Album is ready!

•January 27, 2008 • 5 Comments

SeaStars 2007 cover art - 2The songs have been re-arranged.

The entire album can now be downloaded (for free).

Thanks for visiting. Future posts and updates will be at our band blog.

And thanks for listening!

Final versions – SeaStars 2007 album cover art

•January 18, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Adrian and I have been really busy; too busy to update the blog.

It’s the new school term for Adrian, and I’ve been swamped by work stuff that’s taking my time away from creating any new musical works lately. But it’s pretty normal, considering that almost everyone is back at work and things are picking up from the leisurely December pace.

Anyway, Jon finished the artwork (a main cover and the inside cover).

SeaStars 2007 cover art - 1

SeaStars 2007 cover art - 2

Sweet!

I’ll be adding the artwork to the MP3 tracks (via iTunes). Upload them to Archive.org. Burn the CDs and labels. Give them out to the reviewers.

Thanks again, Jon.

~ Ivan

Divya reviews SeaStars 2007

•January 11, 2008 • 1 Comment

I got to know Divya (aka Nimbupani) in my early forays in the Blogosphere. One time I met her at the Web SG meetup. I’m not sure if I told her this but I was quite surprised to see how young she was.

But I digress.

Divya was one of those I “ambushed” in Gmail. I saw her online and I asked if she’d like to review the album.

So here’s her review:

It is a wonderful first album for the band and is a great collection of tunes inspired by the sea.

My favourite track is the Dolphins Galaxia 1.1 – basically for its variation of tunes used and being so soothing. Sea Anemone and Sea Breeze were the other two songs I couldn’t forget. The rest of the songs seemed like good “background music” to listen to while you are at work. Well, that is just my take anyway. When I listened for the first time, the laughter of the child seemed unique, but the second time it sounded slightly longer than what I thought it should be.

But, it is a good first album nevertheless! I would definitely listen to all the songs again !

Her post, here.

Draft SeaStars 2007 cover art

Heh… “good background music”. Thanks for being gentle with us, Divya. LOL

But I’m not complaining. It’s useful to know how each reviewer perceives the album.

Thanks Divya! One free CD coming up.

~ Ivan

Youth.SG reviews SeaStars 2007

•January 11, 2008 • 1 Comment

I’ve no idea how many people visit Youth.SG but I have the impression they run a pretty successful youth portal (they ran this neat blogging contest in 2007). Well, to my knowledge they were one of the first government-backed site to start a blog.

So you can imagine how tickled I was when Youth.SG editor, Lai Chow (a ‘she’, not ‘he’), emailed me to say they would be reviewing SeaStars 2007.

WTF (what the Fish)!?

Youth.SG reviewing the songs of two “old fogeys”?

So it was with trepidation that I read their review:

This being the Starfish Stories’ first stab at an album, it’s a rather noteworthy debut.

Hoookay… “rather noteworthy”. Meaning, “give them two oldsters a chance?” heh. I bet there’s a “But” coming up:

Its good ol’ mellow, soothing, and somewhat melancholic music somewhat rues the violence of the world. Waves gush, toddlers giggle. Seastars is soft, easy-listening music, and it’s not afraid to be so.

OK, so far so good. Still no Buts. So I read on:

I must say SeaStars qualifies as very good contemplative music; I can imagine this playlist looping over and over in my iPod. It’s not just music for those sentimental nights by the sea (even though Singapore is an island). You can take this anywhere with you, even to chill-out cafes, hotel lounges, Starbucks, or even if you’re home alone on a rainy day.

It’s so easylistening, I almost fell asleep after listening to the album. I’m wondering if that’s good or bad.

To sum it up, SeaStars is a product which is the complete opposite of what the popular indie rock bands are doing in Singapore. Forget dueling synthesisers or guitar wizardry. With piano and classical guitar-driven arrangements dominating the album, this is music that goes back to the basics. The only slight problem you might have is distinguishing tracks from one another, since the tunes just pour into one another like waves.

Full post, here.

Draft SeaStars 2007 cover art

I wonder if the reviewer, Benjamin Tay (who’s 19 of age, according to Lai Chow) was being polite to us since we’re like “Uncles” and all to him. 🙂

It’s not that I’m not appreciative of his positive review. Just that after from all our reviews so far, I just took for granted there must be some areas that the album could be improved. And people have not hesitated to tell us so!

Plus, how many youngsters were likely to like New Age?

But then, I discovered and fell in love with music from Enya and Andre Vollenweider when I was 15 or 16.

So thanks very much, Benjamin (and Lai Chow).

You made these two Uncles happy, LOL.

~ Ivan

Jude reviews SeaStars 2007

•January 9, 2008 • 2 Comments

Jude (one of the guys from the Media Socialists group) was kind enough to review the album, all the way from the US (where he’s pursuing his Ph.D).

Excerpts:

… a textbook case of how the production, publicity and distribution of the album was aided by technology and the internet.

Ivan has solicited for reviews from bloggers in his network and one common criticism has been that the tracks seem similar to each other after a while. I have to agree and feel that this issue is a result of the form of collaborative production (emailing tracks back and forth) between Ivan and Adrian.

Maybe something to consider for the next iteration of the album would be to not tackle something as ambitious as a whole album in one go.

Perhaps, taking the approach of famous music podcaster “Poddington Bear” – who releases a new song every alternate day, the duo might think about releasing one track at a time? …

Adrian and Ivan might get feedback even earlier from their fans and critics if they blog each track as they go. The album will come together as a result.

The standout track on the album for me so far has to be “Flowing with the waves”. It’s an interesting track that sits in the middle of the album (and hence between the stars and the sea?).

The instrumentation here is very good and the performance of the track is all heart and communicates the track’s message of just going with the tides and currents.

I believe this is what makes the amateur artist in the era of the internet stand out – the belief and sincerity of their work.

And more importantly, to play like you’re having fun in this whole endeavor. To be the rock stars that you could never be in the humdrum mundaneness of the daily job and life 🙂

Jude’s full post, here.

“Closet amateur musician/ artist”, Jude?

But Adrian and myself never hid anything! LOL

Draft SeaStars 2007 cover art

Jude suggested that we release individual tracks rather than the entire album.

Actually, we did just that.

For Adrian and myself, when we felt each track was ready, we published it on the blog and solicited for comments. Most notably, the Into The Deep track, where I decided to revised the guitar effects after some unexpected — but valid — comments.

But not all our friends bother to comment for each individual release. In the end, I got a lot more responses (from the same people ) when I said the album was complete and ready for review.

I guess people prefer to listen to albums rather than individual tracks.

Or maybe the lure of the word “FREE” (CD for helping us review). Heh.

~ Ivan

Suyin’s comments

•January 5, 2008 • 3 Comments

Suyin comments were nice. She had earlier blogged about Seabreeze version 1 on this post titled Sanctuary.

I particularly loved the first sentence [of her email review of SeaStars 2007]:

If you took a conch shell and place it to your ear and let it tell you tales from the Indo-Pacific oceans on a starry, starry night by the beach or out in the calm open sea… it just might sound like Seastars 2007 The Album.

Suyin has the ability to dream I guess in her own special way…

Here’s the rest of the email she sent to Ivan and me:

Seabreeze, as you already know, is my favourite, for the simple reason that it invokes fond memories of childhood for me (although there are no seagulls in Pangkor) and a somehow warm feeling of being “home” or being centred once again. The guitar melody here is best! The erhu and sitar provide pleasant unexpected touches except for the cymbals and gong at the end… I suppose conch tales would not be complete without bits and bobs of influences from the Orient lands.. heh.. Two others that I particularly liked are Starfish (loved the acoustic guitar and its tweaks) and Stargazer (the emo electric guitar is lovely, but sayang the ending’s not very gempak lah).

I don’t know what gempak is but this Malaysian girl often uses these terms in conversations.

And here is the last paragraph that speaks much about why the songs were written – to capture a sense of tranquility and the spirit of days at the beach, stargazing and just being. Like cycling down the beach and noticing the coconut trees in the seabreeze:

I like how there is a sense of peace throughout the album and depending on your state of mind, you might drift off and rediscover some magic moments in your own tranquility.

Draft SeaStars 2007 cover art

Thanks Suyin! You get a free album even though you insist on buying it. Don’t let Ivan make you pay for it ah! Just kidding. He’s too nice.

~ Adrian

Re-arrangement of song sequence

•January 5, 2008 • 2 Comments

Ivan Chew - ProfileLast night, I discussed with Adrian if we should re-arrange the sequence of the songs.

From the 21 reviews so far (thanks folks!), one recurrent comment was how some songs sounded similar.

Valid comment.

Adrian and I didn’t sit down to compose anything together. It was “pass-me-the-MP3-and-add-my-track-on-top-of-it” mash-up style. Turned out our choice of tempo and beats were similar throughout the tracks. Not necessarily a bad thing, but perhaps the “interestingness” factor was diminished.

In her review, Lingfeng asked if we’d specially arranged the sequence of the songs.

As Adrian explained at this earlier post, the original sequence was to give the impression of a journey from the Seas to the Stars, and back again. But from the reviews, we realised it wasn’t self-explanatory and perhaps the intent was too subtle.

So we discussed and agreed that “Once Upon a Star” to song#2, “Flowing with The Waves” should become song#3, “Sea Anemone” to #5, then “Starfish” to #7.

We don’t think it will change the “feel” of the album very much but alternating the guitar and piano pieces might improve the overall listening experience.

Maybe.

The other recurrent comment was how the ambient sea-sounds overwhelmed some tracks (particularly for “SeaShore Days”).

I asked Adrian if we needed to re-engineer Seashore days to tone down the wave effects? However, I was reluctant to do so because I quite like the sound of waves.

Final decision — we leave the sound engineering alone.

Adrian put it succinctly: “I think we have to let it go. We need to progress [i.e. move on]”

Yup.

As much as we want to please our listeners, it’s impossible to create an album that is universally appealing. Everyone has different musical tastes and levels of discernment.

At least 3 or 4 reviewers clearly liked the album.

For our first attempt, I’m happy with that 🙂

~ Ivan

Barffie reviews SeaStars 2007

•January 4, 2008 • Leave a Comment

This must qualify as our first unsolicited review!

Adrian and I were pleasantly surprised (i.e. macho-speak for “shocked and fell off our chairs”) when we received an email from Barffie, saying she’d be reviewing our album.

I had trepidations though. She was the self-proclaimed ‘Whine Connoisseur’.

Whine + SeaStars = We’ll take a year off to recover!

So she reviewed the album and posted in her blog:

For a homebrew album, I have to say that they’ve got the main melodies down pat. They’ve got the mood all rolling. I sense no awkwardness in their instrumental execution and the sound mix was pretty decent. It was a satisfying, transporting experience that got me a little mellow at night, really.

OK, so far so good…

Then she continues:

However (here come the buts)…

Uh oh! Here it comes!

Perhaps, just perhaps, The SeaStars should consider roping in an experimental sound engineer who might add in more surprises to their tunes.

The waves in the album could have done much better with some nifty layering, maybe some hide and seek in between the different instruments. I love the whale songs from Into The Deep, but they sometimes overwhelm, instead of embracing the listener in its floatiness.

Would love to see them strip away some of the more distracting elements in tracks like Seashore Days so that the listener could focus better on the musical journey, instead of having them competing for attention all at once.

At this point, Barffie must have felt bad for us, for she added:

(Note: I hope I don’t sound too critical with the details?)

We’re crushed, Barffie. But we’ll live, LOL!

She must have anticipated that Adrian and my bruised egos need some massaging by now, so she writes:

Hanging on this note, I’d have to say that I like Stargazer quite a fair bit, as well as the later tracks like Once Upon A Star where the layering was a little more silky, and I could sense the effects being a little more intricate. One of the tracks (I forgot which one) had synthesized choir voices, which is kind of a downer, so I *ehem* have bravely volunteered my own voice for their next collaboration!

Barffie ended off by saying we have “a little more mileage than just spa or yoga music” and there’s hope for us!

Heh, I was just kidding around. 🙂

Draft SeaStars 2007 cover art

Lest anyone misreads my attempt at self-effacing humour as sarcasm, let me state unequivocally that it’s a good sign when Barffie publicly announces in her blog that she’d like to try singing for our next album.

Sure! We’re open to collaborations.

We look forward to your demo track.

Barffie’s full post, here.

~ Ivan

Michelle likes SeaStars 2007!

•January 4, 2008 • Leave a Comment

From my friend, Michelle:

So, overall I liked it, which I should mention is quite an accomplishment because I’m not usually into pure instrumental new-age-ish music. (If I can characterise it that way.)

I felt that the background wave sound could have been a bit subtler in a bunch of the songs, particularly in the first track, Sea Shore Days. It worked well for a bunch of the other songs, though, e.g. Into the Deep (suitably mysterious).

The screechy bits in Starfish were a bit…weird, but some of the other “surprises” brought a smile to my face.

Overall I think I liked the quieter songs in the latter half better, particularly those with the lighter beats.

Sea Breeze remains my favourite, the melody is there and somehow it speaks to me, and I find it very evocative of a walk on a lonely beach.

Nice work overall…glad I got the chance to listen to it. Thanks for sending it along (and don’t bother with a CD, I’m not a physical media type person anymore…)

Draft SeaStars 2007 cover art

Incidentally, Michelle mentioned that the download page was hard to access. It failed 2 out of 4 times when she tried (I suspect it’s because it’s a temporary page and therefore not that stable).

Anyway, glad you liked it Michelle!

Thanks for your time.

~ Ivan

Draft of SeaStars 2007 album cover art

•January 4, 2008 • 5 Comments

It’s an illustrated dolphin.

Not a photo.

Draft SeaStars 2007 cover art

Yeah, this fella (who’s doing this pro-bono for us) is THAT GOOD!

I’d say I’d kiss him.

But you’ll get the wrong idea.

~ Ivan