BY MC GALANG AND IAN URRUTIA
This week’s New Music We Love adds an entry from Mongolia, as our weekly new music series covers more territory. We wanted to do our due diligence in diversifying our coverage and it’s been exciting finding music from new places. We will continue to discover and share more standout releases in the next installments.
Enjoy this week’s NMWL and we hope everyone’s safe and well.
‘Mga Dukhang Anghel ng Ginhawa at Liwanag’ – Teenage Granny (PH)
Teenage Granny’s (née Aly Cabral) latest single, “Mga Dukhang Anghel ng Ginhawa at Liwanag” (Destitute Angels of Comfort and Light), is a pensive take on the pasyón, a Filipino religious epic narrative usually chanted or recited during the Holy Week.
The excerpt was from Lino Gopez Dizon’s Pasyung Malutu (Red Passion or Passion of the Workers), which was banned upon its publication in 1936 for allegedly containing subversive content, with lyrics that “criticized capitalism, abusive landlords, corrupt officials, and immoral priests.” Cabral’s interpretation of chapter 26, titled “Karamihan sa mga Dukha Hindi Namamatay sa Sakit— Namamatay sa Kahirapan” laments on the neglect of the state’s most vulnerable, particularly the consequences of deficient proper healthcare, despite health being enshrined in our constitution as a basic human right.
We live in a country where the doctor-to-patient ratio currently stands at 1 in 40,000, a far cry from the ideal 1 in 10,000. A 2017 report shows that the National Capital Region (NCR) has the highest density of 10.6 doctors in a population of 10,000, while the island provinces of Mimaropa and Caraga in Mindanao has the lowest, with only 1.9 and 2.1, respectively. Using the same 2017 figures, there are 8.6 nurses for 10,000 people in 2017. The NCR has the highest density (12.6), while the lowest is the ARMM (4.2).
This staggering inadequacy is attributed mostly to lack of personal and professional support, heavy workload, inadequate compensation and benefits, and pull factors of better opportunities outside. This unfortunately explains—but does not warrant—the disproportionate allocation and availability of health resources and services in many rural areas in the country, why many of the poor live and die in destitute conditions, with no access to healthcare. Tell me, how does “Ngunit kung totoong hikahos ka/Kahit bahagya ang karamdaman/Kung bakit di malunasan/Ito’y lalala pa/At lubos kang mapahamak” square with “the State shall protect and promote the right to health of the people and instil health consciousness among them”—how?
From Teenage Granny: “By paying for this track, you are donating to relief efforts for urban poor communities in the Philippines severely affected by the ECQ and COVID-19 pandemic. No number is too small, any amount would be appreciated.”
‘It’s Alright I’m Feeling Fine’ – Kubra Commander (PH)
Cebu-based Kubra Commander’s latest track off their upcoming album, Rhythm Tourists, covers the best of the slacker rock spectrum with charming gusto: staying well-within the lo-fi, carefree sensibilities that shaped the genre, but overcoming its tendencies not to sound too perfunctory—or worse, unimaginative.
Read our Massive Guide to Upcoming Filipino Albums and EPs in 2020
‘อยากให้ [Acoustic/Extended Edition]’ – Seal Pillow (TH)
Bangkok’s Seal Pillow describe their music as Stalker Vintage Post-Otaku Pop, which weirdly makes sense to me. The band initially released the song in 2015 with an already lean arrangement (guitar and a snare drum), but re-recorded “อยากให้” (Wish) with only an acoustic guitar, adding reverb to achieve a fuller, more textured sound. This enables Seal Pillow to relay the emotional heft that the song requires—one of longing and resignation of someone abruptly left behind.
‘눈’ – Se So Neon (KR)
“눈” (Winter), the latest single from South Korean band Se So Neon off their excellent Nonadaptation EP, is the soundtrack for the 2019 film 윤희에게 Moonlit Winter by Lim Dae-hyung. I’ve always felt like Hwang So-yoon’s vocals as extremely pliant, switching from supple R&B (as she already established in her solo project) to new wave or indie rock, reminding me vaguely of Kim Gordon. In “눈,” however, So-yoon and the rest of Se So Neon are tasked to demonstrate the quiet sorrow of a stunted romance, bringing warmth in a long winter.
‘Gamam’ – Jirapah (ID)
Jakarta-based Jirapah’s “Gamam” (Weapon), a favorite from Kolibri Rekords’ City Rockdown IV compilation EP, centers on the dull and heavy cast of grief: its open-endedness and how it consumes and disrupts. Jirapah commiserate with the rest of us, biding their time. “Gamam” doesn’t attempt to sugarcoat, but hopes that in its vulnerability we can find some comfort.
‘Магадгүй’ – Even Tide (MN)
Even Tide, who only described themselves on Facebook as a “live music band from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia,” released “Магадгүй” (Maybe), a broody electronic R&B number with lo-fi soul vocals that only add to the band’s mystique—and this is after scouring the Internet for at least half an hour, going through all sorts of really aggressive Mongolian music. Who are they? Why do they only have three songs? Are they real people?
‘Hana’ – Burmese Bombshells (SG)
Carefree in the best way possible, Burmese Bombshells’ latest single “Hana” cozily wraps itself up in sun-dappled guitars, bright synth tones, and reverb-laden soundscapes. Beneath its understated shimmer, Meg-Mel Dean’s vocals fit snugly with the band’s winsome brand of twee pop, capturing a pure sense of calm in the middle of a hazy maelstrom. Sometimes, all we need is blissful little tune to zone out from the rest of the world. In less than five minutes, “Hana” gives off that feeling of temporary reprieve.
‘Untangled’ – Southern Space (PH)
Southern Space reinvigorates the weary soul with debut single, “Untangled.” Sure, it has all the subtle intricacies that you wouldn’t expect from a newcomer, but what draws me closer to its realm is the emotional pull that comes from the earnest pop songwriting and the insistence to tackle depression with an open mind and a clear perspective. “It’s a very abysmal subject, but if it’s what it takes to make people gather and talk about it, then I’m jumping headfirst,” Bhenz Bryle Tomilap writes in their Bandcamp liner notes. “So there’s a lot of ‘there’s a light at the end of the tunnel’ narrative going on there. Have you ever been in a very grueling situation, and the moment you get past it, everything around you feels beautiful? It could be any situation; say, a quarter-long thesis that’s been getting through your nerves. After the entire ordeal, everything around you feels beautiful.”
Setting its focus on serene but melodic instrumentation, the Cebu-based quartet takes a more nuanced approach in terms of arrangements. “Untangled” sounds more invested in moving at a leisurely pace. Rather than accelerate the dynamics to skyward limits, the band highlights beautifully written lyrics that double as adolescent wisdom: “The subtle gloom in your eyes have gone away, collecting dust no more,” Bryle sings with the desire to do something good with his life. It’s a great chorus to wake up to early in the morning, while you gather the strength to survive the obstacles that are about to go your way.
“Another History” – Soha (JP)
No instrumental band has marked such level of freeform brilliance more intriguingly than Japan’s Soha. Their penchant for transition teeters on the verge of insanity, while their best songs feel more expansive but occasionally unaware of its strait-jacketing potential. Their latest track, “Another History,” digs deep into the unfamiliar blueprint: dynamic, jazz-infused rhythms blending with mind-warping progressions, twinkling guitars building into an improvisatory state, and entrancing sounds that operate on experimental whim. With their new single wandering into sonically deranged territory like never before, Soha succeeds in elevating their work to a new, exciting mold.
‘Stupid’ – Hersh 허시 (KR)
Korean R&B star Hersh 허시 navigates the nuances of late ‘90s R&B with funky rhythms and smooth, jazzy runs on “Stupid”—the standout track from his 2020 EP, thoughts II. The sensual tune simmers a bit longer than expected, wafting over a groovy, laid-back production like a gentle brush in the skin. And let me just commend the top-notch vocals here: It’s a near-masterclass performance that emits vintage quality. The falsettos are tastefully done, and the old soul vibe feels especially warm and fuzzy on the inside.
‘Untitled 666’ – Dennis Litao (PH)
College Friends’ chief tunesmith Dennis Litao continues to find redemption in rough edges on “Untitled 666.” His writing is inseparable from the mumbled sentiments of brokenness, often delivered with confessional honesty and bleak worldview. The song opens with subdued keys and acoustic guitars, and unfurls into a lyrical equivalent of The Smith’s “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out,” where dying next to the person you love isn’t exactly tragic, but liberating. It gets better as Dennis sorts through complicated feelings without obscuring his true intentions, leaving us with a mopey soundtrack that is willing to get under the skin and unmask a kind of vulnerability that thrives on the extremes, warts and all.
‘Sleep’ – Dried Anemone (TH)
If you’ve paid even the slightest attention to Thai post-punk outfit Dried Anemone, you know that their highly anticipated debut single “Sleep” cuts through the shoegaze haze with swirling guitar lines and delectable vocal harmonies. While their work feels out of step with contemporary modern rock, the band demonstrates tightness in rhythm section and boldly asserts their affinity with the more fascinating strains of early ‘90s noise rock—from Sonic Youth to My Bloody Valentine, Dinosaur Jr. to the Pixies. “Sleep” exhibits a commanding presence that falls short on drama, and banks more on depth. The music is designed to induce harrowing sonic experience in a live context, but at the same time, welcome sweetly melodic hooks to bring a sense of balance against a drowsy sheet of texture and feedback.
‘The Sentiment’ – SMSR (ID)
SMSR dials up the drama on their latest single “The Sentiment,” released under Palm House Records. The Jakarta-based alternative quintet has never sounded more sonically ambitious than anything in their catalog. Filled to the brim with hypnotic restlessness and expansive instrumentation, the song documents a loving tribute to the folks who raised and nurtured their child under different circumstances. Its moodiness responds by amplifying the bigness of the arrangements, but leaves the structure softened with a flair for atmosphere and texture. Listen and give this band a chance.