Now, I admit that when I saw this duo perform their first show at La Fenetre Soleil (44 Ly Tu Trong, Q1) I was a bit dumbstruck as to what kind of musical genre to call it, or them — two guys who look not a day out of university manning two computers, a MIDI controller, one guitar and some effects pedals, making soundscapes layered like one of those cakes they sell at the French bakery just down the street.
Timekeeper’s take on their own style is “to reach for the new and modern... seeking a combination of analogue and digital elements for a constant freshness in our sound”.
To, 25, and Giang, 22, met six years ago when To was in a grunge-stoner rock trio called AKAT. It wasn’t until just last year, however, that they sat down and worked on a project together. The result was the song Get One off their debut album Random Waves. YouTube recommends Get One alongside songs by such slow-building heroes as Explosions in the Sky and God is an Astronaut, for reasons that become very clear as it builds from a bubbly piano line into one of those smashing, raining sideways-type of crescendos that earn my highest compliment: it’s great music to have sex to.
Birth of the Weird
The duo played their first show a few months ago and only a few since. Anyone who’s ever tried starting a band is all too familiar with playing to empty rooms, the backs of drunks, playing for peanuts or — the lowest you can go — “pay to play” gigs. To skip all of that and jump to a hot debut album and a local audience hungry for you to perform again is just, well, it’s not luck but proof that the original underground music scene has grown.
To and Giang were, for many years previous “working with original music in Vietnam [and] have come to realise that music needs a character, a unique style of each country.” With influences like Aphex Twin and Kode9, it will be interesting to hear how this new ‘sound of Vietnam’ evolves.
Timekeeper is one of the only bands in this city with the current potential to reach an international base of listeners, with their hard-won understanding of the local scene and impeccably-influenced groove. It’s not far-fetched to think that these boys could actually redefine the way the global audience thinks about Vietnamese music. Timekeeper aims to make those with esoteric taste both inside and outside the country think about it at all. — Matt Bender
Check them out for yourself at deciBel (79/2/5 Phan Ke Binh) on May 10 at 8pm