The Malaysian music collective finds their own path in blurring genres, inspired by heroes like Odd Future & BROCKHAMPTON
GENRE: HIP HOP / R&B / ALTERNATIVE R&B RELEASE DATE: 6 NOV 2020
The influence of hip hop collectives like Odd Future can be felt everywhere. The eclectic mixing between members of differing musical stripes and styles plays a large part in pushing contemporary hip-hop to new levels of variety. In some of these collectives, not all of its members are rappers or producers, they also include photographers and designers, placing value upon aesthetic & personality, manifested by design. From the meteoric rise of BROCKHAMPTON to heavily influential labels like 88 Rising, this influence has most definitely reached Malaysia with the advent of newcomers, DISTORTED.
Established in 2019, the group's members hail from many different parts of Klang Valley, from Ampang to Subang Jaya. DISTORTED (aka Distorted Material) is made up of Jessel Phuah (Sino), Ariff Jazmi, Helloluqman of 'Block J' (Jonah), Nik Qayrel Aiman of the duo 'Niqie' (Eneyeqay) and Syed Mir Iqbal of Insomniacks (Balo). The key to the BROCKHAMPTON comparison here is that there are actually more members than the names mentioned.
Continuing in the conversation about their influences in an email response, they go on to list Frank Ocean, Mac Miller & Rex Orange County. "Our music is not solely defined by one genre as we always try to craft as many genres of music as possible in our art. We make art for the new age current listeners to experience together with us - solely for the love and passion that we have."
It's also pretty clear that DISTORTED serves as an outlet for these artists to explore alternative expressions beyond their other projects, palpable in the pseudonyms they take on. Block J, for example, is Helloluqman's space for a different kind of electropop R&B, whereas his original Helloluqman persona is more outright positive, cheesy pop. Syed Iqbal's boyband, Insomniacks, are purveyors of sentimental pop typical of the Malay language charts, popular for their song 'Pulang'. Nik Qayrel's Niqie veers slightly off-the-beaten-path with a slacker bedroom indie rock sound - epitomised by their single 'gimam'. In DISTORTED, they're Jonah, Balo & Eneyeqay respectively.
As different as their influences and origins may be, the group come off cohesively and with electric chemistry, as they've shown in their latest single 'MEDUSA'. "We wanted to get out of our comfort zone and so we collaborated with our friend Calvin Ho [aka C.H.Q.Y.]", as stated in the group's statement."He was in Singapore at the time before the Covid lockdown and had sent over to us a chorus and rough beat idea that he had come up with. The minute we heard the first draft, we knew that we wanted to be on board".
The vibe of the song itself is reflected by its music video. Disorienting KL city skylines, landmarks, streets and images of friendship as a sonic landscape. Produced collaboratively by Calvin Ho, Jessel Phuah, Nik Qayrel Aiman, and Syed Mir Iqbal, 'MEDUSA' traverses the eerie, nightlife alternative R&B sound before ending in a melancholic acoustic note with the second track on the single, a stripped version of their song 'Extasy'.
The group has not yet revealed anything about an upcoming EP or an album. " our current plan is to just release as much music such as singles at the moment - but if all goes well, maybe we might release an EP".
Listen to their other singles like their Chinese New Year song 'CNY Ting' which has a subtle house and dark pop aura to the production:
And our favourite, 'REALITI', with a more laidback, lo-fi hip-hop sensibilities: