In a recent interview with KL band Killeur Calculateur, guitarist Rafique mentioned that people focusing too much on KL bands is ‘a disease’. KLites are often accused of living in a metropolitan bubble – detached from issues and movements that take place outside the city. Throughout the country’s musical history, some of our country’s most influential bands don’t even come from KL. There are large scenes with enormous talent growing outside our city and it’s time we take note. So, here’s a handy list of noteworthy bands and artists from outside of the city.
The term ‘blackgaze’ was coined after Deafheaven released ‘Sunbather’ in 2013 to much critical acclaim. While the album was praised for its fusion of black metal and shoegaze (hence, blackgaze), many purists derided it as mere trends in the industry. Ipoh band Soft’s latest release, ‘Nostalgia’ however provides a worthy argument that blackgaze deserves to be taken seriously. While the band lacks the visceral screaming of blackgaze, their dark and atmospheric take on shoegaze indicates this isn’t the dreamier side of shoegaze that many enthusiasts are accustomed to. The band’s competence in their craft is apparent as they take listeners on emotional roller coasters with their heavy reverbed guitars and crushing crescendos. Soft could just well be Ipoh’s best kept secret.
If you think the band’s name is dark, wait till you hear their music. The band was set up by bassist Lawrence and guitarist Calvin, who decided that forming a band would be a wise decision since they didn’t play any sports in university. Other members Jane (lead singer) and Andrew (drummer) joined later on. The band cites infl uence from '80s hardcore punk such as Black Flag and Circle Jerks – apparent in the sounds on their first EP, ‘Paper Guns’. However in their latest EP, ‘Civil Disorder’, the Kuching band has progressed into a heavier brand of hardcore with Jane trading in her '80s style delivery for passionate and heart piercing screams. Their material deals with issues such as death (surprise, surprise), social issues and personal struggle.
He might hail from Ipoh, but Rohas Remi might as well as be from outer space. While some acts in Malaysia might adhere to orthodox genres and styles, Rohas Remi doesn’t just break these barriers, he transcends them. He dubs his music ‘folktronica’, which is probably the most accurate description. His lyrics are poetic and delivered in a raw and emotive manner that's reminiscent of many great folk songwriters. Instrumentally, his music is a combination of Malay folk sounds with electronic elements.
Sri Aman, Sarawak
When band mates refer to each other as ‘family’, more often than not it’s a term of endearment and a figure of speech. For members of Kugiran A Sazali, ‘family’ is meant in every sense of the word. Even the name of the band (which translates to A Sazali Band) is named after their father. Hailing from Sri Aman, a port town in Sarawak, the trio is nothing short of ambitious with their sound. They manage to capture perfectly the sound of the indie zeitgeist that took the world by storm in the early 2000s with big memorable anthems and keyboards synths that will make you want to stand up and dance.
Johor Bahru, Johor
Ical Mosh is the self-proclaimed Drill King of Malaysia and his music might just convince you that he is. For the unacquainted, drill music is a hip hop subgenre that originated from Chicago. The genre is often signified by its violent lyrics over hard-hitting beats with high hats. While Ical’s lyrics may be filled with violence, they’re often used as storytelling tropes or to reflect his own life ‘on the street’. Also, it doesn’t really matter whether these lyrics are true or not as the point of it is to entertain the audience with his delivery and storytelling. And Ical does that effectively; his rapid fire flow and witty punch lines will have you impressed with his rapping skills and smiling at the same time.
Pasir Gudang and Johor Bahru, Johor
Punk bands – especially in the late-'90s and those of the poppier variety – have a long tradition of being the clowns of the music industry, with bands like NOFX notorious for naming their albums ‘Heavy Petting Zoo’ and ‘War on Errorism’. Speaking of NOFX, Dickies Tale cite them as an influence, and continue the punk tradition of childish off-colour jokes by naming their debut demo tape ‘Easy Beat With the Hardest Dick’. Their humour is present throughout their music with self-deprecating and catchy songs such as ‘Aku Okay!’ and ‘Mamak’. Despite not exactly breaking new ground musically, it’s always refreshing to listen to a fun band that doesn’t take itself too seriously.