Album review: Hanging Up The Moon's Immaterial

Album review: Hanging Up The Moon's Immaterial

Quiet is the new loud

Text: Tracy Phillips

Image: Hanging Up the Moon

Hanging Up The Moon returns with their third album, Immaterial, featuring an additional string section that makes for an expanded lush and rolling soundscape

While former Concave Scream member Sean Lam pioneered Singapore's indie scene, his recent efforts with Hanging Up The Moon has him barking up the folk tree. Lam's musical project and moniker since 2011, it marked his return to music after a long hiatus, with the folk genre both an emotional and practical direction. After putting his daughter and work to sleep, he would stay up late to record solo in his home studio. It was in this space that he attuned folk music to convey his feelings.

Soon, other band members were roped in. Vincent Low, Lam's former bassist in Concave Scream helped him to produce and master that first album, and it was him who encouraged Lam to collaborate with other musicians, eventually bringing in some of his band mates from The Observatory — Leslie Low on lead guitar and vocals; Victor and Dean Aziz on bass and drums respectively. Hanging Up The Moon's second album, The Biggest Lie In The World (2013) was a result of this band formation.

The band's expansion continues with Immaterial, their latest album released this month. Not only is the addition of a fifth member, Alexius Cai (aka Piblokto) enough to excite fans, studio recordings introduced additional strings by Karen Lee on violin and Zhong Ren on cello, resulting in a fuller sounding album.

Dreamy and incredibly lush, it takes several listens to allow the album's heart to unfurl, assisted by simple and poignant lyrics

Like perfume, it's always the first notes of a song that rile up your senses. An initial listen to Immaterial one picks up its languid lull, which somehow had me conjuring up daydreams of lakes, forests and a possible other life lived in the late '60s. On the second go — the album's dry down notes, if you will — different layers of harmony unfold, apparent in Unconditional, a rolling track that had the band humming in unison, both vocally and instrumentally.

While Lam's acoustic guitar is still the driving force behind the album's sound, his experimentation with synths added a sonic dimension. Dreamy and incredibly lush, it takes several listens to allow the album's heart to unfurl, assisted by simple and poignant lyrics. As with folk music, whispery vocals are the order of the day, which lend a delicate vulnerability to the self-destructive tendencies in Brave New World, as well as the fleeting romances reminisced in Indie Movie and Comes A Light.

Immaterial's the kind of album to listen to on a lazy Sunday afternoon while you lounge and read, allowing you to discover its nuanced beauty through repeated playback.

Immaterial is available at Curated Records, Hear Records, Vinylicious Records, Booksactually, Cat Socrates, ShinnPark and  Zenn Audio, or purchase the album online here.