In case you’ve been living under a rock (not likely) or are just not really into what I do (more likely), then here’s a recap: tomorrow Shalla and I fly to Kuala Lumpur for a holiday, and to say hello to our friend there, Zaty. They have been friends for years, but they have never met in person. I, on the other hand, have – twice, actually, in my last two visits to the country. In both those visits we have assembled care packages, which have included some typical Philippine souvenirs, her favorite polvoron, and since last year, a CD from a local artist. (That one was this one.) This time I decided to double down, and then some: I’m sending her six CDs. I only hope she has the time to listen to them. Now, on the final installment of the Local Outsider for 2016, I’ll do something different: I’ll talk about those six CDs, and why I picked them. Here’s hoping nobody gets angry at me.
It’s safe to say A New Strain isn’t what I was expecting. The first solo release from Urbandub vocalist Gabby Alipe still contains his signature voice – both in the writing and in the delivery; admit it, his vocals made Urbandub possible – but this time he exchanges the crunchy riffs for glitchy electronics with an undercurrent of soul. What I find fascinating about this is how it all works: the change of setting does not pop out at all (except for the beginning, but then you’re always regaining your bearings at the beginning of any album). Instead you quickly dive into Gabby’s voice – familiar, even comforting, but clearly having fun with the push and pull of the sounds that surround it. There’s a song in Filipino to boot! If I’m to nitpick, it’s that A New Strain is too short – I felt there was more space to push things further. But then, you risk alienating a bunch of people, so perhaps six tracks is as good enough a beginning. [NB] | 4/5
“First of Summer” by Urbandub | I’m 26, and I’m an old person. When I first heard “First of Summer”, the first single off Urbandub’s 2005 album Embrace, it was a very awesome thing: a rousing anthem to summers with friends, the night all yours, that sort of thing. (And then I realize I didn’t really have friends.) Now I listen to the song and think of how irresponsible kids are, of how they all can think of is having fun today rather than stock up for tomorrow. Yes, I am an old person, and yet this song is still the rousing anthem it was ten years ago; a crowd please up to this day, when Urbandub was still around doing gigs, at least with their original line-up. “First of Summer” was the band’s breakout single, although it had attracted a following with their first two albums. The Cebu-based quartet has become known for singing those anthems to rebellion, masking a soft, tender heart inside. And this song – which really is about sex, if you think about it – remains them at their best. [NB]
The timing may have been unfortunate, considering all the April Fool’s pranks that go around the Internet, but it also makes sense: as everybody pointed out, the first day of April is, semi-officially, also the first day of summer. It’s a poetic choice, the date Urbandub chose to announce that they are parting ways, after one last concert a month from today.
Friday night’s Jack TV MAD Fest was, arguably, a festival built around the fact that they got Kimbra to perform. I mean, save for the four DJs that followed her – I didn’t watch them for obvious reasons, and also because Rainy and I were really tired – the acts were limited to three songs each. But it was a nice way to be reacquainted with the best Filipino music has to offer: a good mix of established acts and new ones bubbling under, making you wonder what the hell happened to “OPM is dead”? So, in the following paragraphs, my five highlights, plus a quick run through the rest.