Some words from the head producer, Corey Tam:
“Past-Present” is the culmination of a year’s worth of writing, recording and producing music for International Christian School’s Worship on the Word (W.O.W.) and Audiotech classes in 2017-18. In W.O.W., students drew inspiration from a variety of sources including Praise and Worship, Love, Life’s Disappointments, Personal Hardships, and Nostalgic Memories to name a few. The songs were then mixed and produced by the Audiotech class in the second semester, applying studio production techniques to polish the recordings and complete the songs.
This 11-track album is written, recorded, performed, and produced by ICS students, along with producer Corey Tam.
Written entirely by high-schoolers, Past-Present encapsulates the thoughts, experiences, memories, and feelings that these students face in their everyday life – from heartbreak (Treasure, Take Your Bow), nostalgic memories (In The End, Take Me Back), and hope for the future (Love Lane).
This album was written by 11 individuals, and genres span from indie rock (Shadow of Your Wings) to garage punk (Wonderland), and synth-pop (Love Lane) to eastern experimental music (Deception).
Overall, this album was very well mixed and produced. How 11 high-school students managed to create such masterpieces lyrically and musically is beyond fathom. Let’s hope the 2018-2019 WOW class can carry on, or even surpass the level of songwriting and production portrayed by this year’s class.
The album releases June 9th on Spotify, iTunes, and more. The album is available on Bandcamp for streaming and download (name your price).
Stream the album here on Spotify.
Track by track:
The album opens with “Shadow of Your Wings“, a crisp, refreshing indie-rock piece written and performed by Mu-Yin Chang and Sheryl So. The beginning half of the song features an infectious guitar hook, backed by a spacey synth that carries the track, and fronted by dream pop-influenced vocals by the two vocalists, while the latter half is a slower, spaced-out, synth-heavy psychedelic instrumental section.
Might I dare add that this first track is the most well produced out of all the songs – the delicate balance and space between the two vocals, along with the guitar with a perfect tone adds so much to this song. This is by far my favorite song off Past-Present. The only complaint that I have with this is that this song is too short!
“Keep me as the apple of your eye
Hide me in the shadow of your wings.”
– Shadow of Your Wings
Next up is “Wonderland” by Elliott Wan and Valerie Yuen. This track starts deceptively: with only mellow vocals and keyboard, before diving head-first into a punk rock piece with crunched up, distorted guitars and an infectious hook.
“Hey boy, open your eyes, this is reality
Are you mad, or are you drowning in Wonderland
Hey girl, don’t you fall into the rabbit’s trap
You know it’s over so why bother, move on.”
Indie-folk pop influenced “Take Your Bow” written and performed by Annette Ho is up next – you can really hear the producers’ influences in this track with the use of folk-ish strumming and rhythmic patterns. And that bass line during the chorus. (This especially reminds me of Snow Angel, a song by Tam’s band, The Gatling Gun Revival).
“My baby boy, my baby girl, please stay
Right by my side and take your bow.”
– Take Your Bow
The fourth track, “It Started With Rain“, is a piano-fronted track written and performed by Mikayla Simons and Evelyn Wong. Tracking in at 5 minutes and 15 seconds, this track is the longest song off Past-Present. With its swirling synths and soothing strings, the track sort of reminds me of a more mellow Keane. This track also provides a break from the previous three fast and upbeat songs with its’ dreamy ballad-like structure and production.
The bridge introduces an even dreamier duet between with the vocalists, with all instruments stripped back – not long before everything comes back in with the final, grand chorus.
“The way you’re hurting
The way we used to laugh
About the tiniest things
You were the only one I need
The way we’re fading
The way we say goodbye
The spark between us is gone
What am I supposed to do?
I wouldn’t know.”
– It Started With Rain
Acoustic ballad “Take Me Back” is the fifth track on Past-Present. It is written and performed by duo Mikayla Simons and Nathan So. This combination provides and interesting dynamic between the two vocalists, as they sing about their long for the past.
“There was once a time when I was young
Mom and daddy taught me how things were done
All the do’s and don’ts, the please’s and thank you’s
The memories all begin to fade away.”
– Take Me Back
“Deception“, written and performed by Alex Mak, is up next. This one is a bit of an oddball. This track sort of reminds me of ‘I Belong To You’ by Muse – especially the usage of eastern chord progressions and haunting choirs, with the combination of indie rock influences.
I think I could categorize this as ‘experimental Arabic pop’, or maybe ‘new wave reggae.’ How about ‘eastern indie rock’? Not sure about this one to be honest. One thing’s for certain: this track certainly has character; which is quite important. This song is set apart from all the other tracks, which are all written and performed with a ‘pop mentality’.
“The Lord will arise
The Lord will protect
The poor will fall
The needy will groan.”
Hip-hop/rap track “In The End” is written and performed by Nathan So and Julian Chan – both of which dropped a verse (or two) in this track. Lyrically, this song speaks about the two writer’s past and their struggles growing up.
“Still a kid, didn’t want to grow up
I was fine drinking out of my kiddie cup
14 years later, to where I am now
I was asking God, “Where art thou!”
Thunder crashed, lightning screamed
Even my left hand turned to smithereens
I felt my tears go down my dirty cheeks
Forming rivers down these rusty peaks.”
– In The End
Honestly, this next track, “Love Lane” is so cute! This is a track I could totally see being in a 8-bit, adorable indie video game; its swirling synths and light-weight vocals give it a synthpop/dreampop vibe that, for some reason I really adore.
“Talking in the dark we’ve been up so late
Waiting to be with you somehow someday
Back then there’s a world where we belong
To you, I sing this love song.”
– Love Lane
“Treasure“, the ninth track out of eleven in this album, is a collaborative effort between Elliott Wan and Valerie Yuen. Written and performed by both, this song is an upbeat, acoustic piece that seem to cover up the melancholic and nostalgic lyrics.
“It’s falling apart
Our tethered hearts
No glue can fix our broken strings of love
Is it too late to cry, won’t you say your goodbyes.”
The second to last track, “Blue“, was written by Theodore Ching and performed by Elliott Wan. With the heavy distortion on the guitar and bass, this track takes influence from heavy metal and post-hardcore – it is perhaps one of the instrumentally-heavier tracks on this album, tied with Wonderland.
“I’m blue, undoubtedly
There’s nothing else I can be
Is this a dream? Oh, how can it be
Oh why can’t I be free?”
“Oh My Lord” is the final track on Past-Present. Written and performed by Isabella Conceicao, this song features only her vocals and layered piano, which gives this piece a spacey, tripped-out ambiance – quite appropriate for an album closer.
“I’ll be here here, until it’s time
To be with you my Jesus Christ
Through the struggles I will obey
And because of you I’ll be okay.”
– Oh My Lord
Tracklisting of Past-Present
- Shadow of Your Wings
- Take Your Bow
- It Started With Rain
- Take Me Back
- In The End
- Love Lane
- Oh My Lord
Written by Elliott Wan, June 6th