‘Taking Silence’ is the first collaborative effort released from neo-psychedelic maestro Jonny Ong’s upcoming album. Taking cues from New Orleans jazz and trip hop, as well as the psychedelic rock roots for which Ong is known, this track transcends the foundations he has laid for himself – reaching out into orchestral instrumentation and cinematic soundscapes (with the help of his trusty handpan) to create a song resembling an odyssey of sound and emotion.
The track features the Singaporean singer-songwriter Inch, who provides contrasting lilting vocals on the track which offset Ong’s powerful tone. The mixture of the two voices only adds to the build-up of the song, the intensity rising and rising until it spills out into the climactic end. Speaking of the collaboration, Ong said, “Sometimes collaborations can feel forced, but with Inch, it felt natural,” he says. “It was all about having fun on this album – experimenting and doing things I wouldn’t usually do.”
Jonny Ong is a singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from the island country of Singapore, who was inspired by a busker in Amsterdam to pick up the handpan. Incorporating this unusual instrument into his songs, Ong creates a wholly original sound which draws from multiple different cultures and countries, resulting in art which is entirely universal. Jonny started his musical journey at the age of 10 where he sang covers of Frank Sinatra for family birthdays. It was only during his high school years when Jonny first discovered the joy of The Beatles and decided to learn guitar. He went on to performing and eventually writing, recording and producing his own music.
During his teenage years, Jonny found a deep obsession for psychedelic music and how songs layered unconventional instrumentation into the mix. Working in tandem with his producer-band mate Callum Rose, Ong has crafted distinctive, timeless pop songs, where massed strings that sweep you up in their beauty and are artfully blended with modern production touches and unexpected stylistic swerves. “I wanted it to feel cinematic,” Ong points out. “That’s why I went for a lot of strings and horns.”
As such, he worked with virtuoso Cuban-born trumpet and flugelhorn player Yelfris Valdés – known for releasing his own acclaimed retro-futurist albums and collaborating with the likes of Moses Boyd and Madonna – to help put together the intricate string arrangements.
“It’s that mix of the cinematic, with modern touches influenced from trip hop bands like Zero 7 and Morcheeba. There’s also my love of jazz and ’60s psychedelia in there,” adds Ong. With its cinematic sumptuousness, fusion of the classic and contemporary, and songs that unfurl gracefully, Isolation is an album destined to make people feel less alone. “On my previous albums, I’ve focussed on the handpan – this time, I wanted it to be all about the songs,” he says. “And to realise that if you have something negative in your life, try and do something positive to get over it. No matter what happens, there’s always light at the end of the tunnel.”