Indie darlings get hi-fi treatment

If anybody needs proof that the local music scene is overflowing with talent, just listen to State of Rock, a double-disc compilation featuring a mix of 30 veteran and upcoming homegrown indie acts.

Artists appearing include roots rockers Cheating Sons, superband Typewriter, singer-songwriter Jaime Wong, The Observatory's frontman Leslie Low and retro power-popsters Obedient Wives Club.

Launched last week by audiophile label S2S in association with American loudspeaker and headphones manufacturer Klipsch, the tracks - some unreleased and exclusive such as the opening tune No Trust by rapper ShiGGa Shay - have all been mastered in hi-fidelity quality to ensure optimal aural pleasure.

Hence, it is only available on physical compact disc format and does not have a digital release.

"We needed to give music lovers a reason to pick up the CD and I believe that this hi-fi quality will demonstrate how much improved the tracks sound compared to MP3s," says veteran local musician Kevin Mathews, who worked as a consultant on the project, choosing the artists and writing their bios in the liner notes.

He adds that State of Rock is inspired by the sampler discs which used to come free with selected issues of now-defunct underground music magazine BigO.

"The nineties indie scene was kickstarted by those compilations and that served as a wonderful introduction to many great bands," explains Mr Mathews. "I felt that the current scene needed something similar, especially in 2015 (and SG50) when Singaporeans are more open to Singaporean arts in general."

A casual suggestion made to Dean Augustine, managing director of S2S, earlier this year was gamely accepted even though the label has always been better known for signing jazz and easy-listening artists.

Mr Augustine says he took on the project because S2S wanted to explore other genres and felt the current crop of local indie musicians was good enough to be exported overseas.

He reveals that State of Rock will be launched at French music trade fair Midem this week, and then in Malaysia, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand and South Korea.

Mr Mathews says he had two basic criteria when picking the acts for the compilation - first, they had to be songwriters with radio-friendly material, and they had to be writing, recording and performing for a minimum of two years.

"In that respect, I wanted also to get a good mix of established and up-and-coming artists," he explains.

More than 50 artists were approached although some declined for one reason or another. "(But that) number is a positive indication of the quality of the artists we have in Singapore and I believe that if we keep up the momentum, we shall have the vibrant, hip, indie music scene that the likes of (British music press) NME and (influential music blog) Pitchfork will be writing about," Mr Mathews adds.

"Hopefully, there will be sequels to State of Rock in the years to come!"

This article was first published on June 5, 2015.
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