Wednesday, May 31, 2017

OPM prog rockers Fuseboxx lead singer search hints at new direction

OPM prog rockers Fuseboxx lead singer search hints at new direction
by rick olivares

Filipino progressive rock band, Fuseboxx, true to its preferred musical genre, is going to undergo a metamorphosis.

For the first time in their 16-plus year history, the band will have a new lead singer. Fuseboxx announced the search for a new female lead singer on their Facebook page last May 17. Abby Clutario, the band’s classically-trained and Chapman Stick-playing multi-instrumentalist, isn’t leaving. Far from it. She’ll still be around and concentrate on her performance while allowing someone else to sing.

“At first, we were thinking of adding another guitarist,” related keyboardist Eric Tubon. “After sitting down with Abby, since we’re the last two original members, and this is the nth generation of the band (with some six people having come and go through the years), maybe it’s time to find a new front woman.”

Tubon reiterated that the style could change – “prog fusion pa rin, he is quick to add, the band is excited as the style would evolve depending on the vocal technique of the new singer. “We are excited because we have no idea who we are taking in as a vocalist.”

“It’s probably a new sound,” added Clutario. “It depends on the new line-up.” From Fuseboxx’s sophomore outing, “Animated”, only guitarist Mico Ong remains. Seventeen-year old prodigy Zach Alcasid has replaced Lester Banzuelo on drums.

“After ‘Animated’, we’ve had some new songs. We just have to dig all those up,” added Clutario. “And we're excited to see how our new vocalist will contribute in the songwriting process as well.”

The two clarified that there isn’t a third album on the horizon… yet despite the six year-interval between the self-titled debut in 2005 and “Animated” that came out in 2011. “We’re looking to come out with a single first,” said Clutario. “The single will most likely be available on all platforms, mostly digital. If we get signed up by a label, maybe a CD or vinyl offering will also be available.”

The response to the search for a new lead singer has caught the band by surprise. “We were really surprised at the interest and response we have gotten on social media,” admitted Tubon. “And we aren’t really that active as a band. It is good to know there’s interest and a lot of people are looking for the first album. It would be nice to re-record it.”

Despite progressive rock being a niche genre and market, the members of Fuseboxx have long come to grips with the lack of mainstream appeal. At least locally. “It’s not exactly frustrating,” pointed out Clutario.  “We've accepted that fact long ago that our genre and the band will always be on the side stream.”

Monday, May 29, 2017

My Pixies' greatest hits albums!

My first Pixies album was Doolittle and then Surfer Rosa. I picked up Death to the Pixies when I used to work at Virgin Records. The CD has since been phased out. That's why they released Wave of Mutilation that has been the de facto greatest hits album. I picked up all three versions of Wave of Mutilation... the CD, the Deluxe Edition that contained videos etc and the vinyl. But am happy I held on to Death to the Pixies. It is really rare now. Sells for about €36 at the lowest with €114 the highest!

Picked up this Japanese hardcore punk band single

Local bands Off the Chain and Bonifacio Republic release debut albums

Local bands Off the Chain and Bonifacio Republic release debut albums
by rick olivares

It is incredible that even with the absence of record companies (they still exist but they are doing jack), local recording artists continue to put out independently released albums. A sure sign of a healthy scene variegated in genre and style.

The past week, two bands put out their debuts. I was able to attend the album launch of one, Off the Chain’s self-titled album at the Darkside Bar in Malate, but was unable to go to Bonifacio Republic’s album launch at Cabin 420 in Makati (as I was watching the Late Isabel in Marikina). I have though, listened to both records quite a bit and here are our reviews.

Off the Chain – self-titled debut (Still Ill Records)

Off the Chain takes their name from unleashing dogs for a fight, and their self-titled extended play album, from the aggro get-go, aims for the jugular. The result is eight brutal and punishing songs about loyalty, drawing a line in the sand, and staying true to one’s principles that demand your attention. The fact that all messages strongly reverberate throughout the 22 minutes of relentless hardcore means something.

Without a doubt, Off the Chain – both the band and the album -- is a declaration. And it’s powerful stuff, after all, what the band stands for is critical to punk’s ethos. And whatever the band went through in their hiatus, they have returned badder and more hardcore than ever.

Their two vocalists of JR and Sox allow for different dynamics and interplay. The infusion of hip hop helps set them apart too. In “Protect”, the last track (featuring Armas ng Lias and Nico of Payback), I love how the band slows it down a bit late in the song before unleashing that manic salvo for that pulse-pounding finish. As much as I enjoy the fun, thrash, discordant chaos, I always have an ear for solid musicianship. Having said that, the twin axe attack of Raymond and Melvin with their metal leanings add to the aggressiveness in Off the Chain’s sound. And the manic bass and drums will finish you off.

If you like Madball, Agnostic Front, Converge, and Cro-Mags to name a few, Off the Chain is your local pitbull you’d be proud to place alongside those hardcore legends. This is a solid debut for hardcore fans. And their live show is even more explosive. Like someone lit the fuse on a powder keg.

Check out the Facebook pages for both Still Ill and Off the Chain on how and where you can get their compact disc.

Bonifacio Republic – Unang Sigaw (Rocket Ship Productions)
This Caloocan/Las PiƱas quartet sounds like they stepped out of a time warp. From the late 70’s and early 80s when the Pinoy rock sound gave way to the nascent punk rock scene. And Bonifacio Republic sounds caught somewhere in between.

I find it interesting that the band was named after the Bonifacio monument at the rotunda in Caloocan where the landmark sits still amidst the chaos of the streets, and that Aldwin Tolosa, the band’s lead singer is a media colleague of mine. How does someone in media interpret the news and issues through song?

The answer is in the band’s debut, “Unang Sigaw”, that has that garage feel to it. As I said, it harkens back to different time. And that isn’t bad at all.

The six-track “Unang Sigaw” calls attention to various concerns that plague our country – just as Andres Bonifacio did more than a century ago -- to environmental concerns (“Woodman” and “Lumot”) and corruption (“Sa Diyos”, “The Cause”, and “Magnanakaw”).

The best track though -- in my opinion -- is the last one, a Wuds-esque bonus song titled “Butterflies” (that is untitled and uncredited in the sleeve notes of the compact disc).

As I said earlier about the band falling somewhere between 70s Pinoy rock and punk, the songs aren’t the riot sort of the latter. The band prefers to play the structured pop-punk. The venomous bite though is in Tolosa’s lyrics.

Not a bad debut.

Check out Bonifacio Republic on June 2 when they headline a show at the Roadhouse Manila Bay with Pusakal, Black Wolf Gypsies, the Class, and Gin Rhum N’ Truth or the band’s FB for details on how to get their self-produced EP.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Late Isabel: From Goth to art rock

The Late Isabel: From Goth to art rock
by rick olivares

“We’re the Late Isabel. We’re ex-Goths.”         

Thus spoke Wawi Navarroza, lead singer for the Late Isabel to the Saturday night crowd that ventured to the Forage Bar + Kitchen in Marikina in spite of the pouring rain. Yet even with Navarroza’s proclamation, the band did return to its roots – the thin veil of the macabre and mystery from their musical heroes Siouxsie and the Banshees – to kick off their 16-song set as well as joining bands from the Riverside Commune in Marikina where the Late Isabel got its start during the early years of the new millennium.

And in a serendipitous moment, the band opened not with their classics from their acclaimed debut album, Doll’s Head, but with a triple play from Siouxsie and the Banshees – “The Killing Jar”, “Hong Kong Garden”, and their slower version of “Christine”. The Gen Xers in the crowd who no doubt grew up during the punk and new wave years of the 1980s were most appreciative.

I find it serendipitous that the Late Isabel are returning with a new album that will be out in a few months’ time, their first since 2011’s “Lackadaisical”. After all, shoegazer masters, Slowdive, also named after a Siouxsie and the Banshees song (from the magnificent “A Kiss in the Dreamhouse”), have also come out of hibernation with a new self-titled album, their first in 22 years.

The Late Isabel jumped to songs from “Doll’s Head”, their acclaimed debut with “Midnight City” and “the Rising Tide” as if to show their progression from covering their influences to their own stab at Goth. This where you have to appreciate that the band aren’t mere copycats. For example, in “Midnight City”, I love the twang in guitarist Allan Hernandez’ style as it evokes rockabilly and those cheap spaghetti westerns that warm my heart. Quite a departure from the style that Banshees’ guitarist John McKay established on the latter’s debut, “The Scream”.

And like Slowdive’s new album, the Late Isabel’s “Lackadaisical” points towards a new direction that sounds eerily familiar. You see… old Goths don’t fade away; they just reinvent themselves.

“Lackadaisical” picks up from “Doll’s House” but with a tighter, grittier but no less brooding sound.

“Do you want to dance,” asked Navarozza. “We’re going to dance.”

And bassist Roval Bacale and drummer JP Agcaoili punch it up with a new wave beat. “Spin” finds a fantastic vocal performance by Navarroza who is feeling it. If the Late Isabel is the introduction to this kind of music for some of millennials in the crowd, then the Late Isabel could provide a lasting memory. “Isabel the Damaged” It reminds me of the Banshees circa “Cities in Dust”, a danceable and manic beat, and this performance has my mind racing to that scene from the film “Out of Bounds” with the Banshees performing in some club. And Navarroza cutting loose and dancing around on stage, it’s mesmerizing.

The band takes it down a notch with “Imperial” (that will be the title of their forthcoming album) has that Japanese vibe and it must be mentioned that the addition of Ted Baula on percussions (xylophones, chimes, tambourines) adds a layer of oriental mystery to the band’s new sonic direction.

And that direction, with art rock leanings, owes some to other early influences like Television and the Velvet Underground that is seemingly more evident in the new songs as well as Navarroza’s art and her travels that will reportedly have an effect on the songwriting as well as the lyrics.

It is fitting as well, that the band ends with an old favorite, “Doll’s Head”. I cannot help notice that in their return to the Riverside community where they got their start, the Late Isabel ran through the entire gamut of their music history.

It’s at once a history lesson and an exciting glimpse at what it to come.

As I said, old Goths don’t fade away. They just reinvent themselves.