urmymuse reviews “One World One Moment”

I’m going through my backlog of mails.

This review, for our second album, was from urmymuse dated Aug 2008. Posted with permission:

2009 One World One Moment

I have given Starfish Stories – One World One Moment album several listens (both on bandcamp and archive.org). Congratulations to you and Adrian for what I think it is a highly accomplished piece of work, i enjoyed listening a lot.

The complex fret work on the guitar orientated tracks is always in a compositional context, not guitar heroism for its own sake.

The way the tracks move and develop is really strong, meaning they carry the listerners interest to the end. I think this is particulary evident on “one world” and on “surfing on solar winds” (i like how the melody flips into the bass line towards the middle).

It was nice to have an unexpected vocal track in “have i told you lately” which has got a really emotional feel and builds nicley with the strings at the end.

I am listening to “the hill” as i write.It gives me the feel of “marching up the hill” with pipes and drums , or may be looking out in awe from the top of the hill?

Thanks for this, urmymuse!

~ Ivan

Electric Rain Dance 2011: redux

[First posted at MyRightBrain.wordpress.com]

Here’s an updated version of my June 2006 track:

ELECTRIC RAIN DANCE 2011

Listen/ Download at www.archive.org. The track is licensed under a CC-BY license. Feel free to reuse or remix this song (CC license applies). Please credit the music to: Music by Ivan Chew – MyRightBrain.wordpress.com.

The original was composed at a time when I was still new to GarageBand. There wasn’t much of an original lead guitar. More of a tentative attempt at learning how to record an electric guitar “live instrument” into GarageBand. And it was composed after a 12-year break from playing the guitar.

Here’s the original (the volume is mastered too low and uneven; lack of any significant melody):

Four years on, and about four digital albums later, I’ve learned more about recording, mixing and mastering.

I have a better understanding of Compression settings, tricks like applying a Limiter to the final mix, stereo and panning effects. Had help from books like this, this and this.


Redstone Arsenal Army Concert Tour
Originally uploaded by familymwr

While I’m far, far from the likes of playing like Joe Satriani or Steve Vai, the lead guitar playing is considerable better. By my standards, at least.

Even if I’m not technically accomplished, I definitely gave more thought to the lead guitar composition and musical phrasing.

Enjoy!

~ Ivan

Lunarin’s Band’s Survival Guide

Don’t know about Adrian or I-Ling, but I found Lunarin‘s 2010 New Year’s Even post witty, irreverent and inspirational. All at once. Oh, and what I have come to rely on Adrian is his QC role, as per Lunarin’s band survival advice #3 🙂

Lunarin’s post doesn’t have a permalink, so I’m reposting it here. Don’t think they’ll mind but I’ll email them just to be sure. ~ Ivan [Update: permission granted!]

The end of 2010 vs the start of 2011: A Band’s Survival Guide

Posted on 31 December 2010

Dear Friends

Here we are, on the threshold of a new year.

Most of us would open our eyes on the 31st and decide that it’s time to begin things on a clean slate. Some of us may aspire to be better people, to do charity work, to be better tempered, to manage time better, to be more patient and giving… Yes we know the feeling – that growing optimism that for once the passing of time is not something to be loathed, but to be embraced. It is a time for change and make things new. You may decide, on your way out to the party, to send an emo text message to that ex girlfriend you have not spoken to for years, that ex co-worker who used to steal your biscuits, your boss (good luck)… There is goodwill. There is hope. There is a feeling that nothing is insurmountable.

Fast forward 24 hours later and we often find ourselves lying face down at the foot of a couch in a hotel suite, our mouths reeking with the stench of a dead rat, mothballs or a pro-P** ballot paper (or all three), hearing the snores of an unidentified male sleeping on the couch next to us with a half drunk beer can in his hands and the words “Happy New Year!” scribbled in magic marker on his chest.

It is often in those sobering moments, under the glare of the harsh reality of daylight as we pick ourselves up, that we will often say, “Screw those lofty new year resolutions. Given the way the year has started, I’ll settle with bettering my scores in Angry Birds.”

And so that is how it often is with the band.

What have we done this year?

We finished recording an album that almost killed us. We flew to Maine to get it mastered. We pressed and released it and made it available for sale. We played at Baybeats 2010. We had an album launch on 1 October 2010. We did an acoustic rendition of our songs with violins and cello.

“Was it worth it?” you say, with a glint in your eyes, daring us to say that we surpassed [censored] in terms of number of downloads for our single (we didn’t), that we broke new records in terms of local CD sales in Gramophone (we can’t verify this but more likely than not we didn’t), that our single Zero Point Red made top 10 on national radio (yes it did! – oh wait that was level 3 inception…)

(Well we did make it on the lists of our favourite radio deejays on Unpopular Radio:

http://unpopular-music.blogspot.com/)

Are we to shift our eyes to our feet and twiddle our thumbs in embarassment? Perhaps, 5 years ago, we would have done exactly that. But frankly now, at this age and after doing this for as long as we could, we don’t really give a damn. Our minds are instead focused on the next recording that we will be doing (acoustic B Sides) and the gigs we need to prep for in the new year (Mosaic Music Fest). Life is too short to fret over the things you can’t control. And yet…

2010 was a good year for us because of the people we have met, the support we have garnered and more. For those of you who got that little signed note in the Duae CD (yes all 3 of us signed each individual note) we mean every word in it and still do. We still can’t believe that people would buy the CD, download the music and come for our shows. Thank you thank you thank you. We still can’t thank you enough.

For those of you aspiring to form bands (or are already in bands) and are curious about the secrets of our longevity, you would be pleased to know that one golden rule in this band is that we NEVER celebrate New Year’s together. We used to, in the past, and it often led to tears being shed, angry words being traded, and a wastage of time money and space. And the truth is, we hardly (have never!) been inspired on New Years’ Eve to write songs anyway. Goodwill, Hope and Forgiveness are not quintessential Lunarin traits. But that’s just us.

But on a more serious note, and in light of the spirit of giving, we would like to share the following “rules” as a survival guide for all you would be rock stars out there:

1. Never lose that interest/curiosity/focus in life. Observe observe observe. Watch people. Learn. See. Feel. Be angry with something. Be moved by something. Inspiration is synonymous with life. You do not live alone by yourself. In Yoda-speak:”To be inspired, to live. You need.”

2. If you want to stay on for long in a band, forgive but never forget. Don’t bear grudges but remember the key moments when something didn’t work out, or when words were said that shouldn’t have been said, and don’t repeat that mistake. Darcy of the Smashing Pumpkins once said that forming a band is iike being married to 3 people you don’t even want to date (although hang on, wasn’t she and James Iha dating?). She’s right you know. And because of that, maintaining a connection in a band takes a lot of work. Deal with it intelligently.

3. Be honest with one another. If a riff sucks, say it. If the lyrics suck, say it. If the song is going nowhere from the second verse onwards, say it. You are one another’s QC officer. If you want to put out something you will be collectively proud of, you need to be honest with one another. Otherwise you are better off playing FIFA than writing music together.

4. During songwriting, don’t take yourself (and the music) too seriously. You are not going to change the world. You are not Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain or [insert idol/guitar god of your choice] You cannot contrive a song. A good song writes itself. You do not sit down and say, “Today I am going to write a song in the key of E and the first verse shall start with a monotone melody with lyrics touching on global warning and then it shall develop into a rousing chorus with hopeful lyrics and heavily syncopated drums and then I shall change the key of the song for the bridge and then write a guitar solo comprising of 16 notes before wrapping things up in a thunderous outro with shouting vocal melodies. Ok, now let’s start!” It just doesn’t work that way.

5. Be open to the fact that the “reward” comes in various forms and perhaps not what you intended it to be. For us, it was not about stellar record album sales. Rather, it was the forging of friendships (old and new) and the gratifying feeling of knowing your music has been busy making friends with other people (i.e. The Void). It is priceless. Really

So there you have it. Our little tiny present that you could take with you before you start sending text messages. And on that note we shall leave you with the music video of The Sky (Algiers) because it pretty much summed up the highlights of 2010 for us (and because our bassplayer made the video herself and wanted to show off)

Here’s wishing all of you a very Happy New Year, good health, peace and joy for the new year to come.

With everlasting love

/.D./

Starfish Stories has a new band member

Starfish Stories :: The Band is now a trio.

If you’ve heard our latest album, or read the credits or the bio for SoundOut, you would know Adrian and I had help from this lady. Who has a unique spelling for her name: I-Ling (pronounced ‘Ee Ling’, and not ‘Eye Ling’).

The other day, Adrian asked how I got to know I-Ling. I wish it was because I-Ling came upon our music by chance, was so moved by it, and decided she had to be a part of it. Reality was more mundane.

I-Ling and I met in mid 2009, when we were both speaking at an event as part of our respective work. She worked for National Arts Council then. We chatted after the session. I was curious to learn more about how NAC worked, its programmes and the funding. In her talk, I-Ling mentioned Noise Singapore. I jokingly complained that the cut-off age for participating in Noise Singapore was too low (in that, given my age I didn’t qualify, heh).

As we talked, we discovered a shared interest in creating music. She sings (and if I-Ling is willing, she should share what she used to do before she joined NAC) and was interested in knowing more about DIY recording. I told her how we do things at Starfish Stories. The basic equipment needed. We ended our conversation with a promise to keep in touch. I-Ling said she would seriously give the DIY recording stuff a try. I hoped she would also email her vocal tracks for a remix.

Ah, the “Keep In Touch” is an oft-abused term and given much lip-service than actual practice (I’m guilty of that too). BUT luckily in this case, we did keep our conversation going. On the rare occasions that we bumped into each other on Gmail chat, we would exchange pleasantries. I’d tell her about ccMixter. And I’d cajole her to record her stuff. Would send her some tracks and ask if she would feel inspired to do something.

She eventually did a recording, which I remixed and decided to include as part of the 3rd Starfish Stories digital album.

[Incidentally, I-Ling also posted her vocal stems to ccMixter too (under her own profile). I remember telling her, in jest, that I was jealous how her very first stem had more remixes than what I had in two years, heh.]

While I-Ling serendipitously became involved with Starfish Stories with “Good-night Not Good-bye”, it wasn’t until the SoundOut album that she wrote original lyrics and recorded vocals for the band.

A few weeks before the end of 2010, we informally sealed our partnership over pizza. And exchanges of gifts of dried mangoes, jasmine flower tea and Lunarin CDs that aren’t shown in the picture.
An Exchange

After our makan session, I also made another ‘gift’. That’s a story for another time.
Pass it On

I stress the word ‘informal’, ‘cos I sort of just said to Adrian, “So, I-Ling will be our vocalist, ok?” and Adrian said something like “Yah, finally we have a better looking band member”. 🙂

So now Starfish Stories :: The Band comprise of a Biologist, a Librarian, and a… Officer Worker (yo, I-Ling please come up with a better label than that lah!)

All three of us are married. We’re in our 30s (I don’t know I-Ling’s exact age but for Adrian and I, we’re more than tilting towards 40).

We have our day jobs.

We’ll continue to be a band that doesn’t perform ‘live’, who doesn’t meet to jam.

We cherish the music that we create, for sure.

But we’re friends first, and the music really is an outcome of the camaraderie.

Cheers to a new year.

~ Ivan

Journey Vs. Destination

Adrian and I met for breakfast. One of our rare face-to-face meet ups.

We talked about family, kids, wives, parents, work, life, music, Tagore.

Not necessarily in that order. But close.

Mostly we reminisced about our music. A reflection of why we started Seastars. (Funny thing: both of us forgot the name of the album! Goes to show how memorable it was, eh?)

We reminded ourselves we didn’t plan for have an album. It was an attempt at expression, we realised. Music happened to be a suitable conduit. The format of working using computers and email suited our lifestyles. Forming the “band” and publishing the album was a convenient end-result of our collaborative process.

But subsequently, it seemed the process of technical refinement took over the expression. While the albums after SeaStars 2007 were technically more proficient (relatively speaking), they lacked that clean-cut simplicity of the first.

Adrian was more blunt: SeaStars 2007 was kinda crappy as an album. I thought so too, knowing what we know now 🙂 Still, we thought there was something in there that was uniquely our styles.

Writing this now, it occurred to me that working on SeaStars 2007 was like discovering we could hear. The subsequent albums was like putting on better earphones, with crisper sounds. But being able to hear better didn’t necessarily mean we were really listening.

Kinda like what Adrian wrote here, about being poor in spirit.

And now we think we’re continuing on that journey more consciously.

Trying to really listen this time.

And to have fun while continuing to find ourselves.


DSC03020.JPG
Originally uploaded by lekowala

~ Ivan
p.s. On this renewed musical “roadtrip”, we have another friend on board. More to be revealed, soon.

My Lunarin Remix #2: “Time of Apollo 2010”

My second Lunarin remix, titled “Time of Apollo 2010”. With a music video thrown in!

This music video mash-up is dedicated to the men and women of the Apollo Program (1963 – 1972).

I decided to make the music video as an afterthought, after I completed my 2nd remix (btw, the first remix, here).

Here’s the remixed track, posted to soundcloud:

In that remix, I extracted part of the spoken audio from the 1975 NASA documentary, “Time of Apollo”. Then I decided to make a music video with the NASA documentary footage.

CREDITS:

  1. “Time of Apollo (1975)” – NASA. Public Domain – www.archive.org/details/gov.ntis.ava03129vnb1
  2. Duae Trailer 1” & “Duae Trailer 2“. Credits: Clare Lee, Jeanette Ng and Lunarin. Used with permission from Lunarin.
  3. Music remixed from “The Sky (Algiers)”. Released by Lunarin under a 2010 Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 3.0 license. www.lunarin.com

If you liked the video, leave a comment!

And thanks again to Lunarin, for making the music remix possible. They have compiled the submissions of their remixes into a digital album titled, “The Void: A collection of remixes of Lunarin’s ‘The Sky (Algiers)“. Be sure to check that out.

Enjoy!

~ Ivan

Kevin Mathews & LUNARIN: “Quiet At The Library”, 13 Nov 2010

I was late for the show. They started on the dot.

Missed the first performer, Vanessa Faith Tan. But managed to catch Debra Khng and Kevin Mathews. The two talented ladies were musical proteges of Kevin Mathews (under the Noise Singapore apprenticeship programme).
Kevin Matthews & LUNARIN: "Quiet At The Library"

Kevin Matthews & LUNARIN: "Quiet At The Library"

Like his apprentices, Kevin Mathews also sang several originals. Plus the familiar “One and only” (YouTube vid, here).
Kevin Matthews & LUNARIN: "Quiet At The Library"

That was my first time hearing Kevin Mathews perform “live”. Let me tell you, that guy can SING.

And then Lunarin was up next.
Kevin Mathews & LUNARIN: "Quiet At The Library"

They went acoustic, of sorts.

A cello, violin, keyboard, and acoustic guitars (and very briefly, an acoustic bass).

“We normally do not sit down when we play” ~ Linda Ong.
Kevin Mathews & LUNARIN: "Quiet At The Library"

There’s something about classical strings in rock tunes. I later found out that Victor Ong (on cello) was Linda’s younger brother. Natalie was on violin (a friend of the band, I think).
Kevin Mathews & LUNARIN: "Quiet At The Library"

Kevin Mathews & LUNARIN: "Quiet At The Library"

Lunarin played this list. Yesterday’s show featured several unpublished songs.

At this point, let me just say that Kevin Mathews, Vanessa (and I’m sure Debra) were really, really good. They can hold their own easily.

But to me, Lunarin just had that something extra.

While the band went through their songs, I scanned around the crowd. Particularly those in the cafe area. The incidental listeners. It seemed to me several dropped what they were doing/ eating and were listening intently.

I bet they were wondering about the strangely melodic, classical yet modern sounding music.

At one point in the show, I felt as if the whole world was standing behind and around, listening in.

Hearing Lunarin yesterday gave me those muse-inspired goosebumps.
Kevin Mathews & LUNARIN: "Quiet At The Library"

Kevin Mathews & LUNARIN: "Quiet At The Library"

Kevin Mathews & LUNARIN: "Quiet At The Library"

I chatted with Kevin Mathews after the show. The affable stalwart of the SG music scene said it was the first time he’d heard Lunarin play “unplugged”. And their rock melodies showed a different, and equally positive, side of the band. It showed the strength of their song writing, he told me.

I couldn’t agree more.

I have heard Lunarin ‘unplugged’ before. It was their last show for 2007, fortuitously held at the library@esplanade too. But this time there was something different about their acoustic set. I’m pretty sure the cello and the violin had a lot to do with the (what I consider) their new signature sound.

This time, I also thought there was a certain maturity in Lunarin’s songs. Their overall performance.

Next time Lunarin ever go acoustic, you should catch them.

Nay.

I say Lunarin MUST have an acoustic album.

~ Ivan

Update – videos of Lunarin’s set, post-show (doesn’t have that “live” atmosphere though; you had to be there):

 

Brooke Miller

After the previous Deftone Discovery, this was a contrast, but equally enjoyable.


LINK

She hails from Canada. From her website:

“… Although she was not necessarily inspired to play traditional music, the musician themselves provided role models that very early on, influenced the choices and direction of her life. “No matter what they did on a side job–some of these people were counsellors, teachers, lawyers, medical doctors–these were all people who lived and breathed music. So, to me, it was a lifestyle thing and it wasn’t just looked at as a job or a thing that you did to make money, it was something that people did to feel good–and alive.”

Her voice and compositions reminded me of… a quiet evening, lying on a couch, scented candles in the background, the mind at ease.

LINK

~ Ivan

Deftones – Hole In The Earth

Discovered Deftones after watching a link (posted in Facebook by someone else, which another friend linked…)

This particular song is all these at the same time: melodious, sad, uplifting, gritty/ rock.

Sweet.

Wished I could write songs like that.

Maybe I should try.

Deftones is at www.deftones.com. YouTube channel, here. This Wikipedia entry covers more about their history, influences, and discography.

~ Ivan

My Lunarin Remix #1: “No Sun Under The Sky”

When I posted this, I had already started working on the remix.

Took me about 5 evenings to complete it.

I give the world “No Sun Under The Sky” — an obvious reference to Lunarin’s original title:Creative Commons License“No Sun Under The Sky” by Ivan Chew is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Singapore License.

CREDITS:

The remixed track has been uploaded at my ccMixter page. Some ccMixter reviews/ comments that made my day:

  • (Linda is) a lovely soaring singer and the song has a pretty lyricAdmiral Bob
  • Slowly seething beauty with the piano keeping time…Fireproof_Babies
  • [This one is my favourite!] i think a lot of people miss the musical fusion magic happening in Singapore (and Budapest, too). for me the best new music comes from those two areas.panu moon

Linda was the first to respond to the remix.
Facebook | Linda Ong

She saw it fit to post about it via her FB profile:
Facebook | Linda Ong comments on my remix of Lunarin's The Sky

And that was probably how SG music “heavy weights” like Willy Tan and Patrick Chng dropped by:
Facebook | Remixing Lunarin: “No Sun Under The Sky”

It’s obvious to me that all this CC remixing stuff gives as much exposure to the band and the remixers. This is just a bonus though. The real fun is in the musical process.

I cannot quite play like Lunarin, nor get their sound. Remixing them gives me that little taste of being with my fav band, or dare I say “In” it. If just for a little while 🙂

Lunarin | Home

You can listen to the original version of “The Sky (Algiers)” in this YouTube vid from Lunarin’s live concert on 1 Oct 2010.
[UPDATE: Lunarin has uploaded the original track, here]

In my remix, I’ve used Linda’s vocals and sampled a bit of the track’s piano, bass and clean guitar. A very long “How It Was Done” post, over at MyRightBrain.

And of course boys and girls, let’s not forget that the very cool Lunarin (Linda, Kah Wye, Eng Teck) made this remix possible.

Thanks for “Sharing Today. Shaping Tomorrow”.

Get your own Lunarin remix going. Do remember to license your remix as CC-BY-NC-SA.

~ Ivan
p.s. For the more astute readers, yeah there is a #2 coming up!