Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Playing the Beatles' Love Songs

This was actually the first Beatles record that I ever got. I did have some cassettes of Abbey Road and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club but this was the first record I bought. I used to see ads in the old Jingle magazine and I saved enough to buy the album. I think it took me about five months to get this (but that's only because some of my other savings went to other things like comic books). LOVE SONGS is still a favorite of mine even after all these years.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Discovering Six the Northstar’s new CD SixTrueMentals Vol. 2

Discovering Six the Northstar’s new CD SixTrueMentals Vol. 2
by rick olivares

I am generally not interested in any record album that isn’t without a proper rhythm section. Especially the pseudo-jazz that passes for music today. That quote from the Jerry Maguire film resonates with me all the more (referring to John Coltrane and Miles Davis): “Two masters of freedom playing at a time before their art was corrupted by a zillion cocktail lounge performers.”

When I was given a copy of Six the Northstar’s “SixTrueMentals Vol. 2” a few days ago, I immediately saw the Akai MPC100 (music production center) in the back cover and noted that there are 16 tracks. It was the same feeling I got when I picked up Elvis Costello and the Attractions’ 1980 album, “Get Happy”, that contained 10 songs in each side of the record for a total of 20. The more tracks on a vinyl record, there was a fear in the loss of quality due to groove cramming. While this was a CD, it certainly wasn’t the concern about groove cramming.  I thought, “I hope this isn’t filler drone material” and felt some trepidation.

This being the first time to hear Six’s music, I kept an open mind. And well… it isn’t so bad. In fact, I think I hit repeat several times over on some tracks as I couldn’t believe it was over that quick.

I love how Six infuses his beats with traces of soul, funk, jazz, and world music. They SixTrueMentals tease with morsels of Thievery Corporation-like tunes yet unlike the Washington DC-based outfit’s music that is strikes out into rich new territory because of its pastiche of cultures and sounds, Six the Northstar instead takes us back to those familiar places where we have fond memories. It’s like a signpost soundtrack. All the more evident when in the penultimate track, “Do It All Over Again,” Six traps in an infinite loop that timeless opening line to Barbra Streisand’s “The Way We Were”.

To wit, the opening track “That’s Right”, sings to me Diana Ross and the Supremes.

“End of the Honeymoon Stage” reminds me of Noel Gallagher’s flirtations with the Chemical brothers sound with his contributions to the X-Files soundtrack, “Teotihuacan”.

“Hey, have you ever tried” drips with that smoky, sultry sound of Philadelphia in the 1970s.

“I Know You’ve Been Hurt” brings to life the Ivory Queen of Soul.

Jafar in Jasmine’s Clothing, perhaps Six’s ode to the Disney animated film, Alladin, is mysterious.

“Fist in the Face of Darkness” recalls the sinister feel of Coolio’s “Gangster’s Paradise”.

“Stars in My Eyes” sounds like a lost Stylistics track.

And it goes on. I guess that’s the beauty of this album - Six knows his roots. He takes you back and yet, forward. It forces you to reach out and expand your horizons. While I will always swear by a full rhythm section and not a machine that samples music, SixTrueMentals Vol. 2 does get me to appreciate modern music making methods. Furthermore, his music does what it is supposed to do. And that’s groove, swoon, think, take you to places, and well, enjoy what you’re listening.

About Six the Northstar:
Released on February 14 2017, SixTrueMentals Vol 2. is Six the Northstar’s latest release which is the ninth album put out by Six in his current body of work. As both a MC and Producer, VOL 2 represents a collection of his recent work an instrumental beat producer and is a follow up to his album SixTrueMentals Vol. 1 released in January 1 2016. Vol. 2 is his first solo release that was fully produced under the auspices of independent music label FUTURESTUDIO.

Mainly produced through Six’s MPC1000, Vol. 2 is an assembly of a multitude of sounds and samples taken from old records tastefully selected, chopped, and masterfully manipulated by Six. Through the entirety of Vol 2. a listener will hear Six’s tastes shine through; a mix of soul, jazz, and funk, armed with a fresh hip-hop beat.

In his career as a musician Six has worked with several groups such as A.M.P.O.N., Archon Akeenz, MDK, New Cocoon and most recently as one third of the hip hop group Shadow Moses. He has also lent his vocal chops as features on other artists’ projects with more collaborations as both a MC and Producer coming up soon.

SixTrueMentals Vol. 2 can be found on Spotify, Apple Music, and has physical copies available at The Appraisery and The Four Strings at Cubao Expo. Album art of Vol. 2 was created by artist Lari Gazmen.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Listening to Weather Report's Heavy Weather

Alert Level’s 25th Anniversary: A reunion of the best of the Philippine alternative music scene

Alert Level’s 25th Anniversary: A reunion of the best of the Philippine alternative music scene
by rick olivares

Alert Level, that seminal compilation album that featured then four rising bands, will be celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Stephen Lu, formerly lead singer of Rizal Underground, one of four bands featured in “Alert Level”, is back in the studio re-mastering all 12 tracks for a compact disc re-issue.

“I think with the newfound excitement of the return to prominence of vinyl, hence the music scene, it seems timely that we’ll be celebrating the re-release of “Alert Level.”

Back in mid-1993, the country’s alternative music scene exploded. The Eraserheads were unleashed on an unsuspecting country that sent artist and repertoire managers scrambling towards every rock club in and around Manila in search of the next big thing.

One fledging production house, Loud House Productions, headed by Lu, former lead singer of the rockabilly trio, Runaway Boys, fortunately had dibs on that.

His old rockabilly trio, the Runaway Boys had broken up and he had gone into album production. “My first foray was producing was Binky Lampano’s album, ‘I Read the News’ in 1992. I learned from that process. It prompted me to produce an independent release. And the next feasible project for me was putting out an album featuring four rising bands.”

These bands were the Breed, Color it Red, Tropical Depression, and Lu’s new outfit, Rizal Underground.

“At that time, Color It Red had the Quezon City crowd from Red Rocks and Club Dredd,” recalled Lu. “The Breed had the Makati/Kalye audience while Tropical Depression brought in the Mayrics people. I had formed a new band, Rizal Underground. So you can say that the bands we chose were not only the smart bets as they all had their own sets of fans but also for strategic purposes.”

The biggest challenge for Lu wasn’t getting the album (that was released in cassette form) to sell but to finish the recording and the post-production. All the bands were very cooperative. The problem back then was that Manila was deep in 12-hour brownouts.

“Bands were hanging out at the studio from 12 midnight to six or seven in the morning because that was the only time where we had electricity with no interruptions,” recalled Lu. “That bonded everyone and despite the difficult schedule, everyone put in their work. ‘Alert Level’ is something we were and are all proud of.”

The album was a popular release and following the Eraserheads’ explosive debut, local companies signed all the bands to contracts. Color it Red went to Alpha Records. The Breed to Dyna. Tropical Depression signed with Viva while Rizal Underground was snapped up by Polycosmic Records.

While “Alert Level” isn’t the first indie release as local punk music company Twisted Red Cross put out their own independently produced cassettes years before Lu conceived his own project, it did spawn other compilations featuring unsigned bands such Alpha Records “Alpha-Numeric Sampler to NU’s “In the Raw” to name a few.

“As the producer of ‘Alert Level’, it was gratifying to see all the bands secure contracts and record albums some of who released several records,” glowed Lu. His own Rizal Underground became popular first with their own songs then after receiving a massive jolt of publicity following their recording of the San Miguel Beer jingle “Sabado Nights.”

According to Lu, the 25th Anniversary Edition of “Alert Level” will be out this July 2017. “We’d love to have it out on vinyl but right now, the format that we can afford as an independent outfit is on compact disc,” said Lu.

“We are also planning a reunion show where every band will perform these old songs. The challenge though will be finding someone to take the place of Papadom (the late Dominic Gamboa, lead singer of Tropical Depression). Manny Amador (bassist of the Breed) is also no longer with us, but we are sure we can find someone to pinch hit. The details to the album release and the show will be finalized soon.”

“Vinyl is back and sales are at high levels so who knows, the re-release of ‘Alert Level’ just might find lightning striking twice.”

With Stephen Lu

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Six records shops to satiate your vinyl habit

Six records shops to satiate your vinyl habit
by rick olivares

The vinyl record industry is alive and well. There must be over a 100 vinyl record shops or sellers in Metro Manila alone to feed one’s appetite for records. Not since the 1980s has there been this demand or craze for music in their vinyl format. And it is cool for the music fan to have a lot of choices.

By no means is this list the “best of” the lot. Far from it. Each shop has its own share of clientele, charm, and level of collector’s delight. I chose these shops for their ambiance, prices, browse space, selection, friendliness of the staff, and the condition of the records they sell. And I’d say these here are good starting points for beginners or for longtime music fans.

Northwest Estate and Collectibles (NEC)
170 K-1st Street, Quezon City (parallel to Kamuning Road)
Time open: 9am-8pm
Price range: From P250-500-600-700 and up.

Proprietor Jong Canimo aims to have over 10,000 LPs in stock. More records means more choices and that can be only good for the music fan. I like the fact that this shop is open every single day from 9am to 8pm. It is close to Edsa and very accessible. Now the bins aren’t arranged by genre. According to Camino, “The thrill of hunting for your favorite vinyl record is not knowing what is the next album is. I guarantee in every bin there are surprises that will have you saying, “what a find!”

And all reasonably priced. You won’t find any OPM or newly pressed records here as they are all used or second hand ones.

Another cool thing about NEC is that it is two floors of records and books, magazines, toys, and comic books! And when you buy you get a 10% discount. And more discounts on your birthday. That all adds to the purchase pleasure.

Treskul Records
641 Cifra Building, Boni Avenue
Time Open: 11am-10pm

What I like about this shop is they also have a bar and some eats so you can have a drink while listening to records. That is if you aren’t in a rush. They have a nice mix of new and second hand records. In the times I’ve been there, I’d say the owners here have an eye for good stuff so it is always worth checking out. Furthermore, they have some of the best prices meaning cheap. I just wish they had more stuff. My browsing is over in 10-15 minutes. But still a good place to check out. And I love the ambiance.

This is Pop Records
Unit B, Ground Floor, Legaspi Tower 100
148 Legazpi Street, Makati
Time open: 12noon to 8pm (Closed on Sundays)

This is the one shop in Metro Manila that is “niche”. Niche in the sense that the majority are indie rock and its sub genres with some dance and electronica too. And as a caveat, there’s a small pile of stuff that seems so out of place and shop owner Toti Dalmacion cheerfully admits it. Toti Dalmacion? Yep, that famed audiophile so you know he’s got taste. So you know there’s lots of very good stuff in here. You’ll also find albums from Dalmacion’s very own Terno Recordings.

The store is named after one of new wave era band XTC’s songs and if you’re into new wave and indie music you’ll be in ecstasy in here.

Bebop Records
First basement, Makati Cinema Square
Chino Roces corner Arnaiz Avenue, Makati
Time Open: 12:30pm-7pm Closed on Sundays

You have to admire shop owner Bob De Leon as he’s been at this for decades now. This man knows what records to get. Right off the bat, you’ll find a lot of records you’d like whether used or brand new. Plus, he’s very helpful in hunting down stuff you are looking for in case it’s not readily available.

What I like about his stock is you won’t find used records with beaten up jackets (unlike other shops that carry them and sell them for outrageous prices when they aren’t in mint or near mint condition). This is a good hunting ground for music fans. Browsing space is kind of limited because the shop is small but it’s still a thrill.

The Grey Market
Bellitudo Lifestyle Strip, Katipunan Avenue, White Plains
Shoppesville in Greenhills
Upper Ground floor Alfaro Place, 146 Leviste Street, Salcedo Village, Makati
Time Open: 1130am-8:30pm in White Plains, 10am-8pm in Shoppesville,

Primarily a rock and jazz record store. But they arguably have one of the best selections in town especially among the remastered albums. This is a shop where you’ll spend a while browsing.

It’s even better that also sell audio equipment and all related paraphernalia that makes this a worthwhile trip for vinyl returnees and beginners.

4th Floor, Building D Fashion Mall
SM Megamall, Mandaluyong
Time Open: 10am-8:30pm

They mostly carry new records or re-mastered ones. I appreciate the fact that they carry also a lot of indie bands. And like Dalmacion, they have also produced an album of local bands in the appropriately named “Fresh Filter” in conjunction with Jam 88.3 so you know they are really into music and not some entity that just dived into the new vinyl craze. They also have some used records but they are pricey for their condition.

I do like that they have a listening room! That’s a huge plus.