Monday, May 31, 2010

Making sense of it all

Taken from "The Manila Times" Lifestyle section \June 1,2010

Sugar Hiccup’s ‘After Five Years’

To be Sugar Hiccup is to carry a name with history. The band is famous for its ethereal hits in the 1990s including “Five Years,” “Bleed,” “Womb” and “Moden De” to name a few and that won the Katha Music

Awards, the Awit Awards and the NU Rock Awards. But to be the Sugar Hiccup is also to carry much baggage.

Whoever takes the place of original vocalist Melody del Mundo (now residing in the US with her family) will surely be compared to her. She must sing stratospheric songs such as “Five Years” that punish vocal chords and risk permanent damage—songs that even del Mundo sometimes demurred from singing live during her tenure with the band; even she found it a challenge living up to her studio-perfected self.

The new lead singer and her new band members must also face a conundrum: how to further Sugar Hiccup’s signature style of atmospheric music and gibberish lyrics (ala Cocteau Twins) without simply repeating and rehashing it. After “Five Years,” where does Sugar Hiccup take its audience next?

The original Sugar Hiccup was a tough act to follow.

Thank God for the new Sugar Hiccup. They live up to the name and take it so much further.

With original bassist Russel Dacasin still at the helm and with original drummer Melvin Panganiban’s blessing, Sugar Hiccup launches its new album aptly named After Five Years with Bone Pagligaran on electric guitar and Jamee Orcino on drums and soprano Jeanette Reyna Jorge on vocals and electric violin.

The new lineup clearly shows its chops, displaying virtuosity that the original lineup did not possess. All contemporaries in their early 30’s, these seasoned musicians possess artistic maturity and work ethics that that allow them to perform as a cohesive unit. Watch them live and listen to their new album. This is clearly evident. The band is tight. They don’t just play; they jam, they entertain and they have fun.

Pagligaran puts his bluesy and raunchy guitar to good use, infusing each song with vitality and soul. With him, Sugar Hiccup performs its old and new songs with an aplomb that would be impossible with original guitarist Zandro Pollack’s limitations. Orcino doesn’t just thunder and pound; he truly jams with his fellow musicians, allowing a give and take that lets all shine in turn. Dacasin matures even further as a bassist, providing the irresistible heartbeat to every song.

Ultimately, it is by their vocalist that the band will be judged. Since del Mundo, Sugar Hiccup has gone through three vocalists. With Reyna, they have found one for keeps. Reyna, a classical and madrigal soprano by training, soars in every song with her own signature style. Her violin providing even further depth to the band’s synergistic sound. Together with the rest of Sugar Hiccup, Reyna transforms even Sugar Hiccup’s old songs into something truly their own. But it is with their brand new compositions that Sugar Hiccup proves itself worthy without contest.

With After Five Years, Hiccup dares to do what would be unimaginable when they debuted in 1994; they sing lyrics that brazenly make sense. None of that invented language found in “Moden De” or that “live back masking” featured in “Awa.” With After Five Years, Sugar Hiccup doesn’t snobbishly shirk from its responsibility of building an emotional rapport with it audiences. Every bit as uncompromising as previous albums, After Five Years is refreshingly the most accessible.

click the link to listen to some samples

“Awake,” the first track, provides a bridge for old fans to cross over to the new album. Among all the songs, it most resembles old hits such as “Bleed.” But even here, the band takes the signature sound so much further. Dacasin and Orcino provide an infectious rhyme. Pagligaran rocks it, complementing the haunting atmospherics with in-your-face guitar licks. Reyna, as both the song’s lyricist and vocalist, doesn’t just mouth the words; she makes you feel it.

If “Awake” transitions listeners to Sugar Hiccup’s new vibe, then “Waltzing Stilettos” and “Ode to Unknown Self” skirt the far edge by pushing the envelop in opposite directions. Stark and haunting, they show Sugar Hiccup at its most tender, vulnerable and naked.

“Point Blank” best epitomizes Sugar Hiccup’s new direction. It contrasts arresting lyrics with a hooky musical sensibilities: Just listen to the lyrics: “Never held a gun before but you’re the closest, the closest/Never held a time bomb but you are the closest, the closest/ Blood on my hands you are the closest thing/Ringing in my ear you are the closest still/Hefty, steel cocked and loaded/Pin out and ready to go.”

After Five Years is available at Sugar Hiccup’s live gigs, for performance schedules and further details, visit For bookings, call 0927-8396474 or 0917-3699989

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