Updated 18:48 PM PHT Thu, February 23, 2017
Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — It’s 2017, and while the world is still looking for definitive evidence that extraterrestrial life exists, Pedicab is in on a secret. You’ll have to hear it straight from them though, because they've gone across the universe and back.
The band, composed of vocalist Diego Mapa, along with guitarist Jason Caballa, bassist Raymund Marasigan, synth keyboardist RA Rivera, and drummer Mike Dizon, has been 12 years strong in blurring the lines between man and drum machine. They’ve mastered the algorithm of tapping into the homo sapiens’ most primal of urges, which is to dance. On their upcoming album, “Remuda Triangle,” they get around to other perennial questions: Is there life out there? If so, where’s the closest disco?
Their deep descent into the mysteries of the cosmos took off when they went on tour in London in 2014. One day, Mapa woke up each of his bandmates at five in the morning to embark on a pilgrimage to Stonehenge, despite the distance.
“That’s the sign we have to make this kind of album,” says Marasigan. As it turns out, Mapa had already written the songs by then.
“If you told me twenty years ago na ma-i-involve ako in the making of an album about aliens, ‘di ako maniniwala,” said Caballa. In addition to Mapa’s strange fascination with the History Channel show, “Ancient Aliens,” the band steeped themselves deep in the interplanetary speculation of David Bowie and The Flaming Lips, and the musical exploration of The Beatles’ “Magical Mystery Tour.” “Remuda Triangle” features cosmic bodies, post-apocalyptic landscapes, mind control — you name it. There’s room for a love story, too. That aside, the songs also tackle more down-to-earth concerns such as online trolls, the recent viral resurgence of interest in astrology (“mercury retrograde”), and seemingly omniscient social media algorithms, all filtered through infectious dance punk.
Pedicab has always had a knack for theatricality, from their music to their visual identity, donning pseudonyms such as “J. Sonic” and “Sugar Raims,” and morphing personas with every release. Now, they’ve reinvented themselves as a rogue rock and roll band of aliens who seem to have to gotten acquainted with humanity at an arcade. They’ve been playing shows decked out in larger-than-life space helmets of different shapes and sizes, with satellite ears, bright neon mohawks, and antennae. The lead single off their album “What’s the Algorithm?” even features the humanoids navigating a dizzying series of 8-bit homages to old-school video games and geek culture. Pedicab has gone — as vocalist Diego Mapa would call it — Third World cyberpunk.
The helmets, created by contemporary artist Leeroy New, were assembled from average everyday household items, such as baskets and brushes. It’s a continuation of New’s series of extraterrestrials in found objects and recycled materials, as documented on the Aliens of Manila Instagram. A distinctly local take on imagination truly being the root of science fiction, the otherworldly outfits of New are mass-produced objects taken apart and reassembled into something unique. It’s not a joke to play with the Pedicab helmets onstage either, because in addition to the ever-humid tropical weather, they can barely see the crowd. Not that the band were ever the kind to settle for the easy way out.
Pedicab’s past releases were bent on stripping songs down to their simplest form, with the least instruments as possible, but on “Remuda Triangle,” they’ve taken a rather maximalist approach. The music features a wider sonic palette and wears its space-age idiosyncrasies on its sleeve. While Mapa has been wielding a guitar for his other musical projects such as Eggboy and Monsterbot, it’s a first for him to play it with Pedicab, on the album. He also does three-part vocals, which were produced by Eraserheads’ bassist Buddy Zabala.
The reconfiguration of the band extends to how the songs were literally arranged. Conventionally, songs are recorded they way they’re played, but the band did it the other way around in some cases. They spliced and remixed the songs, and did the math on how to play them live.
The result is denser and more obtuse than Pedicab’s past work, both in musical and lyrical content. Highlights aside from the start-stop jagged disco of “What’s the Algorithm?” include the sci-fi funk of “Meet Your Right,” and “Virgo Dragon,” which morphs from a far-out homebrew synth trip to sheer glorious riffage that could start a riot anywhere from Tatooine to Krypton. “Remuda Triangle” is proof that aliens are taking over the world, one pop song at a time.
“Remuda Triangle” will be available exclusively on vinyl and through download codes. The launch party will feature performances by Pedicab, Taken by Cars, Flying Ipis, Tom's Story, Bignay Soundsystem, and installations by Leeroy New on Feb. 25 at Historia Boutique Bar & Restaurant, 5 Sgt. Esguerra Ave, Diliman, Quezon City.