Manila Killa releases 'Dusk', his intimate dance-music debut album

Rick Olivares

Posted at Aug 20 2022 08:34 AM

'Dusk'' follows Manila Killa's successful extended play single, '1993', which introduced this youthful EDM producer to the world in 2019. John Liwag
"Dusk"' follows Manila Killa's successful extended play single, "1993", which introduced this youthful EDM producer to the world in 2019. John Liwag

Filipino-American electronic dance music producer Manila Killa (a.k.a. Chris Gavino) has released his debut full-length album titled “Dusk” (Moving Castle Records) this August.

“Dusk” follows his successful extended play single, “1993” that introduced this youthful EDM producer to the world in 2019.

Whereas “1993” is supremely danceable, “Dusk” is more contemplative and sensuous as it was conceived and recorded during the height of the global lockdown due to the COVID-19 virus. 

“The album started around the week of the lockdown,” related Gavino. 

“I had a lot of shows lined up and they were all cancelled. There was a point in time when I was alone and thinking what I could do with all this time. I had time to reflect on where I have been and how I got to this point. I have been touring a lot and never had time to think about what direction I want to go. So the lockdown gave me pause to think of my roots and music.

“I have been doing pop kind of dance music with ‘1993’ but now I have reached deeper into myself and the new style I am going for. So ‘Dusk’ is about contemplation, growth as a person, and COVID being a challenging time for me. I was at the point of getting another job and going to Manila, but after some time, I figured things out and things fell into place.”

The 12-track album (now out on all streaming platforms but soon on vinyl) is like a day in the life except that it is not exactly a concept album. 

'Dusk'' follows Manila Killa's successful extended play single, '1993', which introduced this youthful EDM producer to the world in 2019. Handout
"Dusk"' follows Manila Killa's successful extended play single, "1993", which introduced this youthful EDM producer to the world in 2019. Handout

“Dusk” and its track listing are like a soundtrack from sunset (the first half of the album) to the time when it gets dark and yet, the night comes alive (the second half of the album).

Think of driving and the natural fades and the artificial lights come on. Think of staring out into the night with a drink in hand and thinking. Contemplating.

“That is exactly the vibe that I was going for as it mirrored my feeling during the pandemic,” agreed Manila Killa. “It’s dance music that is contemplative and introspective.”

The lead-off single, the title track, was recorded with vocals by Canadian singer Lights (a.k.a. Lights Poxleitner-Bokan).

“Lights is an artist I personally look up to and have been listening to for 10 years,” revealed Gavino. “The first concert I ever went to was Lights and so I wrote this song and I was going back and forth with my manager on who could sing on it. I didn’t think I would be able to get Lights (they went through a friend of a friend to invite her to perform on the song).”

“I was able to explain to her the vibe of the album and she returned the vocals back and went back and forth a bit and then it got done. She really understood what I was going for.”

“’Dusk' is a song that I always imagined to be played on the road leaving the city heading towards the desert. I made sure to encapsulate that feeling through my production, and reaching out to Lights to lay down the vocals was the missing piece to complete the song.” 

“This one's special to me because I looked up to Lights and listened to her well before I began my music production journey, so it feels like a full circle moment to have her on the song. I'm hoping people feel a type of yearning emotion when listening to it as that's what I've felt throughout the journey of creating this song over the last year.”

Another track that is “Best Part of You” which is the second half of the album. This time, Manila Killa collaborated with Brooklyn singer EVAN GIAA (aka Evan Giarrusso). 

“Evan is a super talented artist in the United States,” pointed out Chris. “She’s a classically trained opera singer but she opted to perform pop music. The song is a style we both haven’t gone into – it has no drums and a groove just focuses on the synths and emotional aspect of it. It’s a very contemplative and intimate song.

There is a sense of intimacy in my music and it encapsulates what I was trying to accomplish with the music of “Dusk.”

Gavino was 16 when he left his schooling at the International School in Manila to move back to the US. He decided to go into music production and his parents asked him not to use his real name. 

“I wanted to pay homage to the Philippines in some way so I used the word ‘Manila.’ Then a friend of mine suggested using a word that rhymes with ‘Manila’ in which he suggested ‘killa.”

And the rest is history.

His debut EP '1993' garnered praise from media heavyweights like Billboard, Forbes and Ones To Watch, adding to a laundry list of critical-acclaim from tastemakers like Complex, Paper, and NYLON. He has been asked to work on official remixes for Chvrches, The Knocks, and Tegan and Sara while performing at festivals like Firefly, Electric Zoo, 88rising's Head in the Clouds.

The top streaming markets for Manila Killa’s music include Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan, and Singapore.

“I hope everyone listens to it and it gives them time to reflect and formulate their own thoughts. I am relieved that it is out. It has been a tough two years. It feels like a catharsis. I feel like I am ready to move on.”