The Observatory

Singapore's foremost alternative/experimental band

My good friend Alvin told me about The Observatory a number of years ago before I moved to Singapore and I confess I failed to fully investigate them. Just a few weeks after I moved here, they played a gig to launch their new album 'August Is The Cruellest' and I went along with Alvin and his friend and experienced crowd-surfer, Shawn. The album is a dark, dense, brooding affair and, in keeping with that, the show was powerful, intense and quite captivating.

A few months after the gig, I attended a screening of 'The Obs: A Singapore Story', a feature length documentary looking back over the band's career. The film is a fascinating insight into the tensions in and around the band as they attempt to make their way in an environment which can be challenging to those who are independent thinking and outspoken.

Guitarist/vocalist Leslie Low and keyboard player Vivian Wang have been ever present since the band formed in 2001 with a number of people filling the roles of 2nd guitarist and drummer. The band's eight albums span a number of styles with the intensity of the latest release contrasting greatly with the jazz tinged, melodic early albums, the psychedelic folk of Dark Folke, the industrial brutality of Catacombs and the sparse, gamelan influenced Continuum.

When they aren't recording or playing gigs in their own right, they are still busy influencing the music scene here either by collaborating, as seen with their recent 'Shadows' joint venture with MoE, or putting on shows. A 30 piece guitar orchestra and an improvisational piece by 10 female musicians from 6 countries are just two that I've seen.

Here are some video clips I took at a couple of the gigs I attended: