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Instrumental rockers take centrestage

SINGAPORE — Instrumental rock made its maiden impact in the ’60s with electric guitar bands such as The Shadows, The Ventures and, of course, the original king of surf guitar, Dick Dale, making waves in the pop charts.

Instrumental rockers take centrestage

COMA say music without lyrics can be just as powerful as songs with words.

SINGAPORE — Instrumental rock made its maiden impact in the ’60s with electric guitar bands such as The Shadows, The Ventures and, of course, the original king of surf guitar, Dick Dale, making waves in the pop charts.

However, over the past decade or more, a new “genre” of instrumental rock — “post-rock” — has risen to prominence out of the popularity of alternative rock among the youth. In Singapore, for example, local concert organisers have enjoyed success bringing in post-rock groups like Mogwai, Russian Circles and And So I Watch You From Afar to appreciative pundits. New gig promoter LivePod has put together an event that spotlights the talent that our region has to offer, with Malaysian band COMA coming together with local stalwarts In Each Hand A Cutlass and relative newbies NeoDominatrix, for a triple-bill on Sept 6, aptly titled 3.

The big pay-off for these bands is the audience support. COMA said it is doing what it does for the passion of music and not financial reward. As an instrumental band, COMA employs noise as a tool, as it offers “a different dimension to play with”. The band also promised that fans could expect the performance to be a “dark and wholesome sonic journey”.

“(It’s) something that strays outside of the kind of music we are mostly ‘fed’ with,” the band wrote in an email interview. “Noise excites us, we want to see how we are able to develop it in our music.” In addition, COMA shared its technique to conveying ideas and emotions without lyrics.

“We convey emotions via music and performance. The audiences capture this expression and figure out the lyrics. The key element we use as a medium to convey these emotions is having every one of the members in the band feeling connected to one another when performing, expressing the music as a whole in a coherent and fluid manner, as a single sound system.”

Over on this side of the border, Singapore rockers In Each Hand A Cutlass have been slaving away in a recording studio with renowned producer Brad Wood working on their next album. Guitarist Daniel Sassoon said the band have decided to stay away from “common tricks of the trade” such as drum sample replacements. Like COMA, the music they’ve come up with is “very organic and natural”.

“It just sounds really huge and well-recorded,” said Sassoon.

A more immediate concern though is making sure that keyboardist Amanda Ling is well enough to play the 3 concert. “Unfortunately, Amanda suffered a bad fall a couple weeks ago, so she’s definitely still in a lot of pain but is healing,” Sassoon said. “However, she’s a trooper and will be playing.”

On a brighter note, Sassoon is confident of the support of local music lovers for instrumental rock. “I think people are listening — if it’s good music that’s being made, people will hone in on it, whether there’s a singer at the help or not. Of course, mass popularity will elude a band like us, because of the nature of what we do, but there will always be an audience for instrumental music.”

Meanwhile, neoDominatrix are readying a debut EP, which will be soft-launched at the concert. Their music, they said, is built upon spontaneity, although the songs were mostly written by one member. Mindful of the challenges of instrumental rock, neoDominatrix is confident that their music will have no problem connecting with listeners.

“We always seem to have a fear that music without lyrics cannot capture audiences, but it is really not the case and we are proof of that,” the band wrote in an email. “We also hope to open the younger kids out there to jazz and its improvisational offsprings. We want neoDominatrix to be our outlet for freedom and expression.” Kevin Mathews

3 happens on Sept 6, 7pm, Hood Bar & Cafe. Tickets available from

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