MUSIC

8 promising Filipino indie acts that aren’t on Spotify

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Here are eight independent Filipino music talents who refuse to go the familiar route and who defy the process with a more DIY mindset.

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Filipino independent musicians earn very little from using streaming giants like Spotify and Apple Music. Despite having a bigger reach and fostering a more consumer-friendly community, there’s a lot to be said about Spotify monopolizing the digital music economy by empowering record labels and distributors more than the artists and producers themselves.

This is the very reason why some underground, independent, and unsigned musicians prefer to upload their songs and demos on streaming sites like Bandcamp and Soundcloud. The latter allows anyone — from pop upstarts to experimental producers — to put their music up for free while the former’s payout mode gives artists a bigger cut and a more profitable opportunity that also allows them to reach their fans directly.

Below are eight independent Filipino music talents who refuse to go the familiar route and who defy the process with a more DIY mindset. In the online world where the possibilities are endless and music releases are overwhelming, it’s difficult for a new act or an upcoming artist to stand out and gain attention from an audience. But with envelope-pushing musicality and accidental gems, some acts truly deserve more streaming time.

Polar Lows

Based in: Metro Manila

Genre: Shoegaze, Dream pop, Indie rock

The first thing you’ll notice when you listen to Polar Lows’ debut EP, “Hereafter” is its impressionistic sound. Looking for a temporary shelter in the cold, devastating weather, their music floats in narcotic haze, drifting in and out of an open space. The layers of guitar noise emit a feeling of melancholia past 2 a.m., and the sentiments are buried in honeyed noise and reverb until barely incomprehensible. Sure, it recalls “Heaven Or Las Vegas”-era Cocteau Twins, but their stylistic approach is more of a feeling than a mood: fleeting but filled with memories both beautiful and doomed. It’s a great debut from local shoegaze scene’s most promising act.

The Chopping Board

Based in: Naga City

Genre: Bedroom pop, Lo-fi

Before bedroom pop picked up commercial momentum and catapulted the careers of Clairo and Rex Orange County to global superstardom, it was a DIY movement born out of necessity: kids record music in their bedrooms and basements instead of expensive studio spaces, playing a new set of tricks against a backdrop of technological limitations. Ajan Dolorical’s The Chopping Board emerged from this humble timeline. At the turn of the decade, he made fragile lo-fi anthems that sound like they came from self-imposed isolation. What it lacks in professional polish, it more than makes up for with heartfelt songwriting. Now armed with a band to work with, the Naga City-based artist is ready to take over the map with fully-formed songs that will either brighten or sadden your day, depending on your mood.

Amateurish

Based in: Baguio City

Genre: Indie rock, Alternative, Math pop

Amateurish has been around for a couple of years, performing in Baguio-based indie and punk shows even in a time when the local government continues to implement a policy restricting music gatherings that generate “noise” at 10 p.m. and penalizing establishments, including music venues, that operate without permit. Being an independent and self-sustaining band from a city that fails to uphold the interests of struggling cultural workers can be tough and challenging, but that doesn’t stop Amateurish from gaining traction outside of their hometown. Just recently, they performed at the Post-Rock/Math Rock stage of Fete de la Musique in Makati City and released the video for their latest single “No Cape.”

Illicit

Based in: Caloocan City

Genre: Hip-hop, Cloud rap

Illicit’s online presence might not show up on anyone’s algorithm, but he’s easily one of the most prolific new Filipino rappers today. This year alone, the Caloocan-based rookie has released three records in a few months’ gap: the Crystol-produced “Spacetrip,” the Mark Celera-assisted “Dazed,” and “Long Days Odd Nights,” a collab EP with fellow rapper J Blaze. It’s refreshing to hear him turn observations and personal ramblings into a fine piece of urban poetry on songs such as “Ang Gara Ng Mundo” and “Sandali Lang.” Rewarding at every turn, his work brims with complexity, horrifying truths, and bile.

Pappel

Based in: Binangonan, Rizal

Genre: Folk, Acoustic

On the strength of her latest single “Noli Me Tangere,” Pappel proves that she is hardly a seasonal taste. Distilled to its hauntingly spare moments and delicate arrangements, her latest track captures the dismal situation that Sisa, an important figure in Jose Rizal’s literary classic, went through after enduring an oppressive relationship with her husband and losing her two sons in the process. Her storytelling is eloquent and unwilling to settle for anything less, giving voice to a heroine who endured abuse and depression at the hands of a patriarchal system that treats women of her kind as second class citizens. It’s a breath of fresh air to hear upcoming musicians and singer-songwriters like Syd Hartha, Bita and the Botflies, and Pappel use their voice to tell thought-provoking narratives that don’t take structural aggression lightly — solid proof that women are the future of music.

Washere

Based in: Laguna

Genre: Experimental, Bedroom electronic music, IDM

Bedroom producer and singer-songwriter Washere doesn’t have a particular aesthetic touchstone. His work is a kitchen sink of sonic ideas and meme-ready sketches, bound by a refusal to be categorized or be seen as a product of commercial consumption. As a curator of taste, the Laguna-based electronic musician explores PC music with sparse, home-spun instrumentation, leaping from one genre to another and riding the wave with no clear destination. This formlessness and lack of subtlety is what makes a Washere track an interesting piece of lo-fi entertainment. His music is a filter within a filter, a druggy state of mind, a fleeting memory washed on the shoreline.

Clean Slate

Based in: Metro Manila

Genre: Hardcore, punk rock

For someone who can barely keep pace with the latest releases from the Filipino hardcore community, I take pride in digging up Clean Slate’s latest 7” release, “Young World.” It’s easy to get caught in the frenetic energy of the record’s overall sound, especially because the songs don’t scrub away the grime that has come to define their live performances. Yes, this is a raw, in-your-face rock record teetering with screeching guitars, gut-punching velocity, and sing-along sentiments that were lifted off old school youth crew slogans. For a much needed dose of quality fury, play this on repeat.

Electric Lambanog

Based in: Rizal

Genre: Psychedelic rock, Blues

One might find Electric Lambanog’s music as a risky endeavor, especially in an era when modern rock music sounds like a poor derivative of past musical forms. Far from being one of those uninspired blokes performing in arenas and mosh gigs, it’s worth mentioning how the Rizal-bred quartet doesn’t hide their penchant for spaced-out jams, foot-stomping psychedelic rock and anything that reimagines Mars Volta as a roots band from the ‘70s. They may have the technical chops of very skilled musicians or the pit-inducing capabilities of a crossover act, but they always play where the wind takes them. It’s thrilling to finally hear a rock n’ roll band explore an uncharted realm without running the risk of being too self-indulgent or too testosterone-driven like their more popular counterparts.