Batch 5, Track 4 – Lagu Dua

Last modified: ‎Tuesday, ‎23 ‎July, ‎2013, ‏‎11:41:09 PM.

‘Lagu Dua’ (‘Second Track’) is the fourth and final track from Batch 5, and it is also the second of two newer tracks that were created for ‘National Acrobats’. A’aqel and I essentially share equal writing credits for the newer tracks: he would first provide a simple running bass line and an idea for the drum beats for at least the intro, verse and chorus sections; I would then add in the guitar parts based on the framework he had emailed me, and flesh out the track further by refining the arrangement and embellishing it with additional instrumentations. We would then basically pass the arrangement back and forth, and make smaller refinements until both of us are satisfied. ‘Lagu Dua’ is probably the most radio-friendly track I have ever worked on; it felt really appealing and accessible. If I was given an opportunity to properly record only one of the many tracks I’ve blogged about, this track would definitely be it, hands down.

With that, we have finally reached the end of a month-long (well, sort of) run of idea-sharing and self-indulgent blogging. Thank you to the handful of you who have at least given the tracks a listen (because Malaysians could not care for reading), and a shout out to Ken Jin for being the only commenter on my Soundcloud page (thanks, dude). Now, if only I could reclaim that creative streak I once had…

Batch 5, Track 3 – Lagu Tiga

Last modified: ‎Tuesday, ‎23 ‎July, ‎2013, ‏‎11:04:02 PM.

‘Lagu Tiga’ (‘Third Track’) is the, well, third track from Batch 5, and it is also the first of two newer tracks that were created for ‘National Acrobats’. A’aqel and I essentially share equal writing credits for the newer tracks: he would first provide a simple running bass line and an idea for the drum beats for at least the intro, verse and chorus sections; I would then add in the guitar parts based on the framework he had emailed me, and flesh out the track further by adding flourishes and additional instrumentations. We would then basically pass the arrangement back and forth, and make smaller refinements until both of us are satisfied. ‘Lagu Tiga’ started to take form after I came up with the opening guitar line that also runs through the chorus; I was watching ‘Blade Runner‘ while working on the track, and I guess I was subconsciously influenced by Vangelis‘s synth-heavy soundtrack. The end result, however, is less dystopia and more wild west (to me, at least).

Batch 5, Track 2 – The Plan

Last modified: ‎Tuesday, ‎29 ‎June, ‎2010, ‏‎5:38:16 AM.

‘The Plan’ is the second track from Batch 5, and it is also the second of two older tracks that were revived for ‘National Acrobats’. Originally a part of Batch 3 (slotting in between ‘Untitled‘ and ‘Circus Mirror‘), the track’s title and arrangement was loosely inspired by the 2007 drama film ‘Have Dreams, Will Travel‘, written and directed by Brad Isaacs. The film revolves around two kids, a boy by the name of Ben who met a girl by the name of Cass through an accident that occurs close to his home. Cass’s parents both perished in the carnage, but she survives, and uses her new-found freedom and friendship to set off a plan she had been scheming into motion. Later in the plot, it is revealed that her elaborate plan was triggered by repeated sexual abuses by her father; naturally, as a kid, she still sees the world innocently, and believes that her plan will bring her long-lasting happiness (which she did achieve through her marriage to Ben, lasting well into their old age).

Batch 5, Track 1 – Darkest Hour

Last modified: ‎Tuesday, ‎29 ‎June, ‎2010, ‏‎2:56:56 PM.

Sometime ago in 2010, I was presented with a suggestion by my friend (and former collaborator of Batch 1), A’aqel. At the time, he had left Cyberjaya to pursue a music course at a prominent public university in Shah Alam, and during the first few weeks he was there, he came up with the idea of starting a band to help him practice for his practical assignments and recitals (if not for the fun of it). He had proposed an idea for what is essentially an “indie pop rock” band, focusing on a musical style that is easily accessible by the masses whilst still retaining the experimental nature that has come to be associated with indie music. Naturally, I agreed. We initially referred to the project as ‘Manhattan’ (we had unexpectedly come across a Wikipedia entry on the ‘Manhattan Project’ on of our link-jumping exercises), but for some reason, we ultimately settled on the name ‘National Acrobats’ (no affiliation with an American hardcore punk band of the same name).

As ‘National Acrobats’, we only managed to produce two tracks during the project’s brief lifespan. Early on, the plan was to have a workable set of songs that we can demo and, ideally, record as an EP; however, the song-writing process burnt out rather quickly, so we decided to reuse a couple of the more pop-ier tracks from my previous batches and include them in the project. ‘Darkest Hour’ was initially grouped into Batch 1, and it is the first of two tracks that I revived for ‘National Acrobats’. I have never been really fond of this track (it felt too… upbeat?), but A’aqel thought that it was a good fit to the project. The track’s title doesn’t really have a story behind it; in fact, it was just something I had plucked out of the 1987 Transformers movie (where Rodimus Prime called upon the Autobot Matrix to ‘light our darkest hour’, which was pretty cool). This track also saw my first attempt at incorporating synth pads into the arrangement, though the mix was poorly done.

Batch 4, Track 4 – Voyage

Last modified: ‎Tuesday, ‎16 ‎June, ‎2009, ‏‎8:32:42 PM.

‘Voyage’ is the fourth and final track from Batch 4, through which I exercised a simple and restrained approach to creating music. Musically, this track is probably the one that stood out the most from this batch; the arrangement, though still relatively simple, aren’t as restrained and sparse as the other tracks, but the feel of it is still inspired by the music of the post-punk revival movement, if not by the post-punk genre itself. ‘Voyage’ is probably the first track I’ve created that doesn’t have a “chorus” section; it follows a flow of verse-bridge-verse-bridge and dives straight into the outro portion, with its gradually rising guitar arrangements that was very much a nod to some of my favourite British bands whose sounds are occasionally atmospheric in nature (one example would be Editors, particularly some of their materials off ‘The Back Room’). It goes without saying, then, that the outro’s soaring arrangement provided the idea for the track’s title.

On that note, we have come to the end of Batch 4. Coming up next will be the fifth and final batch of tracks I have worked on: a four-track compilation of two older musical musings that were originally in Batches 1 and 3, plus a couple of newer, pop-ier tracks.

Batch 4, Track 3 – Means To Be Adored

Last modified: ‎Tuesday, ‎16 ‎June, ‎2009, ‏‎8:28:49 PM.

‘Means To Be Adored’ is the third track from Batch 4, through which I exercised a simple and restrained approach to creating music. The idea for this track came about through one of my many impromptu over-thinking sessions that keep me awake at night. On one such occasion, I found myself contemplating the reasons as to why I have never committed myself to a relationship. Knowing myself, I can easily think of a few at the top of my head (which would be a little pathetic to share – at least not publicly), but frankly, I do not know for sure if those are even valid reasons. This track is also one of the few where I’ve attempted to write lyrics for; honestly, they aren’t any good, and so I have forgotten most of them. I wrote one verse for this track, which I imagined would come in at the very end when all that’s left is the rhythm guitar arrangement: “I’ve waited all my life / locked eyes from across the room / but I’ve waited some time too long / for means to be adored”.

Batch 4, Track 2 – Day

Last modified: ‎Wednesday, ‎17 ‎June, ‎2009, ‏‎12:07:05 PM.

‘Day’ is the second track from Batch 4, through which I exercised a simple and restrained approach to creating music. Following upon ‘The Fall‘, this track’s arrangement was a deeper exploration into the bleak aural territory of the post-punk genre (I guess, technically, this track would fall under the ‘post-punk revival’ label), keeping the instrumentations as sparse as possible while still keeping it accessible – well, barely. The sparseness of the track isn’t just for aesthetics’ sake; the dreariness of the first two-thirds of its arrangement was meant to represent the dreariness and repetitiveness of the daily grind, be it at work or elsewhere. By the time the track reaches the remaining one-third, we hear the dreariness slowly being lifted; this change in atmosphere represents one’s return to the comfort and warmth of the family, an obviously irreplaceable source of strength that makes it possible for us to cope with the struggles of each and every day.

Batch 4, Track 1 – The Fall

Last modified: ‎Tuesday, ‎16 ‎June, ‎2009, ‏‎3:42:36 AM.

When I first toyed with the idea of creating new tracks that would later make up Batch 4, I was already experiencing some difficulty in coming up with ideas that, at least to my ears, were fresh. It felt as if the previous three batches have already exhausted any musical curiosities that I have had wanted to explore or attempt to emulate. So, as a remedy to this creative roadblock, I approached the tracks of Batch 4 differently, opting to keep things simple and restrained, even if the end results might appear to be repetitive and bleak. Of course, when one speaks of bleak music, the sounds of post-punk often comes to mind. In my entry for ‘Movements‘, I’ve hinted at upcoming tracks that bore further influences of the genre; ‘The Fall’ is one of those tracks. Granted, this track is a little more accessible than the typical offerings of the genre, but I guess it’s still a dreary listen. There’s no real story behind the title, other than it being a throwaway reference to how I felt at the time.

Batch 3, Track 9 – Midnight Train

Last modified: ‎Saturday, ‎11 ‎October, ‎2008, ‏‎11:23:55 PM.

‘Midnight Train’ is the ninth and final track from Batch 3, an exercise in creating music within the framework of an album (one can dream, yes?). The track was not inspired by anything in particular, so it did not have an idea or a story attached to it, initially. However, as I was working on the arrangement, I realized that the opening jingle (though repetitive) is reminiscent of the short announcement tone you would hear on train rides as you are approaching the next train station. From there, I sort of developed a loose story that would then inform the rest of the arrangement. Out of all the songs that made up Batch 3, ‘Midnight Train’ is a definite favourite of mine.

The accompanying plot begins like so: A young man, whom I like to presume is in his twenties, gets off work after a long day. Wanting to be home as soon as possible, he rushes to the nearest train station and manages to get aboard the last train scheduled for the day. Despite midnight approaching, the compartment he is in still has a fair number of commuters, in varying stages of fatigue. There are still many stations to pass before he gets off. Little by little, he observes as the compartment’s occupants reduces in numbers. Eventually, he finds himself alone with just one other passenger, a young woman so engrossed with her phone that she doesn’t take note (or maybe, pretending not to take note) of him. As the train passes the next few stations, he finds himself stealing glances at her, and wondering about many things, like “What game is she playing?” or “What’s her name?”. He suddenly finds himself broken out of his reverie by the sound of doors opening. She steps onto the platform, oblivious. The doors close, and the train resumes its schedule, carrying him within it as he wonders if they’ll ever cross paths again. *cringes*

I once presented the track to my classmates during a presentation, but their thoughts were a little difficult to read (that’s to be expected I guess). And on that note, we have come to the end of Batch 3. The first of four tracks from Batch 4 will be up this Saturday.