Sun, Feb 27, 2011 - Page 14 News List

CD reviews: Taiwan

By David Chen  /  Staff Reporter

Silverbus (銀色巴士)

Post-rock holds considerable sway over indie music fans in Taiwan, and it makes sense that the genre has trickled into more conventional forms of rock. The music of Silverbus (銀色巴士) is an example. The Taipei-based band, a trio formed in 2009, has just released a 10-track collection of slow-core indie rock songs as well as several guitar-driven instrumentals.

Orange (橘色), Silverbus’ first full-length album, moves at an unhurried pace, from the step-by-step notes of the piano on the opening track Reverse Clock (倒轉的鐘) to the spaceship-preparing-for-launch vibe of White Line (白色的線).

Guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Foo Li (李承軒) says that he envisioned the album’s songs as akin to a series of short documentary films. In this sense, the music tends to be understated and distant. The album’s sound is full of gray tones, much like the cover art to the CD (a nicely rendered pencil-sketch drawing of Taipei and Kaohsiung’s skylines illuminated by a hazy orange sun).

The sparse instrumental The New Song (The New Year), one of the album’s better tracks, has a wintry but cozy feel, with Li’s clean guitar lines drawing warm melodic figures.

Li attempts an emotive, bluesy rock vocal on Starlight, but overall his delivery falls short. Lyrically, Silverbus covers the usual territory for a young indie rock band: loneliness, disconnection, self-doubt. A handful of songs are sung in English, such as the minor-key rocker Keep Myself From Falling, the sentiment of which is summed up in the line “I wish I could escape/Just keep myself from falling.”

The band really comes together in later tracks like the ballad Today and the closer Forget (遺忘), which has a predictable but satisfying coda that explodes with guitar noise and cymbal crashes.

Silverbus has nailed down its form and aesthetic, but still has room to mature. Some songs feel a little too fresh, as if they haven’t been road-tested enough. But all in all, Orange is well done, and those who like the album will likely enjoy watching the band grow.

Touming Magazine (透明雜誌) is the latest breath of fresh air in Taipei’s underground rock scene. The four-piece band has a confident grip on its sound: fun, peppy guitar-fueled rock that gives a nod to late 1980s/early 1990s alternative bands like the Pixies and Superchunk.

But this full-length debut, Soul Music (我們的靈魂樂), goes well beyond rock hero worship.

With tightly arranged songs and a party atmosphere, the 14-track collection sounds original and inspired. There isn’t one dud to be found, and the mixtape-like variety flows nicely from track to track. It’s always nice to see a band putting the album format to good use.

Twenty-eight-year-old Hung Shen-hao (洪申豪), the band’s frontman vocalist and guitarist, has a syrupy smooth voice that brings to mind 1976’s Raykai Chen (陳瑞凱) when he croons on tunes like the bittersweet rocker September Classroom (九月教室).

But Hung loves to wail and scream, too, and he lets loose on tracks like Soul Blast and Punch You (有的時候真想往你臉上灌一券), both fine examples of the high-octane speed punk that the band is capable of.

As an ensemble of two guitarists, a bassist and drummer, Touming Magazine sounds well glued together, even when it’s on the verge of falling apart. Layered sheets of fuzz and distortion from two guitars whip up a melodic frenzy in Fastball Rock (時速160公里的吉他,貝斯和鼓). The guitar noise bounces all over the place, but the rhythm section never loses it.

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