Sunday, August 20, 2017

Filipino-Italian hardcore band, the Seeker, releases new album.

Filipino-Italian hardcore band, the Seeker, releases new album.
by rick olivares

In a recent article that we wrote for ABS-CBN News, we mentioned a couple of Filipino bands who have found their audience abroad – thrash metal band Dreaded Mortuary and Singapore outfit, Tormentress that features Cebuana guitarist Gwen CaƱete. Both have albums released by foreign labels and have performed in festivals abroad.

This week, let’s check out the Filipino-Italian four-piece hardcore outfit from Milan, Italy, the Seeker.

Founded by Filipino Michael Dee who plays guitar, the band used to be wholly Filipino but in recent years has become – to borrow the description of its band leader -- “more United Colors of Benneton” owing to a more ethnically-diverse outfit. Aside from Dee, bassist Eddu is Filipino. Pounding the skins is Italian drummer Covaz while lead singer Dominik hails from Slovakia.

The Seeker released with their third album last this past June (and was only available in Manila through local distribution label, Delusion of Terror last August 13) titled, “Malaya”. And boy are they really pissed off. “Malaya” features 13 angry but veiled songs performed at a blistering pace. The band rails injustice, oppression, and people who wage war and kill in the name of religion. “Kapatid” is the one song on the album (it is in English despite the Filipino title) where while the lyrics are somber and tender, the delivery finds the band going on an all-out sonic assault. Even when they are feeing introspective, they are pissed.

When you look at the album, the band doesn’t say anything about themselves. They want you to listen to the music and what they have to say. They even feature a diatribe from defunct Chicago hardcore band, MK Ultra, about the state of the punk and hardcore scene that they feel has strayed from its Do It Yourself ethic and angry roots that the Seeker embodies. The song “We Should Have Quit Years Ago” is an answer to MK Ultra’s manifesto as it relates the trials and hardships of an underground hardcore band traveling across Europe. The title refers to their being free to do what they want – (the punk DIY ethic) – having the freedom to ride that van and play music that is known for being edgy and taking artistic shots at society’s ills (“Shall We Tanz” which is a jab against extra judicial killings and religious fanaticism).

And that means something to the lads from the Seeker (Mike on guitars and Eddu on bass are the two Filipinos with the band), Covaz on drums, and Dominik on vocals) who are all active in direct action protest and in various political groups in Europe.

This brings me back to the Ramones’ eighth album, “Too Tough to Die” that was an answer to the burgeoning hardcore scene in America back in the mid-1980s. The seminal New York punk rock band out of Forest Hills, Queens also had to deal with all the issues of poor sales and not catching a break while the bands they influenced such as the Sex Pistols and the Clash found success. That album was a throwback to their earlier angrier sound. 

And “Malaya” has that back to the basics vibe; hardcore-wise. And that is what makes the Seeker’s third album, at least in my opinion, something that stands alongside angry punk rock albums with hard-biting social commentary such as the Clash’s “Give ‘Em Enough Rope”, Refused’s “The Shape of Punk to Come”, Earth Crisis’ “Firestorm”, and First Blood’s “Occupation (Silence is Betrayal)” to name a few.

If you’re into hard-edged hardcore, this is what you seek.

(If you want to order this album, inquire at the Delusion of Terror distro on Facebook. There are few copies available locally).

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

My Eraserheads CDs

My Eraserheads CD collection as I bought each and everyone of them when they were released.
Missing a few though. However, to my eternal regret, I gave away some of my CD singles (for radio use only). Dumb! 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Getting back my old B-52s Mesopotamia record

I bought the B-52s' "Mesopotamia" in 1983 at a record shop in Stanley, Hong Kong. I eventually replaced the plastic cover of the record with the plastic cover used for school textbooks using scotch tape inside (yes, I know it is wrong because the acid will eventually eat into the jacket. But this was back in high school). My mom threw this (along with many others) without my knowledge and much to my anger. 
Who knew that years later this record with the taped textbook cellophane would find it's way back to me? The funny thing is whoever bought it brought it to the US and back here. 
I saw this in a recent record sale and had this hunch. I checked it out and yes, it was my old record. I got it of course. Imagine that!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Jose Mari Chan and that Manhattan Connection Take 2

Jose Mari Chan and that Manhattan Connection Take 2
by rick olivares

The ageless Jose Mari Chan will commemorate his 50th year in the music business this 2017 with his 15th album that should be out soon. Interestingly, rather than an album featuring new compositions, it’s a sequel to 2011’s “The Manhattan Connection” titled…. “The Manhattan Connection 2”.

“The Manhattan Connection” and its sequel are a series of albums produced by Janis Siegel and Yaron Gershovsky featuring some of Chan’s lesser known songs. In short, they are re-makes not of his hits but album tracks. But more about that later. If Siegel’s name sounds familiar that is because she is a member of the famed jazz-vocal group, The Manhattan Transfer of which Gershovsky is its musical director.

The two aren’t the only Manhattan Transfer connections to the album. Singing on seven of the first volume’s tracks was Laurel Masse who is one of the original members of the Manhattan Transfer. Masse appeared on the first four albums by the famed group. However, after a car accident in 1978 that left her incapacitated, Masse left for a time of introspection and reflection. She returned in 1984, fully recovered but as a solo act. She released a few albums.

Also taking part in the album are Grammy Award-winning singer Lisa Fischer (1992 Awardee for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for the song “How Can I Ease the Pain”) who since 1989 has been a back-up vocalist for the Rolling Stones when they are on tour, Sting, Luther Vandross, and Tina Turner.

The albums also feature many top American musicians.

As a youngster, Jose Mari Chan listened to the radio and sang along to the songs of Neil Sedaka, Paul Anka, and the Cascades among many others. As a solo recording artist, he is a multiple Diamond Record awardee (meaning his records sold over 400,000 copies).

Over the course of his career, Chan ticked off his musical bucket list of recording a Christmas album (“Christmas in Our Hearts), a collection of re-makes of his favorite pop songs (“Souvenirs”), and even an album of all his commercial jingles (“Strictly Commercial”). He got something more than he bargained for when Manhattan Transfer vocalist Janis Siegel and company released an album of his non-hit songs.

After befriending Siegel, Chan gave her a couple of his CDs with a simple request, “if possible, if the Manhattan Transfer could perform one of his songs.” Siegel didn’t promise anything but she went one better.

She came back… not with her renowned outfit but some of the best session players she has worked with, recording an entire album of Chan’s lesser known songs.

His hits like ‘Beautiful Girl”, “Can We Just Stop and Talk Awhile”, “Afterglow” to name a very few of his classics did not appear on the first volume. Instead, non-hits such as “Like Night and Day”, “Easier Said Than Done”, “Walking in the Moonlight”, and “Love Lost” were re-arranged… ala Manhattan Transfer.

“It is an honor for me that they did this,” glowed Chan of the album. “The way they interpreted the songs is incredible. They breathed a different life to them. It’s great!”

“The Manhattan Connection” was shopped around for release in the United States but record companies declined. According to Chan, “it was because outside the Philippines and the Filipino community overseas, I was not known.” So Chan’s old local record company, Universal, released the album locally.

As for recording new songs, Chan isn’t sure. “I am not sure I can change my style into the popular styles today. We’ll see though,” he said. ““Hopefully, now because of the internet, ‘The Manhattan Connection’ albums will receive transcend borders.”

“The Manhattan Connection” is available in local record stories while Volume 2 will be out soon.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Indie band The xx marks the spot (from their 2013 Manila show)


The xx marks the spot
In perhaps one of the English band’s best performances in their short career, their Manila gig is an arrow through the hearts and minds of all. The band included.
by rick olivares

July 30, 2013
If English band the xx expected a tepid crowd on hand for their furtive but cool and moody indie brand of electronica at the NBC Tent at Bonifacio Global City last Tuesday night, they were in for a surprise.

“We didn’t expect this… but we appreciate it,” uttered bassist Oliver Sim to a highly and wildly appreciative crowd that wasn’t a somnambulist’s dream. It was close to a karaoke nite of indie music goodness.

The same can be said when the xx’s self-titled debut album was released in 2009. No one saw that electronica’s answer to Everything But the Girl would release a sleeper of a hit that was filled with songs of intimacy, relationships, and sex laced with traces of Interpol, New Order, and the Cure. It was a charming and quirky masterpiece of minimalist music that made use of sound and silence. The album justly appeared on many best of lists and on soundtracks for HBO and the like.

And thus one of the biggest indie hits in recent years touched down in Manila. And long after the night was done, many will look back at it and say, “I was there”.

Taken By Cars and Up Dharma Down opened for the xx and they both had their moments as crowd favorites (although it seems that TBC ended their set prematurely after there was some commotion in the front of a stage from some drunk girl who passed out).

It took an hour before the xx took the stage and when they finally did, it wasn’t like the crowd released all their pent up emotions from the waiting – they were into the music and the tent erupted in rapture.

The xx opened their hour-long performance with haunting and pensive ‘Try’ from their second album, Coexist. The sparse instrumentation and vocal interchange has been the band’s signature but on this night, the NBC Tent crowd was treated to the intimacy between Sim and guitarist Romy Madley Croft despite both cutting vastly different figures on stage.

Sim is a presence with his piercing eyes and Gary Numan-esque New Romantic outfit. He wielded his Fender bass that at times was an instrument and on other occasions a dance partner.

Madley Croft offered smiles that betrayed a shyness. Still she managed to bare her appreciation between songs. No guitar hero poses. Just a girl and her Gibson Les Paul. But when she faced Sim at the center of the stage every now and then, there was symmetry between them no matter how disparate their stage personas.

While Sim sparingly chatted up the audience (he took more swigs at his beer bottles consuming about two to three during the performance), Madley Croft looked pleased that the audience knew and hung to every word, every lyric. Her smiles of appreciation were more than enough.

DJ and multi-instrumentalist Jamie Smith’s set in the back included turntables, steel drums, percussion, samplers, cymbals, and a computer. Smith without a doubt is the unsung genius of the band as unobtrusively laid down the beats and loops even as Madley Croft and Sim paused from playing their instruments to engage in their vocal interplay.

And it appeared that the xx have done nicely covering all the music between themselves since their acrimonious split with former guitarist Baria Qureshi the previous year.

They raced through 17 tracks from their two albums. The crowd responded to every song as they sang along to everything. Everything. The songs ‘Reunion’, ‘Sunset’, ‘Night Time’, ‘VCR’, and ‘Intro’ received the best receptions. As a fan myself, it was actually incredible to see this. It too brought a smile to my lips even if my body was aching from being unable to move even an inch as we were packed up in there like sardines.

The xx finished the first set with ‘Infinity’ (from their first album). The crowd knew they’d be back but they nevertheless made their intentions known by demanding for more. Plus, they knew what’s coming… ‘Intro’ that rousing instrumental that opened their debut album and has come to define this band as well with its staccato guitar and haunting lilting melody. And when Madley Croft’s guitar crisp plucking ushered in the instrumental, the jampacked NBC Tent swayed to the hypnotic beat as Sim’s bass and Smith’s percussion picked up the beat.

The English band closed out their show with ‘Angels’. The xx ended as they began, with a pensive song. When the song ended, the trio went to the front of the stage to wave the crowd goodbye. Sim’s broad smile bared the elation that he felt. Then they left. No words. Minimalist, right?

The xx conquered Manila with one of their most memorable performances of their career. But I am pretty sure that Manila conquered them as well.