AUDIO JUNKIE: Ace among spades

Published September 1, 2018, 3:51 AM

by Hannah Torregoza 

Making his debut as solo act is Unique Salonga who just released the full-length album “Grandma.” We’ve had the opportunity to see this 18-year-old singer-songwriter a couple of times in the past few weeks in the course of promoting his album and we’ve learned a few things about him.

Unique Salonga (Photo courtesy of O/C Records) /
Unique Salonga (Photo courtesy of O/C Records)

First, he’d like to be known henceforth as just UNIQUE (all caps please). Second, he’d rather not talk about his former band, which we’re pretty sure if you’re an avid music listener, you already know about anyway (clue, it has something to do with playing cards). Three, he doesn’t talk much. Ask him about anything and all you get are clipped responses. Example, why did you call your album “Grandma”? “Hmm, I just thought of it.” What’s the reason you wrote the song so and so? “Not much, I just did it.” Or something to that effect. But ask him if he can sing something off his record and he’ll readily oblige. Point is, he’d rather let his songs do the talking.

Starting off with “M,” an interesting snippet that has him crooning “money in the bank” repetitively, before it segues into “Cha-Ching.” A trippy, funky tune that reminds somewhat of Pink Floyd’s “Money” (at least in theme). It’s a fine start as records go, built for grooving rather than a showcase for lyrics, at least at this point in the proceeding.

When he gets going though, he waxes poetic. “Ozone (Itulak Ang Pinto)” is an imagined story of youthful attraction in the dancefloor set amidst the terrifying backdrop of a burning disco. The upbeat, head bobbing mood belie the chilling (and quite real) theme underneath, yet somehow so alluringly hypnotic.

‘GRANDMA’s’ official album art (
‘GRANDMA’s’ official album art

Stylistically, UNIQUE is into psychedelic pop. It’s evident on the jangly, ’60s-summer-of-love inspired pop of “Jules.” Ditto the tinkling pianos and harmonies that adorn “I’ll Break Your Little Heart,” and sparse, raw “My Old Friend” that hint at the singer’s Beatles influence. Rooted in the old but entirely new is how we’ll describe it. He’s also into painting with sound, as interlude track “Paalala” works its way into atmospheric “Goodnight Prayer.” Very mid-’70s “Maskara”-era Juan Dela Cruz.

Then UNIQUE jumps into the present with the modern rock-hued “We Know” and tuneful synth pop tinged “Sino.” If you liked “Mundo,” then you should listen to the latter. Besides the songs, what captured our attention the most is UNIQUE’s vocals. He’s got great tone and his precise falsettos rise reverberating on tracks like “Midnight Sky” makes songs like the hauntingly beautiful “Apoy Ng Kandila” that much better.

With an upcoming solo concert at the Kia Theatre, and an album that’s got a lot of people nodding in approval, the future looks bright for UNIQUE. You could say that he’s got this one aced.

“Grandma” is produced by Kean Cipriano and UNIQUE for new label O/C Records.