Everything is Everything

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​I finished reading Hanif Abdurraqib’s ‘They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us’ ​just a few hours before I took the bus to Manila last Friday to prepare for Summer Noise. The way he writes about music is, to paraphrase, “not about what is happening, but what it means.” And I think as I got older and, I hope, wiser, I do my best to adopt that sentiment—not just on how I write, but how I apply it to the things I create.

Over the last three years, I considered The Rest Is Noise as something bigger than myself. I have always been comfortable in the background (or at the front row, always in the best company of strangers and friends alike) because there has never been any space that music has not touched and we are all communing with it—no matter who you are, who you love, and where you came from.

So this is what I think it means.

“Man, listen. Everything is everything.” Music is people is friendship is freedom is living is breathing is connection is hope is past is present is future is together is all of us is music is music is music is everything.

I remember the many times during the show when I had to raise my head up, eyes closed, and I imagine everyone else lost in the same brief darkness we all shared beyond the walls of a brief world we built and shared together, with the certain hope and a promise fulfilled that when we open our eyes, everything in that moment will be filled with light.

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ALBUM: ‘questioning answers / answering questions’ – rhxanders

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In a world that is increasingly becoming man vs technology, wielding a deeply introspective work with a vocoder to speak of uniquely human experiences is a class of its own. We’ve never been more connected with the rest of the world, but with ‘questioning answers / answering questions’, rhxanders also bridges the often complicated relationship we have with ourselves.

P.S. That ‘Summer Madness’ (Kool & The Gang) vibe in ‘is it real?’ is a nice touch.

Turning Three

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The Rest Is Noise turns three today. Historically speaking, we never celebrated its birthday in February and this time isn’t any different. We have the Summer Noise show for that in May. (Full disclosure: I can only wield any form of time management whenever bigger show season looms over my negligible social calendar. Regardless, I take it as a win on self-improvement.)

I’d like to share some things about our journey so far.

The toughest part of it so far was the 2017 year-end show. It was stressful and I was struggling to keeping it together for myself and those around me, and to unearth certain unpleasant and degrading memories from the past certainly didn’t help. Thankfully enough, we powered through because I have faith in the good and ultimately with doing what’s right and the support we received was incomparable.

When it comes to the smaller gigs, it’s a constant work. Looking back, our first year was by far our easiest—our comfort zone—but Ian and I both knew we had to bust out of that. Like anything else, we need to grow. I wouldn’t say that there’s a concrete agenda, except for just wanting to create a space that’s more inclusive and something I personally would want to be in. Hence, hip-hop/electronic/R&B (or all) had to always be there. Curiously enough, the audience for this remains to be ‘niche’, and that has never sit well with me not because I don’t respect that everyone has his/her/their own taste but the notion that somehow there’s no audience for these. I don’t think so. I completely understand the sentiment of the tiresome rhetoric of a handful of bands touted as the forefront of Filipino music, and to me I see it as a challenge as a fan and someone who happens to also curates shows. I believe that music of all things should be a space for all.

From the financial point of view, I refuse to think that there cannot be a compromise especially if you have faith in what you do and are capable of. It’s NOT easy to secure money, but with insight and creative spirit, you can shoot for the moon. Be limitless.
This is by no means a manual for anything. I still get anxious 90% of the time, I/we get broke, there are arguments and heated discussions, and we sure as hell have plenty to learn.

If anything, TRIN is a personal challenge and above all being more responsible and conscientious by acknowledging what it is for other people and possibly means to them (and to an extent, how to navigate around that), and do what we can to what must be a collective endeavor for a music scene that’s supposed to be about music.

The Urgency of NINNO’s ‘Simmer’

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“The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.” – George Orwell, Why I Write

When Serbian-American playwright Steve Tesich first used the term “post-truth” in an essay for the progressive newspaper The Nation in 1992, the internet was in its developmental stage. The new age of information has since reached a terrifyingly massive scale, but as we go through the times, the farther we tread an ironic path to quote Tesich, of us as a free people who “freely decided that we want to live in some post-truth world.” Two decades later, 2016 has uniquely and tragically embodied this concept to people’s utter dismay or determined denial.

It is of utmost relevance to understand why art plays an important role in shaping our perspective of life’s intricacies and trivialities, a reason why “stay woke” is not merely a millennial catchphrase to invoke on social media, but a valid rallying cry to a world asleep. NINNO spoke or rapped about socially relevant issues on several occasions, one of the underlying themes that Third Culture Kid brought back to discussions in hip-hop. Sure, ‘conscious rap’ has been around since the ’80s in America’s Reaganomics and local emcees have previously made politics and social issues a focal point in their songs, fracturing the genre’s novelty appeal to the Filipino audience and the notion that it’s sole function is to entertain, and substance is optional, if not entirely not in the agenda. But for most part, the topic remains in periphery in local music.

It is one reason why it isn’t surprising to hear a work such as NINNO’s described as ‘brazen’, or even tagged as political. It is also not surprising for his songs to be misconstrued as a proponent of partisan politics that can feed false dichotomies between both ‘sides’. In fact, on ‘Simmer’, NINNO is brazen on laying down a dichotomy, one often seen as ultimately rigid: of justice and crime.

Director Michael Manalastas capably fleshed out the visuals for ‘Simmer’ in piercing and haunting candor. NINNO chose to play three characters whose lives are almost congruent with impersonality and violence: a soldier, a writer, and a ‘suspect’ – whose tales, more often that not, end up as a casualty, a liability, and/or a statistic. NINNO’s fictional take on Juan Dela Cruz, instead of using his own name in said characters, imparts that none of us are spared from meeting the same fate if crimes against the governing power are penalized with death under the cloak of ‘justice’. It is a commentary far less about political leanings but more about a political attitude: that justice is an entitlement, that for the sake of peace we must war against those who want to disturb it, and that sentiments opposed to the ruling power can be deadly.

‘Simmer’ galvanizes with its searing visual commentary the realities of our time – not just history – the actions and inactions we are all culpable of. As long as systematic oppression remains entrenched in our society, our freedom remains to be in vain.

The Year Chance Said “Don’t You Color Out” Just When I Was About To

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This year, my “Best Of” playlist was shaped by an inward sense of strengths and defeats. There’s no contention that 2016 was an extraordinary mess, but it has undoubtedly produced an interesting, insightful soundtrack of sorts (depends on who you ask). It’s easy to pluck the best out of them, songs that mattered deeply to me. And a year that yielded full-length releases from my heroes is perhaps the only thing that made sense in 2016. That, and at one point, standing within spitting distance of Kanye West (those lights were hot).

Some specifics: 3/4 of this playlist is comprised of hip hop cuts, many of which plumbed the depths of self-examination and unraveling, which literally kept me from mental breakdowns. For better days, there’s Anderson .Paak, whose stage presence alone is intoxicating, and threw in a Donna Summer classic, which was a part of Netflix’s The Get Down playlist, and a song I danced to countless of times this year.

But if I must really grunt, the unavailability of Musical O’s ‘House Tea’ (and a follow-up record) on Spotify – one of this year’s finest in local music, as far as everyone’s concerned – is just another reason why this year sucked.

NOT My Top Songs 2016

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I don’t think my listening habits were significantly different from that of last year’s, but somehow, this playlist doesn’t reflect that. Out of 101 songs, I would have thought that Spotify, with its mostly decent ‘Discover Weekly’ playlists (where most of these songs are from), will capture my relationship with music this year quite accurately. Compared to 2015’s year-end compilations (Year In Genres, etc. – which I thought were very interesting) I think my six-year-old iPod Classic’s ‘Recently Played’ playlist outdoes Spotify any day. It’s largely comprised of SoundCloud producer cuts, with some songs I streamed frequently at work to tune out background chatter, around 10 I genuinely loved, and some I really enjoyed looping for days (i.e. Anderson .Paak’s songs).

I do not understand how a song like Sud’s ‘How We Play’ got in this as I didn’t even listen to the whole song. And that was one time. When it popped in my notifications. So egregiously inaccurate, because I am very particular in curating playlists.

To rub salt into the wound, James Reid’s ‘Randomantic’ was nowhere near on top of the list. Spotify ‘My Top Songs 2016’, like many things about 2016, you suck.

(Don’t) Stream the offending material:

TRACK: ‘4r Da Squaw’ – Isaiah Rashad

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The strength of The Sun’s Tirade, Isaiah Rashad’s new record is his flow. It feels like, nowadays, only Run The Jewels make explosively angry rap, for lack of better term. Everyone else sounds nonchalant, introspective, defeated, exhausted, frustrated, and in very rare cases such as D.R.A.M’s, Chance’s and Kanye’s gospels (well, Ultralight Beam and Highlights, at least), uplifting, joyous. This album opener (I listened to it at least five times before I finally moved on to the next track in the record) is the best way to set the tone for TST, with Zay completely mellowed out.