Kala- Manila High [Album Review]

Kala was a funk band that formed back in 2004 and left us an OPM gem: Manila High. They are credited for resurging the Manila Sound and were closely compared to Hotdog. They also spawned a short-lived comic series called Pulis Pangkalawakan: Kala that was featured in Groundbreaker’s monthly Mangaholix.

The band went on hiatus back in 2008 and never came back; for me, at least. Now, Kala is a pop-funk/jazz quartet that has lost all traces of its previous life. One thing I don’t understand is why they’ve decided to use the same name when they could’ve created a whole new identity to accompany their new sound.

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Manila High is a well-rounded album in that all tracks on the record doesn’t stray too much from Kala’s signature funk and flow without being too monotonous. The attention to detail put into arranging the tracks of the album is spot on. It contains 10 original songs, 2 bonus tracks, and a hidden track.

Pulis Pangkalawakan

Here, we get a taste of that delicious Kala sound. Groovy bass lines, psychedelic synth, fluid drum lines, and soulful vocals is what this album is all about, and no track introduces it better than this one.

Parapap

This track ups the funk factor and swells the mood for the following songs in the album. The guitar riffs always get me dancing on my seat and listening to that funky breakdown always feels like the first time.

Jeepney

Kala’s hit single, this track sounds hella pinoy. Lyrically, it illustrates the modern Filipino flirting, or courtship, if you will. It plays on romanticism while putting light to the jeepney culture. I also appreciate its use of the words ‘mawalang galang na’ mostly because you don’t hear it very often anymore. I swear, the guitar licks and bass lines in this song are effective aphrodisiac.

Sync of 8

A simple number at a glance but it surprises you with amazing transitional refrains. It also boasts notable guitar and percussion technicality.

Salamin

The track starts with an eerie piano intro that sounds like something you’d hear in Final Fantasy then just jumps into funk riffs which is kind of distracting. The piano melodies at the verses and the classic-rock inspired solo were nice touches. However, I think the tempo changes had no other purpose more than a showcase of musical prowess; It was good, but it was adding to an already full glass.

Southside

The multi-layered Bossa Nova base on this song is very refreshing. Every time the vocals would come in shivers would go down my spine. This is one of the more poetic tracks in the album.

Piso Pisong Paraiso

This is one of the heavier and catchier trachs in the album. The well-thought-of lyrics on this number create amazing imagery.

Manila High

Here, we get another good dose of that Kala sound: grounded drums, chill bells, funky licks, power soul vocals, and enchanting bass lines. The lyrics on this track never get old. It sings of struggling with the mundane everyday.

Bakbakan Na

Bakbakan na is straight up hard rock sound infused with heavy synth with a light sprinkling of funk rock in the verses.

Tubero

A fun number that may seem simple at first but is actually layered. I enjoyed listening to the story the song was telling.

Weather Forecast

Weather Forecast features the sexy vocals of Jana Abrera over the chill funk stylings of Kala.

Ang Pag-Ibig Parang Paninigarilyo (Secret Track)

Five minutes into Weather Forecast is a secret track. I am unsure if this is the actual title of the track or if it even has one. The track plays a monologue likening love to smoking cigarettes over a fast-paced jumpy funk track in the style of spoken word poetry. Kaya ako naninigarilyo, kaya ako umi-ibig dahil masarap kahit masama, dahil masarap kahit nakamamatay.

Jeepney (Nude Mix)

This is the same song as the original only with beach drums layered over the track. It’s not much of an improvement more than it is a distraction. The additional percussion overpower the vocals at times, but it is worth a listen nonetheless.

Manila High is an underrated classic that saves itself from unworthy ears who are willing to seek out its amazing sound. It’s a definite must-experience album. If you come across a physical copy, don’t think twice about picking it up; and if you happen to come across two, please feel free to send one my way.

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