Review: Ely Buendia releases new band's debut album on vinyl

Rick Olivares

Posted at Feb 13 2017 06:46 PM

The cocktail glass has been empty for a while. Juan Pablo Dream, once a glimmer of hope, has gone up in smoke. It’s been several years since the free jazz of the Radioactive Sago Project, biting and dripping with its social commentary by its sonnetist, dropped its fourth salvo on a fashionista society. The Cappuccino Kid – God bless him wherever he may be -- has packed up and gone leaving us thinking that they were the best thing that ever happened and they were simply ahead of their time.

The hunt for darn good music in a digital world that warms your soul like good martini has bordered on the search for proof that Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his mastery of the blues.

But there something stirs into the quiet night.

The brass, the tickling keys, and the free flowing riffs -- they waft and usher in a beat. You know, like a prayer offered to the Blessed Lady of Acceleration. Suddenly, the music explodes.

You nod. You tap your feet. You ask for a drink that when added to the music fires up every fiber of your being.

Is it hip?

Oh, no. It’s sweet, sweet soul. Laced with jazz and the blues. I think of Al Wilson, Major Harris, the Free Movement -- except it’s Ely Buendia who channels his inner Stephen Bishop or in the case of “Careless Love” calls to mind, Dylan’s “Gotta Serve Somebody”.

The other soul brother, Jay Ortega, doesn’t forget his roots. Memories of Rico J. Puno and the way we were come flooding back. I swear there’s a tinge of George Benson in there as well.

So much for being surreptitious. Apartel, the band’s name is, well, suggestive. I instantly thought of that scene in “Jerry Maguire” where Tom Cruise and Renee Zellweger have sex and the music of Coltrane is blaring.

“What is that music?” asked Cruise. Well, Apartel evokes something sexy, smoky, and seductive. Their debut offering, “Inner Play,” sounds like your favorite soul, jazz, and rhythm and blues records but it is at once different because the band finds its own groove and voice. And there is no scrimping on the brass here. You have to appreciate someone who loves his brass.

Because of that, this is a record that demands you pay close attention to every one of the 12 songs on the album. As Ortega sings in the last track, “On the Other Side”: “Free your soul. On the other side.”

Just soak in the words and the music, man. I guarantee its intoxicating.

From the delicious mélange of music to the album packaging itself, “Inner Play” is impressive. That it is printed and manufactured in Japan on virgin vinyl makes this is all the more a special and landmark album. It’s expensive, I’ll admit (P2,800 for two discs) but it’s good music and it’s on vinyl, effendi. Vinyl! This is one of those albums that you simply must possess as only 500 copies were printed.

And to crib that crooner Frankie Valli, Apartel’s “Inner Play”, well, “it’s got groove, it’s got meaning.”

Apartel’s debut record, “Inner Play” is available at the Grey Market and Treskul Records while supplies last. Or give the band a listen to in Spotify.