By Clarence Yu AEROSMITH’S Joe Perry pays homage to his idol Chuck Berry with his own recording of "Run Rudolph Run," and it’s about time. According to Aerosmith’s official fan website, AeroForceOne, "Joe has always loved Chuck Berry’s and Keith Richards’ version of this song and has wanted to record it for years now. He also wants to share it with all the fans right here at AF1." A diverse list of artists who have covered the song include Bryan Adams, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Grateful Dead and Billy Idol, a testament to the long lasting recognition of the song first made popular by Chuck Berry in 1958. Perry is reputed to be an ardent admirer of Berry, and it shows in his previous guitar work on songs like "My Girl" off Aerosmith’s Pump (1990) and the axeman often employs Berry’s trademark double-stop licks on his own guitar solos. The recording, available for free download at AeroForceOne, follows the tradition of a swinging, rockabilly beat as previously recorded by Keith Richards. Perry’s voice is ice cool in its lack of emotion, and it is obvious that the recording was engineered to sound like a classic ‘50’s rock and roll song: high on the reverb, with a lot of bar chords, heavy on the crash drum cymbal, with bits of piano flourishes. Perry adds his own mark on the song with his signature buzz sounding solos throughout the song. An accompanying video recorded for the song can be viewed at YouTube. While the song may only be of interest to die-hard Perry and Aerosmith fans, much can be said about Perry’s gesture of making the song free for download. The legendary guitarist has nothing more to prove, and in making this his gift to his fans, it shows a tender side of Perry that he rarely reveals in the rock arena. It can be viewed then as a simple gift from a human being using his God-given talent. Which is, in essence, part of the true spirit of Christmas. Download it now.
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By Clarence Yu AC/DC is like comfort music to me. With their latest release, Black Ice, these seemingly unstoppable and stubborn rockers just refuse to quit. Why should they? The music they’ve created over the past 35 years seems timeless and you can always be sure of satisfaction. And they know it. Produced by Brendan O’ Brien (Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen), Black Ice is also a return to the sound reminiscent of the band’s previous studio efforts, Highway To Hell (1979) and Back In Black (1980), with renowned producer Robert “Mutt” Lange (Def Leppard, Bryan Adams, Shania Twain). Whether this is a conscious effort or not, the results are decidedly for the better. The various producers the band have chosen over their previous releases either gave this signature sound a slightly more commercial feel (the late Bruce Fairbairn with 1990's The Razor’s Edge), or a less radio friendly, harder edged twist (Rick Rubin, with 1995's Ballbreaker). Of course, the challenge with each producer is to try to capture the legendary bands' sound as they envision it, so credit is due to Brendan O’ Brien, who rises above the pack. Black Ice is also a classic example of an album that doesn’t really need titles to make its point. The sequencing of the songs makes the album sound seamless: each track segues into the other without much ado, and this is an album you can listen to over and over without having an epiphany of any kind. The lead single off the album, "Rock And Roll Train," also demonstrates the band’s great songwriting skill. Take the intro of the Rolling Stones’ "Start Me Up," and add a bit of distortion to it, or take the verses from "Highway to Hell," and mix it in with the chorus from "You Shook Me All Night Long," and you’ve got a new, fresh sounding song. The album contains all the elements of classic AC/DC themes: war ("War Machine" with its signature chants reminiscent of "TNT"), sex ("She Likes Rock and Roll") and rock (four songs on the album have the word "rock" in the title, so it's quite obvious). Outstanding cuts include the funky "Decibel," "Rocking All The Way" with some low-octave, bluesy singing from vocalist Brian Johnson, and the closest thing they’ve done to a ballad in a while, "Anything Goes," which sounds like a cross between Def Leppard’s "Hysteria" and their own "Touch Too Much" off Highway to Hell. The band also teaches a thing a two about dynamics. Throughout the album, the only thing that constantly breaks the monotony of the basic 4/4 pounding by drummer Phil Rudd is the tempo, and whatever tempo changes that occur are always augmented by the intricate yet deceivingly simple guitar interplay between the Young brothers Angus and Malcolm. Bassist Cliff Williams knows when to play and more importantly, when not to. AC/DC has, if anything, proven with Black Ice that there doesn’t need to be much thinking in rock n’ roll. It’s also enough to quiet all the “too old to rock” pundits who started criticizing bands of AC/DC’s stature long since grunge reigned for a time. Labels such as "metal" and "headbanging" have always been applied to describe the band's music, but much harder sounding bands have come since their inception in 1973. Basically, it’s just no fuss and no frills -- a welcome respite from today’s contemporary rock. And surely, a message that rock is definitely here to stay for good.
By Clarence Yu No, you did not read the title wrong. It is Kevin Costner, actor-director, with his band Modern West and their debut CD, “Untold Truths.” At the age of 53, Costner decides to go into his first album of all original songs, with long time band Modern West. Most might be surprised (like me) but after a little checking, Costner has not been a stranger to playing music, as he and his band have been playing live gigs for the past couple of years. The sound is all country/roots-rock with Costner on vocals. Surprisingly, for a shameless country music fan like me, I’m not that disappointed, nor am I elated. The songs on the album have little to do with what the title suggests, at least in a direct sense. “90 Miles an Hour” sounds a bit like Jacob Dylan’s “One Headlight,” and “Every Intention” sounds like a John Mellencamp song. The fire cracking country-rocker “Gotta Get Away (Song for Bud)” is one of the tracks that is quite unique. Most of the other tracks deal with tales of Americana and it’s heartland and the actor’s voice isn’t really that bad -- he sounds like he’s having a blast, and the band is superb. Overall, this album is not bad debut CD for a 53 year old actor who now officially joins the ranks of Kevin Bacon, Bruce Willis, Keanu Reeves as actor-musicians. It’s not as hip as today’s contemporary music by any standard (whatever that may be). I’m pretty sure this album will not do well commercially nor will it have a big chance of being released locally. But for easy listening, I wouldn’t mind keeping this on my player for a while. Just to give you an idea how Costner looks on stage singing, here's a video we found on YouTube:
By Clarence Yu AC/DC fans, it’s time to rock again after eight years. Angus Young and company are back with the new album “Black Ice,” released last October in the United States. You can find a sample of one of their songs, titled "Rock 'N Roll Train" here. Their last release, “Stiff Upper Lip” was in 2000, and was met with their usual commercial success. In between then and now, the band was quite inactive with the exception of jamming onstage with the Rolling Stones in 2003, and releasing several box sets. “Rock N’ Roll Train,” the lead single off the album, is typical AC/DC: it lifts the hairs off your arm and immediately hypnotizes you with that 4/4 signature rock groove they’ve perfected since their inception in 1973. “Spoiling For A Fight” sounds a bit like “Moneytalks” off 1990’s Razor’s Edge, but less radio friendly and more ballsy. Indeed the whole album sounds like they’ve abandoned the commercial path they started taking with producer Bruce Fairbarn (rest in peace) in the 1990’s, in favor of the 1970’s-80s sound perfected by producer Robert “Mutt” Lange (also producer of Def Leppard, Bryan Adams, Shania Twain, to name a few). “Stormy MayDay” has Angus Young playing slide guitar, and “Rockin’ All The Way” is a mid-tempo 3-chord rocker reminiscent of all of their mid-tempo 3-chord rockers, except that somehow the magic of the band is that it always makes it sounds fresh and new. Lead vocalist Brian Johnson is in fine form throughout the album, and, according to a press release, cites Black Ice as “the best they’ve ever done, even better than Back On Black (1980).” I will probably agree on that momentarily. The band never sounds sluggish and the guitars are ruthless. The Internet is truly wonderful. Hard copy is not yet available in Manila (as of last week), but you can already find them somewhere in the ether. Wolfgang and Razorback, including the plethora of AC/DC fans in Manila have something to rejoice in, and for those who are tired of contemporary pneumatic avant garde hip rock and alt rock, and want a taste of the real thing, download or buy this as soon as you can. I’m calling the stores everyday.
By Clarence Yu With news of the imminent release of Guns N’ Roses’ new album setting the rock music world on fire, I thought it apt to write something about one of its members -- to be specific, an ex-member, Slash. To most of us growing up in the 80’s, Slash was the epitome of the cool, tough, classic rock guitar, refusing to use a whammy bar in an age where ala’ Eddie Van Halen tapping was en vogue, and keeping mostly to Gibson Les Paul’s as his main guitar of choice. He (along with Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi) brought the talk box back to life (a device, when connected to a guitar can make your voice and guitar sound cool and robotic -- listen to the intro of “Livin’ On A Prayer by Bon Jovi). Unknown to most of us then (well, at least to me), Slash wasn’t really that cool at all (at least in my opinion), and he really didn’t bring back classic rock guitar playing (it never really left). In fact, after many listens of their landmark album “Appetite for Destruction,” Izzy Stradlin (the rhythm guitarist) perhaps contributed much more with his sparse, rhythmic playing, and his songwriting (Stradlin wrote most of the good songs). At any rate, that’s perfectly fine with me and Slash’s seeming coolness is replaced with a surprising tenderness, honesty and sensitivity in his autobiography, “SLASH (by Slash and Anthony Bozza).” The book starts with a (not a spoiler) brief anecdote, with Slash using this as a metaphor to display his gratefulness that he is still alive and kicking today. I picked this book up overseas two months ago and finished it in two days. It’s quite a long book, but a good read. It does not try to be Hammer of the Gods (a biography of Led Zeppelin), Walk This Way (Aerosmith’s autobiography) or The Dirt (Motley Crue’s autobiography). Instead, it comes off as a heartfelt story of a man caught up in one of the world’s greatest bands, confused, left for dead at one point and resilient enough to come back to life. Slash doesn’t mince words in this seemingly honest tale of his own personal upbringing, his innocence (which seems to shine throughout the book) of the ways of the world, his skyrocket ride to fame with Guns N’ Roses, his fall, and his current venture with the band Velvet Revolver. The usual tales of the perils of rock and roll (sex and drugs) are abundant enough in the book and are surprisingly shocking instead of being inserted in as entertainment value. Slash also shows a great sense of humor in the book, and one of the most common phrases you’ll find in the book that he uses is, “All things considered…” after which something ridiculously funny follows. The book also chronicles little known stories of how Guns N’ Roses really got together and wrote one of the greatest rock albums in history. As an example, Slash admits that he could not coherently play the riff to “Sweet Child Of Mine” when the band first wrote it because of the fingering on the fretboard which he found difficult to execute, and it took him quite a while to get used to it. For those interested in the other band members, similar honest stories, again not for entertainment or shock value, are in abundant supply. Slash’s relationships with W. Axl Rose, Izzy Stradlin, Steven Adler, Duff McKagan and company are well documented in the book, again with surprisingly matter-of-fact, honest prose that doesn’t pretend to be brilliant nor cool. It’s perfectly readable, and Slash, for all his posing and reputation, may very well have turned out to be the most intelligent and sensitive member of the band. He doesn’t say much about his opinion of the new Guns N’ Roses, nor does he seem to harbor any resentment towards the entities that caused of the break up of the original band. He is human after all, and is just happy to be alive. For anyone looking for a rock and roll story that has heart, get this.
By Clarence Yu Contributor I've been very lucky to have a sixth sense when it comes to getting a hold of good music. In these days of downloading music, I rarely buy CD’s, and if I do, they are from bands that in my mind deserve a slot in my CD case drawer. Journey is one of those bands. When a friend advised me of his impending trip to Manila I immediately requested him to find me a copy of their latest release, Revelation, which is available only at Wal-Mart Stores in North America. Much of my interest stemmed from news that their new lead singer was Arnel Pineda of the Philippines. I am one of the lucky ones to have possession of it at this time, and would like share my thoughts on the band in general and a personal review on the new album. Journey burst onto the music scene in the late 1970’s and early 80’s, ruling the pop/rock scene with a lethal combination of catchy melodies, syrupy, sugar coated lyrics, and the “Voice” -- as Steve Perry, the original lead singer of Journey, was and is called up to this day. With a voice as sweet as saccharin, guitar riffs extraordinaire, (Neal Schon), driving keyboards (Jonathan Cain), a thunderous bass (Ross Valory) and a jazz/rock fusion groove (drummer Steve Smith), it was tantamount to eating ice cream on a hot summer night. And who does not love ice cream? It’s sweet, and it tastes good. With Journey, the music they have created over the years is as sweet as sweet it can ever be. Who can ever forget those long drives at night when you turned up the radio and heard, “Send Her My Love,” or “I’ll Be All Right Without You” without getting a chill up your spine. Or for others who still remember prom nights with the local band playing “Faithfully.” Filling stadiums and breaking adult oriented rock (AOR) chart sales, the “City By The Bay” band (“Lights”) had mass appeal in large part due to their excellent pop songwriting. Tales of broken hearts, fidelity, commitment, breaking up, making up, faith, love and anything sappy in general were common themes of every boy and girl relationship that the band collectively tapped. “Separate Ways,” “Open Arms,” and “Don’t Stop Believin,” stand out as classic examples of their excellent songwriting abilities, and they were a band that people actually flocked to stadiums to see live in concert before the onset of MTV (a formidable feat, in my opinion, considering that music videos were not en vogue during the time). After considerable success with Journey, Steve Perry went solo with two albums while maintaining membership with the band. “Foolish Heart,” and “Oh Sherrie” were probably the most commercial successes from his solo venture, and remain staples on classic rock radio to this day. With the arrival of heavy metal and hard rock in the mid to late 80’s, the band found difficulties in maintaining a fickle audience, no doubt by this time largely influenced by the visceral images from MTV. The band never formally called it quits, but it was apparent with guitarist Neal Schon and keyboardist Jonathan Cain’s new band, Bad English (“When I See You Smile” being their most notable chart success), that things were not quite as stable within the homefront. Fastforward to 1996. Journey “reunites” with an excellent album “Trial By Fire” produced by none other than legendary Kevin “Spank” Shirley, also producer of well-known bands such as Aerosmith and the Black Crowes, to name a few (the nickname “Spank,” owing to the distinct wall of sound that he is known for creating during the recording and mixing process). Steve Perry then refuses to tour behind the album due to vocal cord problems and hip-replacement surgery, and the reunion was short-lived. The year 2001 marked the arrival of the aptly named release “Arrival” with new singer Steve Augeri and new drummer Deen Castronovo in tow (Schon’s and Cain’s bandmate from Bad English). Unimaginable at the time to find a singer to fill in Perry’s shoes, Augeri was first introduced to the general public as a member of Journey via a cut on the “Armageddon” movie soundtrack album (“Remember Me”), and Deen Castranovo faithfully duplicated the classic sound of drummer Steve Smith (his most famous recorded performance outside of Journey being drums and percussion on the 1984 Bryan Adams track “Heaven.” Augeri gave the band a second life and renewed hopes for fans of Perry’s voice, which Augeri aptly duplicated, albeit on lower octaves. “Higher Place” and “All The Way” were strong cuts from this album, but were met with little commercial response from fans, most of whom were die-hard Perry fanatics. The band’s decrease in popularity was evident on their 2001 Live Concert DVD “Journey 2001,” playing to a much smaller audience relative to the stadiums they filled in the ‘80’s. After a second album, Augeri called it quits (or Journey fired him, depending on what you have read) owing to “vocal cord problems.” Sounds similar to Perry’s departure? After a brief tour with temporary singer Jeff Scott Soto (from Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force---music fans, just Google it), the band again called it quits. A brief resurgence, notably in the final episode of The Sopranos, where “Don’t Stop Believin” was featured in the final cliffhanging scene, and in a derivative remake of “Open Arms” by Mariah Carey, perhaps renewed hopes for the band that they could still write and record simply good music without the “Voice.” The search was on for a new singer. Risky as might have been in searching, other bands had pulled it off before (Van Halen, Genesis, Motley Crue), finding second lives and even more success with new singers. Enter Filipino Arnel Pineda. Pineda’s story is the stuff of a million American Idol fan’s dreams combined. With a 25- year music career in Manila and Hong Kong, singing with numerous cover bands under his belt, Arnel first gained prominence in the Philippines as lead singer of the ’80’s band, AMO (in English, loosely translated as “Master”). The infamous (or famous, depending on your point of view) story of Mr. Schon’s discovery of Mr. Pineda on YouTube is now a part of urban legend. Basically, Mr. Schon felt that looking for a singer the traditional way was time consuming, thus committing himself to hours of browsing on YouTube. He found a clip of the band “Zoo,” and in his gut, he knew Pineda was the one. After a brief audition process, the band immediately went in to record their latest release, again with Shirley on producing duties. Considering the limited amount of time the band had to adjust to Mr. Pineda and vice versa, Journey version 3 was able to churn out high output, with a 3-disc package: one disc of 11 new songs, the other an 11 re-recorded greatest hits compilation, and the third, a live DVD of their recent performance at the Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas. With a huge question on whether Mr. Pineda could fill in the void left by Mr. Perry and co., I was, suffice to say, quite hesitant to listen to the new disc for fear of disappointment. The opening track, “Never Walk Away,” was enough to erase any doubts in my mind. I was blown away immediately. The opening, soaring guitar riff with a crash of drums and bass was enough to keep me smiling as it opened the door to the possibilities of a new, relevant Journey. Mr. Pineda’s voice was immediately seared into my brain with the first line: “So young in love and they couldn’t wait/said their vows just to run away.” Alright, that is cheesy lyric but that is what great songwriting is all about. Again the songs revisit familiar themes of running away, love, broken promises, etc., the band fires on all cylinders on this driving, propelling track. Strong cuts on the album include: the ballad “After All These Years,” which is sure to make waves on Adult Contemporary Radio. “What It Takes to Win” is an aerobic, anthemic tune that would fit in great on any boxing movie soundtrack. “Like A Sunshower” is a doo-wop type of ballad with a chord structure reminiscent of “Lights” from Journey’s earlier material but is strong enough to stand out on its own. “Change for the Better” has Mr. Pineda showcasing vocal staccato breaks reminiscent of an earlier hit, “Any Way You Want It.” Mr. Pineda’s voice is full of fire and soul, and combined with the band, becomes an instrument unto itself. I’ve seen a YouTube performance of “Never Walk Away” and Jonathan Cain (keyboards) is playing rhythm guitar. The song is pure melodic rock, without the aid of keyboards, and from a technical standpoint, that’s very difficult to pull off. There is an ethereal, live ambience feel to the whole album, like it was cut live in the studio. Mr. Pineda respectfully gives a nod to Steve Perry by being able to duplicate his signature high tenor, yet infuses his own raw, rough and fiery style. I doubt if Mr. Perry would be able to pull of the rough and raw vocals of Mr. Pineda on “What It Takes to Win.” The rest of the album is very strong material, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t post high sales. Mr. Schon and Mr. Castronovo are in fine form throughout the album. Mr. Schon is truly an underrated guitarist, who not only is technically good, but rhythmically great. I am particularly impressed with Mr. Castronovo’s rock-solid drums and the raw, primal sound of the production by Mr. Shirley. The 2nd disc of re-recorded versions of their greatest hits is good but not great. That’s fine with me, and enough to keep a Journey fan’s appetite wet. I am a guitarist myself, having played in Filipino cover bands for 20 years and I know that Mr. Pineda is not the best singer here. But he is the most optimal singer, a consummate professional who is the best fit for Journey. After all, he has been singing Journey tunes for most of his career. I guess he had 25 years of rehearsal, and he rightly deserves this job. With Mr. Pineda on vocal duties, there is that distinct possibility that Journey may finally escape the stigma of “The Voice,” and finally be given credit simply as a group of guys who made good music, and are still continuing to make relevant, good tunes, as a band that never tried to be hip in the first place. Hard core fans and critics may disagree, but opinions vary, and, as they say, music does the best talking. Listen for yourself and close your eyes. There might be a day when the question is reversed: Will Mr. Perry be able to fill in Mr. Pineda’s shoes? Buy this disc, and don’t stop listening and believing.
By Nekesa Mumbi Moody Associated Press Britney Spears "Blackout" Jive Records JUST when it seemed safe to write off Britney Spears as a punchline only capable of entertaining people through tabloid escapades, she goes and gets all musically relevant on us. "Blackout," her first studio album in four years, is not only a very good album, it's her best work ever -- a triumph, with not a bad song to be found on the 12 tracks. Granted, a Spears rave should be put in its proper context -- it's not like we're talking Bob Dylan here. Spears is a lightweight singer who only flourishes when she has great songs and great producers to supplement her minimal vocal talent. But when she has that help, she's fierce. And she gets that boost on every single track on "Blackout," a sizzling, well-crafted, electro-pop dancefest that should return her to pop's elite. This is a shocker, given all the lowlights Spears has given us this year. From her embarrassing MTV Video Music Awards performance to her bizarre public antics to allegations that she's an irresponsible parent, Spears has been a walking disaster. It seems amazing that she even found her way to a recording studio, let alone did anything of value while in it. But Spears emerges on "Blackout" as the antithesis of her tabloid persona -- confident, sensual, and in control. "I got my eye on you," she coos on one of the album's best tracks, "Radar," a sexy techno groove that you can't help but bounce to -- a feeling that permeates all of "Blackout's" tracks. You won't find any saccharine ballads or fluffy pop on this disc -- it's all about generating heat on the dance floor (and if Spears has shown us anything in the last year, it's that she knows how to party). On the aptly titled "Freakshow," produced by Danja (who worked on Justin Timberlake's "FutureSex/LoveSounds"), Spears gets voyeuristic with a tantalizing promise to get wild in the club. The hypnotic "Get Naked (I Got A Plan)," also produced by Danja, features Spears breathlessly asking, "What I gotta do to make you move my body" before demanding, "take it off, take it off, take it off." It's not all about grinding to the music, though. On rock-tinged "Piece of Me," produced by Bloodshy & Avant, she defiantly address her critics: "I'm Mrs. Bad Media Karma, another day another drama ... I'm Mrs. Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, I'm Mrs. 'Oh My God That Britney's Shameless.'" And on the slow-burn, Neptunes-produced "Why Should I Be Sad," the album's last track, she cops to heartbreak but refuses to let it get her down, a rare vulnerable moment. Listening to "Blackout" is not only an energetic release, it's also a relief: No, Spears hasn't completely lost it, and yes, her career has a flicker of fire left -- actually much, much more. But with all the damage Spears has done and continues to do to her public image, will anyone outside her core fan base (and who knows what that consists of these days) care anymore? This album is the first, great step in making that happen.
By Rito Asilo Inquirer MANILA, Philippines—With finger-snapping beats and a sassy vocal arrangement, Bituin Escalante opens her latest CD, “Ur Luv Thang,” with the groovesome track, “Let Go.” The lush music reverberates with a sexy and unconventional tempo that reminds listeners that Bituin’s latest album is not one of your run-of-the-mill, commercial releases. Ironically, this OPM compilation doesn’t sound Pinoy at all! In a season of slim pickings from the local music industry, Bituin’s independently-produced album, “Ur Luv Thang,” is nothing short of a treat: The 12-song compilation is coated with a musically succulent hybrid of blues and jazzy tunes, all written by Dan Gil -- it’s no wonder why some cuts follow through with similar groove patterns and vocal requirements. Even more pleasantly surprising, there are no revivals here, as is customary with most local releases. Musical ennui In her previous offering, the singer-stage actress dished out a memorably frolicsome song, “The Only Two People in the World.” Her independently-produced collection boasts of even more lusciously delivered numbers -- an aural respite from the local recording industry’s current musical ennui. In “Each Time We Say Goodbye,” for instance, Bituin delivers a lovely R&B duet with Artstrong. In the lone Tagalog track, “Kung Wala Ka,” about a troubled relationship, she dispenses an earnest interpretation full of soul and pathos. Yes, the somber tune’s lyrics border on “jukebox” sentimentality (“Kung wala ka, buhay ko’y walang saysay. ’Di ako masasanay. Mabuti pang mamatay.”), but with Bituin’s full-voiced rendition (and Alvin Cornista’s moody sax), schmaltz takes on a different meaning. An upbeat rhythm boosts “What You Do,” a cut reminiscent of the tunes popularized by Swing Out Sisters in the ’80s. Our top pick, “Last Tango in Manila,” fuses Latin sound with LL-J’s foot-stomping rap. When Bituin launches into her infectiously playful taunt (“I know you’re just putting on a show. You got something up you’re sleeve…”), you know she’s having fun -- and so will you! Feisty Take the vocally and melodically fascinating “There’s No Single Thing.” The feisty number has a funny albeit simplistic narrative: “I was 8 and you were 9. We’d run around till dinnertime. Then, my dad would drag me back home -- kickin’ and screamin’!” A number of tracks, however, vacillate with indistinct melodic patterns (“Hurts So Bad,” “Inconsiderate”) that don’t take flight. Bituin would have been served well by a variety of musical styles (and songwriters) that could have showcased her range and versatility. If a singer’s vocal instrument has the ability to pack as much wallop as Bituin’s, it’s only appropriate to expect more.
By Erwin Oliva INQUIRER.net "I NOW have a better appreciation of silence," I jokingly told Filipino video artist Tad Ermitano after 90 minutes of an "assault" on my senses. I was at Mag.net Cafe in Bonifacio High Street one quiet evening on July 24. My friend and fellow tech journalist Jing Garcia sent me a text message inviting me to a gig. He did not give any details. He just told me to come over. I agreed. On our way to the place, he revealed that Tad and eight other sound artists have gathered to play in public. Sound art is not your everyday music. To help you understand it, let's get back to my story. But here's a video clip I took for iVDO of one of the sound artists, Lirio "Elemento" Salvador, plays his "turnplate," an instrument he created. Tad smiled back. I remember referring to John Cage's famous composition called 4'33" which involved three movements of silence. Tad then gave this explanation, but please bear with me since I don't remember his words exactly. But here it goes: 4'33" was nothing but silence. As the silence became "deafening," people who were listening started hearing other things, say, the coughing of a person in the audience, the sigh of a bored spectator, the creaking of chairs moving, and the mumbling of some people. Cage and other sound art performers later wanted people to hear "unexpected sounds" that came out of a concert hall, for instance, when people started listening. While the performer of this piece did not play a single note, there was "music" or unpredictable or unintentional sounds produced. Thus Cage has somehow challenged the very definition of music. Sound art is that -- sound but meant to convey certain feelings or meanings by an artist. That night, there were nine of them organized by young sound artist Tengal. They played his piece called the "Rotation of Nine," according to Tad's blog. In an interview after the performance, Tengal said that he loved the number nine because it would always "refer back to itself." He said the number nine is also the most "egotistical number." Prior to the actual performance, Tad and Tengal agreed to name their group Motzkin Gangan Ensemble. Asked what it meant, Tad said Motzkin refers to the number of possible combinations in a maze, while Gangan is a Japanese onomatopeia of a ringing in the ear, a headache or a climbing noise (I hope I got that right amid all the chatter and noise, heh). So I figured Motzkin Gangan Ensemble is Tad and Tengal's very own definition of sound art. It is a combination of different sounds organized like a jazz ensemble, where everyone is free to improvise under a certain form. In this case, an algorithm of nine artists, playing for 90 minutes at certain intervals. Tad further writes in his notes about the performance in his blog Cavemanifesto: "[B]asically [it involves] a scheme to schedule the overlapping performances of 9 improvisors. As Tengal has a thing for the number 9, he wanted to set as many parameters as possible to 9. Thus: nine players, each playing for 9 minutes then resting for another nine; players' entrances staggered 3 minutes apart, repeating as necessary to play a piece exactly 90 minutes long." Jing Garcia, Tad, and the rest of the sound artists are a relatively new breed of artists. Lirio "Elemento" Salvador, who was the only one wearing dark shades that night, played an instrument he created. He called it a "turnplate," which is pun on a turntable. Using some electronic devices and everyday objects he found, this silver contraption (which looks like a little weapon from a Transformers movie) is an example of what Garcia calls "found instrument." He also brought with him a bass guitar made out of found objects. I also saw an "air synth," a Kaoss pad, lots of synthesizers, a circuit-bended instrument (which is a modified electronic instrument), and other home-made electronic instruments that could literally shatter your eardrums when volumes swell. The beginnings of experimental sound art or experimental music using electronic and ethnic or found instruments in the country is hazy. But Jing Garcia remembers that he and his group called The Children of the Cathode Ray were formed in 1989. At the time, they were playing what people called, "multimedia art/music." This description would send Blums Borres, Tad, and Jing laughing. In the liner notes of the Children of the Cathode Ray, Jing writes:
The original 1989 lineup of The Children of Cathode Ray consisted of Blums Borres, Tad Ermitaño, Jing Garcia, Regiben Romana, and Magyar Tuason, with Peter Marquez pitching in as tech and gaffer. The band is a closed but metastable collective, with a 15-year history sporadic dormancy interleaved with sudden bursts of activity.To people, sound art might be considered noise, albeit a structured one. But sound art is about challenging the conventions of traditional music. As Tad puts it:
With noise as their palette, augmented with feedback, delay and amplification, it's as if every one of them owned an atom bomb: each one has the power to blow up the soundscape in pure white noise and most of them don't have much experience jamming with others as a sound artist.Honestly, they sound punk to me. Finally, I borrowed the list of sound artists from Tad's Cavemanifesto entry. Here they are in no particular order:
- Lirio Salvador on a self-made touch-modulated synthesizer
- Inconnu ictu on Alesis Airsynth
- Ria Munoz on Kaoss Pad and contact mic
- Chris Garcimo on Roland SH-101 keyboard
- Caliph8 on MPC Sampler
- Erick Calilan on self-made circuit-bent devices
- Jonjie Ayson on a scrapmetal bass made by Lirio
- Blums Borres on electric guitar
- Tengal on drums, panart, kulintang, interactive computer
I WAS floored when I first heard Tuck Andress play "Man in the Mirror" on his guitar. As one of my occasional music buddies would always say, "That music made my head spin!" So when I stumbled upon Filipino guitar player Jerome Rico's Guitar Shop album recently, I experienced deja vu. You see, in my itsy bitsy book of guitar greats, there are those who play guitar, and those that can play mind-blowing guitar. Tuck and now Rico are the latter. I can listen to both all night and, I can assure you, you'll never get bored. Guitar Shop is composed of covers and original arrangements of known classics. As this blog by Oliver Oliveros reveals, Rico's jazz influence is evident.
All selections were re-arranged to match Jerome’s ingenious musical style, which is much influenced by great jazz instrumentalists -- Tuck Andress, Tommy Emmanuel, George Benson, Dave Koz, Kenny G, Lee Ritenour, and David Benoit.It is also apparent that Rico is schooled. He started playing guitar at 16 but later studied classical guitar at the University of the Philippines, where he eventually developed his own style. Like Tuck, Rico can dazzle you with his own rendition of "The Way You Look Tonight" or a nice arrangement of Sting's "An Englishman In New York" or "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic." For less than P300, this album is a good buy -- that is, if you love listening to covers of known hits played by a lone guitar virtuoso.