Ling Ling Ling. This setting was merely brief though, as the full band soon kicked in to the full 90’s shoegaze sounds of Slowdive, and even elements of Suede. There were close harmonies in the choruses from singers Freakiyo and Porpor Channel, but they were fighting to be heard above the empathic instrumentals.

The vocals were much crisper in ‘Wag Jeng’. A dry signal 80’s synth led proceedings before the rolling and ever-changing drums from Samuelccw set the backdrop for crunchy 7th chords reminiscent of Ride or Supergrass. The aggressive descent of the mid-section saw Freakiyo and Porpor become far more animated, jumping around aimlessly, whilst the others rocked away.

‘I Will Be Whatever’ drew comparisons to My Bloody Valentine with feverishly grungey guitar work over a steady rock beat. Despite the grit and angst on display, the rhythm guitar completely dwarfed the mix for most of the song. Balance was restored though as the lead guitar cut through with a sweetly repeated phrase over the long instrumental ending. Sadly, due to one component being out of place, it felt as if a strong song had been lost.

Swirling guitars took the centre stage in ‘Laika’, with ascending lines revolving around a simple but catchy bass riff from Yanyan Pang. It offered the most intoxicating and memorable riff of the set, while Freakiyo and Porpor barked over the top to add to the Sonic Youth punch. ‘Movement’ meanwhile had a beautiful dynamic range, with a melodic Pulp-style chorus, and featured a phase shifting guitar solo which added a dash of Jonny Greenwood to the mix. Sweeping vocal ‘ahh’s and softly picked guitars gave a dream-like feel after the breakdown, with bold piano chords, before vamping back up into a Post-rock and shoegaze onslaught enveloping the crowd.

Closer ‘New Romance’ centred on a dance beat and sparkly synth line, as well as scurrying arpeggio lines from bass and guitars. While it brought the set to a tight, cohesive end, it felt slightly underwhelming in comparison to the previous track. Nevertheless, Teenage Riot melded together a string of influences to create a compelling and memorable set of songs.

– Chris Gillett


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Operator

1. She’s The Devil
2. Dark Early
3. Home
4. The Miracle
5 Red Light
6. Ear Poison
7. Neon
8. Evergreen

Local Underground hero Jon Lee shocks the room by stepping away from the sound mixing desk and taking up a seat behind the drums for Operator. We welcome these stalwarts of the Hong Kong to the warm sanctuary of the Underground tonight. On opening song She’s The Devil the drum sound is super tight. I know basically nothing about time signatures but this one sounds a bit unusual and out there, and he is nailing it. Ben reminds me of a sort of handsome Thom Yorke, with glasses. He’s got effortless vocals and he’s totally at home up there. Sitting in the front seat, getting the Operator engine warm on this chilly Hong Kong night.

He seems to have his lyrics on an iPad in front of him and I don’t know how I feel about that. I’m sure there’s a good reason why he’s not got them all well tattooed on his brain. Perhaps it’s a bunch of new songs tonight. Their next song Dark Early is true to its name with a real melancholic theme. I’m not sure I’d call these guys Brit rock. Alternative rock is pretty broad but fits them better. Placebo seem to be a real presence in this band, only a bit cheerier and bit more guitar based.

On Home, Operator are just loving what they’re doing. Their musicianship is effortless and their obvious pleasure in playing for the Underground crowd is clear to see. Jon is so comfortable on stage, like he’s playing a gig in his own back yard.

Jon and Ben’s vocal harmonies on Red Light are a real pleasure, as is Vix’s filthy solo down the fret board. Ear poison has got to be one of the best names for a rock song I’ve heard in a long time. A real high energy song with echoes of the Chili Peppers and Damon Albarn. I love the intensity of the two guitars working together on the solo. One high speed strumming down the frets dancing with the other guitar’s riffs. On final song Evergreen there’s a sweetness and fragility to Ben’s vocal which I hadn’t noticed until now. It’s a beautiful contrast to the thumping of the rest of the band.

I love seeing bands having a good time and feeding off that energy from the crowd. With these guys it’s almost like they’re letting us in on their little secret. Thanks for sharing that secret tonight Operator.

– Simon Donald Jones


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Tri-Accident

1 Miss Pinky
2 Magnetized
3 Black House
4 Asian Fusion
5 Complicated
6 Turnspit Dog

Zing Chee’s bass came as a surprise at first, before Johnny Chiu’s guitar added some needed definition to the rift, with the drums hurling into the two starting instruments, creating a full on gallop as Miss Pinky began. The momentum began to build and came to a head with Alex starting to sing, his voice already drowned in the gain of three other musicians, making most of the lyrics inaudible. This didn’t seem to deter the band as they continued pressing into the song, hair flying with the beat as Cyrus began assaulting the drums. The song could be an obscure, faster tempo Jane’s Addiction b-side, complete with a breakdown and solo that 12 years ago would be found on the radio, stuck between Breaking Benjamin and Three Days Grace. It was a pummelling introduction to the band left an impression that would continue as the set rolled on.

The rhythm section started up as a truck engine would, with Cyrus flinging the band yet again into another pounding intro for Magnetized, with Johnny starting to look more and more like a Cantonese Merzbow. The guitar quickly took centre stage, initially sounding much like their opener Miss Pinky, it quickly flamed out as Alex filled the gaps with clearer singing than the previous song. I must give credit to the low end from the Bass on this track. The venue and its sound already were incredibly bottom-heavy by the time the guys took the stage, but his technique while playing was much of the driving force in the song, allowing the guitar to rest easy in the tempo and the rest of the structure to form a solid foundation it created. 

Do you guys want to see something more technical?” Alex said as silence answered him from out in the crowd. “We’re doing it anyways” he finished, turning towards Cyrus on the drum as he counted in the song. That was an incredibly respectable and almost punk way of answering the question asked to the audience, one they seemed reluctant to answer. The song Black House blew up into miniature solos all around, each respectably taking the time to allow the other member to take centre stage, roaring around from one member to the other as if a spotlight was making the rounds. Each fretboard being run up and down by both hands of both the bass and guitarist, finishing every bar in a staccato fashion. It began taking the same route and chords as many of the other songs have, but with the amount of energy being ejected outwards from the speakers to the back wall, defying anyone hipster enough to try and thoroughly dissect its structure, sucking the enjoyment from a naturally fun song. The ending came from nowhere as Alex locked in with the instrumental to create a solid finishing melody, ending the climatic scene in a whoosh.

A quick respite for the technical difficulty episode that was bound to happen at this point, Johnny switched into the Line 6 aside from him. The gear head in me was screaming bloody murder when I saw the cord go into that amp, but I kept my cool, as it seemed with his modded out Strat and good looking pedal set up, no matter what, it could produce a listenable tone regardless. This song Asian Fusion reminds me in a rush of Jane’s Addiction and Red Hot Chili Peppers, an influence that does not go unnoticed when listening. Not that it’s a bad thing, as again their stage presence carries each song regardless of lyrics or similar chord structures, it just becomes predictable in a way, and in that way slightly underwhelming. By this time in the set, the remaining people in the venue had advanced into the front, starting to dance and headbang along with this new song. The excellent start-stop dynamic was a breath of fresh air from the set rigid structures of the last few songs, as the bass led the way into the chorus and allowed the guitar and drums to catch themselves as they fell into each bar, ending in a splash of much-needed colour.

The marching beat that took centre stage on Complicated reminded me again of the opening song, a trend that had by this time become familiar. Alex did a good job here vocally, with lyrics clear and understandable in the chorus, delivery something that seemed barely out of reach all night with the constant low volume vocals being engulfed by the sonic attack of the three other musicians. The verses were a highlight for the drums and guitar as well, Cyrus could restrain the high-hat right on the beat and allowing it to hiss almost in harmony with the chopping of the guitar’s high end. A well-rounded song, but nothing the night hadn’t seen before.

Charging forward with Turnspit Dog with a single rift as so many of the other songs had done, Alex yelled out just like RCHP’s Around the World intro and the song began with their now typical galloping rhythm. The bass and guitar were locked in a surprising amount by how much they beat the hell out of their instruments, flailing around and almost knocking into each other with each bar or pause. At this point, the few people still left moving along to the song were up in the front, dancing in the wide open space between them and the band. It was a testament to their total commitment on the stage, something through the show I admired greatly. The four of them began looking around at each other, queuing in for the next portion of the song, before the signal was given for the song to end, erupting into a noxious wave of cymbal crashes and feedback. He made that line 6 work I’ll tell you.

In conclusion, Tri-Accident’s acceptance of their place and willingness to make that simple and already defined style and aesthetic of extreme bar rock/post-grunge music run the smoothest and most passionate way possible, proving to me the merit and conviction behind their act. A band has one real responsibility when playing live at a venue, and that is to commit to the action and give the audience a great show no matter their size, acceptance, or enthusiasm. The great bands I’ve seen always led by this example, getting into their songs as they played, instead of waiting around for each chorus to swing by as they clumsily jump into the bridge and then verse. Tri-Accident, on the contrary, made an audience dwindling in size and excitement, already tired from the standing still listening to the other bands that night, get up, and dance passed 12:00 in the morning with a seizure inducing effects show buzzing away behind their heads. That took passion, and that took a willingness to let go of whatever preconceived notions of grandeur they might have had before the show, using the music to impress instead of the image. They’ve earned my respect and admiration as a real live band and one that should be praised for that fact, instead of criticized for it.

– John Glenn

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