Music

Spotlight on Asukal – A Sweet New ElectroPop Artist

Good singers aren’t hard to find. Almost anyone can carry a tune. It’s the great ones that are few and far between. The musicians that can evoke the deepest of feelings within the most detached of listeners – those are rare. Yet with her innovative take on pop music, combined with Adele-esque lyrics, it appears that Asukal is on track to become an artist that’s worth remembering.

Meet Asukal. “Asukal” is a Tagalog word that translates into “sugar.” It’s a perfect homage to the singer’s Filipino roots (she grew up in Manila) as well as a representation of her artistic identity. Asukal has it all: bubblegum beats, energetic vocals and emotional verses. It’s hard to believe this talented self-taught musician doesn’t have a huge following. But it’s evident that she is one to watch.

The album cover for Asukal’s latest single, “Ways2Love”.
(Image via Instagram)

Raquel Undheim writes, records and produces all of her own songs under the name “Asukal.” Growing up in the Philippines as an only child, Undheim grew up “using music as an outlet for all the hyperactivity going on in her head.” She created Asukal a couple of years ago while playing with synths on her bedroom floor.

After a series of breakups, a return to being single helped her remember what it was like to be alone with her thoughts. This inspired Asukal to create an avant-garde EP that fuses a feminist message with danceable beats. Her debut EP, Purity, dropped in late 2017. “In this EP,” Undheim says, “I’m showcasing what my brain looks like when I’m alone at 2 AM and consolidating that into five songs.” Purity will heal your heart with five tracks to get you through all the post-breakup blues.

The stylistic choices of Purity are reminiscent of other strong female artists like Morgan Saint and Wet, but Asukal’s deeply personal lyrics cannot be replicated by any other musician. Her voice is truly unique.

(Image via Instagram)

“How It’s Gonna B” is Asukal’s debut music video. It’s also her first ever single to be published on Spotify. “How It’s Gonna B” is a track about recovering from heartbreak, and all the messiness that inevitably comes with it. The song explores self-love and independence after a toxic relationship.

The music video is a flawless accompaniment to the song. Directed by Tara Mikes, the intensely pink aesthetic brings back early-2000s nostalgia. Each location has a dreamy vibe to it—the dessert room decorated with treats, a metallic vortex with Asukal both talking on a Motorola flip phone and stroking a dead fish. But when you examine the images more closely, you notice that the Spam and Spaghetti Os are actually unappealing. Asukal says that the video “parallels [her] song production and melody emphasizing a bubbly optimistic journey with lyrics that are a bit darker and heavier. Sometimes you just need to embrace emotions in a convoluted and messy situation to fully process it and move on”.

Here’s another great thing about Asukal: she has a song for every occasion. You know when you have an intense crush that sneaks up on you? And you have absolutely no idea how to handle it? That’s what “U Alone” is all about. “Eventually,” Asukal explains, “your thoughts bubble up and just turn into word vomit because you can’t hide how you feel anymore. It’s about clumsily wanting to impress someone, but deeply caring for them at the same time—even before you fully realize it—and desiring to do everything in your power to give them support, love, and success without any ulterior motives.”

“U Alone” is a stripped-down version of Asukal. A stark contrast from her usual synth-heavy songs, “U Alone” allows her vocals to soar over a jittery synth rhythm. Her R&B-tinged voice sweetens the bedroom-pop beat, allowing the singer to confess her affection to the one she loves.

The music video is shot in a vintage style, similar to 35mm film. The video switches between two main aesthetics: close-up frames of Asukal immersed in natural light and grainy shots that may have been filmed with a handheld camera. The zoom-ins and 90’s fashion add a layer of eccentricity to an otherwise simple video. The innocent yet intimate video connects well with the message portrayed in the lyrics.

There are so many reasons why Asukal is one of my favorite emerging artists, but her songs speak for themselves. The self-proclaimed “candi rAt pop producer/artist/dj” is a hidden indie-pop gem. Give her a listen—your ears are in for a sweet treat.

Stream Asukal’s songs down below.

(Featured image via Twitter)

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