Limiters of the Infinity Pool (review)

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Pupil
Limiters of the Infinity Pool (2011)
Sony Music
6.5/10

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When Pupil came to mind, I didn’t envision a band with mass appeal. I’ve heard their works and based on their sound, their market has been somewhat of a niche. They don’t seem to give much of a care about being liked, anyway. The value I attach to these guys is in the sophistication of their music, whose relevance to local rock is priceless. Emerging with Beautiful Machines in 2005 as post-punk revival overtook emo (Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand and Editors had been dominating the airwaves elsewhere in the world), Pupil were a fresh injection into the local scene, with the likes of Pedicab and (the new-sounding) Sandwich. Fast-forward to 2011 and we have Limiters of the Infinity Pool.

If Wildlife was an assertion and mastery of their Machines sound, Limiters treads new territory in confident strides. Let Her Rip opens the album with a lazy swagger. The track is introduced by a finger-picked guitar that alludes to This Will Destroy You (listen to The World is Our). Traces of grunge arise as Wendell authoritatively hammers out the beat underneath the sustained fuzz and wailing bends. By 3:08 until the track ends, a synthesizer thickens the soundscape. I just didn’t like how the pad was integrated into the mix, as it sounds dull and sandwiched (synths that aren’t that well-mixed are a pet peeve of mine and this won’t do). Distortion is a commentary on the experience of societal decay. Buendia sings “filthy swine everywhere/no they don’t really care/television isn’t real/telling you how to feel.” It’s a less meticulous Disconnection Notice sonically and more verbose, lyrically. TNT (short for Tago Nang Tago) is the band’s first single and this motion says a lot. The melancholy veers from the Interpol-esque aggression of Monobloc in Wildlife and the playfulness of Wala Ka Na in Beautiful Machines. “Tago nang tago/ako’y lumalabo” is sung awash in phasers above droning guitars on a recurrent chord as the track draws to a close. Taking on hiding and fading as themes, Pupil melts the ice instead of breaking it. 20/20 is one of the record’s gems, boasting of guest musicians Francis “Brew” Reyes on guitar and ex-Electrico Amanda Ling on keyboards. I admire the song for its calculated craftsmanship and overall mixing (sans the case for the synthesizers, again). The density of the arrangement falls at a minimum especially at the verses, leaving ample space for vocals. Instrumentation finally heads to the fore at 4:28 as fiery guitars shoot out and catapult the song into a stratospheric audacity. Pampalakas gets you afloat as lethargic vocals lilt through a dream pop-psychedelic atmosphere. Here, Sergio once again explores the case of a troubled psychology. Remember Dulo ng Dila? Afterwards comes Yuzon’s One, Two, a rugged reproach of a hard life. PA-shot vocals and gritty riffs drag you through the pavements of a bitter city. Morning Gift was written by Wendell for his son–and I feel I just have to mention that.

The record didn’t cut it for me upon my first listen, I admit. I had to pay special attention just to warm up to it–which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I realized that in its totality, the album is coherent, thematically and musically. Wildlife still wins me over as regards production, though. I think crisp and clean best suit the Pupil sound. In the end, I commend the band for coming up with a more accessible yet still sophisticated body of work. Sony claims it’s out to challenge the state of local music and frankly, I disagree. Limiters is no masterpiece and it’s anything but groundbreaking. This time around, Pupil hands us something that’s easy to love and return to. It’s more along the lines of inspiring than challenging–which is fine, in my opinion.

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