flica – Sub:Side.

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“Sub:Side” is the fifth album from Kuala Lumpur based artist flica aka Euseng Seto.Previous releases have been on labels such as Mü-Nest, Impartmaint, Self released and Japanese label Schole, who are the home to this, their third collaboration with Seto. In their press release Schole Records after describing his ten-year musical history which covers music of styles such as “capricious, twee electronica” through to “sombre atmospherics” describe the “Sub:side” as “the album favours a more lo-fi and minimal approach to ambient that seamlessly mixed the oriental with the experimental without sounding overwrought. The decade’s worth of experience has taught flica how to best convey melancholy – with simplicity“.

For an album that is largely constructed by organic instruments, there is a strong ambient/electronica feel to it that manages to make the music be much more vibrant than if just utilizing organic instruments. A mention should go to the deftness of Kent Lee’s bass playing which adds depth and support, but doesn’t overwhelm the music.

“Listener” fractured recordings flutter in and out increasing in volume and presence as guitar tones and ambient fuse together before piano with a percussive feel and bass enter the picture. Classic electronica beats enter the mix giving an alternating tempo to that of the ambience and piano. The piano sounds padded which slightly mutes it but adds to the overall percussion. The guitar and piano work well together following a very similar feel in how they are played. The piano has an emotive and hopeful feel to it and the melody of the track brings a certain innocence and joy to the music.

“Moor” follows on with a similar muted and padded piano sound which is joined by another layer of piano that feels slightly off, but complementary to the original piano section. Spluttered beats and echoing rippling guitar lines welcome the next section before the beats drop out to leave the piano layers and guitar fuse together before the beats return this time with a slightly more club like feel with Lee’s bass adding to that feel. While it is never truly an electronica track it is largely rooted in that genre, but also traverses other. Both openers are similar in feel and work well together.

“Aire” Light delicate keys ripple in repetition building ever so slightly with a slight percussive element are joined by minimal bass parts, another hand played instrument of some sort to create a layered piece that veers into almost post rock/folktronica territory with its stylings. There is a light feel to the music that is not rushed in any way as it takes it’s time to unfold. The addition of violin is a welcome one as it is not overpowering and as it hasn’t been used so far in the album. It adds to the sound scape. Towards the end the track breaks down into an ambient section that is both natural and also revealing a slight bit of decay in the way it changes and how the instrumentation fades out of the track.

“Waver” barely there electronic progressions lead on to more obvious chime like tones and bass lines before a beat takes us in an unexpected direction. Clipped Electronics, Piano, chopped up broken beats bring us back the flica sound of previous tracks that balances the organic with the electronic creating a sun dappled form of music. The multiple layers of stabbed and warped electronics meets bass drum beats, percussive elements and innocent melodies all work well. There is never a point where the music goes over the edge. It is controlled, thought out and craftily constructed.

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“Whisperer” oriental tones of a percussive instrument (possibly Kalimba) are mirrored by guitar lines that follow the same, albeit distorted melody. The layering works well to make the introduction full before the next section appears. A piano section arrives with a clear, but strident sound which almost acts as a counterpoint to the rather laid back beginning, which while demonstrating a degree of volume is not overpowering, more like adding color to the piece.

 “GMT+0”  ultra quiet chimes welcome long warm expansive piano chords under which a choppier piano (with the padded percussion) rhythm emerges. Soaring ambience roars after emerging alongside broken beats and fluid bass lines. With so much going on there are several elements equally vying for focus with the piano, beats and ambience being the central features. A breakdown interlude led in by backward glitches focuses on the ambience, which is now slightly subdued and the piano which is possibly choppier than at the beginning. After a brief moment the track reverts back the full array of instruments with the beats leading the way.

“Sputnik” Deep singular bass thumps welcome a darker toned piano, not yet seen on the album. There is something austere in the sound of the instrument. As the playing increases with an additional layered piano added and a hand played percussive instrument, the original piano remains the same, acting as a counterpoint. What sounds like kalimba runs over the music with fluid movements which are entrancing, while adding a melodic layer to the music lighter than the track has shown thus far.

“Wednesday” affected guitar tones played in a glitchy way with percussion are joined piano lines, scattered broken beats and bass. The music is introspective and shows restraint in the playing where the intensity is never overpowering. The elements share a melodic touch with a winding down relaxing feel which is slight detriment as the track ,while nice, isn’t as strong as its predecessors.

 “336 Hours” glacial like wind-blown ambience that haunts leads on to loop like guitar lines that reverberate. Minimal piano lines and short fractured beats are added with the return of the muted piano lines which hold the keys to the melody. With all the time available the music delicately unfolds with extra piano elements and subtle, but also jazzy/funky bass lines adding a different edge. Fragments of guitar, signal the end of the track that slowly returns to the piano playing reminiscient of the start.

“Nephilim”warped piano and the jazzy/funky bass lines underscore fractured looped beats and modern classical styles piano form a rather free sounding track which feels that the importance is on the sounds of the instruments and their placement rather than the tighter patterns from the tracks before them. For that reason it reminds me of “Wednesday”, but more with a sense of identity. An interesting way to finish the album as it leaves it open-ended as opposed to full circle if the closer was “Moor”.

With “Sub:Side” flica has, in his words, created music with “an Asian sound with experimental element.”. There is a feel of  reflectiveness with his own musical history with also a nod to lo-fi, blurred and intimate music. The album works especially well with the  fusion of organic and electronic instruments and also the balance of the various elements. At time certain Modern Classical, Electronica, Ambient and Experimental sounds rear their heads, but at no point can the tracks be exclusively confined to any of these genres. “Sub:Side” is perfect music for an enjoyable sun soaked day with little to do, but sit back and relax. Recommended.

You can get the album here.

Schole

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