Thursday, September 20, 2018
Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Electronic trio Squid 9’s new album has a Japanese vibe
by rick olivares
Electronic trio, Squid 9 returns with their most adventurous effort yet in Circuit Shorts. The new album, out on an eye-catching green cassette with a transparent case with red lettering, is at once intensely personal and different for its Japanese themes and inspirations.
The result isn’t quite Lost in Translation (Sophia Coppola’s film and soundtrack masterpieces), but a cousin to the third degree.
There’s more to the return to the analogue format where all three members of Squid 9 – Rayms Marasigan, Shinji Tanaka, and Daren Lim – grew up listening to.
It’s just that Circuit Shorts more personal nature.
All eight tracks have samples and snippets of old Japanese music spiced with actual conversations in Nihongo that Tanaka had with people he personally knows. One conversation in particular is especially personal because it is the last one Shinji had with his father, Yoshiharu, before he passed away.
“I went back to Japan to visit my family,” related Tanaka in Filipino of which he speaks fluently. “When I got back to Manila, naisip ko na tawagan ko siya. Nung time na yun di ko alam na mamamatay na siya. Gusto ko lang din marinig boses niya. Ni-record ko yung usapan namin… wala lang. Hindi ko alam na huling pag-uusap namin yun.”
That conversation along with many others find their way into every track, cut up, dissected, and even muffled. Save for the one with his father where the elder Tanaka’s voice is more audible on the track, “Railways” the second track off Side B of the cassette.
Circuit Shorts is in fact, dedicated to Shinji’s father.
Using the voices wasn’t a difficult decision divulged Shinji. His request was to lower the sampled voices in the final product. “For us, they were sounds because we didn’t understand them,” chimed in Marasigan. “But for Shinji, it was different. Something personal because he understood every word and they meant something.”
The idea of using of conversations as parts of the song came midway during the album’s production.
“Shinji started it when he gave me pieces of old Japanese music that we cut up,” bared Marasigan. “Daren and I had some brand new gear. Nag-crash course kami into the use of these machines. Trial and error with the samples Shinji gave and we formed the songs.”
And Squid 9 arranged for a listening party last Tuesday evening at the Pablo Gallery inside Cubao X. While I prefer listening to the music in the dead of the night and peering out into the black, I have to admit that sitting in a room with a bunch of other writers and munching on pizza wasn’t so bad.
Circuit Shorts is an album like an urban soundtrack to modern and high tech Japan. And yet, ironically, on analogue.
Squid 9 has always pushed the envelope on their releases. Their debut, Ink Jet, saw the album out on compact disc. The sophomore outing, Origamidi, was in a USB and a beautiful pink can. And now it’s on cassette; one that had its set of challenges as the band had to scour for C-30 (30 minute tapes) and dubbing machines.
“While it will be on streaming, we think it’s cool to have it on cassette which we all know is making a comeback as well,” chipped in Daren Lim.
Make no mistake, it is no gimmick. It’s brilliant, in fact. As for the music, it is at once, upbeat and eclectic. Even the song titles reflect the trademark J-factor weird titles such as “I am Milk,” “Forever Few,” “Frog Rest,” and “Asthma Tax” so you know that Squid 9 is in tune with the Japanese influence and that they do not lose their sense of humor.
The music is no laughing matter. If Side A had this pop confectionary and at times, arcade feel, Side B is where it picks up. The songs shift gears and the time signature changes means it isn’t repetitive to the point of being boring (hey, there’s a Pet Shop Boys reference).
“Frog Rest” has the vibe of someone working while the television is on and slurping on ramen.
“Railways” picks it up a notch and it’s like going on a trip and this wave of excitement and anticipation hits you. And I think of Shinji taking a trip with his father.
And I love the fact that Shinji plays live drums not only on this track, but in the entire album (for live shows and depending on the space given, Tanaka admits that he’ll be using drum machines).
“Asthma Tax” has a more danceable beat to it.
The final track, slows things down a notch and has this Radiohead vibe circa Amnesiac. And it’s a good way to end the album because it gives you pause to think, “Ah, a sense of mystery. So, what’s next from Squid 9?”
As Shinji told me at the end of the listening party, Squid 9 should hit the studio again to record. Flush with inspiration, I wonder for what is to come.
But for now, Circuit Shorts, is something I will play in the dead of the night while peering out into the black with my mind wandering with Japanese whispers in my ears.
Circuit Shorts will be sold for P300 at Satchmi and the launch this September 27 at Route 196
Monday, September 17, 2018
The state of OPM in vinyl
by rick olivares
We all know that vinyl records are back with a vengeance. Now, how is the Original Pilipino Music (OPM) market coping?
We were able to speak to some re-sellers of Original Pilipino Music (OPM) and unanimously, the most sought records from local artists are the Juan dela Cruz Band, the Dawn, and Identity Crisis in that order. Then there are a host of others… Maria Cafra, Judas, APO Hiking Society, and the Gapo compilation are also in demand.
They sell for a lot of money depending on their condition. In fact, some command outrageous prices that are more than enough to make a down payment on a car. The cheapest price you will find for old records pressed in the 1970s or 1980s is a thousand bucks. They mostly sell for a lot of money.
When compact discs became all the rage in the 1990s, local record companies slowly stopped pressing music on vinyl. That is until the new millennium when indie and underground bands began producing their own material.
With the release of Outerhope’s third album, Vacation, on vinyl, that brings to five the number of vinyl releases by independent local artists this year (with three more arriving before the year ends).
It should be stressed that save for the bunch of re-issues from a couple of major record companies in 2013, the bulk and all that have come out since, have been wholly independent or underground.
Earlier, there was the re-issue of metal band Mass Hypnosia’s Toxiferous Cyanide and Traces by the Ransom Collective both on 12-inch and Pilipinas Hardcore and Sandwich’s “Timelapse” on 7-inch.
Coming soon on 7-inch is the split record of punk bands Choke Cocoi and Tiger Pussy and a 12-inch re-issue from a very popular band who we will announce this October. Fil-American bands Aninoko and Namatay sa Ingay will also share a split record while Fil-Italian band, The Seeker, will also share a split record with German hardcore band Arno X Duebel.
What we can say about records that will soon be released on vinyl are from Apartel, Up Dharma Down, the Insektlife Cycle, the Strange Creatures, Sugar Hiccup, and Prank Sinatra. Some will be out by year end or by mid-2019 at the latest.
It is great seeing local recording artists as well as our kababayans abroad releasing albums on vinyl (there are even more on cassette and compact disc). What prevents local artists from releasing more music on vinyl is the cost as well as the time it needs to get pressed since there are no longer any domestic pressing plants. All the records are pressed in either in Europe or the United States.
Are the old OPMs the only ones that are pricey? Or are the new releases selling too?
The vinyl releases from 2008 up to today don’t sell in the numbers that they used too – moving thousands and thousands of units. Press runs are smaller mostly because of cost and the time it takes to get them (about two to three months). They average anywhere from a hundred to a thousand or to 1,500 copies. Some like the split record between Filipino post-hardcore band Legarda and Boston-based The Saddest Landscape saw only 50 copies.
In the back sellers’ market, it is difficult to find these releases even on Discogs.
I’ll say though that it has become a collector’s market more than speculators.
Moving laterally, I spoke to local re-sellers Jong Canimo of Northwest Estate Collectibles (along K1 parallel to Kamuning Road in Quezon City). He gave an insight into the demand, collectability, and price range of Nirvana’s Nevermind album. Canimo who is based in Washington State, USA, observed that you will not easily find first presses of Nirvana’s Nevermind album on sale. It is his opinion – and I agree – that people are holding on to their copies – because those who first bought them are genuine fans. If there are – and he’s seen a few – they sell for as low as $300!
There were over 35,000 copies of Nevermind shipped during its first week and the bulk were on compact disc. There were some on limited edition clear vinyl and you aren’t going to see any of that for sale right now. A cursory check on Discogs shows that no one has sold any of those copies. Locally, the European first press (also in 1991 the same time it was releases in the US) sells for close to P5,000. You can be sure the clear vinyl limited edition or even the genuine US first press will fetch for a whole lot more.
It is the same here even for the newer releases. Records of the Ang Nawawalang soundtrack, punk band Bad Omen’s foreign presses of its debut record, and local calypso band Count Kutu and the Balmers are much sought after. Sandwich’s “Timelapse” that came out mid-2018 had a limited run and was available for those who paid SVIP tickets to the band’s 20th Anniversary concert. I am told that some are selling them for at the very least three times the price (PhP500).
Speaking of price… that is another challenge. Some bands price their records at P1,500 while others sell them at a higher price. Speaking to several independent sellers, the higher priced records are a challenge to sell. Take for example, one Makati-based shop said that when Apartel’s debut, Inner Play was out, they got many inquiries about purchasing a copy. When they found out that it was tagged at Php2,500 (because it was pressed in Japan), almost all balked. The potential buyers opted to get foreign releases.
The underground punk bands on the other hand opt to sell their records at a cheaper price (smaller profit margins) – less than a thousand pesos for 12-inch records and P350 for 7-inch records. The result has been better. The underground punk bands have for years even before the vinyl resurgence been thriving. They routinely sell out their releases and are able to put out more product.
Is it a healthy market? Locally, it’s there. It’s alive. It’s still tough and I am not sure if I can say that it is thriving. Some get them out because it is on their bucket list. But until more kids get into vinyl and turntables and units moving like hotcakes, it’s just all right. But that is better than nothing.
Sunday, September 16, 2018
Fil-Italian hardcore crew, the Seeker, releases split record
by rick olivares
Filipino-Italian hardcore punk band The Seeker recently released a split record with German power violence crew, Arno X Duebel. The Seeker’s split side of the record is titled, Parusa, and follows the heels of last year’s blistering album, Malaya.
The opening track, “#SleepTonightRevolutionTomorrow”, begins with the line, “What do you like in music? I like fast music.”
And the Seeker delivers the pain all right. Parusa features seven songs all performed in breakneck speed. The carnage all over in four minutes and 45 seconds.
It just doesn’t end there. The album cover is striking and features an old photograph of a man being tortured with a garrote perhaps dating back to the Philippine-American War.
The Milan-based the Seeker is composed of Filipinos Michael Dee on guitar and Eddu Jan Lapitan on bass. Andrea Covaz, the drummer, is Italian while their vocalist, Dominik Dominak, hails from Slovakia.
“We were on tour when we met these awesome German lads,” said Dee who founded the band. “Arno X Deubel opened for us in Berlin and after that packed show, we got heavily drunk and the magic just happened. A split record was proposed and we said yes.”
Dee describes Parusa as being “Faster and more chaotic.” As for the Filipino titles of their records, the guitarist says the rest of the band doesn’t mind. “The language may be different, but the message is the same,” clarifies Dee. “We all think and feel along the same lines. We all strongly believe in it.”
The band doesn’t shy away from politics in their native Italy or even across their borders. Their songs rail against fascism, corruption, and injustice. In fact, one of their songs on last year’s Malaya railed against extra-judicial killings in the Philippines.
As for his home country, according to Dee, the Seeker has Southeast Asia and the Philippines on its tour radar. However, they need to work on logistics to make it happen. Said Dee, “Maybe in a year or so we can perform in the Philippines.”
The split record was funded by the Philippines’ very own underground label, Delusion of Terror, Germany’s Knochen Tapes, and Italy’s Here and Now Records as well as Zas Autoproduzioni Records.