Wednesday, June 16, 2010

UDD Bipolar: '1st' thoughts

First and foremost, I know Up Dharma Down is well-respected among several circles. I even came upon American hippies who were familiar with them on some internet forums, and left me thinking their music must know no boundaries after the fact. I casually listened to Fragmented for a bit and thought it was okay, never really seriously dug into it, then I pulled my pants up and moved on to other music. When Bipolar came out, some reviews were just going crazy over how 'good' it is. So here I am- trying to find out once and for all what the 'buzz' was all about.

My first listen was a week ago, and decided right then and there that I needed to give this one a few more spins.  Definitely not impressive at first, but I told myself it's one of those albums where some mandatory "ear-grinding" was necessary to actually make sense out of the tracks. 

So as of now, I think I'm done with my 6th or 7th run. I decided to listen to the album once more and pretended it was my first time- all while writing my observations spontaneously.

I call this my "Bipolar Experiment", and these were what my 'notes' looked like (unedited):

Blessed - Haunting bass.  Break.  I love the explosion into a Mogwai-esque rock number at the end.

Clockwork - I waited for something to happen.  There's the distorted bass break, but nothing special.  Still can't make out anything the singer says.

All Year Round - sweet downtempo track.  Singer sounds like she's suffering from stomach pains.  Still waiting for something to happen... track ends anyway.

Taya - finally the first song that actually sounds like a song.  'Kagabi' and 'Kakitiran' - the way she sings those words is really annoying.

Unspoken Definites - I have a feeling she's only jamming those words in just to say them.  Good song for night-driving in the city.  First song I can think of playing while doing something.  Track reminds me of Zero 7.

The Cold is Warmth - Thom Yorke-esque type of instrumental.  Tuned up the volume for this one.  Sounds good.  Ends without notice.  Filler.

Two - By this time I figured you need to turn up the volume to appreciate what the other band members are doing.  Of course, that would mean subjecting yourself to louder drunken singing, but she actually sounds a bit bearable in this song.  By the way, I have nothing against singing like you've just drank a whole bottle of Tanduay, but at least make an effort to let us understand what you're saying.  Song ends ubruptly- again.

Sana - sweet song.  I actually like this.  No surprises, straightforward track.  Finally.  The guitar plays the role of lead guitar with loud distortion.  Song ends after loud guitar. ? Okay, I like this.

Return, Saturn, Return- Intro sounds like Thom Yorke / Radiohead's Kid A yet again.  Nice guitar when the beat kicks in. Ends. Filler.

Every First Second - weird dynamic at play here.  I like its awkwardness.  The chorus finally rocks the open hihat.  I like the chorus.  Progresses into something else... breaks.  Back to chorus.
Note#2: Her sharp voice soars above the rest of the instruments, in such a way one can't help but notice.  And NOTICE I do. She minces words too much that they're barely recognizable.  I don't care if everyone calls it "artsy singing", it's just bad singing to me.

Furnace - Piano track.  I like it.  Reminds me of Olafur Arnalds.  OVer quickly.  Filler again.

Silid - Night-time electronic track.  Lonely track.  Changes tempo in the middle.  Okay, so it's a night-time DRIVING track.  Love the mood of this one.  ENDS???  too short, WTH. FILLER.
Note#3: It's becoming apparent this band likes ending songs without climaxing (pun!). Numerous times I waited for something to happen, and it just ends.

Sugarcoats and Heartbeats - stripped down track.  electronica again.  Bursts into drumming.  Well, what do you know?  A track that actually tells you that it will end any minute now!
Note#4: I feel this album only works when you're alone at nighttime, while driving your car or in your room perhaps, and perhaps best for people who have trouble sleeping (I meant that in a good and bad way).

Okay, I edited that a bit. I just added the note numbers.

The band is creative, no doubt about that. But my biggest gripe? Her singing. "It" seems completely independent from the songs. The songs change, the instrumentations change, but her singing remains the same. Not always annoying, but most of the time anyway. Her style is just, uhh, not my cup of tea.

Okay, imagine you're on a luxury tour around the world. The songs are the countries you go to, and her voice is like the annoying alcoholic grandma who tags along.

Good enough?  No? Okay, I'll shut up now.

(The album is looking grim, but I feel I still need to do more listening for my sake. Will let you know what I find.)

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