Album of the week: Homegrown band sub:shaman’s debut full-length album a heady concoction

sub:shaman (from far left, weish, Isa Ong, Syahadi Samad, Isa Foong and Md Hanis) will launch Apnea with a show at the Esplanade.
sub:shaman (from far left, weish, Isa Ong, Syahadi Samad, Isa Foong and Md Hanis) will launch Apnea with a show at the Esplanade.PHOTO: RYHAN TOMITA

sub:shaman's debut full-length LP takes listeners on a mind- bending yet compelling aural trip

Named after a disorder in which the afflicted stops breathing while sleeping, home-grown experimental rock quintet sub:shaman's debut full-length album is a heady concoction that explores the bizarre landscape of dreams.

Equal parts nightmare, fantasy and surreal visions, the nine tracks take the listener on a mind-bending yet compelling aural trip.

Apnea, which comes three years after they released their first EP, Outsider., and five years after the band formed, is their most accomplished work to date and sets the band apart from their peers in the growing progressive/experimental rock scene here.

Angular guitar riffs wrestle with oddball drumbeats, while vocals by singer/keyboardist weish, a singer-songwriter in her own right and one-half of electronic duo .gif; singer/guitarist Isa Ong, who also plays in other acclaimed bands such as Pleasantry and Amateur Takes Control; and singer/sound artist Isa Foong float in and out of the sonic furore.

Despite the seemingly chaotic tempo shifts, the rhythm section, comprising drummer Syahadi Samad and Md Hanis, keeps the proceeding surprisingly groovy. While your mind ponders the songs' sudden twist and turns, your body just wants to get up and pull off some awkward dancing.

A-Hole, released earlier this month with a loopy music video, meshes together sensual vocal interplay between weish and Ong, knife-like guitars and wild time shifts before ending in a chant-heavy blowout.

  • EXPERIMENTAL ROCK

  • APNEA

    sub:shaman

    Outsider Music Co

    4/5 stars

  • BOOK IT / SUB:SHAMAN PRESENTS APNEA

  • WHERE: Esplanade Annexe Studio, 1 Esplanade Drive

    WHEN: Saturday, 7pm

    ADMISSION: $15 from apnea.peatix.com, $20 at the door

Scat-like chants in the title track come seemingly out of nowhere in the last third of the song, which peaks with an a cappella climax.

"Sink into me as the night falls into my alternate life/Find me, find me in the mirrors", weish croons mysteriously in the jazz-inflected, post-punk tune Vigil, as Ong's serpentine guitar twists and meanders.

O Negative, first released in a 2015 joint EP with Japanese band Qu, is the musical equivalent of a feverish dream.

"Dance to the other side/Hide in nightmares, I bask in the fear I own", weish and the gang sing. Spooky and ethereal, the layered and eerie voices lurking in between the instrumental parts outline the strange, sometimes terrifying landscape the mind finds itself in when we go to sleep .

The band will launch Apnea with a show at the Esplanade on Saturday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 10, 2017, with the headline 'Bizarre dreamscapes'. Print Edition | Subscribe