Various Artists

Singapore A-Go-Go

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Sublime Frequencies' compilation of a slew of singles released in the city state of Singapore between 1965 and 1975 is a classic example of a micro-scene in action -- as outlined by William Gibson's excellent liner notes, the cultural combination that produced the city in the first place resulted in a similarly of-its-own-place burst of local music during that time, further influenced by the wider Western pop sounds that had a similar impact on the pop music of nearby countries such as Thailand. The 22 songs featured here cover a number of singers but not as many groups -- a few core bands, notably the Stylers and the Silvertones, provided the backing for the vocalists, giving the sense of a bunch of local pros and young hopefuls all looking to do their best in between club appearances and attempts at breaking out farther afield (notably, the vast majority of the featured songs are sung in Mandarin). The resultant arrangements are often enjoyable for their anything-goes approach -- Linda Yong and the Silvertones' "Good Luck in the New Year" mixes traditional Chinese cymbals with bursts of Duane Eddy-twang, while Lim Ling and the Silvertones' reworking of the Sweet's early bubblegum hit "Funny Funny" is at once sweetly joyful and a bit mysterious, thanks to all the vocal reverb applied. At points throughout an instrumental is featured, thanks to the brilliantly named Charlie Electric Guitar Band's Sound of Japan -- their "Carnation" is a groovy-as-hell number that could have easily featured in some club scene in an Italian James Bond knockoff of the time -- but mostly vocal numbers are showcased, ranging from the amusing (the feline imitations by Chew Yan on "Mimi Cat") to the warmly entrancing (Lena Lim's excellent turn on "Luna Luna" or Lim Ling's "Oh No!"). Cover art completes the overall presentation, another gentle feather in the label's cap.

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