Review: Dirty Beaches Live In Singapore

We live in a world of polar opposites and dichotomy – good and evil, yin and yang, Hilary Duff and Miley Cyrus. In music, there are no surprises as people who shed copious amount of money in pursuit of high-fidelity music and those who favor the antithesis of such pleasurable endeavors – lo-fi music.


Enter Dirty Beaches, whose music forays venture from lo-fi, to no wave, experimental and rockabilly. Dirty Beaches is a one-man show comprised of Alex Zhang Hungtai who records and tours with other musicians at times.His first full-length album, Badlands, has been lauded by reviewers for its unique sound and contribution to the lo-fi scene.

So when Dirty Beaches came to Singapore on April 16, fans were suitably excited.

A healthy turnout of about 150 people arrived in dribs and drabs to nicely pack the venue  Pink Noize, a back alley shop house with – you guessed it – pink neon lights., The crowd consisted of one-part Caucasians, one-part after-work yuppies and one-part edgily dressed art students.

The show started with the opening act, Awk Wah, an “experimental exploratory” musician. The curly-haired man, whose real name is Shark Fung, launched immediately into what at first seemed like a set test, but later morphed into an eclectic arrangement of sounds. Awk Wah mixed and mashed a melting pot of predominantly static, dissonant sounds, with cymbals and drumbeats on occasion. Just as sudden as he started, his segment finished and led to a recess.

dirty beaches

Likewise, Dirty Beaches started without a hint or word,  playing improvisational pieces that melded into one another  while snatches of familiar tunes could be heard sporadically. While hard to discern the arrangements sometimes, the concert was split into 3 acts, made noticeable by the changes in the ebb and flow of the music, but more curiously, by Alex’s demeanor too.

In the first act, the music started with slow, thrumming beats, and the audience was greeted by Alex’s back as he faced away from the audience. As the music slowly picked up, so did Alex’s bobbing become increasingly noticeable and frenzied. Suddenly, a fever pitch had been reached and he started punching the air – the music reached a faster rhythm, moving away from the droning, “Lynchian” vibe that Alex is known for and to something more upbeat and psychedelic in tune.


This continued for a good 15 minutes, as the music went into a flux between a depressing vibe to an endless “cruiser” (read: the kind of music that you’d listen to while you cruise down a long, long road) droning as accompanied with images of laughing Buddha-like statues and cityscapes flashed on screen in a loop.

And in a twist of events, the music transformed into a lively pace with crashing cymbals with Alex jumping from the stage onto the floor. Here, he bowled himself through the audience and put his arms around the stiff shoulders of the surprised members, compelling them to join his one-man bacchanalia. Who needs personal space when your artist is performing right next to you?


It was a strange night, and the music was kind of a weird science. Indeed, Dirty Beaches requires an acquired music palate to appreciate, especially his formless music explorations. Who would have thought of drawing a violin bowstring across a sheet of metal?

UrbanWire left confused, but enlightened about a whole new spectrum of soundscapes.