Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Some Tranquil Devices (Violent Sun/Surd Sounds/Grand Hi-Pitched Music/Wolfe EP; 2001)
Published in BigO No. 192 (December 2001)

By Mark Wong

Somewhere in the tender spaces between dream and reality, violence and compassion, phantasms and life's chasms, lies Some Tranquil Devices. Fuzzbox's third EP after 1997's eponymous debut and 1998's Zero Tondo is an immaculate return to form: pensive broods and Siamese dreams between waking lashes of ripcharge guitar propulsion.

I've been a fan since experiencing the band's electric live shows some years back. And since Shuan Grosse, Linda Ong, Ho Kah Why (aka "Y") and Loo Eng Teck have been sadly absent from the gigging circuit for some time now, this EP is a welcome release from this promising local band.

Beginning with the pensive "Thrown", Fuzzbox brings us on an audio trip through a post-grunge/modern rock urban landscape pervaded by discordant emotions of numbness and empathy. Here, relationships hang in the balance, the limits of sanity are crossed and fantasy threatens to consume reality--all amid the deafening silences.

The music explores these conflicts of the heart and soul. Grosse and Y conjure up a reverie of hushed and heavy dynamics; from track to track, their guitars buzz, tinkle and wail, careen and glide, calm and agitate. Obvious influences include Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins and The Smiths.

Where too many Singaporean releases have disappointed in the vocal department, Fuzzbox boast two capable singers in Grosse and bassist Ong. Grosse comes from the same school of grunge crooners as Eddie Vedder, with a voice both gravel and leather. He handles the rocking-restless "Losing Sleep" and sensitive "Touch the Sun" equally well.

On alternate tracks, Ong's vocals provide a sort of yin-yang complement. Mesmerising and alluring, Ong's aching vocals convey wistfulness, seductive charm, tragedy and innocence--usually all at once. On "(Dead White) Butterflies", she aches and chokes in the refrain: "I'm hurt by the words you don't say." "My Left Brain" casts her as yearning lover in a Bonnie and Clyde fantasy. "Let's rob a bank/Kill your wife/Let's blow up the satellite", but eventually the feeling is one of emptiness and nihilism. "Tell me what we're living for?"

With seven tracks and at 34 minutes, Some Tranquil Devices is a compact and cohesive piece of work. It certain whets the appetite for a full-length debut. (7)

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