Hot Tracks

POP

CALIFORNIA

Diplo

Mad Decent

4 stars

While some bits are sunny like the West Coast state the six-track EP was named after, Diplo's latest offering also explores an unexpectedly pensive side of the famed DJ-producer and Major Lazer member.

For instance, on the melancholic Look Back, you can almost imagine American rapper-singer Dram singing with clenched fists: "And I haven't looked back, since I made up my mind, to never look behind, no." There is even a blistering guitar solo for added dramatic effect.

It is almost hard to believe this is the same person who makes club bangers such as Lean On.

While the EP is more downtempo than Diplo's usual work, it still maintains his catchy hooks. It also helps that it is studded with star names from the rap, hip-hop and electro worlds such as Lil Yachty. It comes 14 years after his Florida EP, a period that has seen him become one of the world's biggest music producers.

In an Instagram post on the EP's release on March 22, he wrote: "Once I got to California, I had been working for years in all kinds of music. But this last year, I was inspired by all the young sounds and rappers that have moved to LA... felt like this album was the soundtrack to the last year of working here."

That evolution in his sound is captured on Get It Right, which sees him reunited with Lean On vocalist Mo. An old-time piano riff meshes perfectly with electronica and the track explodes with Diplo's trademark pitched-up vocals on the chorus.

Anjali Raguraman


POP

TAKE BEFORE SLEEPING

Terence Siufay

Chessman Entertainment & Production

3.5 stars

The release of new Cantopop records has slowed to a trickle from the 1980s and 1990s. And most of the titles on the album charts seem to be either compilations or re-issues.

But all is not lost.

Macau-born Terence Siufay, previously of pop group C-Plus, has been carving out a solo career since 2007. The singer's latest album might not be the remedy to Cantopop's woes, but it could be the aural balm for weary nights.

He ponders life's disappointments on the gently crooned confessional Cha Yi Dian (Almost): "Resigned to this, no/ Want to set off, helpless me."

On the title track which he composed, he sings yearningly: "If the long night, before sleeping could/ Casually embrace you, ask the beautiful dream to linger."

The phrase "take before sleeping" often applies to medications that make one drowsy.

Siufay's songs - many written and produced by members of the Hong Kong group RubberBand - are not numbingly soporific, but instead aim to send one off to dreamland soothed and comforted.

Boon Chan


20TH-CENTURY CLASSICS

ROSTROPOVICH ENCORES

Alban Gerhardt, cello; Markus Becker, piano

Hyperion 68136

5 stars

In 1992, when Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich (1927-2007) last performed a recital in Singapore, he played Shostakovich's Scherzo (from the Cello Sonata) as an encore.

Shostakovich has not been included in this enjoyable album of Rostropovich's favourite encores, but there are two original pieces by the master.

Humoresque and Moderato (for solo cello) date from his student years in the 1940s and display the kind of wit he was renowned for.

The virtuosic perpetual motion of the former is also found in David Popper's Elfentanz (Elfin's Dance) and Christian Sinding's Presto, which German cellist Alban Gerhardt whips off with consummate ease.

As expected, there is much Russian music in this 70-minute disc.

Prokofiev accounts for three pieces - two dances from the ballet Cinderella and the famous March from the opera, The Love For Three Oranges. Rachmaninov's lilting Oriental Dance makes for a delightful contrast with his melancholic Vocalise, while Stravinsky's Pas De Deux (from Divertimento) and Russian Maiden's Song (Mavra) are coloured with a ballet-like grace.

For pure indulgence, Glazunov's arrangement of Chopin's Etude Op. 25 No. 7 takes the cake, which is not surprising as this sonorous study of sheer languor has been nicknamed the "Cello".

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 29, 2018, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Print Edition | Subscribe