If hard times make art interesting, then the last 2 years would be a very interesting paradigm shift. Although it is not up to anyone – and especially not mine – to be positive or poetic about current circumstances, it is a real privilege to see such great art being created and published at this time. 2021, while still wicked amid the lockdown and pandemic, saw the local music scene find respite within the limits imposed by the tragedy.
The releases on this list don’t necessarily sum up the year as a whole, but they are quite unique snapshots of artists making the most of what they have, wherever they are now.
10.backflip3000 and eponymous NiMa (EP)
Noface Records staple backflip3000 and NiMa released an eponymous collaborative EP last June, and if you know their work, you’ll probably know what to expect. Only this time, they wrote songs about dogs, as well as about the people they have learned to despise (“Rat with A Crown”).
Backflip3000’s (Pat) almost unmistakable penchant for audio grain ties in nicely with NiMa’s sardonically smooth twee. The tandem allows for a pop-rock release that allows for some very interesting texture work, as well as catchy songwriting to save canned drums and guitars distorted in unconventional ways. What delivers is a sweetly sinister treat with cute elemental bops such as âBurgers and Fries,â with the inclusion of songs with darker themes such as the aforementioned âRat with A Crownâ and âI Am Tiredâ.
9. No Rome – “C’est tout rire” (album)
Producer and singer-songwriter Wunderkind No Rome (Rome Gomez) is finally in the limelight with the release of his debut album âIt’s All Smilesâ under Matty Healy’s group Dirty Hit. This project has a huge advantage over other current alt-R & B releases due to the breadth of experimentation and what Rome was able to achieve during the performance of this album.
It is a masterful demonstration of saccharin; the first 3 tracks serve as a portal at the speed of light to a pop paradise loaded with alabaster and ditzy. No Rome is capable of achieving a feat that has become rare with Internet-based art: the beautiful use of a defined sound palette. No more bisch-bosch rubbing genres X and Y, it just makes everything work, which is a feat in itself. Following releases such as “RIP Indo Hisashi” and “Crying in the Prettiest Places,” “Smiles” features Rome triumphing over personal demons, making the soundtrack of its own victory lap.
8. Fax Gang – ‘Aethernet’ (album)
The global pandemic has wreaked havoc on The Scene at Large in a number of ways, but art is finding its ways to make connections. Online gigs, as well as Discord-based collaborations, have become a necessary trend. Fax Gang made the most of their situation, being a multinational group from the start with their debut album “Aethernet” in the dawn chorus of the year.
PK Shellboy & co. overcome the project with the dominance of a sound that is only beginning to be categorized as Hex’d. It’s best described as an offshoot of cloud rap with the distinct aggregation of distortions, whether analog or via bit rate reduction. Very technical, but still basic enough to play with. Songs like “Anything to Gain / Nothing to Lose” and “Fallen” illustrate what the act is set to do with that flashbang sound, making it malleable and suited to their emo and J-pop influences. That said, there is a lot to dig into “Aethernet”, and it turns out that there is more to reveal after every listen.
7. Cathy Hobi – ‘Wet’ (EP)
Cathy Hobi is a British garage producer based in South Cotabato. That’s about as much information as you could gather about this prodigal talent without resorting to anything fishy. Aside from the weird releases on her Bandcamp page, “Wet” is her debut EP and, by God, she comes out rocking. It’s hard to disconnect as Cathy keeps a sparkling groove throughout the performance of the EP.
“Wet” is a definite breakthrough, each piece being as dancing as the last. The title track, in particular, comes off as this atmospheric, sample-laden quagmire, an indication that Cathy really has arrived where she wanted: a seedy London club, at an undisclosed time and place, probably on the way. return.
6. The Buildings – ‘Heaven is a Long Exhale’ (album)
Quezon City disbelievers, The Buildings, return with their second album “Heaven is a Long Exhale”, 5 years after their first effort “Cell-O-Phane”. While some of these songs have been around since 2017 (“Room So Small”), it’s nice to finally see these songs in a full set, the band filling the song list with more complex things to say compared to the last effort.
This new release sees the band reaching a gray area of ââmaturity, as the songs exude a more confident and refined form of turbulence, much like their peers and bar patrons. Tracks such as “Doghouse” and “Detour” show the band’s willful deviation from indie rock milquetoast, alongside barn-burners like “Caricatures” and “Phantom Limb”. It’s a refreshing shape maintenance for The Buildings, as they take fascinating turns to shake up their existing formula of debauchery.
5. paso de blas – “every step in the right direction” (album)
For such an eccentric, paso de blas holds such a direct approach to experimentation. “every step in the right direction” brings together all the satirical aspects of overeducation in song form, and it doesn’t have the right to be as fun as it is.
The heart of this project is absurdity, and it beats in strange polyrhythms. The album is an austere and authentic (dare I say) counterculture product, with a stunning paso de blas, dissecting and defenestrating the tropes of synth-pop and indie rock in a way that borders on the absolute and foolish. I never thought I would have the pleasure of hearing Tuareg melodies intermixed with a whispered preset until I heard that.
4. Four Limbs Six Hands – “a lover of the typhoon season / you will fail” (EP)
The size of the humble 7 inch is sadly forgotten, but its latest triumph can be found in the latest version of FLSH (Four Limbs Six Hands), “a typhoon season lover / you will fail”. With screamo and high flying post-hardcore influences, the release is making waves in its dwarf runtime. It begins and centers around the fury of battered nickel guitar strings and the painful delivery of poignant lyricism, with instrumental flourishes technical enough to land on a release of Jerome’s Dream.
While comparisons are plentiful within this part of the local music scene, “Typhoon Season Lover / You Will Fail” is a wonderful respite: a minute of hate to get it out of your system.
3. Zild – ‘Huminga’ (album)
Zild Benitez of IVOS fame enjoyed a string of successes, with his previous release “Homework Machine” winning the hearts of older fans and winning new ones, while also establishing an identity as the colossus of the local music. His youthful sensibility, coupled with the wisdom of writing someone’s songs beyond his years, is taken even further on his latest album, “Huminga”.
If “Homework Machine” was a day trip to a synthpop designed in a room, “Huminga” presents itself as an acoustic and orchestral breakthrough. The soul of this batch of songs is interpreted in what is lush and dense, which is a bold move paying off for the funk-oriented bassist’s solo act. The album takes you through grassy hills and meadows for as long as it takes to hit play, and I totally agree.
2. Teya Logos – ‘TO TOMBER IN THE PIT’ (simple)
Ah, there we are: the wild card on the list.
5-minute pocket spoliarium, Teya Logos fully flays her gabber character in order to purge her soul on Soundcloud. Teya’s internet side is still in peak form for the year as the single sees her sample her signature scream samples in addition to seismic kicks and bursts of sonic harshness. The promising producer creates a wall of brutality, in all its forms, in a macabre spatial arrangement. “TO FALL IN THE FIGHT” is not for the faint of heart, as one generally wouldn’t want to peer into the void, only to have one’s eyes fixed on them.
1. Soft Limit eponymous album
Itos Ledesma dusted off his coats, each shutter being an indistinguishable moment. It’s releases like âSoft Limitâ that make me question what I know and what I’m willing to know about music; the line of questioning which rules out the âlocal vs internationalâ debate: the transport aspect of music, which is its capacity to bring you to certain places and at certain times.
The album opens coldly in an almost apocalyptic fashion with buzzing beeps and buzzes, only to spark that unwavering dread in the listener. However, this feeling of shipwreck is one that sets in immediately, and it is a feeling vague enough to open up to a world of interpretation. It is this overwhelming feeling that leaves listeners in its wake; it is a feeling that leaves the listener asking the hardest questions about why we love what we love. “Soft Limit” is a multi-textured swamp of genre semantics, with everything pointing towards interpretation. Cataclysm is the main driving force behind âSoft Limit,â and with all other releases to come in 2021, this one triumphs as a masterful execution of the craft as a whole.
It’s an outing that I would definitely call a masterpiece, and my bet for this year’s crop gem.