The Observatory (band)
|Genres||electronica, indie rock|
|Past members||Evan Tan
The Observatory is an indie space rock and electronica band based in Singapore consisting largely of alumni from significant 1990s Singaporean bands. They have toured throughout Asia and Europe and are influential in the Singapore music scene. The band formed in 2001, and performed for the first time at the Baybeats music festival in December 2002. They have released five albums, Time of Rebirth (March 2004), Blank Walls (September 2005), A Far Cry From Here (April 2007), Dark Folke (July 2009), and "Catacombs" (2012). The band uses electronic effects extensively, using several laptops during their performances across different countries such as Norway, Japan, Thailand and Singapore.
Former frontman of veteran local band Humpback Oak, Leslie is the singer, guitarist and occasional bassist in the band. He is a music composer and sound designer by profession. Low graduated from the School of Film and Media Studies at Ngee Ann Polytechnic with a Diploma in Film, Sound and Video.
Classically trained pianist Vivian Wang sings, plays keyboards and generates sonic effects on laptops and synthesizer. Wang is a former TV presenter of the arts programme “Artitude” on local channel TV12 and also a host of Cathay Pacific’s inflight series “World of Travel”. Music supervisor and film producer by profession. Wang graduated with an Honours in Music.
Dharma - Electric Guitar
A Nanyang Technological University Engineering graduate, Dharma is currently a mechanical engineer at Epson. A guitarist with the band Heritage from 1995–1998, he is also the frontman of local funk band, Throb.
Music composer by profession. Low is former bassist of veteran local Singapore band Concave Scream . Classical guitar specialist, and has also performed on drumkit since Ray Aziz left the band. Low is an Economics graduate of Boston University.
One-time archivist specialising in audio-visual restoration at the National Archives of Singapore. Tan toured overseas with former band The Padres during their album promotion organised by Rock Records. An active performer/programmer in the digital music scene.
Veteran drummer in Singapore, his former bands include Swirling Madness, Opposition Party, Sugarflies and Popland. He is currently also playing with Throb and The Blues Machine. Joining The Observatory during the A Far Cry From Here recording sessions, Ray contributed jazz/avant rock-styled drumming. He did not appear on Dark Folke and has since left the band. However, in 2011 he played drums for the band in a special performance commissioned by the Singapore Arts Festival to play a concert pull of reworkings of the Beatles' White Album.
Formerly the youngest member of the group. A sessionist since 15, Adam is musically adept at guitar and bass as well. He joined in January 2005, bringing with him a style that reflects his eclectic influences such as Bloc Party, Radiohead, Broken Social Scene, Lamb of God, Mastodon, John Coltrane, John Butler, The Mars Volta and Pat Metheny, to name a few. Adam left the band after the release of Blank Walls and before A Far Cry From Here.
Time of Rebirth
The debut album, Time of Rebirth, released in March 2004, is described by the band as "a quiet, ruminating album of poignant songs underlined by delicate textures and lush instrumentation. Delivered in hush tones over layers of subtle electronic elements blended with a distinct acoustic feel."  It was written and recorded over a period of two and a half years.
It features nonstandard packaging, rather than coming in a jewel case, it was released in the form of a diary, complete with paperclipped photos and "torn pages". The band all had a hand in assembling the packaging.
Their second album, Blank Walls, elaborates on the band’s philosophy of perpetual change, and is described by the band as "deliberately loose, eschewing particular themes and genres while embracing unconventional structures, progressive sounds and improvisatory forms, continuing an experimentation with song form, delving into greater depths of musical and lyrical tension, creating a diverse, experimental palette of words, sonic layering, and musical contrasts. The subject matter signals a mood-shift towards a more palpable intensity, exploring various themes from anger to disenchantment, from the quaint and humorous to self-mockery or plain indignation."
A Far Cry From Here
Following on from Time of Rebirth and Blank Walls, this was the third album in four years. The band was influenced by Soft Machine, This Heat, Tortoise, Talk Talk, Shining[disambiguation needed], Jaga Jazzist, Supersilent, Brian Wilson, Robert Wyatt, Nick Drake and others. The album was described by the band as "a rich and imaginative musical vision, on which vocalist-guitarist Leslie Low builds his pensive, tender yet elliptical song-craft. The adventurous and epic exist in perfect tandem with restraint and intricacy. Exploring an ocean of sound and emotion, A Far Cry From Here should strike a chord with fans of experimental and progressive-minded classics such as Radiohead's OK Computer, Talk Talk's Spirit of Eden and Wilco's A Ghost Is Born."
As with previous releases, the band chose a non standard packaging instead of the conventional jewel case. The outer package is a small box with flap, containing a foldout multipanel slipcover with information, and a CD holder in the last section.
The fourth album was again recorded and mixed in Bergen, Norway with their longtime collaborator, Jorgen Traeen. The band describes the work as "a change in musical direction" and said "the math prog rock of The Observatory’s third album A Far Cry From Here has morphed into a fluid mystical beast called Dark Folke. Most songs have no drums on them. But there is rhythm. Only the type of rhythm associated with an invisible pulse. An implied rhythm. 5 folks sitting around a fire. A metaphorical fire. Chanting for the rain to come."
The CD album is a hardbound book, designed and drawn by metal/hardcore/underground illustrator and designer, Justin Bartlett: http://www.vberkvlt.com, the artist behind the wicked art of SUNN O))), Moss, Aura Noir and more.
City Sharks: Music From the Motion Picture
- Released: 2003
- Executive Producers: Esan Sivalingam and Bratina Tay
- Music Supervisors: Vivian Wang and Esan Sivalingam
An early incarnation of The Observatory contribute one song, "Sweetest Man" to the soundtrack of this film, written and directed by Esan Sivalingam.
- "Band Information". CD Baby website. Retrieved 2009-08-16.
- Band website
- Band blog
- Style Asia 2005 winners of Motorola/Style Asia best Singapore local band award.
- MTV Asia writeup of second album launch
- Review of Blank Walls
Note: Some material for this article adapted from The Observatory Press pack(zip file), accessed 3 March 2006