To announce the arrival of his debut album ‘FREE 2 GO’ and the music video for ‘TIME’, Alec Orachi posted trance-like snippets of himself thrashing in a puddle of water and launching off a trampoline. There’s a single spotlight trained on him in otherwise utter darkness while he rap-sings “Back then I wasn’t doing fine…” eventually deciding, “I need time”.
Everyone could certainly use a little R&R, but Orachi had a different route in mind. About two years back, he had dropped out of his architecture track at university, ditched his life in Australia and gone through a breakup. The Bangkok-born musician headed home to Thailand and turned to nature to refocus, making stops in the islands of Koh Chang and Koh Yao Yai where he experienced an epiphany from a like-minded traveller while high on shrooms.
The helpful realisation was anchored in sabai-sabai. “It’s an old Thai slang that means chill. This old man was saying life is simple and we’re pretty much free,” Orachi tells NME during a recent video call, sitting outside his Bangkok home against a backdrop of greenery. The reset proved fruitful as he came back with a creative output and a sense of clarity that led the artist to say: “I think I know now what my role in music is, what I have to give.“
Alec Orachi’s “gift” is a formidable one. The multi-instrumentalist’s full-length debut is an absorbing mix of brooding, cocksure hip-hop tempered with joyful and soulful jazz. Orachi’s verses balance snark-tastic sticking-it-to-the-man takedowns with frank, stinging observations about money, career and time. It’s underpinned by a mature sensibility that makes you forget Orachi – whose real name is Sakdipat Charoensintaweekul and also goes by Jacky – is only 23 years old.
‘FREE 2 GO’ is also a stark pivot from his previous body of work. Orachi’s self-released 2019 debut EP ‘I’m Not What They Say I Am’ is a largely downbeat R&B project he made while based in Australia (where he moved for studies when he turned 15). And on last year’s singles ‘Itsukushima’ and ‘219’, Orachi dressed up his weepy confessionals in synth-and-guitar-heavy funk and alt-pop.
Orachi’s old releases were warmly received; they led us to nominate him for Best New Asian Act at the BandLab NME Awards 2022. But those songs were made by a different Alec Orachi, he says now. “Back then I was still starting to make things make sense, if you know what I mean. It was still my sound and everything I said was real, but even then, I was trying to find out how to do what I’m doing now on ‘FREE 2 GO’.”
“I know now what my role in music is, what I have to give”
In the process of making the new album, the admittedly “very self-critical” Orachi was “at a point where a lot of things changed, and there was a lot I needed to get off my chest and my head. I got completely lost in my world, and I didn’t care anymore about trends and expectations,” he says. “Things just started clicking and everything came out very natural.”
In the spirit of keeping things unforced and organic, Alec went as far as recording songs as the lyrics came to him in the moment. “I didn’t write anything down – but it’s not one take. If I feel like I have something to say, I just play and record, and when I don’t have anything more to say, I stop. And then a week later, if I feel a certain type of emotion or beat, I go back to the song and start recording again.”
Some verses came out wistful: “I need a little moment for myself when I slow down / so I politely ask you to slow down, but you never do,” he sings in ‘GG Love’. Others emerged as enjoyable pushbacks and flippant knocks: “I’m blip blip blap on the mic / I don’t need your advice / No more stories from your life / This not yours but mine,” he raps in ‘Curious George’.
Orachi makes no excuses: “I think I started off the album with me being very selfish and very childish. The first two songs were strictly about the labels, me hammering down with my ego [in the track ‘Posey Vs Clever’], basically saying you guys are very posey people just saying stuff. I’m the clever one.”
In ‘Overpriced,’ the self-damning verses are dispensed like a warning: “I’m such a fiend / never touch base with me.” But he also issues a reminder in the spirit of how ‘FREE 2 GO’ was made: “It’s all gon’ be / super natural when I’m with the right people you can see / I’m just nice and easy” he croons over staccato rhythms flecked with clattering keys and horns.
“On ‘FREE 2 GO’ I didn’t care anymore about trends and expectations. Things just started clicking”
As in previous releases, Orachi helmed the bulk of the instrumentation – recording the bass, guitars, keys, synth and drums across ‘FREE 2 GO’. But he also credits his “very talented” collaborators. Co-producer Wittawin Amonrattanasak, who also helped produce ‘Itsukushima’, helped put finishing touches on the album and bits of keys and synths. Warudh from Thai reggae band Srirajha Rockers plays the mood-setting horns in the instrumental album opener, ‘GO’.
Orachi noticeably spells out three out of the album’s 10 tracks in capital letters: ‘GO’, ‘FOCUS’, and ‘TIME’. On that last track, he sings about needing time, but the former two songs have a more urgent message. “I think, just like the album title, what I want you to hear when you look at those words specifically is a big-ass sound in your head that echoes and reverbs, telling you to just GO,” he explains. “I want the [listeners] to know that you’re free to just do stuff and whatnot, nothing’s stopping you.
“But at the same time, when you go, you also need to use that raw energy to focus. So when I start off with an arrogant song, that’s part of a narrative that you can be arrogant, you can be angry, but at the same time you also need to focus on the big things and what really matters, not what’s weighing you down.”
What was weighing Alec Orachi down? “I guess what I found out later on is I’m the kind of person who can only focus on one thing, and one thing at a time. So when I stripped down the expectations, stripped down the uni, stripped down the unnecessary connections, phony things… and focused on the reality that works for me instead of other people’s realities – I was pretty much free.”
Alec Orachi’s ‘FREE 2 GO’ is out now via NewEchoes. He’ll perform at LUCFest in Taiwan and Tokyo Beyond Festival in Japan in November