25 April 2008
Album Review from Kakiseni
Album review from Kakiseni. Original post here.

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23. 04. 2008

Tembak: Jerome Kugan’s Songs For A Shadow by Zalina Lee

The problem with a lot of pop songs today is that while the beat is catchy, the singing occasionally impressive and the hooks infectious, one is still burdened by the problem of having to digest hollowly unsatisfying lyrics.

I mean, how often can you masticate over love and the circumstances leading up to, or leading from it? With song titles like “I’ll Never Break Your Heart” and “If You Had My Love” as well as “As Long as You Love Me”, one can really see the range of emotions being splashed out to the public to hear and enjoy. Wide as a bathtub.

If I’m leading you to the impression that I haven’t a romantic bone in my body, I sincerely apologise. That is, indeed, NOT my message. But the shallowness of love as described in pop songs can be tedious. And unimaginative.

At the other end of the spectrum, or pop-chart, you get these poet-songwriter-singers who try to cram in as many five-dollar words in fifty-dollar settings as possible. Yawn. After all, when you’re going to pen a song around your intimate thoughts, they should co-exist and correspond with each other. Unless dissonance and discord are the point, (which is usually NOT the case), a lot of songs fail to strike the right balance.

Jerome Kugan’s album Song for A Shadow seems to have no problems finding that balance. It is a sincere pleasure to pop in the CD and be able to enjoy not just the music, the beats, and the singing, but the content as well.

The opening number of the CD is a simple, yet heartfelt tune. Titled “I Like”, Jerome keeps it simple with a single acoustic guitar accompanying his singing, bringing forth the sincerity and purity of his vocals and lyrics. A beautiful promise of more to come.

The lyrical and rhythmical pleasure of his poetic verse is clear in “Song for a Service Industry”

You may not remember,
But circumstances will,

Tables don’t turn,
But monkeys can learn,
And I’ll wait for you…

Jerome has generously put the lyrics up on his blog to be shared, and also explains the background of each and every song on the album. It does make it rather redundant at this point for me to dissect his music from a lyrical point of view. For instance, he explains:

"“The Miracle" is the fourth song on the album. I wrote it when I was living in Setiawangsa (circa 2000, I think). It's half based on a dream and half cobbled together from my fascination with the phenomenon of miracles. I don't remember much about the dream now. But I do remember being quite fascinated by miracles while growing up a Catholic in Kota Kinabalu."

What you, the listener takes from the song itself may be entirely different from the source of its inspiration for the songwriter, or even my take on it. No one-way "love found, love lost" story-line here.

"Lightfalls", the seventh song in the album, is a stand-out piece, with only effects in the background, no instrumentation. Jerome’s haunting a capella singing, slightly distorted and resembling the sounds produced from gramophones of old, is a song I wouldn’t want to listen to at 3am. The song strikes that exact point between melodious and creepy, and is extremely effective.

Long thin shadows
Stretch all through the streets
Draped like oiled silk
To hide the thing beneath

"A Shadow", track nine on the album, is a slightly more experimental number. An irregular electronic beat is layered over the basic rhythm, clashing with each other, no so much that it annoys, but enough that it makes you sit up and pay attention. Probably the only thing that truly stands out about this number is that irregularity. An accident that got left in (based on his own comment about the song on his website) it has, of itself managed to create a somnambulic effect.

In fact, as I type out this review with it looping on in the background, I feel myself being hypnotized into a suspended state. I had to stop the player so I could get back on track. Hopefully, what I’ve managed to type out makes sense so far.

Overall, a very digestible album, with its acoustic-meets-electro-pop flavor, and its (happy) lack of sappy, unimaginative textual content. A definite must-buy.

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You can download Songs for A Shadow for RM18.00 on popfolio here.


Zalina Lee sings, plays, lectures, mothers and writes. She also lunches with Kakiseni a lot.

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5 Comments:
Blogger adam k. said...
you remind me of bjork. bjork as a boy. i like your stuff.

Blogger JK said...
Ah... lol... Bjork is a goddess to me! I cannot doubt the influence she's had on my music.

Blogger adam k. said...
i didn't get to go to your launch. how can i get your cd?

Blogger Antares said...
Bravo, JK! You certainly have follow-thru and wonderful focus. Lovely songs in your own inimitable style... you've inspired me to get off my butt and get my own musical shit together soon, thanks :-) Didn't know about your blog till I found it pinged on PPS! You been to mine?

Blogger ena said...
hi Jerome. Like your music. Where can we get your CD?