In The Beginning There Was…

This was originally published in my Below The Radar column in The Weekend Mail, April 28-29, 2007 Edition

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Tracking down some of the important releases during the early days of Malaysian independent/fringe music scene.

IF the research we did was extensive enough, it has been almost 18 years since the Malaysian independent/fringe music saw the first ever recording by its band.

The band was legendary death metal band, Rator and the album, well, more of a demo, was Evil Symphony.

Three years later, a Kuantan-based punk band, Hijrah, released a 10-song cassette demo, A Pilgrimage To Nowhere. It was the first ever recording released by a Malaysian punk band.

The same band, who has since changed their name to The Pilgrims was also the first punk band to release a proper studio album, Perfume Garden via now defunct Eddie Hamid (yes, the Raja Lentok/Leleh) imprint Sonic Asylum Record in 1993.

This was then followed by Songs For Friends, the debut album by the most influential punk rock band to have ever emerged in the local independent/fringe music scene, Carburetor Dung in 1993.

Recorded in late June to early July 1993, the album Songs For Friends was released on Sept 27,1993.

The critical and to a certain extend, commercial success, of the two releases – as well as prior and in between debut releases like trash metal band FTG’s debut EP Freedom That’s Gone (1991); Cromok’s Image of Purity (1991); Modar’s Inferior Symphony (1992); Suffercation’s Day Of Darkness (1992); Infectious MaggotsDeep Within Our Grief Factory Milk Runs Red (1993); Silent Death’s Before The Sunrise (1992) and Subculture’s Love N’ Hate (1994) – have inspired a new wave of Malaysian independent/fringe acts to come up with their own releases.

Sadly, most of the releases that were and are going to be mentioned here are no longer available.

It would be nice to have these essential and important recordings being reissued with extensive liner notes, biography and if possible with one or two previously unreleased outtakes.

Anyway, we’ve dug into our archive and found a few important recordings of that might still available at some of the record stores out there.

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THE PILGRIMS The Best Of: All The Best Fishes We Caught (Life Records)

WE’VE seen bootleg copies of the Kuantan punk pioneer first two albums – Perfume Garden and Away From The Numbers – at some of the record stores we frequent. However as an alternative, we would recommend you The Best Of: All The Best Fishes We Caught.

The set comes together with a 12-page booklet on the band’s history, rare photos as well as selected lyrics. Musically, the two-disc compiles 20 tracks from their first few albums as well as their album as Pilgrims DC, Da Capo.

Our only complain is the fact that it didn’t include some of the band’s classics like I Hate Videogames and Loud Blaring Punk Rock Song.


CARBURETOR DUNG Songs For Friends (VSP)

WE are pretty sure that original cassette release in 1993 is no longer available by now, but chances are, if you are serious enough to get hold of this historical piece of music, you can try to locate the CD reissue that was released by VSP back in 1998. We’d recommend the smaller record stores as well as your least favourite supermarket. They might have a copy lying around. With songs like Boo Hoo Clapping Songs, Labour Of Hate and Oppression and the history that comes after it, this is worth the search.


SUBCULTURE The Best Of (Intergrlobal Music)

IF there’s any album we would highly recommend from this punk rock ‘n’ rollers, it will definitely be their debut, Love N’ Hate. However, like the rest of the important documentations of Malaysian independent/ fringe music, we doubt it the original cassette-only release is still available. Anyway, worry not as you can still get 10 of the 11 that were featured on it on the double disc best of compilation late last year. Also featured on the 30-track set are standout tracks from their last two albums Time Knock in 1997 and Retrofungus in 2002. It would make a perfect compilation if a booklet on the history of the band and some rare photos were included.


SPIRAL KINETIC CIRCUS Sweetened Condensed Tunes For The Broken Hearted (Independent Records/Polygram)

THEIR song Iris that was featured on A Circle Of Friends compilation in 1993 was a gem. Their split EP with grunge rockers Dead Mushroom a couple of years later was a sign of great things to come. This nine-song debut in 1997 practically sealed Spiral Kinetic Circus’ status as Malaysian’s noise-pop finest son.

Right from album opener, Mr Alien to Dragon Girl to Wake Up to the remake of Iris, frontman, Fathullah rare missed a chord and effortlessly proved that he’s one of best when it comes to sugar-coated indie pop tunes

Sweetened Condensed Tunes For The Broken Hearted, spot on and a must have. Use the same method used in finding Songs For Friend for this one.


NICE STUPID PLAYGROUND My Life Is My Parents’ Biggest Television (Positive Tone)

KUCHING’S finest indie-pop export lived up to its reputation as the genres’ best with this debut in 2000. Sadly, it was greatly under-appreciated for unknown reasons. The last time we checked, the album is already out of print. Then again, we are pretty sure that you might find a copy or two if you look hard enough.

OLD AUTOMATIC GARBAGE OAG (Positive Tone/Mystique Music)

THE album that single-handedly put local independent/fringe music into mainstream attention. Forget 60s’ TV, the rest of the 11-songs on it are equally infectious especially Horrible Adorable and Yuppie. Okay, you can get their best of compilations like OAG.Comp and Permysuri which featured some of the songs from here, but it’s highly recommended for you to try to get hold a copy this.

ENSLAVED CHAOS Enslaved Chaos (Dull Entertainment Programme)

SAY you love … Satan,” if any bands that can make mockery of such “sensitive” issue, Kuantan’s Enslaved Chaos would be it. Led by the friendly Mat Ribis (currently based in Ohio), Enslaved Chaos hybrid of punk, metal and a lot of cynicism that is heard on their 7-song EP in 1997 has a lot more impact in the local independent/fringe music scene compared to most of today’s band that have been around for years – and the band was only around for a short period on less than three years! We used to have a cassette copy of this, but it was stolen. Those who happened to found a copy, please do drop us a line.

INFECTIOUS MAGGOTS Deep Within Our Grief Factory Milk Turns Red (Sonic Asylum)

TO call this release a Malaysian version to Fear Factory’s Soul Of A New Machine wouldn’t do justice to this great debut. The industrial elements are there but Infectious Maggots also fused in their own elements that included the gloomy slow dirges, Fathul’s mutated growls, and songs titles and lyrics that only they could understand. We have a cassette-copy of this (minus the sleeve) and we believe you might be able to find a copy in one of the record stores around the Sogo, Pertama and Campbell Complex area.

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