Man is not the sum of what he has already, but rather the sum of what he does not yet have, of what he could have. - Jean-Paul Sartre
We are not post rock, we are not math rock, we just try to feel our music when we play it. - Sphaeras
THE SPHERE IS perfection wrought whole in God’s eye, a material symbol of balance printed onto the template of nature. From the humble atom to the great burning balls of gas we have named stars, the self-effacing circle is a primal building block ubiquitous in the structure of creation.
Harmony and balance, amongst the manifold connotations of geometry’s most unpretentious shape, are two ideals that the band draws from its Latin namesake. Sphaeras, is characterised by a refreshing depth and clarity of sound amidst the broken-glass cacophony of music’s modern landscape (broadcasted proudly in the temples of hedonistic convergence once called discos, and now nightclubs).
A sense of deliberation saturates the band’s sound, with low, distorted guitar overlapping a crisp drum backbeat in saucy asynchrony. Melodies and riffs seem to drift in and out of focus, shrouding the listener in a narcotic haze, as he is carried through an aural experience that seems closer to the earnest experimentation of a garage band jam session than a post-polished offering.
Retrospective and introspective, their music speaks the language of play, taking the structure of cyclical variations which are repeatedly mutated and distorted, coalescing into a kind of foot-tapping blues odyssey as the listener is brought through crests and troughs of pulsating intensity.
Fans of the band await each song with a giddy anticipation. The gig’s attendees are interestingly polar in their exposure to Sphaeras, with most fans eager and vocal in their support, and a scattering of curious new faces soon to join the cause.
A telling sign, though, is the reverie of silence that falls over the venue once the first notes of a song are variously struck or plucked into the air.
When appreciated at an appropriately organ-rattling volume, the experience of witnessing the band play live takes on an almost religious, nirvanic aspect. The audience, played like an instrument, draws closer with every imminent crescendo, and together they become one with the artist, comforted in the warm embrace of sound, ecstatic, breathlessly transcendental for those few sacred moments in time.
This is not merely a gig. This, is a performance.
We don’t have to follow a fixed path and adhere to it all the time.
The band did not so much assemble as coagulate, beginning with the drummer, Zakhran, and the ex-bassist, Qi Min, idly bandying the idea of playing music together somewhere in the bowels of an army camp, hardly a hotbed of culture. Soon after, they acquired guitarists, Hao Kai, and Chun Kit, with Qi Min now replaced by Axel, completing the band’s current four-man line-up.
It’s more random now, and I think now with the randomness we have more spontaneity.
Since their early days, Sphaeras has been defined by their odd time signature, most prominently a 7/8 beat inspired by a bizarre fever-induced hallucination suffered by their drummer, Zakhran.
It set a precedent of randomness and improvisation that has bled into most of their work. Forsaking the restriction of any rubric on their unceasing search for the next creation, the band simply goes with the flow, constantly engineering and bettering until the raw material has been folded and teased into music. However, while their songwriting process is all ‘by feel’ and ‘random’, what is easy to forget is that it is the members’ mastery of their individual instruments that grants them a free hand to experiment, contributing to the constant development, highly evident in their jamming session which I had the privilege to attend one sweltering Sunday.
The transition to 7/8 metered time was however, not technically simple, with the newest member, Axel, having had to master the band’s idiosyncratic style and repertoire in the short time span of two months between his entry and first performance. He noted that “being new to really complex odd time signatures was a struggle at first, but it tickle[d] [him] in a good way”.
In terms of performance, Sphaeras’ doctrine of volatility adds onto the promise of fun and amazement at every live performance they put up. It truly accentuates their wish for the audience to bask in the ebullience and dynamism of their music, just as much as they delight in performing.
Quizzed about their feelings towards the band, the boys gave a variety of responses ranging from Hao Kai’s forthright claim of “stress relief” to Zakhran’s jesting proclamation that the band is his “everything”.
Jokes aside, Sphaeras’ continuing narrative seems like a bildungsroman in creative bloom, with the members growing together and shaping each other’s paths, all while navigating the murky waters of adolescence, university, and increasing fame.
‘Sphaeras’, is more than just a good name for a rock band – it is the concise expression of an ideology.
Unity. Wholeness. Balance.
Resignation is never in their dictionary. Passion reigns even in the face of uncertainty, and perhaps this is what makes Sphaeras even more noteworthy. In a world full of ambiguity, what is definite is their pure enjoyment of themselves in the face of an arduous music-making process, and that, is assuredly not lost in translation.