Music review: Ballad-heavy Shio Quek is compelling, Bea Wain offers sweet swing

A crop of up-and-comers is injecting the Malaysian music scene with much-needed new blood.

Duo FS (Fuying & Sam) have been scaling the charts with radiofriendly tracks such as It Should Be Better For Us To Break Up, sounding like an updated version of Wu Yin Liang Pin. Meanwhile, Shio Quek is a singer-songwriter in the vein of, say, Penny Tai, and is in fact signed to the latter's agency.

Sporting a head of pink hair on the album cover, Quek is clearly no shrinking violet.

Opening track Extrication is an atmospheric slice of minimalist electronica with a softly hypnotic thump and haunting synth line about breaking out of a bad relationship. She declares determinedly in English on the chorus: "I need an extrication/I need to extricate myself away from the pain."

The track also features a guest turn by Taiwanese rapper Miss Ko and it all comes together nicely.

Quek switches effortlessly between English and Mandarin, though the wholly English ballads End To Ribbons and Your Name are not her most compelling work here.

  • POP

  • ABSTRACT

    Shio Quek

    Seed Music

    3.5/5 stars

Head instead for the pleasures of ballad Solo Bliss, which touches on the fleetingness of happiness: "This solo bliss, can only understand by listening with eyes shut/Even if everything's not mine, I won't beg anymore."

The album feels too ballad-heavy though, and more could have been done with the music arrangements, such as for Chimera, which features an ear-catching electronica intro.

What keeps one from quickly extricating oneself from the album is her consistently compelling singing.

Boon Chan


The name Bea Wain is almost forgotten today, but she was one of the most popular big-band singers of the 1930s and 1940s. She died on Aug 19 at the grand old age of 100, which is as good a reason as any to revisit her charming discography.

  • JAZZ

  • JUBILEE

    Bea Wain

    Hallmark

    4/5 stars

This beguiling compilation by budget British label Hallmark is a good introduction to her output, even if the transfer is sloppy, with audible hissing and minor skips on some tracks.

The album is dominated by her early years with trumpeter Larry Clinton's big band. Clinton was an arranger for other bandleaders such as the Dorsey Brothers, and his arrangements here feature the same highlighting of lilting brass against a sturdy rhythm section.

In classic dance-band style, each song gets a long instrumental introduction before Wain comes in for a quick verse and chorus and the band reclaim the spotlight.

It is easy to see why she was so popular. Possessed of a clean soprano and lucid diction, she has an understated delivery that is supported by a pretty legato and gentle vibrato that give old-fashioned ballads such as Our Love Is Here To Stay alluring appeal.

On novelty numbers such as Scrapin' The Toast and Mr Jinx Stay Away From Me, her voice is as bright as a new penny and light as a feather, easing the gimmicky lyrics into toe-tapping dance territory.

Ong Sor Fern


There is a long-standing joke that the best Spanish music was written by French composers.

  • CLASSICAL

  • LALO SYMPHONIE ESPAGNOLE MANEN CONCIERTO ESPANOL

    Yang Tianwa, violin

    Barcelona Symphony/Darrell Ang

    Naxos 8.573067

    5/5 stars

The most famous work, Symphonie Espagnole (Spanish Symphony), was composed by Frenchman Edouard Lalo (1823-1892) in 1875 and is actually a violin concerto dedicated to Spanish violin virtuoso Pablo Sarasate.

On this disc of Spanish violin concertos, one gets the complete fivemovement version of it, including the fiery central Intermezzo which is occasionally omitted, as in Jascha Heifetz's famous RCA Victor recording.

Its coupling is the Concierto Espanol (Spanish Concerto) by the now-forgotten Joan Manen (1883- 1971), who was a prodigy on both violin and piano.

His 1897 three-movement concerto was dedicated to Austrian violin master Fritz Kreisler and has every bit the Mediterranean flavour, infectious rhythms and charm of the Lalo.

The central Lamento is particularly beautiful, bookended by two spirited movements of hot-blooded Hispanic drama. Ironically, Manen was from Barcelona, in the state of Catalonia that is seeking to break away from Spain.

The excellent Barcelona Symphony supports Chinese wunderkind Yang Tianwa, who recorded Sarasate's solo and concertante works to great acclaim, and Singaporean conductor Darrell Ang. Whoever says music is not universal should listen to this and ponder.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 13, 2017, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Print Edition | Subscribe