Hot Tracks

Local female singer-songwriters Ling Kai and Ruth Kueo offer different listening experiences on their latest releases.

Ling Kai's Unlearn EP is more intriguing. It kicks off with the pop-rock numbers Dumbfounded and Eat, Drink, Sleep, Repeat, which are propelled by her distinctive power pipes. She takes aim at the obsession with social media in Dumbfounded: "Face the camera, don't be too frank in your emotions/What's beneath, just guess."

The singer turns the dial down on the title track and Eighteen, but keeps things compelling. She croons poignantly about growing pains on the latter ballad: "18/That year I thought the world/Was as old as me/ Growing up/Stabs of pain".

Kueo's seven-track album is a breezier affair primarily concerned with matters of the heart.

From the bop-along pop of Let It Go to the ballad Without You, the songs are a good foil for her sweet voice. On the track Fake, she shows a bit of welcome sass: "Can we not be fake/Be a little honest/Laugh if you like/If you don't/Say out loud what you think."

Simple Happiness is a melodic guitar-accompanied track which is unfortunately marred by lyrics which seem derivative of the well-loved home-grown number If There're Seasons ("Come home when it's cold, don't linger in the wind/There's understanding in mother's eyes/And a glint of helplessness").

  • POP

    UNLEARN

    Ling Kai

    Cross Ratio Entertainment

    3.5 stars

    THE GREATEST JOURNEY

    Ruth Kueo

    Cros Music

    3 stars

Kueo sings on her ballad: "No matter how strong the wind and rain, remember to come home/Thinking of what mother used to say."

Unlearning what you know might be a good idea when it comes to penning lyrics.

Boon Chan


The album's title Preghiera (Prayer) refers to a short piece for violin and piano by Fritz Kreisler, a reworking of the melodious themes found in the slow movement of his close friend and musical collaborator Sergei Rachmaninov's popular Second Piano Concerto.

Like much of the Russian composer's music, it is melancholic, but the underlying prettiness shines through. It serves as a prelude to his two piano trios, brooding early works which are performed in reverse chronological order.

  • CLASSICAL

    PREGHIERA 

    Rachmaninov Piano Trios

    Kremer. Dirvanauskaite.Trifonov 

    Deutsche Grammophon 479 6979

    5 stars

The much longer Piano Trio No. 2 In D Minor (Op. 9), just under 50 minutes in playing time, was composed in memory of his mentor Tchaikovsky, who died in 1893. It is modelled almost exactly after Tchaikovsky's own Piano Trio In A Minor, dedicated to the late Nicholas Rubinstein.

Even the slow movement is a set of variations, but based on the main theme from Rachmaninov's tone poem The Rock.

Tchaikovsky's influence also heavily pervades the single-movement Piano Trio In G Minor, which is reminiscent of a tragic romance.

The disc celebrates the 70th birthday of Latvian violinist Gidon Kremer, who retains his characteristic wiry and acerbic tone, but tempers it with no little tenderness.

He is accompanied by younger but no less skilled partners, Lithuanian cellist Giedre Dirvanauskaite and Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov.

A winner from start to finish.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 08, 2017, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Print Edition | Subscribe