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The Master Spinner Raps ♪ Miss Pakipot (Urban Flow, 1996) ♪

In Hiphop, OPM, The Master Spinner Spins, Track Reviews on December 15, 2010 at 5:47 am

Download “Miss Pakipot”

A handful of OPM songs—“Naonseng Delight,” “Never Meant to be this Way,” “Boy,” “Lumayo Ka Man Sa Akin,” “Kapag Tumibok ang Puso,” “Bakit Nga Ba Mahal Kita,” “Tameme” to name a few—were a little ahead of their time when they first came out, but somehow their status as classics was never confirmed. Not that such showbiz shtick is the most important reform to do in local music, but the lack of any institution to proclaim such things, reputable or not, is just a bit disheartening. We have to rely on memory—or on friends’ memories, or quite recently, on #sentisabado tweets—for we have no Lester Bangs, no Robert Christgau, no existing books and magazines to tell us what happened back then. The very few writers we have are not enough, and those very few tend to lose that childish feeling—that delight of innocence—to put into words such experiences.

“Miss Pakipot” belongs to that sorry handful. My memory of it is that, every time I heard it on the radio (and this was in the mid-90s, when every second of our lives depended on radio), I would always swing my hand like a rapper and relish the opening verses: Aaah-aahh, ooohh / CTG kita Miss Miss Pakipot / CTG kita Miss Miss Suplada / CTG kita Miss Miss Maganda / Sa palagay ko mahal na nga kita aaah / Ooooh. Hip-hop, as always, is the genre that gets both the privilege of being looking down on and reaping the most sales. It is where the popular and the critical never fail to meet. The masses don’t get tired of it. In a way, hip-hop is no longer a genre because it encompasses everything. Our cassette player and mini component, both rested in peace, were a testament to that, so as my childhood spoiled by gangsta loving, courtesy of my brother (who once had this sort of group whose idea of enjoyment was throwing pillbox and vandalism).

There are just a limited number of hooks that you can fit into a song to make it work, but with “Miss Pakipot,” you’ll be surprised that the entire song itself is actually this one big hook. The melody goes on and on, the transition an invisible thread that holds the stanzas together, until it reaches the refrain and seals everything. After the intro, the song continues with three more verses before it hits the refrain, all with a similar beat, four lines every stanza, the rhyming scheme AB/AB very much observed. “Miss miss” is repeated for emphasis and tease. Effortless, to say the least, but there’s also that fun in rapping along, how tasty the words are, and how smooth they feel in the tongue. It’s far from forced. Even the Taglish does not get in the way. Take that verse: Okey lang sa akin kung iyong sasabihin / Na ako ay mayabang o mahangin / But I know may chance pa ako / Na makamit ko ang matamis mong “oo” / Ooooh. Notice how clever that hook “oooh” is placed conveniently after “oo”? And how the figure of speech “matamis mong oo” is such a lovely phrase to hear, albeit rarely used now?

It only gets better after the first refrain. Here is the story of a man professing his love to a hard-to-get woman, and he’s talking to her directly, like a confession, a toss between tongue-in-cheek and deadly serious, and there’s a hint of desperation in his voice, disguised in weak-kneed poetry. He tells: What’s the use of beauty kung ikaw ay ganyan / Pati ang puso ko ay nahihirapan / Halos araw-araw kitang inaabangan / Sinusulyapan at napanaginipan. It sounds creepy—stalker much?—but it gets away with it because of the lines that follow: Hindi ka na maaalis sa aking isipan / Para kang si Eba at ako si Adan. And there, the singer starts to compare himself and his muse with the first man and woman, with these two biblical characters, with the origin of sin. How’s that for ego.

In a streak of genius, when you thought it couldn’t get any better, the singer drops the words that every one relates to, the similes that reek of cheese, the sentiment that makes the ending very much deserved: Ang pag-ibig ko sa ‘yo ‘sing bango ng Polo / ‘Sing tamis ng Milo, ‘sing sarap ng Nido / I want you to know ang pag-ibig ko sa ‘yo / Ang pag-ibig ko sa ‘yo sagad hanggang buto / Ooooh. He gets the woman in the end, of course, and I think part of the popularity of the song owes to that, how it builds to that, how it doesn’t feel contrived at all. Although conservatists would cringe at the idea of one-year courtship (And one year fades sa paghihintay / I got her “oo” at malupit n’yang kamay), it only makes it sweeter every listen. A fairytale gangsta romance, ending in happily ever after, sweet and smooth sailing, now isn’t that familiar?

Part of the charm of “Miss Pakipot” is how friendly it is, from the affectionate lyrics to the laid-back rhythm, how it drives home the point just by being honest, and how the three guys from Urban Flow stick to the basics of plain and simple rap, armed with the right kind of chill. It’s rare to come across a rap that you can easily commit to memory. It shatters the excuse that rap needs to be difficult to be unique, something which, with all due respect to Gloc-9, I disagree with. I admire Gloc-9’s music, especially how his songs are politically and socially motivated, but my reservations stem from the fact that I can’t sing them, that I can’t participate, that I can’t annoy my sister with endless CTG kita’s.

Pinoy hiphop, like American hiphop, peaked in the 90s. Francis M was still around. Mastaplann. Death Threat. Pamilia Dimagiba. Andrew E. Kulay. 100,000 Pesos Worth of Karma. Wholesome. The Way of the Plann. Happy Battle. Wanted. Test da Flow. Looking back, all seems well and swell that time. Now it’s so hard to breathe.

– The Master Spinner

The Master Spinner Pays Tribute to Mark Linkous (1962-2010)

In Alternative Rock, American, Ayn Marie Dimaya, Electronica, Richard Bolisay, The Master Spinner Spins on April 21, 2010 at 9:02 am

Death pours like rain nowadays. Mark Linkous, more known musically as Sparklehorse, did away with himself a month ago, leaving six albums of mixed woes and lows, as well as noteworthy collaborations with many artists from all over the musical world.

Two of our Spinners—DJ Ayn and DJ Chard—invite you to listen to some of his records, and reminisce along with them memories they are more than willing to share.

Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot (Sparklehorse, 1995)

Mark Linkous knows sad and makes it sadder. But the sadness he scatters—the melancholy occasions of Gloomy Sundays—relates as much as it nails the feeling, particularly how in pursuit of unhappiness he earns love and admiration. His debut under his musical name Sparklehorse isn’t so much about its title being too quirky but the look and sound of it describing youth, the youth of the underground, that is. Moments are there when he wallows in the dumps—”Homecoming Queen”, “Weird Sisters”, “Sad and Beautiful World”—but when he is cheery, he is downright cheery. In “Rainmaker”, “Most Beautiful Widow in Town”, and “Someday I Will Treat You Good”, his spirit soars, set free to tumble uncaringly wild. The result is uneven, for sure, but it’s just how discoveries become exciting and unforgettable: the embrace of things familiar and obscure at the same time. Only when Linkous and his heart have decided to end it all—when “the wind is weeping with sorrowful tears”— he has chosen to commiserate with his sadder songs, in a sea of air.

– Richard Bolisay

Good Morning Spider (Sparklehorse, 1998)

There is a line between noise and music that Sparklehorse straddles marvelously. Not many artists would dare turn a pretty tune into ugly and do it repeatedly (which is probably why he never became popular). It’s this statement—this world view—that renders his work more poignant and, in the light of his constant battle with depression and eventual suicide, more haunting. If we strip his songs, they can only be described as depressingly sad. But Mark Linkous interrupts this melancholy with noise and static, destroying his dismal misery with bursts of rage; and yet, while doing that, he also maintains its fascinatingly beautiful quality. True, that can also be said to any of his albums or songs; but if any album can be called bipolar, this would probably be it: the surprise of the first song, “Pig”, that begins with soft strumming and suddenly transforms into loud angry guitars and then quickly dissolves into the next song, the slower ballad “Painbirds”. These sudden shifts of emotion are carried throughout the record and are demonstrated perfectly in perhaps the album’s definitive song: “Chaos of the Galaxy/Happy Man”. It starts with his signature dreamy distortions and fuzzy vocals and then hovers chaotically, becoming almost inaudible until all the confusing noise is stripped away and it turns into a catchy rock tune. All I want is to be a happy man, he sings. Oh, but if you were, we wouldn’t have this.

– Ayn Marie Dimaya

It’s A Wonderful Life (Sparklehorse, 2001)

The first Sparklehorse album whose recording allowed Linkous to move out of his shell and try his hands on collaborating, here with Tom Waits, PJ Harvey, Nina Persson, and Vic Chesnutt among others. Take that title track—“It’s A Wonderful Life”—which, judging by its title alone, seems so apt, so filled with many things to relate to Linkous’ life, especially when he utters each of these words and whispers them faintly. He sings like he whimpers, his voice swimming against the drone. There is character in the album’s unevenness and heaps of grace in its depressing somber mood that pull the pensive lever, the imageries in his lyrics and the way they are fuzzily arranged give off a vibe of levity. Almost everything is bleary except when Tom Waits brings on the husky, and when Nina Persson, PJ Harvey, or Sol Seppy’s voice sneaks in, pulling Linkous’ hands and dragging him out into the open. Making surgeries on the specifics won’t do the record any justice, for they elude proper description. Only a handful of words can be said aside from it having a warm distance, and amid everything lonely, indeed, having a warmer embrace.

– Richard Bolisay

♪ Don’t Take My Sunshine Away (Sparklehorse, 2006) ♪

Download “Don’t Take My Sunshine Away”

You never forget the first time—that first time you hear something new and exciting and just simmering with possibility of becoming something more than just a temporary fancy. After all, isn’t music a love affair? Between the creator and the creation, between the artist and the fan—if the air between doesn’t sizzle with love as the sound waves pass, then what the hell is it worth?

I write this now because the first time I heard Sparklehorse, a couple was breaking up on screen and all I could think about was the song playing in the scene, echoing a lover’s desperate plea. Please don’t take my sunshine away. It was strange and it was beautiful and it was the beginning. And I write this now because with the recent death of Mark Linkous (the man behind Sparklehorse), I am left sitting alone in a half-empty cafeteria, with a broken love affair, and a strange and beautiful and sad and wonderful song, whispering softly, please don’t take my sunshine away.

– Ayn Marie Dimaya

Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain (Sparklehorse, 2006)

A sun made of honey, a lake of fire, grounded fireflies turning into dying stars . . . this is the world that Sparklehorse invites you to explore, filled with horses and bears and witches and ghosts. This is his fairy tale—dark and fragile and haunting—both dream and nightmare, both heartbreaking and empowering, like the best fairy tales are. As in all his other albums, he finds a balance between the bitter and the sweet, perhaps more perfectly in this album than the others, for it is more accessible if a little less interesting. But only a little. Because by the album’s last song, the title instrumental track, you might have become so immersed in his dreams you’d never want to wake up again.

– Ayn Marie Dimaya

Interesting is that when one lonely finds another lonely, the result is far from lonely. It can even be called happy, for goodness’ sake, for that connection between the two brings a different kind of feeling—a companionship brewed by distance, a conversation nurtured by the unspoken.

Despair gets another point in Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain, as every trace of alcohol, drugs, and depression that Mark Linkous faced before and after making this record is shared through his voice, through the strumming of his guitar, and through the wayward stride of his arrangements. Transparency is always something to admire, especially when the attempts soar high—”Don’t Take My Sunshine Away”, “Shade and Honey”, “See The Light”, “Ghost in the Sky”, and “It’s Not So Hard”—or when he digs his way down and wants to be left alone—”Morning Hollow”, “Knives of Summertime”, and the serene ten-minute title track. The loveliness of “Some Sweet Day” tugs the heart, how Linkous’ words sound so hopeful, his face so bright, his chances so infinite. It’s strange to call it inspiring, but this album really is. It’s the sun that moves the dark clouds apart, the light that shines through, one sweet and lonely day.

– Richard Bolisay

In The Fishtank 15 (Sparklehorse + Fennesz, 2009)

Imagine, if you will, being given two days to create a masterpiece. Such is the challenge of Konkurrent, an independent music distributor in the Netherlands, that invite musicians and give them the freedom to record whatever they like in the span of two days. Their 15th installment is a collaboration between electronic musician Christian Fennesz and Sparklehorse, a match made in heaven, it seems, for dreamy atmospheric acoustics layered with white noise distortions have never sounded better, complementing each other’s strengths so much that even their respective guitar solos sound like the other could have made it too. Like most experimentations, this is not an album easily listened to but will always hold something interesting to those who stick through it. Each piece holds its own wondrous imagery, a brave new world. All you have to do is open your ears and step through.

– Ayn Marie Dimaya

To be singular it can never be. Together, Sparklehorse and Fennesz smash that thought. And what they come up with can only be sparse, sporadic, and unspectacular.

For instance, the chimes in “Music Box of Snakes” and the drone of chafed noise in “Goodnight Sweetheart” and “Shai-Hulud” inflict stabs that are invisible—or one big stab that stings—but wounding nevertheless. When the words jump in—especially with these two artists’ way of gliding the unconventional on their own records—they don’t really jump in. They jump in but also stay where they are, like being in two places in one. Even in the presence of Sparklehorse’s voice it doesn’t seem at all comforting, how his words turn into something like Fennesz’s electropopfixtures, removed and elsewhere. The vocals in “Goodnight Sweetheart” and “If My Heart” give the songs a strange recall, and albeit muffled they don’t escape memory. Fennesz, on his part, always has something in his stash that he hasn’t given before—fresh familiar layers, pieces that are prude if not polarizing—but sadly he decides to end unremarkably with his guitar piece. Sparklehorse offers a better piece as interlude, simply called “Mark’s Guitar Piece”, which is longer and more indulgent.

But to be fair with these guys, for two days’ amount of work, and with something like “NC Bongo Buddy” to boot, the choking ambience and careless distortions aside, In The Fishtank 15 will always hold its interest like the cross that marks Linkous’ grave. The mood is committed to stay.

– Richard Bolisay

Dark Night of the Soul (Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse, 2009)

There is music that is cultural, that you and everyone listen to because the whole world tells you and everyone to listen. And then there is music that becomes personal, that speaks to you like no other and grabs you and just won’t let go, the music that one part of you wants to share with the world, but the other part, the selfish part, just wants to clutch it close to your chest like a greedy little hobbit—it’s yours, it’s precious. It could be both, of course, but Sparklehorse seems distinctly the latter. I admit having a bias for things that are melancholy, and when I first discovered Sparklehorse, it seemed distinctly made for me. Especially this, the aptly titled Dark Night of the Soul, an über-collaboration with Danger Mouse and David Lynch, not to mention Iggy Pop and Wayne Coyne and Julian Casablancas and so many others. The first time I wrote about this album, I said it was love at first note. And writing about it now, it still is, though probably some notes are loved more than others. David Lynch sums it up perfectly in the final song: it’s a dark, dream world, he sings. Mark Linkous is gone, finally lost to his own soul’s dark night. But with this album, come near and hear his echoes.

– Ayn Marie Dimaya

Danger Mouse, Sparklehorse, David Lynch, and eleven other artists are so lethal a combination that it seems to summon Dream and Death to come while listening to the record. Personally, I haven’t tried playing Dark of the Night Soul on a pleasant day for fear of losing its magic; night is its best friend, and it seems to be the most fitting atmosphere for its stories that walk from mundane to ghastly, narrated and sung by some of the industry’s beautiful voices, and I will have to name them all because they deserve the space: Wayne Coyne, Gruff Rhys, Jason Lytle, Julian Casablancas, Black Francis, Iggy Pop, James Mercer, Nina Persson, Suzanne Vega, Vic Chesnutt, Mark Linkous, and David Lynch.

The title of the album and the track names imply a certain gloom and doom, but there’s a stream of affection that comes of it too. In fact, that’s what makes it endearing, almost close to falling in love, that despite the alternation of different voices and arrangement—a man and a woman, stripped acoustic and hard rock, clear singing and muffled noises—the warmth stays to spread its hands in embrace. A hug so comforting, coming from these creatures of the night, a friendly, reassuring gift wrapped in tender trappings of rapture, that welcomes companionship between two different worlds.

DJ Ayn fondly calls it Love At First Note. For me it’s Love At Last Breath.

– Richard Bolisay

The Master Spinner Spins: Transference (Spoon, 2010)

In Alternative Rock, American, Indie Rock, The Master Spinner Spins on February 4, 2010 at 6:57 am

If there is one trait that Spoon excel at, it is the non-exceptional quality of their albums; which, if paradox may be allowed, what actually makes them exceptional, and what makes their songs live up to numerous listenings. When one listens to their early records, the freshness of the beats and the catchiness of the hooks are still there, their trademark touch never lost. Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, in particular, is a tough act to follow, but Transference, the band’s seventh album in fifteen years, continues the uniquely spartan intensity that Spoon are known for, again not exceptional, but never and not even a bit disappointing at all.

Come to think of it, same things can be said to any of Spoon’s records; and same things can be argued as well. The rawness is impossible not to notice, how, without flagging itself, it owns every track, how it strips and reveals the wisdom of its words (I grew up in a supermarket / It was there they told me / If they can’t find me they won’t leave / Without me now or ever), how simple the compositions seem yet pounding with energy, and how the manliness of Britt Daniel’s voice delivers the songs from soothing to sexy. When Spoon are laid-back (“Goodnight Laura”, “What Makes Your Money”, “Out Go The Lights”) they are gently laid-back; and when they are upbeat (“Written in Reverse”, “Is Love Forever?”) they really up the beat, without any trouble.

Transference seems to tweak the style of the band a little, if one is to nitpick, considering the abrupt end of “The Mystery Zone” and the rough and almost alienating transitions between the tracks. The uneven quality seems like an experiment, and though it tends to stick out, it doesn’t really hurt the album that much. In fact, what becomes obvious is that Spoon are trying to be intimate through their lyrics, through the emotional tug of their songs, like a drug in a syringe injected to achieve a quick and invasive effect.  The easy favorite “Got Nuffin” laments And I got nothing to lose but / Darkness and shadows / Got nothing to lose but / Bitterness and patterns, the last line replaced in its repetition with emptiness and hang-ups and loneliness and patterns. Its words smack of homesickness but the rhythms engage to the point of eliminating all the ennui it wears, maintaining a levelheaded sadness that comforts all throughout. Daniel is up to some snarling in the first single “Written in Reverse”, but it’s the kind of snarl that is lovely to hear, the snarl that makes the track exciting to listen to, like testing how far the aaaahhhhs can go for Daniel’s gal to hear it.

The instrumental on the second-minute-and-a-half of “I Saw the Light” seems to mark a transition—something to set the first six tracks from the five last—but then, it may be something done out of the usual. Whatever the reason is, or even if there is none really, it does not concern any glaring difference among the songs in the sequence. After the instrumental, which somewhere in the middle is recorded with something that sounds like a burp, “Trouble Comes Running” follows. It is a low-key track whose directness of words is as evocative as the riff that accompanies them. It’s a standout in a non-standout way—oh yes, the Spoon paradox again—something like a breeze during summer, the wind that flips one’s cap while walking home from school, earphones on as Daniel sings, Slaves are on the horses / Princes walk the ground like they’re slaves. The song goes well with some head banging and a bit of lonesome footwork.

Remaining faithful to their beats, Spoon are still the above average band high school rockers can be fond of. Even their loyal followers since Kill The Moonlight will also have a lot to cherish in Transference. And the above average band they are, Spoon continue to keep pushing that space between above and average, dissolving the second word till all that’s left to do is stay on the first.

– The Master Spinner