The Mad Lilacs is such an apt name for a band that deconstructs post-rock with a bit of jazz musings and neo-folk. It’s a mad concoction that is like using wine in cake or marinating one’s barbecue with beer — it works, right?
In doing so, when listening to the Mad Lilacs, I think of the Pale Fountains, the Pearlfishers, the Legendary Jim Ruiz Group, American Football, the National, Belle and Sebastian, and local indie band Hidden Nikki.
What do they all have in common? Besides laid-back and trippy vocals, they incorporate the mournful and soaring sound of the trumpet that adds quite a lot to their songs. Not the brass of a thousand pseudo-echoes that clog elevators and the muzak and whatever passes for jazz these days. But the sort of hard bop that knocks you for a loop.
The Mad Lilacs’ debut EP that was launched last week at Catch 272 in Quezon City alternate the songs in sequence with the odd-numbered songs featuring the trumpet. In the even-numbered songs — “Stranger” and “Water Year” — the band plays a little harder with their alternative influences coming out — guitar-driven indie rock. But I have to say that the odd-numbered songs — “Willy Nilly,” “Sleep,” and “Emelye” — are the best on the EP. And I don’t think it is a coincidence.
In the appropriately titled “Willy Nilly” that kicks off the EP, the song teases with a sense of anticipation with the time signature changes. Then towards the end, vocalist Elo Dinglasan yelps . . . “Willy Nilly” just as the trumpet — after long being held back — blares in exasperation. It’s a brief incandescent moment of indie angst and brass filigree. But . . . man!
“Sleep” is a pensive one that contrary to the song title does not lull you to sleep. It sends your mind wandering with Marco Azurin’s trumpet nudging you away, after which bassist Mike Tee and guitarist Benj Ledesma send you soaring.
“Emelye” closes the EP and has that Ben Gibbard feel that I love. I love it when the band happily plays away with Ledesma noodling away on his guitar.
I don’t want to infer that Marco Azurin’s trumpet steals the show. Not at all. I think it greatly complements the lovely and yet simple words. It certainly adds a lot to the mood and texture of the songs.
The Mad Lilacs play tight rhythms and grooves. They don’t allow the instruments to go off lengthy solos; hence, leaving you wanting more.
So if this is a teaser of a debut, then I look forward to the full length album.
Now, I would like to pull them out of sleep and their dreams and get to work on just that.
(Note: If you want to purchase the Mad Lilacs’ debut EP on CD, kindly get in touch with them through their Facebook page.)