ALT3RD VINYLS: RAPHAEL ONG, MIDDLE CLASS CIGARS
Raphael Ong, creative director behind Middle Class Cigars, the homegrown record label that houses some of Singapore’s best rising bands on its roster - Subsonic Eye, Sobs, Cosmic Child and Handsome Girl. 
For this month’s ALT3RD VINYLS, he curates a diverse selection of jazzy, ambient and city pop music to accompany each part of the day. 

 

Shop for Raphael's list here on ALT3RD.

 

 

Kit Sebastian ‎– Mantra Moderne
I couldn't help myself from constantly going back to this album when I first discovered it early last year – not because they were songs that I couldn't get out of my head; but instead its potent fusion of psychedelia, Brazilian tropicalia and French pop never failed to transport me into another world.
It's equal parts hazy lo-fi as it is French new-wave sophisticated. My favourite track off the album is title track "Mantra Moderne" – you'll love it if you're a fan of Stereolab's French-Brazilian leanings. 

 

Hanging Up The Moon - For The Time Being | 7 Inch
Hanging Up The Moon is the solo project of Sean Lam, who used to front one of Singapore's pioneer indie bands, Concave Scream. They are one of my favourite artists in Singapore, be it from their quiet, contemplative folk albums released on KITCHEN. LABEL, to their now breezy, nostalgia-laden pop songs released on Japan's Big Romantic Records (home to some of Asia's greats like Sunset Rollercoaster and CHAI).

 It's pop music at its purest, but more importantly at it's most honest. Every song in this album makes me feel warm and fuzzy and comfortable, especially "For The Time Being”, the album’s lead single that features Taiwan's indie darling Lin Yiloh (from cult shoegaze bands Skip Skip Ben Ben and Boyz & Girl).

 

 

Kimiko Kasai & Herbie Hancock - Butterfly
Previously only available in Japan, this record only just recently received the reissue treatment on Light In The Attic Records in the form of a beautifully pressed heavyweight vinyl and amazing original jacket (that typography!). It features jazz legend Herbie Hancock paired with Japanese songstress Kimiko Kasai on a collection of jazz-funk-soul covers.
If you’re starting to grow tired of the past few years' city pop craze and looking to something new, this album is an essential step outside those bounds – taking what everyone loves about city pop into a refreshing, jazzier take with a more focused and polished musicality.

 

 

Mildlife - Phase

Melbourne's Mildlife uses sounds straight out of the 70s to make dance music that has its feet firmly planted in the present and future –  it’s funk, psych, disco, electronic, and dream pop all at once. It’s a perfect soundtrack to a dance floor on the moon, as you pop by a nearby asteroid to get a drink. They blew my mind when I first heard them in 2018, and it’s still as fresh right now as I’m sure it would when we all make it to a space colony in the distant future.

 

 

foodman - Moriyama

foodman is an electronic producer from Yokohama, Japan that makes incredibly textural tracks that dips their toes in footwork, glitch-hop and heck, uncategorizable dance music. It’s whimsical and fun, but sophisticated at the same time. Somehow, all those whoops and zings and bloops and sounds that would feel right at home in a video game come together to create sonic adventures (pardon the Sonic pun) that never fail to be a joy to be a part of. It never feels like kitsch for the sake of kitsch, but it’s so refreshing to hear music that isn’t afraid to have some fun with sounds.

 

Everything But The Girl - Walking Wounded

Everything But The Girl is one of the first bands I really got into – with one of their earlier albums Love Not Money and its dreamy 80s soft-focus slow-burning indie; but I only recently discovered Walking Wounded and have since massively regretted not realising how absolutely amazing this album is earlier.
It’s the perfect intersection of pop and trip-hop, drawing downtempo and drum ‘n’ bass into a sophisticated, polished pop package. Walking Wounded is them at their most skeletal and insular, but most sensitive and emotional – it’s no surprise this is their biggest-selling album.

 

Motohiko Hamase ‎– #Notes Of Forestry

An album born out of the golden era of Japanese ambient and environmental music, #Notes of Forestry arguably sounds the least like its contemporaries from the era. There’s a certain freedom to the four (very long) tracks on the album, with an almost jazz slant to the compositions – perhaps due to experimentalist Motohiko Hamase’s past life as a jazz bassist. It’s different and unexpected, and still unbelievably fresh 30 years on; otherworldly but organic and pastoral all at the same time.

 

 

Sufjan Stevens, Lowell Brams ‎– Aporia

Indie singer-songwriter superhero Sufjan Stevens joins forces with his stepfather Lowell Brams (of which his sublime album Carrie and Lowell is named after) on a collection of warm, comfy instrumental synth landscapes. I grew up on a healthy does of Sufjan Stevens, and listening to this exposed a whole new side of his musicality to me.

 

Alva Noto ‎– Xerrox, Vol. 4

This is ambient glitch musician Alva Noto’s latest album, and possibly his most organic and warm – truly music best listened to as accompaniment in isolation. Sparse, intricate piano notes float in constant flux, like dust floating in the air or droplets melting from icicles. It’s incredibly understated, but in its quiet comes a massive monolith of sound and atmosphere.

 

 

Peter Broderick - All Together Again

Released on one of my favourite modern classical labels Erased Tapes, Peter Broderick’s All Together Again is… cinematic. Not in the Hans Zimmer or John Williams-esque way you’d assume. It’s very textural, though, and definitely maximalist. My favourite track off the album is the 17-minute long A Ride on the Bosphorus, because it’s a real slow burner that… I’m not going to spoil it!