Music roundup: Orange & Lemons, Kaia, Catpuke, and more

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This month’s roundup factors in more live gigs, an opera, and some debut releases. In photo: Zild during his "Huminga" anniversary show. Photp by JLE MUSIC

The night was young, and so were the gig-goers. At nine in the evening, a formidable queue of well-dressed folks already stretched down Tomas Morato, just while the surrounding bars were about to start the evening. This glorious guitar fuzz freakout courtesy of the onstage band, Formerly Maryknoll was spilling out onto the streets. The anniversary show of Zild’s 2021 album, “Huminga” was already in full swing.

The show was out of tickets, but it was too early to go home. I sat on the curb, as I usually do at times like these, watching the people around me. There were a handful of parents scattered around, tending to their offspring who may have been very well going to a show for the first time. Some folks said that people were lining up as early as 4 p.m., and the word was already spreading around that Zild would be playing twice of the same set that night to make room for everyone who had to be turned away at the door.

Even if the venue was already at full capacity, I was content to catch up with familiar faces, hearing folks inside cheering along to “Welcome to the Black Parade” on the house music. As Zild’s first set ended and the second batch of hundred-or-so folks in line started pouring inside, there was room to finally tag along for the ride.

As Zild and the band broke into their first song, the thought hit me: it wouldn’t have hurt to have been less of a sad sap about the unprecedented absence of gigs. Midway through his set, he called for a show of hands from people who started making art during the pandemic — whether music, painting, TikTok, you name it. Around half of the crowd raised their hands.

It hit me: Enough sulking, music will be fine. As the timelessly wise internet phenomenon @Horse_ebooks once tweeted, “Everything happens so much.” It was happening all this time, and even the kids were saying they were alright.

And on that note, here begins our humble monthly roundup of happenings in local music.

“Ikaw na Walang Hanggan” by Orange and Lemons

Orange and Lemons embrace their kundiman inclinations in their first album-length release since 2007’s “Moonlane Gardens.” While rondallas and strings have made appearances in Clem Castro’s past work, with more emphasis in The Camerawalls and Dragonfly Collector, bringing it back to Orange and Lemons is a glorious return to form. And heaven knows that romance is needed more than ever in these times.

“SMAK! SuperMacho AntiKristo: A Headless 100-Act Opera

Casting Bullet Dumas in a theatrical play makes perfect sense, as any small bar becomes a stage with his monumental voice and presence. Fresh off of his debut as Andres Bonifacio in Tanghalang Ateneo's “2Bayani,” he joins the cast of auteur-dilettante Khavn De La Cruz’s latest production “SMAK! SuperMacho Antikristo: A Headless 100-Act Opera” along with other fantastic performers such as Roxlee, Bong Cabrera, and Bituin Escalante, which has reportedly been receiving 10-minute ovations during its run in Berlin. Here’s to hoping it gets mounted in Metro Manila as well.

“Hemispheres” by Polyphonic Vision

Polyphonic Vision’s debut EP “Sudden Pictures” is here at the right place and the right time. It hums with the pulse of a nightlife that lay dormant for two years, with heads bloody yet unbowed. Behind the project are Micaela Benedicto and Mario Consunji, whose projects Outerhope and Big Hat Gang, respectively, were both under Number Line Records. Looking back, the melodic electronic genre-defying releases that the label pushed out in mid-2010’s, at present, still sound as exciting as they do as they did back then.

READ: Inside dreamy synth-wave group Polyphonic Vision’s debut EP

“Hemispheres” builds upon that trajectory by diving into the junction between Benedicto’s songwriting and Consunji’s synthcraft, creating an impeccably-layered piece that rewards multiple listens — and provides ample room for introspection in a crowded bar, about where we were, and where all tomorrow’s parties could be.

“Blah Blah” by Kaia 

P-pop squad Kaia (stylized as “KAIA”) dropped “Blah Blah”, a propulsive single in the vein of hard-hitting girl group anthems. They performed the song at P-pop Con at Araneta Coliseum, one of the first large-scale indoor concerts in two years. While their kind of polished spectacle has won the hearts of many listeners with top-notch music videos and impeccable studio production, their stage presence as performers is a mark of the new generation of stars providing Filipino pop music a long-overdue breath of fresh air.

Catpuke’s Anti-Fascist Machine Tour

Catpuke’s “KTM” EP was one of 2020’s most radical and cathartic releases, and seeing it live is an experience that must not be denied to us no longer, especially as tyranny and impunity continue to rear its ugly heads. Catpuke embarked on Anti-Fascist Machine Tour, a five-date trip around Luzon. The network of punk and DIY communities across the Philippines continues to stand strong, and the easing of pandemic restrictions opens the doors for more bands to tour across the different scenes in the Philippines.

“aking buwan” by jikamarie

Jikamarie dims the lights for an eighties-tinged ballad of the cosmic kind. It’s a Gen Z take on the love song formula. Jikamarie’s deceptively-laid back vocals are layered with sugary harmonies, driving the song away from saccharine cliches into fresh territory.

READ: Meet the muses shaping the future of Pinoy Pop

“Ciudad LP” by Ciudad 

When it comes to Ciudad, making a playlist of eleven songs that capture why they’ve endured for decades as indie rock heroes is a seemingly impossible task, but not a futile one. This release that came out on Backspacer Records in celebration of Record Store Day does have a lot of the essentials like “Monica,” “Get You Closer,” “My Emptiness,” and “There’s a Lonely Road to Sunday Night.” I wouldn’t have said no to having my personal favorites like “The Herb” and “That Guy from Nirvana is Now with the Foo Fighters” on vinyl, but as it is now, “Ciudad LP” is a perfect introduction to the band and a walk down memory lane for many of their fans.

“We Like Speed” by O.I. Research Partners

Nueva Ecija-based entity O.I. Research Partners debuted with a track hinting at a massive cosmology from an upcoming cosmic album. It’s a psychedelic romp reminiscent of The Flaming Lips and Of Montreal, which is anachronistic in its fiction and ambitious in vision. This is a project to watch out for.

Standing in the Way of Control: Music and Politics on Foaming at the Mouth

Sandwich guitarist and DJ Diego Castillo released an episode about the volatile relationship between music and politics, diving into how music has played a vital role in politics from propaganda to dissent. Castillo kicks off with Yano’s timeless “Trapo,” diving into various movements and revolutions from Filipino protest music’s fight for independence and anti-imperialism to intersectional feminism, anti-Neo Nazi resistance, Black Lives Matter, and more.

As musicians, listeners, and audiences rally together to fight for what matters, this episode of Foaming at the Mouth is a crash course on how music isn’t just a vehicle for political expression, but is political expression in itself. This episode is essential listening, and I urge you to tune in right now.