Music review: Apartel's new album is a groovylicious throwback to Manila Sound

Rick Olivares

Posted at Oct 23 2018 05:51 PM

Apartel wholeheartedly dives into '70s music in "Full Flood," their sophomore release from Offshore Music. The result is something that does the Soul Jugglers, Hotdog, and others purveyors of the Manila Sound proud. To crib a line from Frankie Valli, “It’s got groove, it’s got meaning.”

And boy, does this band have groove and meaning. 

With this album, the first thing that jumped into my mind is this is the exact same plunge Paul Weller took when he left the Jam to form Style Council. While Style Council was ahead of its time for fusing northern soul with rap and lounge jazz that helped define the acid jazz sound for the 1990s, Ely Buendia and Apartel choose to take us on a trip back in time with tighter grooves that will have you snapping your fingers and putting your dancing shoes on. 

Don’t be put off by the throwback nature. After all, everyone yearns for the good old days. Just because "Full Flood" takes Generation X back to when they were young and disco was king and when punk and new wave were breaking out of garages, it doesn’t mean you can’t get into this most funkadelic album. It has plenty of good vibes that remind of the acid jazz and neo-soul movement, Hed Kandi and Nu Cool, which were all the rage of the late 1990s and the early years of the new millennium.

11 tracks that pay homage but push the band forward

"Full Flood" leads off with “That’s What She Said” that picks up from where "Inner Play" left off. 

It is with the second track, the album’s first single, “Pateros,” where the album gains a life of its own. It has more bounce and the change in direction is more evident. It is the album’s answer to the Hotdog classic “Manila”. That swinging horn section (courtesy of those cool dudes from Bras Pas Pas Pas Pas) is infectious. 

“See It to Believe It” has that Bee Gees vibe with Buendia singing in falsetto. 

“Mahiwaga” reminds me of Earth, Wind & Fire and the slower number provides a welcome respite from the pace. I love Jun Lazo’s bass lines in this song. 

“Sisid,” in my opinion, is this album’s “Sala Sa Init” – that mid-album track that is just so cool.

“Underboner” is a short and funky instrumental that reminds of Tower of Power and Average White Band.

“Pre-loved” is one of the strongest tracks on the album and features Zia Quizon on lead vocals and it can easily be billed as a newly unearthed northern soul song complete with the Hammond organ (you guys know my way to my heart). 

“Quack King” is a slower but the band cranks up the funk sauce. 

“Ako ang Dagat, Ikaw ang Buwan” is one of my fave tracks on the album and is penned by Lazo.

“Can I Be So High?” cranks up the funk one more with a beat that reminds me of Blondie’s “Rapture” fused with some KC and the Sunshine Band track. 

Apartel takes it down a couple of notches with “Why You Gotta Do Me Like That?” which closes the album. 

The verdict is this is a damn good album. All in all, "Full Flood" is solid album, much better than their debut. 

There’s a cohesiveness to the album even with more band members contributing to the songwriting. For "Inner Play," the songwriting process was dominated by Buendia and former co-frontman Jay Ortega (guitarist Redge Concepcion helped out on one track, “WTF”). 

For :Full Flood," only three songs are solo Buendia numbers. Guitarist Coco Coo contributes on two tracks with the instrumental, “Underboner” credited solely to him. Lazo penned the beautiful, “Ako ang Dagat, Ikaw ang Buwan.” Drummer Pat Sarabia helps out on “Sisid,” while Concepcion is co-writer for “Quack King.”

And the songs flow from start to finish. Excellent job on the track listing. The sound is solid but you can expect no less from Bernie Grundman (who has mastered such landmark albums as Carole King’s "Tapestry," Michael Jackson’s "Thriller," Steely Dan’s "Aja," and many an album by Prince, Burt Bacharach, and the Carpenters to name but a very few). The sound is crisp, alive, and makes it fun and easy to listen to all the different instruments and layers for each song. 

I like how Apartel pushed the musical envelope forward and it teases in all sorts of directions for this band. That leaves me wondering if this magnificent band will morph into our very own Thievery Corporation (the early incarnation of Thievery Corporation was the acid jazz band, Exodus Quartet, whose claim to fame was the uber cool “Summer Soulstice”). 

Apartel has crafted a great album. Now to borrow a song title from them – you have to hear it to believe it. Am sure the Modfather himself, Paul Weller, will love it.