In December 2017, widely renowned Malaysian lo-fi rocker and all-around troubadour Azmyl Yunor released ampang park, a whole album he recorded only on his phone. While some purists may scoff at that idea, the album is the epitome of independence and thriving all on your own.
It is the musician’s call to make something special and intimate, a gift for long-time fans and a treasure for newcomers to stumble upon. Where previous albums like Wilayah (2012) are summer-y and fun in all its noisy glory – with Was Was (2015) following closely in that tradition – ampang park is a pleasant, and big, leap away from all of that. It is a time machine back to Azmyl’s simpler singer-songwriter roots; an album that shines in its honest lyrics and gruff, melancholic vocals.
“An EP dedicated to memory, spaces & modernity.”
The music of ampang park can be best described as transient songs for a transient time. It has a melancholic feel, influenced by a certain weariness of the world. This atmosphere is something Azmyl sought to evoke in his listeners. His songs, while honest, are rarely about him. They are more often than not thoughts and observations that he translates through the characters in his
This shines through in songs like ‘Forget Me’, which is a crowd favourite whenever he plays in intimate spaces. It’s made more personal with just Azmyl’s cool vocals over a mellow acoustic tune, the sound of someone who has accepted his fate of being forgotten. The song is also an excellent example of how he turns his thoughts into stories, as he describes the songwriting process. “I would think of an object you easily lose, like forgetting your keys and thought about how it’s not something spiteful but something that slips your mind because you’re just too busy. That’s the way of the world. It’s my ode to how fleeting things can be.”
Azmyl has cited P. Ramlee as a huge influence on his music and it is reflected in how he has curated this EP, making it similar to an old P. Ramlee black and white film. The need to keep his music authentic is one of the reasons he created an album solely from music he found on his phone. “These songs have a found footage feel to them. I recorded them when I was travelling through Europe, all spontaneously made and when I found them again, I was blown away by how analog it sounded. It really lends to that vintage aura.”
Even the album’s title has an origin tied to memories, and a longing for the past you just can’t shake off. Ampang Park, the country’s first shopping center, standing at 44 years old, is set to be demolished and has already stopped operating. It is a place of cherished memories for many mall rats who grew up there, met their first loves, hung out with their first friends and was the place Azmyl himself used to busk. The musician mentioned to us how sad he felt that the place would be torn down but in turn, immortalised those memories in his EP for the rest of us who didn’t get to grow up in this old picture of Malaysia.
Doing It His Way
But ampang park isn’t just melancholic music. It is Azmyl’s past, but in his prime, smoother and better than ever. His song-writing and musical style harkens back to his Wknd Sessions period, where many of us came to know of his music. Its arrangements are mellow and simple, letting their lyrics come to the forefront. One of our favourite songs that does this is ‘IMNot4U’, an inspiring song that is both a dig at the commercial music industry spitting out repetitive types of art and the fierce independence an artist needs to overcome this.
While it’s not a main theme in his music, it IS telling in the way Azmyl produced this EP. There is a lot of musical integrity in the creation of ampang park, as he recorded the whole thing on his phone, created the album art by taking the pictures himself and allowing the album to quietly creep in instead of heavy self-promotion. “It’s a more intimate piece of work for me. After all this touring and 3 albums in, it’s easy to forget how good it feels to have full creative control over my music, going back to it, and being able to reconnect to the work.”
Azmyl’s choice of not putting it on Spotify is a personal one, because he wants to keep it special for people who happen upon it. The focus is on the music instead of the musicians and he enjoys the idea that someone will stumble upon it, only to be surprised that they might resonate with the feelings and nostalgia of the EP itself. It’s a hidden gem in local music that we are sure, won’t stay hidden for long.
We will never know what prompted Azmyl’s songs and stories in the same place, but we all share the same feelings of human longing and memory. You know that time you found a bunch of old photos in your grandparents’ cupboard? And realised that these old photos of yourself, tattered and browning at the sides, are spaces that now only live on in your memories? That’s the feeling we can best describe the atmosphere of ampang park.
– Azmyl Yunor
Featured image source: Azmyl Yunor Facebook
Follow Azmyl Yunor On Twitter: @azmyl
You can also check out some his songs at Reverbnation
Buy ampang park at azmyl.bandcamp.com
Look out for Azmyl Yunor in his upcoming shows
8 Aug @ Semarang, Indonesia*
9 Aug @ Bandung, Indonesia*
10 Aug @ Jakarta, Indonesia*
11 Aug @ Bogor, Indonesia*
12 Aug @ Jatiwangi, Indonesia* (TBC)
13 Aug @ Surabaya, Indonesia*
14 Aug @ Jogjakarta, Indonesia
18 + 19 Aug @ KLPAC -Yayasan Sime Darby Festival (w/ Orkes Padu)
23 Aug @ Publika (solo busking)
30 Aug @ Merdekarya PJ (midnight countdown, w/ Orkes Padu)
* ongoing Bersendirian Berhad Tour with Bayangan (solo)