Albums Of The Week

Unplugged pastoral odes

Bennett Bay (above) is a newcomer to the local music scene, while Piblokto is a member of indie-folk band Hanging Up The Moon.
Bennett Bay (above) is a newcomer to the local music scene, while Piblokto is a member of indie-folk band Hanging Up The Moon.PHOTO: BENNETT BAY
Bennett Bay is a newcomer to the local music scene, while Piblokto (above) is a member of indie-folk band Hanging Up The Moon.
Bennett Bay is a newcomer to the local music scene, while Piblokto (above) is a member of indie-folk band Hanging Up The Moon.PHOTO: BENG HUI EU

Home-grown singers Bennett Bay and Piblokto keep it real in their new albums about the countryside

The two new album releases by home-grown artists Bennett Bay and Piblokto are a testament to how far the folk/acoustic scene here has come.

While there is a significant swing towards electronica in the recent releases by their peers, the pair seem insistent on keeping their music as organic as possible, with nary a plugged, electric instrument in sight.

The mood might be generally pastoral, but the songwriting, composition and arrangements in the two releases are anything but simple.

Both albums, which will be launched in the next two weekends at the Esplanade, are intricate gems featuring baroque pieces with both artists at the helm on acoustic guitars. A whole host of musicians expand the palette of sounds, adding a cinematic feel to many of the tracks.

  • FOLK / CHAMBER POP


  • COMPASS

    Bennett Bay

    Self-released

    4/5 stars


    FOLK / AMBIENT

    IMPERFECTION

    Piblokto Self-released

    4/5 stars

Bay, a School of the Arts, Singapore alumnus, is a newcomer, whose only release prior to this debut album was a single, Komorebi, last year.

His songs, while anchored by finger-plucked acoustic guitar goodness, are embellished with strings, horns and percussion.

Tracks such as Windy, Ravel and Pacific are bucolic, stripped-down guitar pieces that conjure the idyllic beauty of the countryside.

  • BOOK IT / ESPLANADE PRESENTS MOSAIC MUSIC SERIES PIBLOKTO ALBUM LAUNCH - IMPERFECTION

  • WHERE: Esplanade Recital Studio, 1 Esplanade Drive

    WHEN: Sunday, 8pm

    ADMISSION: $25 from Sistic (go to www.sistic.com.sg or call 6348-5555)

    BENNETT BAY ALBUM LAUNCH - COMPASS

    WHERE: Esplanade Recital Studio

    WHEN: Jan 20, 8pm

    ADMISSION: $25 from Sistic

Bay sings on a few of the tracks, his voice gentle and soothing, on songs such as album opener Mother & Father, an ode to his parents ("love and forgiveness/paintings and a house"), and on the captivating, Sigur Ros-like Maybe It's Time To Come Back Home.

The title track, a nine-minute mini opus, features radiant singing from home-grown singer-songwriter Linying, and a rousing, post-rock build-up.

Piblokto is the nom de guerre of Alexius Cai, the adroit guitarist and composer, who also plays in indie- folk band Hanging Up The Moon. Imperfection, his follow-up to his 2012 debut album Colourless Fields, is a gorgeous, all-instrumental tribute to his newborn son.

Cai employs a stellar cast to flesh out his songs, including a string section, as well as compatriots and seasoned names such as Victor Low on the bass, Sean Lam on the guitar and Andy Chia on the dizi, or Chinese flute.

Songs such as the title track, The Way Home and Across The Plateau - the first three songs on the album - are immersive experiences that evoke a sense of wonder. Others such as Is It Daylight? and Tidal Pools - tracks that sit in the middle of the album - are contemplative pieces bordering on melancholia.

Then there is The North Wind, a heady trip in which Cai and his ensemble alternate between pensive, meditative parts and infectious grooves.

Despite the album title, Imperfection is an exquisitely crafted long-form release and one cannot help but get caught up in its mesmerising quality.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 11, 2017, with the headline 'Unplugged pastoral odes'. Print Edition | Subscribe