อินสไปเรทีฟ Inspirative (Thailand): World class post-rock & reverb music!
Soon after discovering the impressive noise pop of our April 2017 Noise Artists, Desktop Error, it was difficult not to look for other Thai music nuggets.
Browsing from band to band on YouTube, I rapidly stumbled on the “Felicity is out there” a video from the Thai post-rock band Inspirative. When the video stopped, I pressed play, and again and again! I could not get enough of it.
After purchasing their full work on Bandcamp, Inspirative’s work was listened to for hours and still is.
This is not as common an occurrence that one may think. While I do not relish repetition, and coming back regularly on good songs, rare is the band that I can listen for a long span of time without wanting some change. What is it then that makes Inspirative’s music different?
Their sound, which is flawless, is part of the answer, but not only. Their mix of post-rock, indie and sometimes ambient is another part but not only.
Listening to Inspirative is like walking into the shop of a master sound crafter. All you discover has been studied, thought completely through, melodies, sound, texture, and colors. They are all masterpieces made by a band that has not only worked hard but also thought hard about their music and are clever about their choices. You can feel that the evolution is not just been let to itself: it has been planned, designed. It comes partly from the scientific background of the founder.
Inspirative is presently my favorite post-rock band and certainly one of the best worldwide. I will do my best to acquaint you with their music in this article. Note that Noppanan was very kind to review all material of this post and make amendments when required. It was an enjoyable collaborative work.
Why we Like them so much
- They are master of their sound. Jimmy Bannerman called his blog “it sounds better with reverb” for a reason. But there is a significant step between using reverb and mastering reverb. Inspirative is one of the best examples of this mastery. Inspirative experiment with format of songs, textures, instruments (voice, horns, piano, …) to create great finished products. They also work over time, with some songs having been up to 3 times on their recording, evolving and getting better as time goes by.
- They are not stuck in a genre, just in the sound: Post-rock, electro, ambient, indie, folk ... are mixed beautifully
- They are optimistic in their music: while sometimes sad, melancholic or ominous, Inspirative's music always keeps a light and optimistic side, showing a balance between various colors and emotions.
- They use voice beautifully: Unlike most post-rock bands, Inspirative do not hesitate to bring a voice in some of their song, and what a voice. Wuttipong's tone and power complement perfectly Inspirative' beautiful music. Also the fact that the lyrics are in Thai improve the flow and texture of the singing part.
- They are good musicians: A number of musicians have changed over the year but it has never impacted the music. All instrumentalists are "to the point" and bass, drums, synth, and guitars do not fall into the trap of "the more the better".
Inspirative have released 4 EP and 2 LP since 2008. They are presented here from the latest to the oldest. Feel free to listen to them from the eldest to the latest of course.
An introduction with 4 songs
If you do not know Inspirative and want to get a feel for their music, here is a selection of 4 songs that are guaranteed to make you want to dive into their music.
Mainland (EP) – April 2017
1. Mainland 06:03
This song is maybe Inspirative’s most Celtic song. There are several ways maybe it could be listened to, one being the feeling of passengers on a boat when finally they spot a busy city after spending days on the sea, punctuated by the horns (fog horns?) that are brought into the song. It is also a good fit with the song’s title.
Being a sci-fi and fantasy aficionado, the Harry Dresden series is one of my favorite these days, mixing crime and fantasy, with the main character being a mix between Harry Bosch, Michael Connelly’s famous gritty detective, and Gandalf, albeit a more junior one.
In several of the books, a Celtic figure, the Hunter, bring a chaotic hunt party chasing preys and enjoying every minute of it. It is something primal, utterly wild.
Mainland is a great parallel. Beginning softly, is builds up in crescendo to explode in a great finale. The use of horns, something I have not heard since “Dead Can Dance” adds wonderfully to this wild climax. It tells the story of somebody walking in nature, when the sun begins to set, freeing the Wild Hunt, catching you unaware, running for your life from these predators.
It is a song that tells stories, many of them. Tell us what’s yours!
2. Leaving Mainland 01:32
The work on reverb on this song is amazing: When the song stops and subsides into an endless fleeting reverb … it is magnificent. The work and mastery involved show the technical side of the band superbly.
As for the piece, it is built like a mini-Inspirative song, using the guitars melodies and atmosphere that are their trademark.
3. The Island Funeral 04:57
This Island funeral is like an Irish funeral really, several people speaking at the same time, piano answering the guitars and bass.
They are not sad, mainly solemn, remembering the deceased life, crying but also laughing as they say goodbye. It is beautiful. I would not mind being buried with this song as a soundtrack. It would be such a fitting one. The climax of the song celebrates life, its passion.
Laugh people, cry people, remember me fondly, That what this song says.
4. Perspective 10:05
This a completely ambient, where Inspirative pushed their art to another extreme of sound and composition. It is closer to Echelon Effect than Mono, and a perfect illustration that the post-rock and ambient genre are cousins. They just use different textures, intensities, feelings.
It is more synth-heavy. Another texture that Inspirative add to their already large pallet of sound.
It evolves from Inspirative usual pallet of song, like “the revenant” soundtrack did for Mogwai, and ends almost in a blackgaze composition.
Then, the end with a muffled sound. Like living in an apartment and hearing the neighbors. Very well built around the various atmospheres.
5. Untitled 6.01 (Bonus track)
This a complete departure from most of the way Inspirative do their songs. Mainly synth based, they manage in getting a very distinctive aquatic feeling to it, using wet sounds, like drops of water falling in an underground cave.
The only other artist that I know of that can get this kind of very organic, nature-like sound is Valentin Stip. Completely organic & aquatic synth sounds.
It is very soothing, and maybe the only song from Inspirative that do not show the optimism. It shows things as they are, like a National Geographic movie on nature without any comment or soundtrack.
Mysteriously Awake (LP) – July 2015
A masterpiece to listen with attention again and again.
1. แค่อดีต 06:17 - Just the past
The LP opens with this song, a very simple opening. It is like waking up slowly, with instruments adding as the song progresses as each of your senses switches on. When Wuttipong’s superb voice finally joins, it is like talking to yourself, a voice in your head.
It then builds up, combining powerful music and vocals that hit you in the guts with a distorted guitar and voice combination for a brief moment. Is the alarm clock waking you up?
It blurs the lines there with some distort on the voice, the only song from the band using this effect on the vocals.
Then a post-metal part starts with a big bass line and increases in intensity: your senses awake little by little, like switching on all the feelings, touch, hearing, taste, smell …like being alive today, not in the past.
2. Atonia 06:08
Atonia is a deficiency of usual or expected tone in the muscles. This song is a “Tuesday with Morrie” moment, where you overcome the disease with joy and positivity.
The Piano is at the forefront announcing the rest of the song, with almost a metal answer to the sweet Piano as a counterpoint. The closest song to post-metal of the album but more powerful, more sustained. Like if you had made a step after a long reeducation following in accident and the joy of this simple step transports you, elevates you. Again a great use of reverb
3. Mysteriously Awake 06:07
The title song of the album. It starts like a dream, brought by a very simple arpeggio guitar and soft synth pads. In the far, voices. The sleep part, like a nice dream in which you fly.
The band increases suddenly intensity in a beautiful climax: you are awake, all instruments coming in full force. Beautiful high part.
Taking a guess, this song maybe about a disorder called sleep paralysis (Phee Um) that has inspired the LP.
4. กึ่งหลับกึ่งตื่น (Half asleep, Half Awake) 06:00
Wuttipong (vocals) is absolutely fantastic here. All the song is built around his voice, both powerful and melodic. He sings in Thai, which makes it even better, as language always flows better in your own tongue.
Great ballad with add-ons (bass notes, jangle electric guitar, …) to the folk guitar that enhances the song as it goes without taking anything from the guitar/voice duo.
The voice is like a narrator explaining to you what the song is about, with another gut-wrenching moment thrown in the equation.
It stops abruptly as you are caught by the sleep paralysis.
5. อุโมงค์เวลา 07:24 Time Tunnel
Many strange noises at the beginning, a mix of machines, the wind, …. and all in a sudden you are submerged by a wave of static …. and the music starts. You have passed through the tunnel, from a sound landscape urban and futuristic to a very simple and beautiful melody. It could be the exploration of the theme of the Golden Age when everything was simpler, better, clearer.
6. Why 08:00
Just good, really good. Difficult to make a song that grabs and never let go. The numerous melodic lines, the guitar hook, the progression, the superb piano texture, all conspires to keep you hooked.
And again this gut-smashing guitar. What a fantastic live song it is likely to be. A bit like Mogwai's superb “Mogwai fear Satan” when it re-starts after the break. And the various harmonies are just beautiful.
And these piano notes hook… You have to have played Piano to feel the pleasure a musician gets in playing such a repetitive yet so important part of this song, like an anchor in the chaos, the ground under your feet. It enhances the rest of the power around it.
Why can be enjoyed by people that do not like music only pieces, as the many instruments are like a choir with different textures
It is a song they have worked over time, that matured, from its first version on their 2009 EP to this jewel 6 years later.
7. After 27 Years, I'm Alive 04:15
It starts as an ambient piece with ethereal pads spreading in space. And then, when the band starts, you can imagine it well as a victory-lap song. You have won: alive after 27 years. When asked what it is about, Noppalan informs us:
"After 27 Years, I'm Alive: Have you ever heard about the curse of age 27? The world's talents always die at the age of 27 (like Kurt Cobain, Jimmi Hendrix, Jim Morrisson, Brian jones, Amy Winehouse, etc). We want to link it to the album's concept. After you woke up from a mystery dream even good or band, you're still alive. Move on."
Some people did not go above the 27 years old. When you reach it as an artist, is it when thing really begin? Another very positive song from Inspirative.
When we talk (EP) – February 2012
1. Key On A Train 04:49
Use of a Rohdes keyboard to begin, which gives a nice texture to the introduction with a powerful reverb. It’s like a promise, the invitation to something.
2. An Evening With Us 05:21
Starts as if the guitar player was looking for a tune, improvising, and then suddenly finds his inspiration, then joined by the other musicians. A nice acoustic number, slow, with 2 chords, like the tic tac of a wall clock.
It is like a night when people meet for the first time and then relax into the evening and talk with each other. After a while, it is like being in a conversation (the instruments are doing this in being all in almost a different rhythm and melodic line), while the clock ticks slowly the evening away.
3. Good Morning Uncle
It could have been written a morning, sitting outside the house with the street noise, improvising on the guitar, enjoying being there, healthy. A moment of mindfulness.
Memories Come Rushing Up to Meet Me Now (LP) – November 2010
1. Blue Sky 00:54
This intro uses layered reverb guitars, in a very shoegazing texture. You can imagine these memories rushing back at you as you are lying down, looking at the blue sky, letting you mind wandering. A very calm, soothing introduction to the LP.
2. Flametrees 05:05
Not being sure if this song was about a forest fire or a red tree, Noppanan was asked to shed some light:
“Flametree. I mean a red tree (see the photo).”
Thank you for this insight. Well, what I hear from this song is more the forest fire. You are walking in the forest on a nice day when suddenly, a sense of dread hits you like if something grave is happening, approaching: the forest fire.
There is now a sense of dread, brought by this heavy distorted bass covered by pads of reverberating guitars. The 2 guitars in front are like birds in the tree beginning to chirp, sensing the danger.
Bass and drums come in that when you hear the crackles that the fire makes in the distance … and it gets closer. Now sensing the danger, you walk in the opposite direction, trying to escape this ominous dread.
Distorted guitar hit you as you are caught by the blaze, the clear guitar, the bird, is there, trying to get out as well, showing you a way, maybe to safety.
Then a very optimistic bridge: you got out of the blaze and contemplate your luck and the beauty of the fire around you, its savageness, ravaging all and moving away from you.
3. Felicity is Out There 06:54
I do not know if Felicity is out there but it is definitely in the song. The melodic start is like Sonic Youth under sleeping pills, with slightly dissonant guitars that gradually evolve towards a more major key.
The break with a piano interlude is so calm, so refreshing. Like contemplating a smooth lake
Following this all instruments come together like if somebody joined you by this lake, making your day a happy one, building up the momentum little by little to culminate in a great explosion of post-rock music and THE moment : did she(he) tell you he(she)loves you for the first time leading to this first so intense kiss, did you learn that you are expecting this first child that you have bot desired so much… only fantastic news like this could lead to such a powerful piece.
4. เพลงส่วนตัว 07:58 A private song
Maybe one of the most powerful songsI know.
The beginning is very simple, with voice and background music; Then bass and drum enter, providing a nice poppy feeling. The singing melodic line becomes different, and the doubling of the voice + reverb gives it more thickness, it fills more of the space, losing only a bit of clarity.
When the high point arrives, it kicks you in the guts because you do not expect it, complementing very well the melodic line and the rest. Powerful and beautiful at the same time, a feeling which reminds me of “kick the tragedy” from Drop Nineteen, not less. The voice even adds a supplementary element, a strength that makes it even more touching.
Wuttipong's voice is beautiful and the Thai flows so well. The music calms when he starts to sing. Like if the listener stopped talking to listen what he had to say.
5. KL Streets 05:09
You are in the hall of an airport, sitting on the terrace of a café, looking at the crowd, hearing the announcements from the airport’s speaker in the background.
And then you remember what you were doing in this city, the good, the bad, the uplifting, things to remember and to forget. The memories are rushing back to meet you before you take that flight home. This maybe the song closest in what it tells from the LP title.
6. Military Parachutes 03:19
One of the shortest song from the band. When asked what this song is about, Noppanan answered:
“Military Parachutes: It's about my childhood memories. When i was young i really liked parachutes. My parents always took me to a military parachutes demonstration. I like watching them jump off the aircraft and popping the parachutes in the sky.”
You can see the little parachute in the air drifting with the wind as the music is very simple. The guitar is the wind, the Piano the parachutes landing and jumping.
7. He's Gazing You From The Black Mirror 06:24
Very calm, melodic beginning.
The heavy verse is ominous, threatening but exhilarating at the same time especially with changes of chords and distortion. Another gut wrenching number, a look into this black mirror.
8. Sitting On My Chair 02:31
It is a contemplative piece with a drone pads in the background and a simple folk guitar. At the end soft bells call you for dinner, waking you up from your day dream.
Again memories are coming back to you in this song, letting your mind drift.
9. ระฆังลม 06:25 – Wind chime
The soft bells from the previous song are wind chimes at the end.
Again the superb voice of Wuttipong that mixes so well with Inspirative instruments. Guitar and voice are starting, then a pause with a slight bass/drum chiming in, increasing in arpeggio speed on the main guitar, the second guitar on back doing the chimes (first one if like a soft breeze blowing) that ring as the wind picks up some speed.
This brings back memories, a man talking to himself and shouting his rage, a gestalt therapy at its best, shouting all your repressed feeling in the climax of this song, getting rid of all that you do not need to keep inside.
10. When we talk
The start of this song is very ominous, for the first half menacing synth pads. You could imagine waiting for somebody and expecting some bad news. When the 2 guitars start with nice crystalline notes, the atmosphere gets relaxed, as the people talking make chit chat, driving slowly into the main conversation.
When the piano and drums enter the piece, that's the moment of truth, as everything is explained. While tense, there is no sense menace here: the people talking provide explanation and understand each other.
This is a well-constructed conclusion to this LP.
The Sleeping Tracks (EP) – November 2009
1. Why (old school version) 06:05
Use of a more aquatic synth that the later version. This song has then been worked to death for the final LP version 6 years later.
2. Antares 02:18
It is a small stellar number with synth pads making you think of space and stars. The use of synth will not be pervasive in Inspirative work until their last EP where they used it more. Lying down in a meadow, looking at the stars, letting you be carried by space winds, looking at Antares.
3. ระฆังลม (gosom remix)
Third version of this song, remixed by gosom, with a more pads feeling, ambient/electro
Much calmer, absolutely beautiful.
The voice is the only one that brings power while the rest of the instrument stays ambient and linear. Voice is even at the back, in the far, unlike the other 2 version where the music supplements the voice.
It could climax, explode, but does not, laughing at the post-rock conventions.
Floating Down Through the Cloud (EP) – November 2008
1. You 08:45
Begins with some noise that reminds of Radiohead sound on some song with non-linear lines and melodies
You is like a movie song. You can imagine this uplifting song in one of these teen movies where the guy gets the girl and do a victory lap, pretty in pink of breakfast club style: arms in the air, smile on your face, happiness in your heart.
And then doubt, with the climax with the guitar going up.
2. KL Streets 05:04
Same song than in the LP, with a slightly different version. The guitar is more melancholic in tonality and the bpm slightly lower, giving a more melancholic feeling, less upbeat than the LP version. The airport sounds are a lot more present. And subsides as you leave, no climax like in the LP. There is more live feeling to it. Like if it was played in the airport. Just one voice, were on the new version, a second guitar embellished the piece, adding a supplementary color.
3. ระฆังลม 07:42
Another version of Wind chime than on the LP, but a very acoustic one, with a guitar that instead of being a major key almost bring a counter melody that plays with the voice line in a very different way. I really like this version too. Purer in some ways, though maybe not as complete sound wise as the LP version
Shows the song-writing and arrangement talent of the band, as 2 different versions of the same song are equally beautiful and powerful.
A rougher diamond that the later version. Inspirative use of Wha Wha more in the end like a wind blowing on the chimes.
Where to buy their music?
Bandcamp has all their music, as well as itunes.
NOISE ARTISTS wrap up
Grateful is the word that comes to mind after finishing this post. Grateful to have discovered their music, grateful for Noppanan's help and patience, grateful for having the privilege to collaborate with such great artists.
The title of this post, while of course designed to bring attention, is also a statement I am comfortable to stand with. In music, "best", is of course inapplicable in many ways, as taste is a big factor in choices. Nevertheless, I am happy to discuss and exchange on the matter, as there are many arguments that definitely place Inspirative among the great post-rock and reverb-music bands.
Next week, meet the band with a presentation and the week after with an interview that will give you interesting insight as to who Inspirative are.
Noppanan Panicharoen from Inspirative for his time, patience and reactivity. He was hugely helpful over the full collaboration, and really kind to the still tiny Noise Artists blog.