When one thinks of Icelandic instrumental rock, one thinks about the building of worlds. With vast soundscapes being one of the underlying traits of this post-rock subgenre, the music plays like a dance to architecture. For example, Sigur Ros reenacts the glacial landscapes, 10-member Jaga Jazzist recreates the Oslo skyline ala Sim City and Efterklang aurally chronicles a spelunking into the vast recesses of cyberspace.
For Malaysian band Furniture, there is a satisfaction found in becoming a soundtrack to some sci-fi romance held in the confines of space, a soft caress to the senses. The four-piece outfit has constructed the atmospherics on their debut album Twilight Chases the Sun with simple melodic distorted guitars and frontman Ronnie Khoo’s shimmering vocals embedded upon a foundation of standard four-chord formations.
But simplicity does not mean unsubstantial, and the minimalist backdrop functions as Zen contemplation. Within the 10 tracks, we hear a host of alt-90s emo clichés—namely uber-melodic hooks and pleasant dynamics—liberally strewn in the arrangements. And yet, instead of groaning, the result is one of pleasure. Admittedly, the deepening pleasure is essentially a primal one, a result of our unavoidably positive response to poppy melodiousness. However, Furniture does not take advantage of our human nature by coasting, opting to contort the immediate familiarity to evoke weird and wonderful dimensions.
The crowd-pleasing vocabulary of hooks and riffs, oft-employed by Billboard smash hits, begets a beating heart when taken in this context of desolation. Similar in philosophy to DFA rising stars The Juan MacLean, they bring the organic into the electronic, a touch of wabi-sabi to sanitised industrial perfection. Human intimacy is found within it all, a series of ‘this-was-once-our-song’ Hallmark moments, bringing comfort to the loneliness of gazing into a starry, starry night. This is hipster music for lovelorn Trekkies.
If Icelandic instrumental were a gym where sweating songsters like Efterklang and Jaga Jazzist work out, and if Sigur Ros was the beefy steroid-high musclehead, then Furniture would be its lean, natural, strictly-no-supplements counterpart. Twilight Chases the Sun’s geniality is consumable to the point of spiritual immersion. Calculated to get under one’s skin, this is the local indie release of the year thus far.