By Francis Cabal
Pastilan Dong! is a noise band at its core. Which is why opening their record with an 18-minute noise track makes perfect sense. “Serenity Call”, with its white noise and guitar feedback, weeds out casual listeners from those who are in it for the long haul. It’s a brave choice, because it’s the kind of thing that comes off as alienating when done by a lesser band. However, Pastilan Dong! has a few tricks up their sleeves. Those who stick around will be rewarded by the sheer beauty of the second track, “Bell Spell”. It’s a droning and meditative piece, and is an example of the band’s penchant for combining deafening noise with beautiful melodies.
The band finds beauty in repetition. When coupled with the band’s take on noise music, “Pastilan Dong!” is essentially an experiment in meditation. The third track, “Unya”, is just a repeating cycle comprised of two chords strummed in an acoustic guitar. The 8-minute track “You For Yeah” continues the whole repetition thing, but around the halfway mark the drums start to kick in and becomes a jam that would satisfy any self-respecting shoegaze fan.
“You For Yeah” is followed by the ballad “Intawon”, a song sung entirely in Visayan. And despite my lack of knowledge of the dialect, the sense of longing is more than palpable. And that’s the thing about this record. Despite its experimental nature, there is a sense of tenderness in every song. Heavier tracks like “Tuara”, and the Sonic Youth meets My Bloody Valentine one-two punch of “Suka Bossa” and “Ceiling” makes this album a cathartic listen.
However, Pastilan Dong! throws us yet another curveball with the indie pop song “Twee Pop Sheet”. It’s short and sweet with lines like “everything is perfect/when I am with you”. But before you even get accustomed to the song, the song ends. Pastilan Dong! ends the record the same way they started it: with a 20-minute long noise track.
There’s something conceptual about how the record was made, which brings to mind some of my all-time favorite records. The way it was recorded, the way the tracks are arranged, it’s as if the band had a plan even before they entered the studio. While Pastilan Dong! are amazing musicians, it’s their clear sense of vision that makes them stand out from the rest of their peers.
“Pastilan Dong!” is a challenging listen, and it’s not for everyone. But for those who are adventurous enough, there is plenty to love in this record.