Pacific Riffs

  1. LIST: 2009 Mid-Year Round-Up, Part 2

    Most awaited Filipino releases for the second half of the year. As usual, this is completely and entirely personal!

    » The full length album by Us-2 Evil-0. Still no working title, as of yet. It ought to be released after singer Mich Dulce gets back from an extended stay in Europe, for her "day job" as fashion designer.

    » Tubby TrousersStrangers With Candy compilation. I nearly creamed my pants, after checking out the updated track listing. I hope the sound quality and mastering is up to par, though. (Unfortunately, it’s never a guarantee.)

    » ANY new recorded material by Patience, Dear Juggernaut. Wincy Ong’s tweeish solo act has possibly the most awesome name EVAR in the history of Filipino indie music. More importantly, the infectious pop melodies would make even Cain Marko smile with glee.

  2. LINK: Zigazig-ah!

    Do you have a well-established fondness for personalized mixes? If so, you’ll most likely be interested in joining the Zigazig-ah! mix challenge.

    “Say what now?!”

    I’ll leave it up to gals in charge to explain:

    Because not all of us are blessed with a plucky Austrian fraulein to remind us that music is sublime & is best enjoyed with friends, we at zigazig-ah! aim to fill this chasm in your empty hearts (which, as we all know, should be filled with the sound of music).

    Zigazig-ah! is, at its core, about sharing music. Every two weeks, your surrogate Fraulein Marias at Zigazig-ah! will post musical assignments where members are to create a playlist based on a specified theme. Members will email their playlists to us at Yes, those are 3 H’s.

    Fraulein Katalina42 issued the most recent challenge:

    I <3 to sing in the shower

    Prepare a mix of your own bathroom hits. Does the shower weather bring you back to kiddiehood and turn you into a shiny happy person? Does it make you burst into glorious cheeziness and boogie in the shower ala Finn from Glee (please bear with the long clip, I couldn’t find anything shorter)? Or is it a refuge from the cruel world and allow you to mix your tears with the shower water as you sing out your angst (sing it, Juliana)?

    Show us how the ‘red hot water dissolves the fear’ and bring us to your fantasy. We want to meet your inner diva/rocker/musical star/cheezewiz, and have front seats to your bathroom concert ;)

    Unfortunately, employment issues have kept me too busy for this particular task, so far. However, until the Frauleins deign to post another topic, it’s never too late to give in a “set list” for your very own bath time music festival.

    Simple enough, right? Then quit your lallygagging, and mix away!

  3. REVIEW: The Camerawalls : Pocket Guide to the Otherworld [2009 reissue]

    Pocket Guide to the Otherworld [2009]

    The Camerawalls
    Pocket Guide to the Otherworld

    Lilystars Records
    originally released July 2008;
    reissued May 2009 w/ new sleeve design

    The Camerawalls’ first album is arguably a break-up record – just not in the usual romantic sense. It’s more like a kiss-off to the career of Orange and Lemons (OnL), whose less-than-friendly split in 2007 lead directly to the forming of this motley group.

    Its’ title brings to mind a sense of escape – of journeys through fantastic places, like Wonderland or Oz. And indeed, it transports listeners across varied audioscapes, from Smiths-y mope rock to Beatlesque orchestral pop. But the protagonist of this sonic adventure is not some plucky Victorian lass, but Pinoy rock visionary Clementine Castro. The album maps his quest from corporate pop serfdom to veritable musical auteur.

    Of course, this Pocket Guide includes a few expected detours into the bitter end of Clem’s former band. The anthemic “Changing Horses Midstream” stands out; its defiantly hopeful chorus betrays OnL’s Anglophilic leanings. Meanwhile, gossip hounds looking for inside dirt may want to read between the lines of the menacing “Lord of the Flies”.

    But for me, the real draw is the previously uncharted musical territory. Clementine is a natural innovator, layering his acoustic compositions with native string instruments like the banduria and octavina. This added texture helps to lift upbeat tracks like “Clinically Dead for Sixteen Hours” above their prosaic rock origins. Not even Jose Rizal is safe from Clem’s lofty ambitions. He arranges “Canto de Maria Clara” (from Noli Me Tangere) as a lush pop ballad, complete with the Good Doctor’s original Spanish lyrics.

    Otherworld seems like a place that’s both familiar and timeless. The majestic “The Emperor, The Concubine & The Commoner” recalls the plot of a Zhang Yimou film, as serenaded by The Decemberists. Elsewhere, “Lizards Hiding Under Rocks” is a bitter rebuke to the youth of Manila’s gilded class, set to a Strokes-y garage rock beat.

    The album is not without its share of misgivings – for example, carrier track “Markers of Beautiful Memories” is a little syrupy and maudlin for my personal tastes. And the lyrics can get so overwrought with drama, they border on ridiculous.

    Nevertheless, …Otherworld is a solid effort overall. Taken as an organic whole, or a Shuffle-ready collection of individual songs, it manages to hold its own. It establishes The Camerawalls as a unique band in their own right, distinct from the circumstances that led to its formation. Yet the influence of that experience lingers on unmistakably (for now, anyway).

    Paolo Jose O. Cruz

  4. LIST: 2009 Mid-Year Round-Up, Part 1

    A brief and totally subjective recap of notable Filipino albums for the first half of the year.

    Most of these releases are sold at The Junkie Shop (Cubao X), Route 196 (Katipunan Ext.), or Fully Booked (Bonifacio High Street).

    Zach Lucero (a/k/a Action Pact) - Fall Crash Infect

    Easily my favorite local release of the year, to date. Catchy, straightforward power pop, with a generous amount of duelling boy/girl vocals. Boasts an impressive roster of guest performers. (Shame about the corny album sleeve design.)

    Duster - Sweetheart Snackbar
    By turns fierce and playful, Duster offer an electro rock tour de force, built around hooky synth punk riffs, and big singalong refrains. Admittedly, it can get repetitive in parts, but I really don’t mind; I love what they do enough to appreciate listening to the same kind of track, several times over.

    Pasta Groove - The Distinktive Sounds of Pasta Groove
    An unlikely favorite! I expected a collection I would respect more than enjoy. But this is both musically superior and plenty of fun. PG skillfully draws upon a wide range of urban musical influences (old school OPM; 70s Soul records; early hiphop; pure unadulterated funk) to weave together a sonic patchwork of quality tunes.

    Outerhope - Lost In Numbers [forthcoming]
    The Benedicto siblings improve on the whimsical formula they established with Strangely Paired. This one has a broader, more diverse sound. Mike and Mic invoke pirate shanties and C86 pop, without ditching the twee sensibility on which their cult following is built.

    The Low Techs - Anniversary of the Machinery
    During live shows, these Baguio natives are mind-blowingly impressive. On record, their brand of Joy Division-esque gloom rock kinda drones on. Whenever I listen to this, I find myself compulsively skipping tracks halfway through every song. A real letdown. They’re still an unquestionable live favorite though.

  5. ABOUT Pacific Riffs

    Pacifc Riffs offers a curated sampling of rock and pop music from the Pacific Rim. Our key focus is on bands and record labels from South East Asia and Southern China, because: (a) that’s where most of us call home; and (b) the region doesn’t get as much buzz as our more affluent neighbors (Korea, Japan, etc.)

    Heads up: we’re admittedly partial to the kind of sounds you’d hear on American college radio. (Basically anything that would fit in at Coachella or SxSW.)  So expect a lot of our content to follow that general direction.

    An overwhelming chunk of the music we post about is released independently. Of course, the exact meaning of that phrase is open to dispute. (But that matter deserves a post of its own, really.)

    Despite the use of the “royal we”, this is predominantly the handiwork of a single obsessive music geek: Paolo Cruz. Just the same, major props are due to Claire Villacorta for helping to develop the core idea for this blog.