Originally posted on "Circus: The Eraserheads Mailing List" at Yahoo! Groups by lister, Maileen Salazar, on May 12, 1999 (Message # 7209)


Today / May 13, 1999 Thursday
by Lourd Ernest de Veyra

Album number seven

BLAME it on the minidisc, samplers and sequencers: ever since these boys got hold of the technology that allows one to sample and record sounds right in the comfort of your own home, the Eraserheads have been injected a renewed dose of creativity. "Usually, when we're on tour and we're about to record an album, there's always a feeling of drudgery," explains Raimund Marasigan, the band's drummer and resident loop guru. "But I don't know, for this new one, lahat kami, excited mag-record. Ganadong-ganado kami."

The result is the Eraserheads' seventh album, Natin 99 (BMG Records Pilipinas), a 15-song collection that's due next week. The recording process began as early as September last year, checking into the studio in between shows on a weekly basis. It should be interesting to note that they would be releasing a new album just as the single Julie Tearjerky (taken from the previous album, Aloha Milky Way) is still doing the rounds of the airwaves. This is actually an effective E-heads/BMG strategy that has kept the band's presence afloat in an industry notorious for its short attention span. The best way to combat dead air, actually.

Studio-wise, Natin 99 could be, by far, the most experimental 'Heads album to date. Why? The album has been constructed via the genuinely '90s procedure of cutting-and-pasting, guided by the spirit of digital technology. If this sounds a bit complicated, think of it this way: one guy goes into the studio with a drum track recorded on a disc. Another follows him carrying another disc, which contains either a guitar or a bass pattern, then another arrives with his own electronic noises, loops, sound samples also on a disc. Then with the help of the engineer, they mix all the recorded sounds into one coherent track. Sort of like a sonic chop suey that finally makes sense on the serving plate.

This may sound like Natin 99 could turn out to be something like Odelay by Beck, whose delightfully juxtapositions (i.e., bossa nova with Space Age noises, '70s funk fused with industrial soundscapes mixed with catatonic rapping) have pushed the entire idea of musical collage into criminally genius territories.

Which probably poses the danger of alienating old Eraserheads fans who still yearn for the days of Pare Ko and Ang Huling El Bimbo. But according to the guys, it won't.

"The basic songwriting styles remain the same," explains Marasigan. "Verse, chorus, verse, etc. These are songs that were basically written using the guitar, which means that they could still be played as is even if you strip away all the electronic effects. It's just that the process is different."

Case in point is the first single off Natin '99, Maselang Bahaghari, which could already be heard on several radio stations. There's that quintessential E-heads melody, the simple chord patterns any kanto boy could play on his acoustic guitar, although listening closely to the background noises would reveal that there's something else going on in the song. Sounds a bit like early Velvet Underground to me, actually, then you hear Buendia's vocals kicking in. Hummable chorus, although cryptic, suspiciously pharmacologically inspired lyrics. Back to business as usual. Will this be another hit for the 'Heads? The spirit of experimentation, however, finds its peak on the track Piecing Together, a seven-minute orgy of various tracks all put in by the guys who each play the drums, guitars, bass, synths, and even the vocals-in just one song.

In Natin '99, the band also tries a different schtick: on some cuts, you'll hear Ely playing the drums, or you'll find guitarist Marcus Adoro trying his hand at electronica mixing.

As usual, the album showcases the two divergent aspects of the band: the poppy, radio-friendly Beatle-esque ditties that have become Buendia's trademark; the other is the more aggressive, edgy, progressive side courtesy of Marasigan, who listens to all sort of stuff (In this interview, he was clutching a copy of The Urb, the unofficial bible of the DJ/dance movement in the US). The first facet is the one that rakes the money in, making them the beloved, spoiled brats of their record company (As Marasigan would admit, "For me, Ely's still the best songwriter around."). The other prevents their colleagues in the band scene from casting them out as complete sellouts. Marasigan's handiwork on Natin '99 can be heard on the numerous drum loops and other heated instances of electronic programming, especially on the drum 'n' bass cut (Yes, for all you snotty ravers and DJs out there!) that opens the album. A million hit singles or not, frequent variety show appearances and shirt-soda-junk food endorsements notwithstanding,
this band can play.

Several members of the group are also busy with other side projects. Bassist Buddy Zabala, along with Marasigan are currently producing the
all-female rock band Fatal Posporos. Marasigan, in addition, pounds the skins for the indie rock group Sandwich, whose demo single Butterfly Carnival can be heard on NU 107.

A brief explanation about the title: "The term 'natin' [ours] started out as a private joke among the band. We actually got it from a friend of ours
who's been having difficulty with his Tagalog. He'd go: "Patikim naman ng pagkain natin." Then "natin" evolved to connote almost everything, becoming a generic term. "Kuhain mo na 'yung 'natin" or "Akin na yung 'natin' diyan."

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