ALBUM: KAYA MO MAG-SANDO? EP
For an old Pedicab story I did three or so years ago, Diego Mapa gave me the answer key to the band’s curious idiom: theirs is, basically, an attempt to negotiate baduy and cool. Theirs is a sound informed by gadgetry and hip retroactive futurism (read: Kraftwerk), but lyrically nearing, hmm—not really gutter-speak, not even hip-hop kind of street, most certainly not “poetic” in the Asin sense—a kind of pothead free-association rap (nay, sing-speak; somehow “spoken word” doesn’t cut it), one that’s as devoted to the humor of the mundane as much as, say, the metal guys are to the supernatural or to Greek mythology. “Dito Tayo sa Dilim” from Tugish Takish (2005) and “FX” from Shinji Ilabas Mo Na Ang Helicopter (2008) were perhaps culminations of this baduy-cool amalgam, extremely strong iterations in fact, and done in an irresistible dance-punk argot. Kaya Mo Mag-Sando?, their newest, takes the ante further: more spacey sounds, and even more astute depictions of everyday, everyman Manila. For people still hung up on how stellar the band’s lineup is, how their shared history is beyond blinding, listen again: this is nothing like those other bands, and resolutely so.
What stands out, upon even the most cursory of inspections, is the reconciliation of analog and digital elements, as well as the plurality of the instrumental armory: an array of percussion instruments (cowbell, bongos, tambourine, shakers), Raimund Marasigan-crafted samples (strings and horns, among others), RA Rivera’s post-Kaossilator carousings with iPad apps, and Diego Mapa’s excursions in vocal echo, not to mention his love affair with late-‘70s-era analog synths (also utilized to maximum results live). The immediacy of the EP—six tracks as opposed to ten or twelve—is somehow apt for the band, whose musical thesis is pretty practical: a one-two punch, a good, well-crafted joke, in a manner of speaking. They obviously have no troubles in the songwriting department (again, with that lineup) and reports say there are tons of leftover tunes sitting unreleased, that these are the best from that post-Shinji bunch. As always, you buy a Pedicab record, you get a Pedicab record, but not without its revelations: that Jason Caballa can hold his own in funk rhythms (“Ang Apoy”); that even vaguely novelty-esque motifs can be sincerely enjoyable (“La Liga Filipina”); that you can dance to crass AM-radio samples (“Kung gano’n, pagbaba natin ng Baguio, ginagarantiya ko sa ‘yo, nagdadalang-tao ka,” from “Insekto”); that Mapa can still churn out straightforward indie-pop tunes (“The Shot”); and so on. Perhaps “Insekto” best encapsulates the sensation of listening to the band, where one becomes slave to an unshakeable itch: “Ayan na, malapit ko na siyang makuha. / Walang-hiya, ‘andu’n na siya sa ibaba. / Ano ba ‘to? Parang nasa buhok ko. / ‘Tol, please lang, pakikamot ang likuran ko.”
Pedicab’s musico-lyrical language is all their own—and such relief, especially since the mono-brow earnestness of most rock (and, on the other end, the mindless hedonism of most dance) permeates the scene like Mosaic law. They may not fit the bill, but these guys, they’re breaking the law, breaking the law. Here’s to hoping they keep running from it. (MCA Music)