Tuesday, October 2, 2007


TYBS#10 (FEB 2007)
Katwo Librando has shaved her head. Barely recognizable as the frisky singer from the old Narda, or the glammed rock chick on her FHM spread, this girl with her visible scalp nevertheless looks more apt for the newest incarnation of Narda.

While the old Narda was unabashedly indie pop throughout their four EPs and their LP Formika, this album presents a darker, more belligerent and tormented side. See, for Discotillion, Narda has gone the way of dance-punk.

That strain of electro clash that began with groups like Kraftwerk, Gang of Four, Visage, New Order, Human League and Gary Numan plus early 80s Italo Disco. There are also quaint stories about momentous events like A Certain Ratio recording a track with Martin Hannet while touring with New Order, or reggae greats Sly and Robbie doing the same thing except with folkie Grace Jones. The New York loft-disco scene is also credited with having blended an eclectic mix of Philadelphia disco with dub-reggae cut and pasted over it and the improv style of greats like Miles Davis and Thelonius Monk. Wow.

These days Bosco, Franz Ferdinand, !!! and a host of other young Turks (like Pedicab and If Disco is a Crime) are pushing the electro clash envelope to new heights. Add Narda to the list and bury the hatchet.

“After Formika. . .” says Katwo in her stream of consciousness, sing-song speech, “It was very hard to be in the band. Things were so turbulent. Every moment in the band was a paranoid experience. Dyos me, heto na naman kami! I had the creeping feeling that it was bad karma, something that me and Ryan had done in the early days that was coming back to haunt us.”

Haunted is a fitting term. If this were the komiks Narda she’d be a tattooed, mascara-wearing suicide girl who cruises the local bars and discotheques looking for some action or a fight. This Narda would be perennially pissed because sidekick Ding has hit adolescence and has been copping a feel every chance he gets. Because Dad has been shot by a mobster and Mom has taken to the salvation of shabu and alcohol. Because Narda’s boyfriend just found out he’s gay.

This Narda would take out her frustration by brutally killing rapists and con men instead of incapacitating them for the cops. This Narda comes home late, drunk and high on E, and it still isn’t enough to dull the pain. This Narda does not want to be a hero. In fact, she doesn’t want to save the world or any of the idiotic, lemming citizens that inhabit it. Right now her problems are tougher than any monster.

This is why Discotillion is a brilliant and critically acclaimed album. This is why we must applaud Katwo Librando (vocals), Ryan Villena (drums), Tani Santos (guitars), Jeps Cruz (synths) and Yaps Tagle (synths) for mustering the courage to finally bring us a heroine with flaws and fists intact.

“Dance punk feels like an evolution for Narda,” exclaims Tani. Sure, but it also feels like a coming of age. It’s way past time this girl became a woman. And the realization of just what that means is capsulated in the loudspeaker clarion of “Molotov” and the teenage wasteland pressure cooker of “Ang Mitsa.”

Elsewhere, “100 Taon” cleans house in the mind-space where politics and personal life meet -- and how the former impinges on the latter with enormous, invisible pressure. They even find time to eschew fame with “Kamikazee.”

Discotillion was made at Sound Creation Studios and the whole thing presided over by Mike Dizon (Pedicab and Sandwich) and Mong Alcaraz (Sandwich and Chicosci), so that’s why the double synths and the layers are as textured as they are. Ryan Villena’s drumming has taken on a more cymbal-heavy, riotous feel and Katwo’s vocals have finally found a niche that allows her to shine without overreaching.

Just check out the range of emotions that “Gasolina” brings. Sexy and spiky, flirtatious and insolent, this is a template dance-punk song that conjures images of Narda whirling dervish-like around a rave floor alight in laser lights and strobes, as her boots splash up puddles of blood and brain matter. Gives the chorus “Sasabog na `ko!” whole new meaning, hey?

That this is a terrific album is without doubt. However, the psychic rewards for the band far outweigh their radiant creation. “Apparently you don’t have to be a very skilled musician to reach out to people. Just being honest is enough,” shrugs Katwo.

Now that is enlightenment worthy of heroes.

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