Zilch, Pupil’s most sophisticated release to date
(The Philippine Star) - March 29, 2015 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines - When Ely Buendia sings “The world is a place/behind this firewall” on Zilch’s scorching opener Firewall, it is both an invitation and a taunt: A wink-nudge suggestion that there is a plane beyond the rabbit-hole — that the practice of imagining is a reward in itself, perhaps the best reward of all — but also a show of sneer-filled discontent. In this day and age, when unthinkable things start coming to life, when fiction starts ringing like the truth, it is odd of anyone to not want to rearrange the furniture in their minds even for a bit. And Zilch, Pupil’s fourth full-length and its first with MCA Music, Inc., is charitable in imaginings both musical and lyrical.

Finished during a collaborative sabbatical of sorts — Ely doing shows with The Oktaves, as well as booking the occasional solo revue home and elsewhere; drummer Wendell Garcia doing session work with a host of acts, even reuniting for a few gigs with Barbie’s Cradle; and, perhaps most publicly, bassist Dok Sergio and new guitarist Jerome Velasco doing a string of successful shows with the momentarily-reformed Teeth — the new record brings with it a fresh perspective on Pupil music making.

One thing is apparent though, the quartet has long found its musical thesis and no uncertain number of dalliances will make them stray from their project: In-your-face guitar rock executed in the most rudimentary manner, and this much is evident in first two singles Out of Control and Why. “I’ve always preferred a stripped-down sound, live and on record, and this was the objective from the moment I started writing new songs for Zilch,” Ely shares.

Also key to the revamped operation is the addition of Jerome, whose genius covers an expansive terrain — from shoegaze to indie pop to sludge rock — and who is, moreover, a longtime collaborator of Ely. He was in post-Eraserheads, The Mongols and a constant partner-in-crime in the studio. “We’re both excited to be making music again essentially. The only thing different is I have a lot of catching up to do,” Jerome airs self-effacingly, alluding to the band’s back catalogue. “(Jerome) and I just work well together. We complement each other. There are no egos, no need to say ‘Excuse me, I’m about to step on your toes.’ I totally trust his instincts. He has impeccable taste,” Ely says.

The erstwhile Teeth guitarist’s stamp is unmistakable but never overbearing throughout the record, but is most especially marked in melodic cuts like Resonate and Cheap Thrill, as well as left-field dissonant rockers Tachyon and MNL.

What Pupil has in its hands in Zilch, ultimately, is a more refined rethinking of their sound. “The guitars growl, the drums are in your face, no synth pads, very little delay. It is an album played on the gut level. Yet it is, I think, our most sophisticated release to date,” Ely offers. Jerome chimes in, “Personally, I find that it’s inevitable that the band shall release a definitive rock record. I think this was a great time to do it.” Throughout the process, the band was both instinctive and resolute in reconciling the sound in their heads with the sound that eventually ends up on disc. Wendell’s drum parts, for one, were redone almost entirely in a rented photography studio in an attempt to capture the much-revered John Bonham (skinsman for Led Zeppelin) sound. The band DIY’d the whole thing, installing their own personal mattresses for soundproofing, with Dok manning the controls.

Zilch is now out in CDs at Astroplus and Odyssey outlets under MCA Music, Inc. It is also available through digital download via spinnr.ph and iTunes and streaming via spinnr.ph, Spotify and Deezer.

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