Huge thank you to Orange Peel for hosting this unique event. Thanks to FuzzCulture for flying in all the way from India to come and play at our showcases, we love you and hope you come back soon. Shout outs to An Di Yi for moving from bedroom to stage. Awesome thanks to DEER whom we’ve been trying to book for our shows for a few years now! Heaps of thanks to Jack Daniels & Singha Beer for the liquid refreshments. Love to The Underground team who both worked hard and enjoyed the music at the same time – Angus, Jenna & Benson. Thanks also to Carr for sound duties. Thanks always to our amazing reviewer El Jay.
非常感謝Orange Peel 舉辦呢個特別既活動。多謝FuzzCulture 特登由印度飛過黎我地呢個平台表演，我地好中意你地呀,希望你地多d黎啦。多謝安第一由房間搬到舞臺。好多謝DEER,我地而家一直嘗試緊book佢地黎我地度演出幾年! 唔該曬Jack Daniels同Singha Beer既飲品。感激我地既Underground team (Angus, Jenna, Benson),你地好落力幫手,同時又欣賞到音樂。亦都要多謝Carr幫我地搞音響。當然唔少得多謝我地出色既評論家El Jay啦。
An Di Yi
3. Natural philosophy
4. Shek O
5. The lonely star
It can be tricky telling a story through music without lyrics, but An Di Yi conjured exotic lands and faraway cityscapes with an absorbing and dreamy collection of understated electronica. An Di Yi is British experimental musician Andy Hepburn, whose travels around Asia and love of trip-hop and Max Richter inspired his cinematic, multi-genre sound. Joining him live at Electro Rocks was bassist Stu McCutcheon (of The Sleeves and The Sinister Left).
The scene was set gently with opener Usagi, a soft, slowly-building track that allowed Hepburn to show off some neo-classical nouse on the piano. With its alien-abduction synths and Monkey Island xylophone, Ships might as well have been called “The Abduction of Guybrush Threepwood”. Although the seagull and whale sound effects were a bit cheesy, the song proved itself the most memorable of the set through sheer wackiness and originality alone.
In a similar vein of ’90s computer games, Natural Philosophy’s synth trumpets channeled the retro MIDI music of Theme Hospital. McCutcheon’s thoughtful bassline gave depth and structure to Hepburn’s softly swooshing twilight keys – adding to the lavish atmosphere rather than cutting through or distracting from it.
In a meticulously rehearsed performance delivered with pride, simple yet precise piano melodies were delivered live over backing track percussion and effects – which occasionally made it sound like Hepburn was playing along to a preset keyboard backing track during a school music lesson.
A jagged electro motif lasering out into the crowd signaled The Lonely Star, a track that evoked the Homeland theming in its combination of action movie beats, wistful, jazz-influenced piano and unobstrusive bass. A blissfully meditative and immersive set had lulled the audience into a dream-like haze. When the lights came on, it felt like an unwelcome obtrusion.
– El Jay
1. How I Feel
2. There’s No Future
4. I Want It All
6. Flowers (Cover)
Masks: whether you think they’re alluring or gimmicky, there’s no question that Deer was the most visually-arresting band of the night at Electro Rocks thanks to an origami Deer head worn by synths-n-beats master Miguel Bastida. He may have been the man in the mask, but it was Adriana Martinez who held the crowd’s attention with her powerful voice, which recalled Nancy Sinatra and Shirley Bassey.
The atmospheric set opened with How I Feel, a sultry, tethered trudge of Groove Armada trip-hop beats and soulful vocals. “We’re trying something new here,” said Martinez as There’s No Future broke through the soporific haze. Sinister iamamiwhoami synths looped amid crunching Massive Attack beats. The noise suddenly dulled to throbbing, Robyn-esque bass, before the beat built back up to heavy tom hits, arpeggiated melodies and fuzzy guitar noise.
Then, it was mask-off and glasses-on for Bastida as he conjured Voices. Opening to babbled speech, the song was almost witch house in its ominous undertones and metallic trap ticking. Thanks to Martinez’s retro vocals, the song developed a similar electro-meets-vintage quality as I Monster’s Daydream in Blue.
I Want It All took on a more dubstep feel, with techno percussion and squidgy bass. Above this driving, down-tempo electronica, Martinez’s Bond-theme vocals sounded unsettling and occasionally out of place. Lost in a melee of noise, the singer’s voice was barely audible at times – and it wasn’t clear whether this was a stylistic decision or a case of bad levels.
Instead of Scandi-electro crispness, Deer were more alternative-influenced, blending elements of ’90s rock music and guitar distortion with traditional DJ techniques. With its dissonant string sounds, wooden percussion, glitch effects and off-kilter beat, Peter evoked Thom Yorke’s solo work, but it sounded out of sync with Martinez’s soft wails.
Taking a different approach, Flowers began with gently-picked guitar chords and strong vocals. A punter wearing the deer mask began dancing drunkenly, and it looked like the show was over. Not quite! The intensity picked up again as trance-y Hana synths started pumping to the sound of excited cheers. When the guitar finally broke through, it created a euphoric finale.
With such a strong look and knack for atmospheric tunes, Deer has clearly put a lot of thought into the project. However, the music occasionally hinted at something darker, more ambitious, more ground-breaking, which made it hard to shake the feeling that the pair hadn’t reached their full potential. Until then, their journey will be a fascinating one to follow.
– El Jay
FuzzCulture (India 印度)
1. Midnight Delinquents
2. Feeble Minds/Blank Faces
3. With Open Eyes
4. 145 BPM Sonix (New Song)
5. War Drum Snare (New Song)
6. Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
7. Lesson Learned (Audio Pervert Remix)
8. Do we Get a Grammy Now?
9. Beam Me Up (Encore)
When you’ve got an act that won an award simply for existing, expectations are bound to be high. Luckily, India’s Fuzz Culture brought their A-game to their Underground headline set, wowing the crowd with sharp pin-sharp electro-rock and catchy melodies. On their first visit to Hong Kong the duo – guitarist and electronic wizard Arsh Sharma and drummer Srijan Mahajan – made sure they wouldn’t be forgotten.
The duo front-loaded the hits, opening with the distinctly Daft Punk-influenced Midnight Delinquents and Feeble Minds/Blank faces. The force of these first two tracks practically threw bodies to the wall: Sharma’s voice sounded huge as each electro-infused beat struck like lightning. The precision was emphasised when the beat suddenly dropped out, before the pause was shattered as both guitar and drums slammed back into the fray.
Rather than straying into cliché territory on tracks like With Open Eyes, the group used South Asian inflections with care, creating a fusion that sounded spine-tinglingly effective over the shape-shifting Transformers-style music. With a well-trained ear for a catchy vocal hook, Sharma had sanded his voice down to gritty grunge rock sound that evoked Kurt Cobain, Chester Bennington and Peter Hayes.
Certain songs were almost too crisp: it was hard to believe Sharma was singing live as his heavily-altered voice, never wavered or dipped in pitch or volume, and it sometimes felt like the backing track was doing the hard work. Along with his bandmate’s lyrics, Mahajan’s rhythms could have been more creative, but the drummer kept it tight throughout.
Inside a double encore with Beam Me Up, Do We Get A Grammy Now? was a punchy, shouty track inspired by the lack of Grammys that go to Indian musicians. Power rock and chanting audience participation signed the night off on a fun note, leaving an invigorated audience that would have been willing to party with Fuzz Culture all through the night if they had been allowed.
– El Jay
Photos by Angus Leung.
Poster by Jenna Ho.