Sunday, December 31, 2017

My last haul for 2017

Japsuki's Stereo Mood Swings, Sugar Hiccup's Closure, Veronica and I, Stella's Notch's Beyond Wonderland, and Some Gorgeous Accident's The Lovers of Their Opposites.

Pics from Sugar Hiccup's last show December 30, 2017

Neon signage outside 12 Monkeys at El Pueblo.

With Czandro Pollack hanging out with some old Sugar Hiccup fans outside 12 Monkeys. 

This 20-something kid bought these cassettes a few years ago -- sealed too, if I may add -- and has been a Sugar Hiccup fan from that time.

The calm before the show. Post-soundcheck at 12 Monkeys.

Merch for the night -- shirts, pins, ref magnets! And the new album too!

With Sugar Hiccup: Mervin Panganiban, Iman Leonardo, Czandro Pollack, and Melody del Mundo on stage after the show. I got to emcee the show and it was a blast.

In case you do not know my "connection" to the band... I was a label/A&R manager in the 1990s and after I signed Datu's Tribe and Parokya ni Edgar, the band that I tried to sign next was Sugar Hiccup. I was at Club Dredd hanging out with some of the members of Parokya when I heard this band sing the Sundays' "Here's Where the Story Ends" and I immediately ran inside to check out whoever it was. That was my introduction to Sugar Hiccup. I still remember the setlist -- "Here's Where the Story Ends", "Someday", "Trust", "Barn", and a cover of the Cocteau Twins' "Pink Orange Red". I tried to sign them but lost out to BMG. Years later, Czandro invited me to their show at 70s Bistro where they released their third album Of Tongues and Thoughts with new vocalist Bea Alcala. Czandro's peace pipe was offering me three copies of Of Tongues and Thoughts to buy.

We reconnected early this year during a show by Narcloudia. Writing several articles about Sugar Hiccup leading up to their fourth and final offering, Closure, and helping them on album launch night -- which was ironically their last show as a band -- is the closest I will get to working with them. And in many ways, closure for me too.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Best of Alt-Indie OPM albums for 2017

Best of Alt-Indie OPM albums for 2017
by rick olivares

This year, we saw old favorites release new albums, some even make surprise comebacks. And there were some indie/underground scorchers that had folks talking. Here is my list for the top alternative-independent releases for 2017.

Remuda Triangle – Pedicab. We haven’t seen a concept album in a while but the country’s most dangerous band blazed new frontiers with this one – a sci-fi/alien abduction/takeover story. Plus, the album art and those alien-type headgear! Wunderbar!

Echoes from the Quondam – Bad Omen. These 90s punk rockers came up with two releases in 2017 -- this seven-inch extended play album featuring six songs of Pinoy punk classics and the band pays tribute to their heroes and initially a digital release of Christmas songs given the Bad Omen treatment. Either should make the list with the latter given a heaping dose of fun. But Echoes of the Quondam is a teaser for a full-length album where these best-selling and hard-working punks look back at what got them going.

Favorite – Ang Bandang Shirley. This is probably their best album. Bright and eloquent tunesmiths with a knack for hummable melodies. Three albums in and Ang Bandang Shirley just gets better with every release. Favorite is indeed right.

Plagues – Taken By Cars. Talk about a change in direction. From New Wave to Dream Pop. I love the more mature sound and this change in sound. And you have to love the simplicity of their album art.

Lutang/Pariwara – Ely Buendia & the Itchyworms. This Record Store Day offering features a double A-side seven-inch single. Two top songs in one cool collaboration. This one stays in the rotation for a long time.

Roach Motel – Flying Ipis. I always thought that Flying Ipis is an acquired taste. In my case, I always found myself entranced by their music or even stage presence. Behind the “fun-ness” of their debut “Give Ipis A Chance” there’s a sensuous side to them with a hint of danger. That’s their sophomore release, Roach Motel. You can check in anytime but you can never leave their clutches.

Cheats – Cheats. A beautiful pensive debut from these indie rockers. As they say in the vernacular, walang tapon dito.

Humanidad – Dong Abay Music Organization. The street poet of our generation is back with his latest treatise on life in these islands. Read between the lines and hear those jabs at society’s ills.

Residuals – Tiger Pussy. One of Cebu’s best imports alongside lechon, mangoes, and top-class point guards. Punch the air raid siren! There’s an urgency to Tiger Pussy’s music. Melodic punk from this livewire act.

Horrors – Yomi No Kuni. Last year, we were treated to the day-glo sunshine of Tom’s Story. This year, when the lights go down, the world belong to the horrific black prog metal of Yomi No Kuni.

Atake – Slapshock. Time has not dulled the fire of these metal icons. Since Night Owls, their production has been slicker, melodic, but no less fiery. Their 20th anniversary release is a message – onwards and attack to the next 20 years.

Closure – Sugar Hiccup. These local shoegazer pioneers are back with their swan song. An achingly beautiful and pensive release. And the first single, “Saturnine Nevermore” is an instant classic that sticks in your mind for days and weeks. What a way to go out.

Also making this year-end list are some offerings from outside the country by Pinoy artists.

The Ghost of Manong – Various Artists. Available as an import from the United States. This 10-song vinyl release captures the Fil-Am music scene from Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco. Lots of good stuff here. It is good to see there are releases from Pinoy acts out there.

Malaya – The Seeker. Available as an import from Italy. Angry hardcore from this multi-ethnic band from Italy (featuring two Pinoys). They may be oceans apart but this band takes shots even at the ills of Philippine society including the EJKs.

Chasing Frequency – Chasing Frequency. Available as an import from Singapore. Ever wonder what a band influenced by the Eraserheads and Oasis sounds like? That’s Chasing Frequency. An interesting listen. Has potential.

There are also re-issues to pick up.

Another Destructive Century – IOV. This album by these Pinoy punks first came out in the 1980s in cassette form. It was re-issued this year on vinyl. And outside the Urban Bandits’ re-release also on vinyl (it came out the other year), this is something you should get. The sings will sound eerily on point and timely some 20 years after they first came out.

Ella – Ella. The one and only solo album from Ella Del Rosario, the former vocalist of Manila Sound pioneers, Hotdog. Contains the OPM classics – Pinoy disco too – “Mr. Disco”, “Sabik na Sabik”, and “Ako’y Litong-lito”. A must have!

My 2017 in black and white

The year 2017 was my return to vinyl. After two decades of staying away having moved over to compact discs, I got myself a new turntable and began buying records once more. And now there's no turning back.

Got to produce my first show ever. Cooky Chua cuts loose singing the Itchyworms' "Beer" during the Re-Imagination Show last January.

Here's hoping that one of my fave indie bands -- We Are Imaginary -- takes that next step to the forefront of the local music scene. They were my closing act during Re-Imagination.

Aia De Leon exuded sweetness during her set on Re-Imagination.

Those fun-loving punks Bad Omen during a set at the Woodman's Pub in Makati. Formed a nice friendship with guitarist Fishbone.

During a listening party for the Rockoustic Blues Experiment's debut EP, In Flight, the band jammed on a rooftop in Mandaluyong. On stage were three Pinoy Rock icons in Bong Lennon Eudela, Stephen Lu, and Jun Lopito.

The Rod Mijares Combo mesmerized the Golden Generation with a wonderful set at PCR's Instrumental Night in Timog.

Orange and Lemons made a comeback and set the local scene on fire. Got a front row seat to this.

Dream Theater's triumphant Manila show at the KIA Theater in Cubao. 
Hanging out with the Juan Dela Cruz Band during Full Blast PInoy Super Bands at the Cuneta Astrodome.

Tiger Pussy rocks Mow's during their album launch.

Listening in during a rehearsal for a show where former Eraserheads Rayms Marasigan and Buddy Zabala performed old hits. 

Friday, December 29, 2017

Still on a Santana groove. You’ve got to change your evil ways...

I was aware of the older Santana hits like "Evil Ways", "Jingo", and "Black Magic Woman", but it wasn't until I hit sixth grade that I began to dig Santana. The album then was MARATHON with new vocalist -- Scotsman, Alex Ligertwood. The hit single off the album was "And You Know that I Love You". Around the same time, the Santana off-shoot band, Journey came out with their breakthrough album, Departure, that featured the initial hit, "Any Way You Want It". As an American Top 40 buff, I got into both bands and began to backtrack to the older Santana catalogue. Definitely great stuff.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

My Dire Straits to Bob Dylan's Slow Train Coming

When this album came out in late 1979, I used to look at this copy that was on display on the wall of the old Electro King record store outside the old Fiesta Carnival in Cubao. I wasn’t into Bob Dylan as New Wave was in full swing.
And I guess that’s the word — swing. The first single was “Gotta Serve Somebody” (Dylan won a Grammy for that song). but the song that was popular was “Precious Angel”. What attracted me to the song was the guitars that seemed so familiar. Yes, it was Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler playing along with drummer Pick Withers. Now, I was into Dire Straits especially their big hit “Sultans of Swing”. So I picked up Dylan’s Slow Train Coming at Electro King. I love Dire Straits and I should thank them because they provided an opening to Dylan.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Am just a few more records short of the collection I want

The year 2017 will mark the year of my return to vinyl after an absence of about 20 years. I bought the odd record here and there but mostly purchased compact discs. No, I never downloaded or purchased pirated material. Bootlegs are different though. 

I amassed a huge number of vinyl this year but unlike before where I was a completist, this time around, I only got the albums that I really liked. For example, U2. When I was in school, I got Boy, War, Under A Blood Red Sky, and the Unforgettable Fire. I stopped with the latter album then went CD. So that is what I have. Does that mean I should get say, Rattle and Hum? Not really. Only if there's extra money or what. But other than that, no, since I have all of the Irish band's albums on CD. 

For OPM releases, it's different, I try to get as much particularly the rock stuff and the punk releases!

Heading into 2018, here are the remaining back titles that I am searching for on vinyl:

Maskara - Juan dela Cruz Band
Tale of Two - Identity Crisis
Ang Nawawala Soundtrack
Ocean Zoo 7" inch single

Jane Doe - Converge
Modernism: A New Decade - The Style Council
Incubus Succubus - Xmal Deutschland

Once I have these ones, I can go slow. No need to pick up much as I have what I want.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Loving Bad Omen's Pasko Men

Those irreverent fun loving punk rockers Bad Omen are back with their stab at songs for the Holiday season! This was supposed to come out in cassette form but the band was unable to make it work or come out on time. So it is not available for downloading with the cassette version out in 2018.

Additions to my Original Pilipino Music collection: Hagibis, Bobby Enriquez & Atsushi Matsuura

Three new additions to my Original Pilipino Music collection. Never had these records as a kid. The Hagibis, my dad had. Happy to get these records now and at a cheap price too! 

(Clockwise from top left): Atsushi Matsuura's Incubus. That was his debut solo album before he joined the Dawn. Hagibis' debut album that contained the hit singles "Legs" and "Katawan". Hagibis was the Philippines' answer to the Village People back in the 1970s. And lastly, Bobby Enriquez Live! In Tokyo which was his second album. This late talented jazz pianist was recorded in an awesome show in Japan. Loving this. Pinoy jazz. 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Sugar Hiccup returns to say hello… and goodbye.

Sugar Hiccup returns to say hello… and goodbye.
by rick olivares

If you are a fan of dream pop/shoegaze music, did you ever think that the purveyors of that sound – My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Lush, and Slowdive would eventually return from their heyday in the 1990s to become conquering heroes in this second decade of the new millennium? No, we didn’t, but they sure did and how.

Did you ever think that Filipino dream pop/shoegazers Sugar Hiccup who gave us a taste of the 4AD Records sound and style locally; whose music took us to glaciers, to east of the sun and west of the moon, would return as well? No, we didn’t, but they sure they did in 2015 with shows here and there. But a full length album in 2017? They have and how.

It’s the old but new Sugar Hiccup. Melody del Mundo is back with her ethereal vocals that stretch the imagination. Czandro Pollack brings his shimmering guitars while drummer Mervin Panganiban lends that gentle touch on drums. And there’s new addition, Iman Leonardo, from the free-form alternative rockers Prank Sinatra to handle bass duties.

All four come together this December 30th at 12 Monkeys in El Pueblo, Pasig, where they will release their fourth… and final album, Closure, and perform their last show as a band.  

Say that again?

Yes, the 30th of December, 2017 will be the release date of the band’s final album and where they will play their final show. If the title of their fourth album – Closure – didn’t give it away then this article sure will. Hold that thought though. If you look at the cover art of Closure, (concept by Marcel Ramos with art by Aya Francisco) it shows a female face wrapped in flowers and seemingly at peace. Closure, indeed.

And the band is at peace with their decision.

Before we go extrapolate on that, we must look to the past when Sugar Hiccup arrived in 1995; like a feather falling from the stratosphere sprinkling pixie dust along the way. Watching them perform in the old Club Dredd was like sitting atop a glacier and watching the Northern Lights. Theirs was a sound that was a wonder to listen to. Like their heroes, the Cocteau Twins, the words to their songs were mostly inaudible and they wrapped themselves around lush instrumentation whose sonic landscapes took you places. Just the way they intended – you decipher the songs for yourselves and feel how the music makes you feel. That’s why it is called Dream Pop and shoegaze music.

The original outfit released two critically-acclaimed albums, Oracle and Womb, after which Del Mundo left for the United States. The band soldiered on with new vocalist Bea Alcala (now with Narcloudia) and released another incredible album titled, Of Tongues and Thoughts. However, internal problems saw the band implode. Alcala and Pollack left and a new version of the band emerged.

To talk about that time will remind you of how famed British author J.K. Rowling wrote how the wizarding community talked about the dark wizard in hushed tones and using the term, “hewhomustnotbenamed”. It is the same for Sugar Hiccup.

Yet, if you ask Del Mundo and Pollack, that is one reason why Sugar Hiccup – this version with old drummer Panganiban and Leonardo – returned. They do not mince their words. In fact, they cut like a knife.

“Going back to the build-up to this album,” continued Del Mundo right before band practice at 8 August studio in San Antonio Village in Pasig last Wednesday, December 20. “After we had our reunion, we didn’t plan to have an album out. It was more of regrouping and re-organizing the band with Iman as the new bassist. It was us recalling the songs and playing them again. It is about reinstating who Sugar Hiccup is.”

She paused to let the words sink in, “There was a blemish that happened in the past and the music was ugly. It was disrespected; the integrity, the music, the image of the band; one we worked so hard for. That is one reason why we reunited. Why we came up with an album? It’s leaving behind a legacy to erase that chapter. That wasn’t us. The new album, Closure, now this is us. This is Sugar Hiccup. This is the last image and music that we want to leave behind.”


Let those words sink in. Closure is the coda to Sugar Hiccup’s incredible career.

“We never thought about selling thousands and thousands of albums,” extrapolated Del Mundo. “It was all about playing the music that appealed to us.”

Chimed in Pollack, “We don’t really care whether we play to a crowd of 10 or to a hundred or a thousand or more. It would be nice but we all came in with no expectations. Our reunion show in 2015 was a pleasant surprise.”

Del Mundo animatedly cut, “The magic was there. In our first rehearsal for our show at 12 Monkeys in 2015, that was at Penguin (along Kamias Road in Quezon City), the first song we practiced was “Siesyatnebonsoteicostolim” or “Awa” (from the 1896 Ang Pagsilang compilation album to celebrate the Philippines’ centennial) and it brought chills to me.”

“And to me,” exclaimed Pollack with boyish glee. “When we played 12 Monkeys then (at their old venue in Century Mall in Makati), we received a great reception. And that was a pleasant surprise.”

“The chemistry was still there,” noted Del Mundo.

Closure is still very much Sugar Hiccup. But it is different. You know different in the way that the new Tears for Fears songs from 2004’s “Everybody Loves A Happy Ending” to their newer songs “I Love You But I’m Lost” and “Stay” from the recent greatest hits compilation, Rule the World, are different from the sound they established in their first two albums, The Hurting and Songs from the Big Chair.

The first single off Closure, “Saturnine Nevermore”, is an enchanting cousin of “Heeowa” from Oracle and “Who Tease” from Womb that takes you back to that dizzying and majestic heights the aforementioned songs took you to all those years ago. What I love about it is the simple but beautiful harmonizing by Del Mundo and Pollack. But again, it has that bittersweet feel to it. Loosely translated, it means feel sad no longer. We’re back. But we’re also saying goodbye.

“Brushed Away” sounds like something left over from Womb, but it has me thinking of Lush’s farewell EP, Blind Spot, that came out in April of 2016. Like most of the tracks on Closure, it’s a beautiful and slow piece that is a tad melancholic. And now in the wake of Sugar Hiccup’s closure, this album goes the way of Lush and Blind Spot – they returned and disappeared all too quick in the ether.

“Angels” is a song of yearning and wishing. Like many of the songs on the new album - “Saturnine Nevermore” and “Forbid Me Lullabies” included, it showcases the vocal range of Del Mundo that leaves you mesmerized. “If I could fly” indeed.

In the next song, “Dolour”, Pollack lends his vocals that has me thinking at times of Clannad.  

But the album as a whole has this feel of a lullaby album. Not to lull you into sleep, mind you, but how songs resonate well in the still of the night with all your senses attuned and you’re moved.

The album shimmers, soars, and fires the senses. That is what good music is all about. As such, all good things must come to an end.

If Closure is indeed the end of Sugar Hiccup that streaked like a meteor in the night sky and bathed the alternative 90s with its plethora of grunge, garage, and metal bands with an ethereal light, then as the Bard once wrote, then this parting is well made.

And 12 Monkeys in El Pueblo on the 30th of December is the place to be for Sugar Hiccup’s Closure.