Manic Mundane, the musical moniker of solo artist Kath Dizon is aptly named. She crafts a particularly robust strain of electro out of deceptively simple digital riffs, spiced up by sci-fi synths imbued with a trip-hop vibe, garnished by ‘80s post-punk elements.
The forthcoming “Narrative Three” EP under Cebu-based Melt Records is Dizon’s big coming out as a solo artist, as well as a return to her roots, literally being back at her Mindanao stomping grounds. The college rocker who used to front a hardcore punk band in Iligan city now makes moody hymns about the imagined ecstasies of psychic travel and exorcising religious demons.
“This project is all about duality, the vintage and the futuristic. I personally call it my ‘catharsis’ project,” said Dizon, clarifying that she finished the record before even thinking of a name for herself.
Before she went back to her hometown of Koronadal City in South Cotabato, the 31-year- old Dizon was on the verge of a breakdown as a stressed advertising and PR executive in Dubai. Composing songs as a self-taught bedroom producer and collaborating with other UAE-based Filipino artists (like shoegaze duo WYWY) saved her from the weight of such a fast-paced environment sans work-life balance. “Life in Dubai was like being in a hotel, eventually you need to check out,” she said, recalling how she used to need to get up at 4 a.m. to line up with her housemates for a bath before hightailing it to the office to clock in before 8 a.m. “For the weekends I’d do laundry or just catch up on sleep. I spent six years like that in the UAE and I got burnt out.”
Now back to a more relaxed professional working environment, the tracks on her EP allowed for plenty of serious investigation into her beliefs and attitudes, an introspection that was welcome especially as the pandemic forced her into convalescent thought. Like her zombie OFW days in Dubai, she held onto her songwriting like a lifesaver.
Check out the single “Astral Bodies” with its stuttering drum flourishes and groovy synths, all moving to an impressive climax that begins with just a basic looped sequence — a sharp riff that wouldn’t be out of place on a progressive band’s repertoire. The music video, fully CGI with visuals recalling the game “Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within,” is pretty damn cool, too. Charmingly hesitant singing soaked in reverb bob and weave through brawny drums and confident hooks in a cross between nostalgia and a haunting, while keyboard arpeggios dart like fireflies around a melody you can dance to even in your darkest moments. That is to say, Dizon’s singing her poetry has a clarity to it even while remaining just obfuscated enough on an ephemeral stratosphere. It’s notable on tracks like “Lover” and “Awake/Solitude,” the letter having just enough drama on an industrial-style bassline to make it sinister.
Dizon’s roots in grunge and punk informing her brand of emotive electro makes for a potent creative center. Plenty of synth and electro music these days can easily be an anemic listening exercise of Artoo bleep-bloops, occasional chord samples, and mumbled verses. But Dizon’s obsession with song structure is what sets Manic Mundane apart from your garden variety pad pusher with an audio library subscription. It’s a sonic ride that UDD’s live sound engineer Sho Hikino has lent his veteran hand to in the mastering for a good polish.
That people think Manic Mundane is creating exquisitely cinematic music from what is widely mistaken as a conflict area in Mindanao is something that Dizon just shrugs at. “During Fête de la Musique someone told me they had the impression that Koronadal was a warzone,” said Dizon. Apparently there is a thriving music scene called Ilonggo Pop round those parts down south. A cultural exchange that usually gathers music acts from General Santos City and Koronadal City for performances.
“I remember there were terror attacks [here] way back in the 2000s, but this city is pretty peaceful and always has been,” explained Dizon. “You can definitely get groceries, walk your dog, live safely without much worry.”
Listen to Manic Mundane via Melt Records.