Music echoes in the hall of a once-forgotten cinema

It’s easy to pick up the influences of their professed influences—a hint of The Killers here; a paean to Death Cab for Cutie there—but Kyoto Protocol has a sound that is also completely its own.

Last weekend, REX KL hosted the third installment of Breaking Music’s Undercurrent series, a string of occasional concerts that feature performances by local artists, both up-and-coming and long-beloved.

A KL-based indie record label and artist management setup, Breaking Music has worked with musicians such as MAYABAYU, FUGO, lost spaces, and Jaggfuzzbeats. Their latest show served a stunning lineup to a hungry crowd aching for live music in the precarious space of easing restrictions.

Opening the night were the Peachskins, a three-man band hailing from Subang Jaya. They certainly knew how to get the audience’s attention, springing the event into motion with the same laidback, easy confidence that characterizes the edge of their online presence—one that made waves in April with a playful marketing campaign that involved, among other things, Najib Razak’s Instagram account. With their newfound emphasis on genre fluidity and experimentation, Rafique Ramleh, Shahid Rogers, and Faheem Amir fired up their rapt audience with an equal parts smooth and energetic blend of synth-pop and hip-hop.

The second act was carried out by RESORT, an indie-pop trio formed in 2019. Debuting their latest single “Let’s Just” ahead of their upcoming album release later this year, their The-1975-inspired sound was a decided hit among the glow-stick-waving audience. A warmed-up crowd bopped to Sek Hao Ho’s smooth vocals, buoyed by the thrumming bass and drums in the capable hands of Kyle Emmanuel and Victor Yee. Their sound was infectious, making you want to sing along even if you didn’t know the words. 

Re-emerging in 2021 after a three-year hiatus, Kyoto Protocol was welcomed onstage next with wild enthusiasm. They certainly lived up to their long-standing reputation as one of KL’s favorite indie rock bands, with music that just made you want to dance. It’s easy to pick up the influences of their professed influences—a hint of The Killers here; a paean to Death Cab for Cutie there—but Kyoto Protocol has a sound that is also completely its own. Veterans of the local scene, they’ve demonstrated both through their longevity and continuous musical evolution how creative passion trumps all. 

This round of Undercurrent ended in a wave of sultry alternative rock by Midnight Fusic. Winners of Platform Award’s Band of the Year in 2020, were showcasing an evolving new sound, characterized by a versatile blend of indie pop and psychedelic rock. Arif Kamarudin, Adrian Danial, Firdaus Azmi, and Muaz Rabbani dominated the stage, drawing the night to its reluctant close with a resounding bang. If its third act is anything to go by, Undercurrent is already a roaring success on the KL indie scene; and after so much time spent indoors, events like this are exactly what we need. 

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