Brief Note: Reunions

Tonight I was right in the middle of a reunion, or a series of them, all in the context of an art exhibit. Romina Diaz’s exhibit at Finale is something to see, by the way.

Then there was the reunion that happened tonight at the Brewery, when I met someone who figured in my early days traversing the musical landscape. I felt very happy about it, just as I was glad to hear a new song or two played live tonight.

Ah well. Good night, everyone.

Theme and variations: A review of Tom’s Story’s debut album (2016)

One of the best performances your correspondent has ever witnessed in the annual Silent Film Festival at Shangri-la Plaza was that of a post-rock band doing the score to Tomu Uchida’s 1933 proto-noir film Keisatsukan (Policeman), to coincide with the film’s 80th anniversary. The band playing then was an ensemble called Pulso, and it was quite impressive at the time. Since then, I learned of another band that was making some good buzz in the local independent musical landscape. [1]

When Tom’s Story released its much-awaited record, the biggest “what if” I had was whether the young band was ready to do something of the scale of Keisatsukan, a 120-minute film about two friends whose destinies grew apart. It would take some time, and require a little help from friends (as they did at the album launch last weekend), but I am convinced they could. Their debut record, which boosts my case in its album art by using a paper origami crane (!) on the cover, features two things that would make listening to them worthwhile both in Shangri-la and beyond: memorable musical themes and impressive musicianship.

The opening tunes, “Anchor” and the conjoined tracks “Dream/Catcher” are good examples of how the band are able to construct memorable musical themes. For instance, the three notes opening “Anchor” introduces a series of variations done in different rhythmic patterns that provide an energetic start to the record, all while we hear the notes recur occasionally as ambient sounds.

The musicianship on this record is not too shabby either. The well-practiced way in which the three members of the band performed on the record very adequately echoes their live musicianship. My honest attempt in trying to figure out where they fell short, sadly, fell short. It will take time before I figure something out, other than the possibility that these songs all seem to sound the same. [2]

This was because I sensed that Tom’s Story was offering us an implicit song cycle. The two clues was the aforementioned ambient recurring theme, and that the fan favorite “Mugatu” ended with those three notes. This forty-two minute record might be offering a newer twist upon a “theme and variations” work that is familiar to habitues of classical music.

Such a coherence lends itself to the possibility of the band working on something like a silent film. Here, it is crucial to operate on thematic patterns and “tropes” that allow people to connect with the story of the film not only through images and words (if any) but also with what they hear. In a sense, accompanying a silent film gives one the role of “narrator,” and narrative works as much on recognizable linguistic patterns as the “stuff” of the story.

But back to the album. As mentioned, it was a challenge finding out where they could improve. On balance, they could do with a little more complexity where needed, if only to take their sound to the next level. That having been said, I suggest Tom’s Story would be able to meet the challenges of scoring a silent film. And indeed, I suggest that there’s a whole community out there who are ready, perhaps willing, and definitely able to do it.

For now, though, I’d be happy to recommend Tom’s Story’s album, and for those who have seen Keisatsukan, I invite you to imagine the record accompanying some key scenes in the film. “Mugatu” and the last twenty minutes or so of the film would be an obvious one.

Tom’s Story’s debut record is available through A Spur of the Moment Project or from their Bandcamp page.

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Notes

[1] Following Itos Ledesma’s critique of the idea of a unified “musical scene,” I prefer to use the word “landscape.” This is inspired by Mark Barrett, OSB’s use of the term “landscape” to refer to the self, and the metaphor amply fits what I see as how local music is sprawling, with distinct spots, peaks, and valleys, etc.

[2] Of course not.

Footnote to a Review: Eponymous by Stories Told

I first met Frankie Torres, lead vocalist of the band Stories Told, at the very first TEDxDiliman in 2012. The only other occasion of any sort where I met this somewhat prodigious person was when her CANVAS book Nadia and the Blue Stars was launched. When we learned sometime back that she had a band, I was curious about it.

As I noted in the review, Stories Told has, to my knowledge, not been as “active” in the gig circuit, thus piquing my curiosity. I sense that the last few years may have been a busy time for all concerned, and I learned that their line-up changed last year. In a sense, this meant a kind of reboot. They got on my radar with the release of “Surprise Me,” which won the Fresh Filter poll. And for most of the year their focus was, rightly, on recording.

I’ve already said my piece on Vandals on the Wall on this EP (the needless end chord in “Surprise Me” included). I’ve done so in the sure hope that, even if their music does not grow on me, they would manage to find a way to play in the kind of gigs I often frequent, and if not, continue to cultivate another wider circle that could draw more people into appreciating or making music or poetry or what-not. While I’d push them for a night at Docdef or Tugtog,  or even the Cubism Family (hi Jmi!), I’d probably count on them opting out and doing their own thing, drawing more fans, friends, or even brethren.

After all, I think that my first impression of Frankie was just that. She was definitely raring to do something for herself and her friends, and to do it well. I wish her and all the rest of Stories Told all the best.

First Impression: Skin by Sud and Words Anonymous

An enjoyable, well-crafted record but definitely not one I’d play in certain situations. I’d make a huge exception for “Sila,” which appeared in the soundtrack of Baka Siguro Yata. It takes on a trajectory more reminiscent of Marvin Gaye and like musicians,  and aims for a sonic elegance that makes the sexually charged lyrics feel less off-putting than I’d find them.

Meanwhile I must say that the poetry was better than I imagined. I’m more keen on hearing it this time as it was intended. I’d set up a playlist alternating music and poetry. In the case of “Sila” and the counterpart “Dulo’t Simula” it works.

The “nudge wink say no more” edition

One of the most interesting things I thought about last night is how a compelling nudge can reap a surprising result.

For instance, a Taylor Swift night featuring both somewhat well established and upcoming musical performers can be a possible “entry drug” to enjoying more locally produced music.

More compelling is the very successful fundraiser Raccoon Productions organized last night. With the right lineup and a compelling social experience, one could draw a crowd to what was one of the most successful gigs in a record-breaking four months for its venue.

The best thing about that night? I got surprised, again.

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Part of the record crowd at last night's Route gig.