Music reviews: Rihanna, Gen Thalz, Bon Iver

Jackie Dosmanos

Posted at Feb 29 2016 07:30 AM

Gen Thalz
"Routines, Rituals, & Repetitions"

Electronica artists have been messing with digital buzz and distortion for decades now that it’s easy to think “there’s nothing new under the sun” for these underappreciated acts. The feeling is more pronounced in the local indie scene where electronica is all but banished to become mere backing noise to three-minute pop or rock tracks.

Pinoy electronica from Gen Thalz, a Meycauayan City denizen based on his bandcamp page, would have none of that crap. The five tracks on his debut EP uniformly start with the groans of a machine coming to life then after the first minute either dissolves into more feedback and static or resolves in Nitzer Ebb type of methodical disco beats.

Each track comes with a definition. For example, “Decluttering,” the only cut with barely audible crowd noises near its final quarter, is described as “the process of removing the ‘unnecessary’ and the ‘unessential’ both externally and internally.” Gen Thalz goes on to label EP as Extended Paranoia and name checks his body of work to come “from the lost subterranean chapter of pure mundane day to day routines, rituals, and repetitions.”

Like most electronica that hasn’t surrendered to the lure of smiley pop or big rock, Gen Thalz’s EP of digital loops and abstract dance rhythms build to a sense of unease and the foreboding never lets up right to the very end. It’s a challenging record to people accustomed to slick pop and an adventure to indie heads among us.

*****

Bon Iver
"Bon Iver"

Even on first listen, Bon Iver’s self-titled release commands attention: The Beatles’ chamber pop in the arrangement, Poco in its folk-rock evocation and REM jangle scattered in between. It’s a fine proof of Iver’s supreme gifts that the combination is a thing of beauty rather than the musical equivalent of an American Idol garage sale. The joy comes in hearing so many genres co-existing in an essentially folk album.

Fans of melancholic pop will find opener entitled “Perth” particularly intoxicating. It’s followed by “Minnesota WI,” a pop-rocker laced with a head-bopping Caribbean rhythm while Bon Iver switches from falsetto to masculine voice at every turn of phrase. “Helocene” has a “Happiness Is A Warm Gun” vibe while “Wash” stretches debts to the Beatles in warm Beach Boys harmonies.

Detailed descriptions are pointless, really. The 10 songs on Bon Iver’s sophomore release are great-sounding songs beautifully, gently, and quite innocently performed as classic folk music tends to be. For the most part, they reach out to the soul without artifice or slickness. Who knew a guy who records by his lonesome in a secluded cabin can produce enchanting music?

Bon Iver shares his musical magic when he co-headlines The Wanderland 2016 Music & Arts Festival slated on March 5 at the Globe Circuit Events Ground in Makati City.

*****

Rihanna
"Anti"

Few modern R&B stars have shouldered as much baggage as Rihanna and remained a commercial success. There’s her media-saturated off-and-on relationship with ex-boyfriend rapper Chris Brown. In the three years between albums, she’s gained bigger presence in social media as well as tabloid fodder and fashion plate, on the side.

Then wham!, she’s got a new album, her eighth in a recording career with more ups than downs. It’s titled "Anti" presumably because it takes potshots at the imaginary virtues of stardom. What’s more significant is that Anti features all the vocal calisthenics the famous Barbadian can muster.

Rihanna is a doo wop soul star in “Love On The Brain” and “Higher.” She’s a bedroom pussycat in the slow burning “Kiss’ and a bad-ass mama out of the starting gate in “Icons.” In the latter, her dancehall rap is as breathtaking as her smooth falsetto. “Same ‘Ol Mistakes” takes on R&B croon as the new smooth jazz.

"Anti" is a chill album with Rihanna serenading with just a snare and a synth wave for accompaniment. It should break her to an older age bracket but her core young audience may miss the tough girl she once embodied.

*****

Sergio Mendes
"Celebration – A Musical Journey"

A two-CD release, Sergio Mendes’ journey takes the listener to 50 years of celebrated samba starting with the group’s first hit in 1966.

CD 1 contains original compositions of various incarnations of Mendes’ backing band Brazil ’77 as well versions of other people’s songs including a batch of Beatles’ tunes. CD 2 features other singers giving a new touch to Sergio Mendes’ classic songs. Highlights are the comeback hit in 1983, “Never Let You Go” and Black Eyed Peas’ cool rap remake of “Mas Que Nada.”

Timeless is often used to describe Sergio Mendes’s songs which are often described as one of the earliest entries to the all-embracing genre known as world music. In an interview, the Brazilian prodigy hopes to record for another 50 years. Celebration shows the creative fire continues to burn brightly half a century after it all began.

Go party with Sergio Mendes when 50 Years of Brasil ’66 comes to the Smart Araneta Coliseum on March 12.