Four years is certainly a reasonable amount of time for a critically-acclaimed indie rock band from the Philippines to conceive another record worth savoring, and with the case of Up Dharma Down, that timeframe was well spent on gently moving their unique sound into a new direction while still remaining relatively faithful to their eclectic sonic approach. Where “Fragmented” announced their wunderkind arrival and “Bipolar” catapulted them to indie superstardom both here and abroad, their beautifully crafted third album, “Capacities”, will certainly cement their incomparable status within the local music industry as the musical act to be reckoned with and as a musical group worthy of international exposure.
Marked by a strong presence of danceable 80s synthesizers and a hint of 90s ambient rock, the four piece ensemble moved forward by looking to the past for inspiration. Which isn’t to say that this is a bad thing, given that on tracks like ‘Parks’ and ‘Thinker’ deliver such a strong dose of nostalgia for anyone who grew up listening to alternative music mixtapes as a teenager back in the 90s. It goes without saying that lead vocalist and keyboardist, Armi Millare, once again delivers a lyrical and vocal performance that never fails to tug at one’s heartstrings. Where she captured the hearts of hopeless romantics everywhere with the emotional powerhouses of ‘Oo’ and ‘Sana’, she has again succeeded in melancholic tear-jerkers that are ‘Indak’ and ‘Tadhana’—both tracks already well-known to UDD fans prior to their inclusion on the third album in a more elegant, polished form.
But far from being known to make epic Tagalog ballads, the quartet has wisely expanded their repertoire to include poetic and luminous tracks that would not be out of place on the dance floor, as evidenced by the stunning album opener ‘Turn It Well’ and the closing number, ‘Night Drops’—two prime cuts from the record that would be a wonderful playground for DJs to give a remixed treatment suited for posh nightclubs up and down the country. This joyful dance element recently infused on their third outing can be witnessed during their recent live appearances. Indeed, just seeing them perform their songs at their regular gigs or concerts is one of those rare instances where a musical act does not just sound good on record, but also live on stage.
Despite the latest tricks the band has employed on “Capacities”, the musical arrangement of the songs on the album is notably refined and restrained at the same time, but noticeably absent are the brief but interesting instrumentals that the band has done on their previous two albums. Perhaps favoring a less-is-more attitude, Up Dharma Down has given way to a full vocal-based LP that still captures their essence as a Filipino band worth treasuring as a best kept secret that you also want to share to others. The future certainly looks bright for the foursome, and if the album title is any indication at all for their next record, their capacity to make great music will certainly be nothing short of brilliant.
“Capacities” is out now on iTunes and your nearest record store.
01. Turn It Well***
04. Indak (‘Dance’)***
07. Kulang (‘Insufficient’)
08. Tadhana (‘Destiny’)***
09. Night Drops
10. Feelings (duet version with Paul Buchanan) [bonus track]
***Must-Listen Top Picks
Up Dharma Down is composed of:
Armi Millare – lead vocals, keyboards
Paul Yap – bass guitar
Carlos Tañada – lead guitar
Ean Mayor – drums and loops
For more information on the band, please check out the following: