Albums of the week: Local music acts Wicked Aura and Yllis display excellent songcraft

Wicked Aura taking the stage at Baybeats.
Wicked Aura taking the stage at Baybeats.PHOTO: ALVIN HO

14-man band Wicked Aura mixes rock and samba in its new release while solo artist Yllis is avant-garde and ethereal

Annual music festival Baybeats over the last weekend saw two significant home-grown acts tie their sets with new releases - percussive rock troupe Wicked Aura and electronic music artist Yllis.

Both sit on different ends of the music spectrum - 14-man band Wicked Aura's rambunctious amalgamation of rock and samba is a wild contrast to solo artist Yllis' clinical coolness - but what they share in common is their intricate approach to songcraft.

Beginning The End, Wicked Aura's second full-length album after 2008's Louder Than Light, is as far removed from their early days as a batucada troupe as you can get.

There's a lot going on in this album, from all-out thrash metal attacks and hip-swaying bossa nova to soulful reggae and hook-filled funk-pop.

Present in all the dozen songs - save for bluesy interlude Prelude - are irresistibly infectious grooves courtesy of the adroit percussionists that make up the bulk of the band's line-up.

  • ALTERNATIVE ROCK/BATUCADA/METAL

    BEGINNING THE END

    Wicked Aura

    Wicked Aura

    3.5/5 stars

    ELECTRONIC/EXPERIMENTAL/POP

    ISLAND-01 - EP

    Yllis

    13 Orphans Records

    3.5/5 stars

With his ability to switch between take-charge, forceful vocals, bullish raps and melodic croonings, frontman Idham Budiman is like the local version of Faith No More's Mike Patton, one of the most versatile voices in metal.

Lead single My Aura Is Wicked is a tension-filled affair, anchored by slinky bass lines and sci-fi guitars while Freak Like You is an equally dramatic melding of metal riffs, pop hooks and Afro-Brazilian rhythms.

The band switch gears on Rosana, giving a reggae treatment to a 1980s Malay rock ballad by Malaysian band Search originally titled Rozana.

While Wicked Aura's album goes for the jugular, Yllis' debut release, the four-song Island-01, is a delicate and delectable slice of weird pop.

Yllis is the solo venture by home-grown alternative rock band Monster Cat's frontman Wang Wei Yang, who now shuttles between Singapore and New York.

Straddling progressive electronica and oriental pop melodies, the tunes are wildly different from Monster Cat's expansive rock.

His productions are gorgeous - layers upon layers of futuristic, constantly morphing beats, avant-garde sounds and ethereal and hook-filled vocal harmonies.

Moody opening track Wiik is what you imagine music made by melancholic robots might sound like, while the glitchy and skittery rhythms of Siamese make you want to bust out slow and awkward dance moves.

Not-Even-Anything Land, the final track, is inspired by ancient Chinese text by Zhuangzi and is a contemplative tune. "I'm still lost in, still lost in you" he repeats, as you wallow in the song's lush but eccentric beauty.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2016, with the headline 'Spotlight on home-grown acts'. Print Edition | Subscribe