Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — The year 2008 appeared to be a transitional year for the local music scene. Ten years ago, artists made the conscientious decision to make use of burgeoning online platforms such as Myspace Music and Bandcamp, and venues such as SaGuijo and Route 196 were still in the process of becoming established.
There was a significantly lower number of artists; it was not uncommon for productions to run through a roster of less than 10 artists and for the performers themselves to make up majority of the audience. Independent acts had a smaller range of followers — social media did not possess the same amount of power it has today, but performances were always vibrant, communal, and built from scratch (read: corporations were not interested in capitalizing on the underground yet).
It seems strange to begin the year looking back instead of ahead, and this list is not meant to bemoan the present and romanticize the past, but to consider how the current crop of artists created their own precursors and how six influential local releases do not merely remain fixed in memory but are expressed in various permutations to this day despite their decade-old release dates.
“Bipolar” by Up Dharma Down
“Bipolar” could very well represent the turning point of UDD’s [then known as Up Dharma Down], fully articulating the promises of “Fragmented,” their 2006 debut, and containing the vectors to come into expression in “Capacities.” In their sophomore effort, they embraced a more angular, textural dimension of their sound, imbuing their singles with experimental structures and bringing electronics to the forefront of their writing process. “Biploar” is dense and pulsing, wholly unpredictable and expertly crafted. It is a record that is of its context and one that reaches far beyond it.
“Hell Is the Place Where Flames Grow” by Twin Lobster
Nick Lazaro’s work as a producer and as a member of the acclaimed electronic band Moonwlk has been prefigured by his earlier venture as the vigorous frontman of Twin Lobster, a seminal band with an indefinite genre. Twin Lobster situates their turbulent energy within the narrow confines of space. Points and counterpoints, noise and silence are used to their fullest capacities. In “Hell Is the Place Where Flames Grow,” space is turned into an instrument (or even a weapon) that accentuates the affective crests and troughs in each song, complementing and interrupting established patterns. The guitar work is frenzied and urgent, the bass is rhythmic and suave, the beats are jagged and chaotic, and the vocals vacillate between soporific and intense.
“<S> Marks the Spot” by Sandwich
“<S> Marks the Spot” is a sprawling, expansive record that interacts with convergent and divergent genres, as Sandwich works with a strong sense of history (as evidenced by tracks like “Betamax,” one of their most resonant singles). The album is arguably Sandwich’s most consistently potent, idiosyncratic, and surprising, containing climactic and cathartic arrangements, hooks aplenty, and sparkling production.
“Themesongs” by Ang Bandang Shirley
Ang Bandang Shirley’s “Themesongs” harps on a series of eclectic references, popular utterances, and ingenious arrangements, verging on the territory of the sweet without being saccharine, on the maudlin without being melodramatic. “Themesongs” finds a way to appropriate elements of twee, indie pop, and conventional radio-friendly music without fully committing to the confines of any genre, constructing bridges where there were none, articulating general sentiments through the specificities of eleven expertly written tracks.