Sunday, May 24, 2020

What are your favorite one-album wonders?

What are your favorite one-album wonders?
Mine are in no particular order: Rockpile's Second of Pleasure, Zwan's Mary, Star of the Sea, Ballet School's The Dew Lasts An Hour, New Radicals' Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too, Operation Ivy's Energy, Buena Vista Social Club's self-titled album, P.O.T.'s self-titled album, Hungry Young Poets' self-titled album, and Urban Bandits' It's Independence Day.
What are yours?

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Playing some Carly Simon

One of my childhood favorites... Carly Simon.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Gloc 9 & Raymund Marasigan release new song in time of lockdown on YouTube

Gloc 9 & Raymund Marasigan release new song in time of lockdown on YouTube
By Rick Olivares

Rap artist Gloc 9 and rocker Raymund Marasigan have released a video for a song titled “Gera Gera’ on YouTube today, April 23, 2020

While the song is open to one’s interpretation, one can infer that the current lockdown – now on its 39th day here in the national Capital Region -- due to a worldwide pandemic has a strong imprint on the its meaning. 

“Buhay ang naka taya. Tago taguang laro. Lahat tayo kasali. Di ka puwede magbiro dito sag era gera.”

“We recorded this (Gera Gera) a couple of weeks ago,” said Marasigan. “I wrote and recorded the chorus and the bridge and was looking for someone to write the verses. I asked Gloc 9 and he wrote it very quickly – in a couple of days. He recorded his vocals on his mobile phone because he did not have any access to a recording studio.”

The rapper’s vocals weren’t the only thing recorded on a cellular phone. The accompanying video was shot in the same manner. Marasigan admitted to a lot of trial and error, but the dup manage to get it done. 

The video was shot at the respective homes of the two artists and has a somber tone and a darker hue. Animals such as dogs, cats, even a rooster are used to convey some sense of anxiety. Marasigan himself is covered with a facemask and cannot be seen. He performs his instruments and sings almost in shadows.

In contrast, Gloc 9’s face can be clearly seen as he sings by his window and bedside. 

“The song is how you see this strange situation,” summed up Marasigan.

Monday, April 13, 2020

2 Taiwanese telenovelas on Netflix You Should Watch

2 Taiwanese telenovelas on Netflix You Should Watch
By Rick Olivares

Japanese and Korean telenovelas or televisions shows might be the rage, but there is more to Asia than those two countries.

While I am a fan of Japanese television series Terrace House and Tokyo Midnight Stories and thoroughly enjoyed Korea’s Descendants of the Sun, Crash Landing Into You, and Itaweon Class, in recent months, I have cast my taste buds elsewhere.

On a recent trip to Singapore, I picked up a DVD of Ramen Teh; a beautiful film about a chef who chances upon a notebook of his late father’s musings and old photos and he returns to the Lion city to piece together the story of his life. 

But it is with tremendous happiness that I discovered some Taiwanese telenovelas a few months ago that have struck a deep chord inside of me, and because of that, I wholeheartedly recommend (and are available on Netflix).

A Thousand Goodnights (2019)
A 20-episode series about a daughter who finishes her late father’s aborted journey throughout Taiwan and in the process discovers his story and herself. Films or television series about journeys of discovery aren’t new. There are a lot of really good ones. 

To name a few, there are the American films Into the Wild, The Way (that I absolutely adore), the Reese Witherspoon film Wild, Lost In Translation, and On the Road. There’s the Australian film, Tracks, and the French film, Amelie. There’s Brasil’s Central do Brasil. And India’s The Darjeeling Limited.  

A Thousand Goodnights is a series had me in the first few minutes which in my opinion – is crucial lest I lose interest. Having veteran and respected Taiwanese actor Bor Jeng Chen already grabbed by attention. I saw him last in Back to 1989 (that is the second of my recommendations) where he had a cameo appearance as Mr. Wang, a tough businessman.

After Bor’s character of Tai Chia-Ho passes away at the start of a journey he has long planned after his retirement as a train station master, it is up to his daughter, Tai Tien-Ching, played by the pretty Cindy Yu-Han Lien, to complete it. she is joined by Nicholas Teo who plays Cheng Nuo; himself a troubled young man who was helped by Chia-Ho during his formative years.

The lovely Ai-Ning Yao plays Tien-Ching’s younger sister, Tian-Yu who herself has her own concerns when she drops out of school. Li Chung-Lin plays Wu Po-Sen, a young man burdened by his father’s expectations while he wishes to pursue his musical dreams.

I love how A Thousand Goodnights is set outside Taipei and in the countryside particularly rural Shuangxi. The drone camera footage adds to the beauty of the film from the lush vegetation to the beautiful mountaintops to the train tracks and train rides to country living. Food also plays a prominent role. While, not a comedy – and we all know laughter is a way into a person’s heart – so is food. A Thousand Goodnights is like a love letter to Taiwan; a travelogue that travel companies should do well to take advantage. Through Tieng-Ching’s eyes, she learns too of Taiwan’s culture and history; everything is neatly tied in without making it look contrived.

What will also well-up your eyelids are aside from the wounded relationships people have, is how the series is spiced with wisdom. That and the lovely soundtrack. 

A Thousand Goodnights is simply and majestically beautiful.

Back To 1989 (2016)
A drama that runs a marathon of 34 episodes that will have you riveted to your chair. It’s equal parts Somewhere In Time and Back to The Future. 

The basic plot revolves around Chen Che (played by Marcus Chang) who is accidentally and mysteriously thrown back in time from 2016 to 1989 after another contentious altercation with his mother, Chen Ya-Juan (played by Mini Tsai). Che has had these questions about his biological father that his mother has refused to divulge all these years.

Che is surprised to be in 1989, and right in the middle of his mother-to-be’s life as a young adult who is pressured to go abroad to pursue a higher education by her dominating mother. Che befriends Ye Zhen-Zhen who is played by the winsome, lovely, and talented Ivy Shao who will absolutely steal your heart. She also plays a main role in 2017’s The Perfect Match (that is also available on Netflix) and 2019 Sweet Combat where she sings the title song.

At first Che hides his past but eventually reveals it to his grandfather (Zhang Chen-Guo who is played by Yin Zhao-De) and Zhen Zhen who both help him cope then try to change history.

Filled with dramatic twists and turns, Back To 1989 is another treatise about going back and changing the past. We’ve seen Avengers Endgame touch on this. There was Edge of Tomorrow starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt, X-Men Days of Future Past, the Ethan Hawke film Predestination, Looper, the Terminator films, and Interstellar to name but a few. The difference is, Back to 1989 is a television series with more time to extrapolate. 

Despite being cautioned about the Butterfly Effect, Che and Chen-Guo realize that for all their meddling, what is history remains history. And yet, what started out as a time travel story ended up as a titanic love story. About true love for the ages. About friendship and doing what is right. 

Watching this, I am greatly reminded of Johann von Goethe’s famous saying, “That is the true season of love, when we believe that we alone can love, that no one could ever have loved so before us, and that no one will love in the same way as us.”

When I first saw Back To 1989, as soon as I finished it, I re-watched the entire series again… immediately. I have not done that before. Consider me struck. The soundtrack is a lovely one too. Even if you do not understand the words, the melodies are just perfect. 

If A Thousand Goodnights and Back To 1989 are your introduction to Taiwanese telenovelas, then welcome to the club and have a great time watching and searching for more. 

Monday, March 30, 2020

Playing the La La Land soundtrack

One of my favorite films and original soundtracks.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Filipino pop, indie jazz & hip hop to check out

Filipino pop, indie jazz & hip hop to check out
By Rick Olivares

Here are some albums we’d like to recommend for local music fans to check out during this time of lockdown where there is a lot of stress, angst and anger not to mention anxiety taking place.

These are recommendations designed to take things down several notches and just have your mind eased up and spirited away by these albums. Look them up online.

Sequence by Lenses (Terno Recordings)
Sequence, the debut album from this seven-piece indie jazz pop band (Gilbert Asuque on drums, Jason Conanan on bass, Abby Clutario on keyboards and vocals, Aaron Gonzales on guitars and vocals, Roxy Modesto on saxophone, Lester Sorilla on trumpet, and Darius Mendoza on trombone), is like a ray of sunshine in the OPM landscape. Buoyant, a tad quirky, and an earnestness best sung in the vernacular, Lenses will grab your attention from the opening cut, “Nasanay” all the way to the last track, “Patungo Sayo.” 

A wondrous debut by a band that you should listen to.

If you like French bands like Tahiti 80 or Japanese city pop, the you’ll love Lenses’ music.

Lenses’ debut album, Sequence is available on compact disc from Terno Recordings and on iTunes and Spotify.

Middle of Nowhere by Peaceful Gemini (Locked Down Entertainment)
Peaceful Gemini’s brand of sophisti-hiphop takes me back to the those 1990s Hed Kandi releases and Chill Out sessions where artists Nighthawks, Nightmares on Wax, and Urban Species to name a few mixed hip hop with these chill grooves. 

Peaceful Gemini lives up to her nom de guerre. When I look at the cover art – a small island with the land mass actually a human head submerged in water… it’s tranquil in spite of the surreal art. Peaceful Gemini asks you to surrender your mind, body, and soul to the music as it spirits you away.

Middle of Nowhere, a five-track mini album, is an expression of living life in the present and not in the past or even the future. It’s also an expression of Peaceful Gemini’s femininity and seeking to push the envelope in this new world.

Peaceful Gemini’s Middle of Nowhere is available on compact disc or on Spotify and Bandcamp.

Small World by Gracenote (Universal records)
The third album from this livewire pop rock band finds them at the top of their game. They are a tighter unit and this is evident in the music. Gracenote is a band that writes really good pop yarns that are deep, insightful, melodic, and definitely hummable. And they resonate well with their fans. Small World is their best album to date filled with 16 songs that are sure to send Gracians (the true-blue fans) and the uninitiated into a Gracenote frenzy.

There are the favorites on the album, “Fantasy, “Here I Go Again,” “I’m Done,” and “Paulit-ulit,” but I really like the ukulele-inflected “We’re Not Alone.”

Gracenote’s Small World is available on all streaming platforms not to mention on compact disc. 

Monday, March 16, 2020

A Beginner’s Guide to Filipino dream pop and shoegaze music

A Beginner’s Guide to Filipino dream pop and shoegaze music
By Rick Olivares

It was summer of 1995 and I was sitting outside the old Club Dredd Edsa hanging out with Parokya ni Edgar bassist Buwi Meneses when the strains of the Sundays’ “Here’s Where the Story Ends” wafted out the doors. The singer – whoever she was -- hit all the high notes in a perfect cover that would do the Sunday’s vocalist Harriet Wheeler proud. 

I dashed back inside to find Sugar Hiccup in one of their first shows at the now mythic rock club. I sat, entranced, thinking, “This is great. Now we have an answer to the British dream pop and shoegaze scene (referring to My Bloody Valentine, Moose, Slowdive, Lush, Ride, and others).”

And roughly around the same time, there was Sonnet 58 that was influenced by Ride and Chapterhouse. Sugar Hiccup on the other hand had traces of the Cocteau Twins but with a more pop sensibility about them. 

But that was it. The twee pop bands arrived and the scene was inundated by a host of NU metal bands. It was more than a decade Moscow Olympics and Sleepwalk Circus picked up the baton and led the charge into the stratosphere.


You can tear the roof off the local scene.

There’s now a dream pop/shoegaze stage during the annual Fete dela Musique. Mow’s, increasingly known as that rock club for underground bands, is home to the productions by Furiosa, a production group dedicated to spread of the genre. There’s a Facebook page for the local scene, and of course, there are a multitude of bands now.

The shoegaze/dream pop scene is alive, well, and kicking into the clouds and the glaciers. 

If you are new to the scene, here are some albums – of the dozens -- that we recommend serve as your introduction to the Philippine brand of shoegaze and dream pop. 

Womb – Sugar Hiccup (1998 compact disc from BMG Records)
Their second album. Their debut, Oracle, had more pop tunes. Womb was lusher in production. More ethereal with soaring melodies (pun not intended). 

Crossing Oceans – Sonnet LVIII (1996 demo compact disc, vinyl self-released 2019)
When I first saw them in Dredd, they were the first band to my knowledge that was awash with effects. If you like Ride and Swervedriver then you’ll like Sonnet LVIII. 

Still – Moscow Olympics (2007 seven-inch vinyl from Fraction Discs) 
The initial offering from this now defunct band. Recalling the British guitar bands of the New Wave era, this song takes me back to a less complex time and when music first took ahold of every fiber of my being. Spinning this record is always tremendous joy. This has a spot next to my records of the Care, The Sundays,  

Great Secret Show – Sleepwalk Circus (2010 compact disc, Terno Recordings) 
A complete package from the compact disc package to the music. A beautiful recording. When I first got Great Secret Show, I must have played this about three dozen times those first couple of days. And it remains in my rotation even after all these years.

Sky Spectre – Narcloudia (2014 compact disc self-released)
One of life’s unexpected surprises. Discovered this band by chance (they were the unannounced opening act for a band I wanted to watch). Wrote about them and spread the news opening this band to the scene. An eccentric eclectic mix of Goth, Lewis Carroll, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and the Cocteau Twins. If you like a mystery from this femme fatale trio based in Singapore.

Unexpectedly – Megumi Acorda (2018 on mini-disc self-released)
Four tracks of beautiful misery from an incredible talent. 

Hereafter – Polar Lows (2019 compact disc self-released and cassette by United Cassettes Philippines)
I think until Polar Lows, we didn’t have any of those bands that played shoegaze the traditional way – with unintelligible lyrics and haunting music that sweeps you away. Though a three-track extended play single), I’d say this represents one of the best of the old scene as well as the new one.

Within You Without You – WYWY (2018, on vinyl from The Spaceout Project, compact disc self-released, and cassette from United Cassettes)
Music from this Filipino duo from Dubai, UAE. If Kate Bush went shoegaze this is perhaps how she would sound. 

And there’s more to cast your mind and imagination adrift! Check out the aforementioned bands’ discography. And you can search for local acts such as Scott, The Strange Creatures, The Rave Tapes, populardays, and others! You can check out their music on Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Spotify, YouTube, or even Facebook where you will discover more Filipino bands!  

Friday, March 13, 2020

New stuff from Davao death metal band Korihor & Pilipinas Hardcore II

Korihor is back from the dead. This death metal band from Davao has five new songs on a cassette EP! With two covers to boot!

I love the homage to the old Atlantic Records label.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Fil-American 6th grader due to release progressive rock album

Fil-American 6th grader due to release progressive rock album
By Rick Olivares

Philadelphia, USA -- Talk about getting them started early.

Twelve-year old Sebastien Braganza, a sixth grade Filipino-American who has gained online fame for his guitar shredding exploits on YouTube (performing in a commercial for 2018 Super Bowl Champions Philadelphia Eagles) and live performances including famed Los Angeles club, Whisky A Go-Go) will be putting out his first ever solo album by the middle of 2020.

Seb, as the young lad is nicknamed, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and is a sixth grader at CCA Baldi Middle School. However, unlike most kids his age who would be into gaming, gadgets, and sports, Seb – who is also into sports as he is a massive basketball fan – wants to be a musician. A rock and roll guitarist to be specific.

He performs with his Black Sabbath tribute band called, Sebbath, and his own band where they perform original compositions.

And he is one at an early age and will be putting out his first ever album later this year. “My upcoming album is all about my skills and my passion towards my work,” described Seb. “It will be an instrumental album representing a lot of genres mostly progressive sound and melodic sound. To top it off, there will be a lot of guitar shredding. Yes, and it would be called ‘Nebulizer.’” 

While many young kids his age get into rock or even hiphop, Seb was introduced to metal music by – gasp – his parents, Artie and Raquel.

“I think it is cool,” Seb said of his parents’ musical tastes and their supporting their son in his passion and ambition. “I discovered the music of Metallica and Pantera through my dad while I discovered progressive rock through by listening to Rush and Dream Theater.”

“My dad loves heavy metal because he too is in a metal band called Uprise Shadow. My mom? She loves it too.”

Seb has also performed at the NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) in Anaheim, California) where he met many of his guitar idols including Kirk Hammett, Slash, Joe Satriani, John Petrucci, and others. He has also performed with Filipino metal band Slapshock during one of their American tours.

While Seb is a rocker, he does appreciate other music as well. “I listen to a lot of genres including hiphop and R&B,” he clarified showing uncharacteristic maturity for someone his age. “I don’t think you can be closed minded to other music.”

The same too goes for metal music. “Some people are of the mind that the music is demonic, but it isn’t necessarily so. And so everyone knows, my family I devoutly Catholic and we go to Mass every Sunday.”

The young Braganza says that he diligently follows the exploits of Gilas, the Philippine Men’s National Basketball Team with former player, Jimmy Alapag as one of his favorite players.

Seb’s current guitar teach is Brazilian Luis Kalil who has performed with Steve Vail, Slipknot’s Corey Taylor, Stone Sour, and famed drummer Marco Minneman among many others. Braganza’s also once trained under famed New York guitarist Rob Balducci. 

“I’m really excited about everything that is happening right now,” summed up Seb who is signed to Steve Vai’s record label, Favored Nations Entertainment, where he will release his debut album, Nebulizer. “To be given these opportunities this early is something I am so thankful for. Hopefully, we can do some shows in the Philippines soon.”

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

WYWY's Within You Without You

Able to snag the last compact disc copy available of Filipino dream pop band WYWY (they are based in Dubai, UAE). Will see what I can do to track down the extremely limited vinyl release. 

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Squid 9’s Caramel Lights is a paean to dub music & a loved one getting old

Squid 9’s Caramel Lights is a paean to dub music & a loved one getting old
By Rick Olivares

Electronic act, Squid 9 is releasing a dub-influenced album titled Caramel Lights. 

There is, however, more than meets the eye when it comes to the new album. Aside from the love of Jamaican music, it is Squid 9’s Raymund Marasigan paean to the yaya, Carmelita Pagunsan, who helped his parents raise hi and his siblings as well as his own daughter, Atari. 

“Yaya still lives with me because she is family,” bared Marasigan who measured his words carefully. It hasn’t been easy. In fact, it too, has been an emotional time for the veteran musician. 

Yaya is feeling all sorts of aches and pains as well as illnesses associated with in her old age. Visits to the doctor have been periodic, not to mention, costly. And yet, Rayms does not spare any expense to help her live out the rest of her days in comfort. 

“She’s getting old and is deteriorating. Her memory isn’t what it once was,” he confessed with a sideward glance to yaya who is seated in the kitchen watching television. “And I am pretty helpless. The feeling of helplessness is one of the most difficult things. You want to ease the pain and make her feel more comfortable.”

“I can only do so much… I do not want to wallow in depression so I make music.”

Through all of this time, Marasigan has been producing reggae band We Got’s debut album. It has also rekindled his love for Jamaican music that was introduced by the British bands influenced by Caribbean nation’s musical export such as the Clash and the Police, and local bands such as the Jerks, Cocojam, and Spy to name a few.

Thus, the inspiration begat the new music from Squid 9.

And incidentally, the last two releases by Squid 9, have been personal in nature. Circuit Shorts that had a distinct Japanese flavor that was also at once a paean to band member Shinji Tanaka’s late father whose voice was immortalized in one of the songs.

The more recent release was The Rambient Tapes that was a “soundtrack” to the various dishes at Tanaka’s Crazy Ramen restaurant.
Now, the trio (that also includes Marasigan and Darren Lim) is about to release Caramel Lights. 

For this new album of seven songs, Tanaka takes center stage with his vocal duties. 

“Shinji has a unique accent,” said Marasigan. “He’s Japanese and he speaks fluent Tagalog but with also a Visayan accent as his wife is from the region. Now we didn’t want to sound Jamaican or British. It is what it is – a weird Filipino or alien sounding dub album.”

Weird as it sounds, Tanaka’s imperfect vocals are actually perfect for Caramel Lights. And in many ways, it fulfills a longstanding dream to do something that involves Jamaican music. The Eraserheads flirted with reggae and dub. Marasigan’s current bands, Sandwich, Pedicab, Assembly Generals, and Basement Lung do not lend themselves to the genre by design. Yet in an odd manner, Squid 9 is best suited for Marasigan’s stab at dub music.

As much as Jamaican music – reggae, dub, ska, and rock steady – deal with themes of religion, social commentary, and living life to the fullest, one overriding theme is love. 

And Marasigan, through Squid 9, has written that love letter to the woman who raised him in the form he can best express himself. 

Caramel Lights will be out soon with Squid 9 set to perform the music, live. 

My Mazinger Z soundtrack

Mazinger Z has always been my favorite of these Japanese super robots. Although Gigantor and Voltes V were the first ones I saw, Mazinger Z became my favorite the moment I saw it. There is something about the combination of black, red, and silver on a giant robot that makes it look cool. Furthermore, I liked the cast -- Kouji Kabuto, Sayaka (drool), Shiro... and later on how it spun off into Great Mazinga, Grendaizer, and so on. 

I thought Mazinger Z's villains -- the evil Dr. Hell, the half-man, half-woman Baron Ashura, and the Mycenae empire-inspired civilization where they were based was amazing. I was in Greek mythology at this time and I immediately gravitated to it. 

My toy figure remains a favorite of mine. I never had one as a kid, but the one you see in the picture is something I bought about four years ago.

The soundtrack is a dream. It features the English opening and closing themes -- sung by Ichiro Mizuki -- as well as audio excerpts from the first episode. It isn't in the best shape but I am all right. This stuff is difficult to find.

Hydrophobia to make splash on Philippine shores

Hydrophobia to make splash on Philippine shores
By Rick Olivares

Japanese death metal band Hydrophobia is keenly looking to make a splash on Philippine shores this coming March 4 at the 123 Block.

The three-piece unit (Rin on vocals and guitars, Tera on bass and vocals, and Tetsuo-rrow on drums) out of Fukuoka has been grinding bones and taking names since it formed in 1996. They will be opening along with Filipino death metal band Paganfire for American band Nunslaughter. 

Hydrophobia hopes to gain traction once more after numerous stop-starts emanating from personal challenges to even those of the natural kind. Rin, the sole original member of Hydrophobia bared the numerous challenges the band has had to face, “It has been 12 years since we released our one and only album, Human Shredder,” said Rin. “We’ve had many challenges. Our bassist quit the band after the (devastating) earthquake of 2011. And for seven years, we played with a revolving door of bassists until we got Tera.”

And there’s the rat race of work. One that is the bane of many underground bands everywhere. “It is no different no Japan,” admitted Rin. “Many bands do not last long (in the local extreme music scene). We have to work to eat as well.” 

“Now we have a full line-up, the next plan is to record (our long-awaited) new album.”

First things first. Hydrophobia will be hitting Philippine shores after being invited by Alvin Esperanza of Insane Bazooka promotions. 

“We really cannot wait to play in Manila to not only open for Nunslaughter but to also meet our Filipino fans,” enthused Rin who expressed happiness that they have a following outside their native Japan. “We will perform our best.”