Inch Chua's new songs of home and heartbreak

Inch Chua's new songs of home and heartbreak
Letters To Ubin is the fourth solo release by Inch Chua (above).
PHOTO: The Straits Times

ELECTRONIC/INDIE ROCK

LETTERS TO UBIN

INCH CHUA

RATING: 4/5

FOLK/INDIE ROCK

JAWN

RATING: 4/5

When home-grown singer-songwriter Inch announced that her new music would be conceived, composed and written in the pastoral environment of a kampung in Pulau Ubin as part of an artist-in- residence project earlier this year, one expected the new songs to turn out to be quiet, folksy affairs.

But instead of purely organic, Fleet Foxes-style acoustic odes to nature, what listeners get is a refreshing and eclectic collection of tunes that traverses Inch's past musical dalliances.

Letters To Ubin is the fourth solo release from the singer, whose real name is Inch Chua.

Opening track MouseDeer ("How sacred is idleness when I'm on my own, let my existence be endangered/In solitude I'm least alone") is a beguiling folktronica track that samples Ubin's chirping birds and has the singer coo-ing, sighing and crooning her way through addictive melodies.

Despite its title, Simple Kind Of Life is a layered, funk-pop track that dares you to sit still while the popping bass lines and bouncy beats take over the tune.

She goes back to her rock roots in Dust That Moves, with a rousing, post-rock style build-up that climaxes in an orchestral singalong, choir and all.

Employing the same earthy vibes, in mood, if not in genre, is the debut EP from Jawn, the nom de plume of upcoming folk-rock singer-songwriter Jonathan Chan.

The self-titled release and the layered compositions that fill it up might sound surprisingly refined for a newcomer, but Chan has been working on his craft for a while.

An alumnus of Noise Singapore, the mentorship programme from the National Arts Council, he has a knack for nailing the intricacies of heartbreak in song.

"I'd like to think you're a wrong I could make again/but it's not in me to say that out loud", he sings on Fade To Black.

His voice is tender, warm and stirring and, with the occasional yearning falsetto, there are obvious comparisons to home-grown wunderkind Charlie Lim, especially on Fugue, an exceptionally fervid track that swallows you up in its despair.

Elsewhere in the EP, Chan also takes his cue from troubadours such as Damien Rice and other masters of aching melodies and visceral songwriting.

It is not all doom and gloom, thankfully.

He ends the release with piano ballad Chase Away The Dark, a delicate ode to the kind of love that is the light at the end of the tunnel.


This article was first published on Nov 25, 2015.
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