Artificial Shoal (人造沙洲), Goosander (川秋沙), White Wabbit Records (小白兔唱片行)
With its first full-length album, indie pop band Goosander (川秋沙) has made some notable strides since the release of its debut EP from last year, Drift Along in a Lingered Spring (春日遲遲).
Whereas Drift Along offered a quick introduction to the band’s dreamy, melancholic sound (think the Cocteau Twins, but not quite as trippy), Artificial Shoal (人造沙洲) has a musical theme that is more focused and coherent.
Goosander, a four-piece group, sounds more refined and mature as an ensemble. The album’s improved production values help, too. A well-chosen palette of stark and wintery guitar and synth tones threads the songs together. Vocalist Yvonne Ong (翁宜襄), who has a pristine, siren-like soprano voice, imparts a sense of fragility that is the heart of the band’s allure. Ong keeps your attention through the noisy storms of electric guitars and cymbal crashes laced throughout the album’s nine tracks.
The songs aspire for ethereal heights, and most follow a post-rock formula, employing metronome-steady tempos and oscillating between quiet and loud sections.
Laden with deep-hued organ tones, 24 Solar Terms (二十四節氣) ascends into a psychedelic-flavored jam with tasteful guitar work by Vincent Lin (林村宜), also a key songwriter in the band. Pigeon Racing (賽鴿), which has a disco pulse, also aims for the stratosphere, with cooling guitar tones and synth loops that swirl into a fiery, searing jam.
The album as a whole feels a bit monotonous and flat, as the band clings a bit too tightly to post-rock structure (slow tempos to exploding jams). By the time I got to the third track, Silvergrass (管芒), the mood starts to feel stale and numb in spite of Ong’s icy sweet voice and the beautiful guitar reverbs. The funky march of the following song, Fong Wei (風尾), and the urgent rock beat of Buds (少年花) provide much-needed changes in groove.
The lyrics, written by Lin and Ong, read like the solitary musings one might expect in indie-pop. But that they’re written and sung in Hoklo (commonly known as Taiwanese) makes the band’s music something of a novelty in Taiwan’s indie rock scene. Along with beautifully spacey and weird synth and guitar soundscapes, the band’s use of the language will likely boost Artificial Shoal’s cachet among young Taiwanese indie fans.
But it’s really the all-too-rare bursts of emotional energy in songs like Son (愛哭欸囝仔) that show the band has the potential to make interesting and compelling rock.
— David Chen, Staff Reporter
Popular Wasteland, Roxymoron, Self-released
Roxymoron, a trio of UK and US expats in Taipei who play indie rock, have let off a few sparks with their EP Popular Wasteland, released in May.
What’s nice about this small collection of tracks is how the songs are balanced: the grooves are peppy and propulsive and the emotions bittersweet and dark.
The catchy opener Shapes is an exhilarating ride when the volume is turned up. The tune, which launches with fizzy cymbal crashes, cruises on a driving 1980s post-punk groove. Guitarist Daniel Semo’s clean and chiming tones and bassist/vocalist Ben Smith’s high-register voice brings to mind the sound of early U2, but with a funkier lilt.
The gloomy rocker Crawl aims for the sinister, with lyrics involving a gun and a refrain that goes “leave you to crawl, crawl back to me/as you fall apart I’ll stitch you back together.” The psychological melodrama offers a setting for the band to let loose with a jam that rages with Semo firing off rapidly strummed chords.