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Insight: Evening Chants record label, building on beautifully strange music

Text by CLOT Magazine

Established in 2018, Evening Chants is a contemporary electronic label based in Singapore that presents personal strange and unknown musical explorations that highlight (but are not limited to) experimental, ambient and new-age music. The label is run by Nigel Lopez, who takes charge of curation and distribution and Jasmine Ho, who leads the label’s creative direction.

While based in Singapore, Evening Chants – Nigel shares- is not bounded by the region in terms of output. An avid “digital” digger, when it comes to music, he loves discovering the depths of Bandcamp for new sounds and undiscovered artists that fall into the realm of the more experimental or strange side of things: Whenever I discover something fresh, my immediate reaction is more people need to listen to this. Evening Chants is my personal curation of music that I enjoy and believe deserves the attention of a larger audience. Together with Jasmine Ho, my label partner who helms the label’s creative direction, we hope to achieve this to the best of our ability.

With only 3 releases, the first by Japanese ambient musician Meitei, followed by London’s Softman debut 500ms, and the excellent debut from Taiwan-based duo, Melting Bridge 融化橋, the label is already making a strong impression on the specialised media. When asked where the label sits in the Singapore scene, Nigel reflects that the experimental scene in Singapore is a very small yet tight-knit community.

The true purveyors of the experimental scene are the musicians and the two veterans in the experimental/ambient record label side of things – Ujikaji Records and Kitchen Label, both of which he greatly respects. Those two labels have paved the way for newer labels like myself to enter the scene and have been nothing short of supportive. While the music they represent and push out is completely different, they have done a lot for the experimental scene in Singapore.

Regardless of the fact, as previously stated, that Evening Chants does not restrict itself to music coming from Singapore, they love to think that they are contributing by putting Singapore on the map as a country that consumes such music, especially in the form of the little shows taking place in the city. Evening Chants recently organised an ambient night at a contemporary tea house called Antea Social, where they had DJs playing experimental/ambient/new-age music on vinyl; It was a beautiful gathering of individuals just congregating and enjoying alternative music. I’d love for this community to continue to grow, and to be as inclusive as possible.

Regarding musical output as a label, it is difficult for Nigel to say what exactly they contribute to Singapore specifically, considering we are not region bound. However, he’d like to think that what they put out reaches a larger Southeast Asian audience while, at the same time, eventually having international artists in this musical realm do more shows here in the region.  Besides, being able to develop a record label in the area has its challenges; to start with -we discuss- music consumption is and will always be a challenge in terms of experimental music as a genre. While we do have a very dedicated community, the barriers to entry in consuming such music can be daunting, and I hope it changes in due time and have more people listening and enjoying such music. Thus, it is difficult, as with many other labels, to build an audience.

Another challenge comes from the cost of putting out music on physical formats (cassettes and vinyl). We do not have cassette duplication services or vinyl plants in Singapore or, to a greater extent, the region. We have to source for our physical formats from other regions, and with that comes a huge cost when it comes to shipping. This makes sustainability incredibly challenging, which is one reason why Evening Chants does small runs of physical formats for now due to these limitations.

Talking about the label’s most recent release, Melting Bridge’s 我們從明天來 (We Come From Tomorrow), Nigel says a friend of his sent him an NTS mix by Taiwan’s Meuko! Meuko! which opened with the track 古箏故障 Guzheng Malfunction, by (((CHORA))), one half of Melting Bridge. Nigel was surprised by the use of the Guzheng (a Chinese plucked string instrument with a more than 2,500-year history) used in juxtaposition with such modern sonic textures:  It just clicked. And I immediately got in touch with them. I wanted more.

Together with Outsiderwater, they formed Melting Bridge and produced their phenomenally strong debut of which Evening Chants are incredibly honoured to have put out. A perfect blend of traditional Chinese instruments and more modern Western electronic ones, they have created a unique sonic language of their own that is best described as a conflict between tradition and modernity, guiding the listener into a continuum of time and space.

And where would they like to see taking the label? To be a label synonymous with beautifully strange music and to be consistently putting out great music that challenges listeners. All with the intention of the music to reach an open-minded community of like-minded individuals who are open to exploring it (the music) with us.

(Media courtesy of Evening Chants)
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