Review: Ben&Ben’s new album 'Pebble House Vol. 1 Kuwaderno' is a brilliant masterpiece

Rick Olivares

Posted at Aug 29 2021 08:54 PM | Updated as of Aug 29 2021 11:14 PM

Ben&Ben. Handout
Ben&Ben. Handout

This the way you make an album -- ensconced somewhere with the band members living together and eating, breathing, and producing music 24/7. 

This is the way Oasis recorded “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?” in Rockfield, Wales; Radiohead put out their magnum opus “Ok Computer” at a rural mansion called St. Catherine’s Court, or how Slowdive founder Neil Halstead locked himself in a cottage in Wales for two weeks and penned the band’s masterpiece "Souvlaki." 

"Pebble House Vol. 1 Kuwaderno" is exactly that -- a masterpiece by indie pop collective Ben&Ben that has taken great strides with this album.

Recorded in the Ben&Ben house after a year of living together, the nine-piece outfit tells their stories from within and the view from out their window in this time of pandemic.

It’s an album in three acts of moods, playful energy and a fresh sound.

If it seems that the collaborations with Parokya ni Edgar’s Chito Miranda (“Swimming Pool”), Moira dela Torre (“Pasalubong”), Zild and Juan Karlos (“Lunod”), KZ Tandingan (“Sabel”), SB19 (“Kapangyarihan”), and Munimuni (“Sugat”) – all gems in their own right – would color or define the album, it does not. 

These new yarns that feature the band themselves are no slouches. They retain the classic Ben&Ben sound from the opening instrumental track “Kuwaderno” to “Kasayaw” that literally appeals to the heart and the hips to “Elyu” (a street version reference to La Union) which is about letting go of that which tethers us to past. As if on cue, the band pushes forward with the rich sound that was explored in their full-length debut, "Limasawa Street."

To digress a bit, if you look at the cover art of the Ben&Ben self-titled extended play single, it depicted twins Miguel and Paolo Guico walking down a tree-lined road. 

For their full-length debut, "Limasawa Street," it was faceless people on the road towards a glowing two-story cube. And for "Pebble House," well, it’s a miniature house or probably a doll house with the various members of the band doing different things.

As if figuratively and literally, the band has taken their music, their influences, and their view of the world around them and repaired to a home to wrap them into some kind of wonderful. 

It rocks (“Swimming Pool”) and it rolls (“Elyu”). 

It feels street with “Sabel” and its sparse instrumentation, harmony, and handclaps, and “Kapangyarihan” with its pointed social commentary. A departure from the band’s usual poignant look at life, love, and loss to timely themes of women empowerment and the pitfalls of absolute power. 

It’s pensive (“Lunod” and its story about mental health, and “Ilang Tulog Na Lang”) and its uplifting (“Upuan”).

“It is a compilation of all our stories,” bassist Agnes Reoma succinctly described "Pebble House." 

Added percussionist Andrew de Pano: “It is a series of songs that encapsulate the experience of life as it is right now and will continue to become a point of reference for how life was at that point in time and will continue to remind us to teach us more moving forward.”

Hence, there is something for fans of the collaborating artists as well as new fans and there is something for the Ben&Ben faithful. 

It is said that in times of crisis, some of the best music is written, and Ben&Ben joins Asin, Urban Bandits, and the Jerks in producing some really great music that is the product of the times. 

"Pebble House Vol. 1 Kuwarderno" is now available via Sony Music on all streaming platforms. The vinyl version should be out within the year.