AUDIO JUNKIE: Ben & Ben, on top of their game

After an instrumental prelude in the title track, the up-tempo MOR pop sounding track “Kasayaw” officially opens up Ben & Ben’s second full length album.

It starts out with a 70’s yacht rock vibe recalling Todd Rundgren’s “Can We Still Be Friends.” But before it gets too close, it morphs into a dance-centric number that is also funky and rockin’.

As if the 9-piece strong  band, initially built to be an neo-folk alternative pop band, intentionally doesn't want listeners to have them pegged to any one music style.

Well consider that checked, because all throughout “Pebble House Vol. 1: Kuwaderno,” Ben & Ben tries out a gamut of pop styles, and the impressive thing about it? They make everything work.

In “Swimming Pool” Ben & Ben gallops like an energetic alt-pop band with an ear-tweaking number that also features Chito Miranda. Then on a dime, shifts with a beautiful mid-tempo ballad and ode in “Elyu.” The song sounds familiar, but rather than dig and figure out what it reminds us of, we’d rather surrender to the lovely melodies of it all. And speaking of gorgeous, “Pasalubong” is proof that Paolo Guico and Moira Dela Torre should be singing together and writing songs more often.

An obvious theme on Ben & Ben’s new album are the collaborations. And there is a lot going around. There’s the previously mentioned Miranda and Dela Torre collabs. Then there’s the world-music sounding (read ethnic) “Sabel” that features KZ Tandingan which is an easy favorite. Then there’s the dramatic and almost theatric rock of “Lunod” that features Zild and Juan Karlos Labajo. Then there’s moody but uplifting “Sugat” with alt-rock band Munimuni. And epic-sounding “Kapangyarihan” brings a surprise with it as it features a gritty rap break and a short hook middle eight by SB19.

According to Ben & Ben, they have “always wanted to collaborate with” the aforementioned artists, but have bee “too shy” to ask. But as they worked on the songs for their new album, the band—Paolo and Miguel Guico, lead guitarist Poch Barrett0, drummer Jam Villanueva,bassist Agnes Reoma, percussionists Andrew de Pano and vocalist Toni Muñoz, Pat lasaten on keyobards and violinist Keifer Cabugao—grew in confidence as their songs took shape, and hoped that “these collaborators would believe in (their) music enough to work with (them).” Safe to say that all of them said yes and went along for the ride.

Album highlights includes the world and Island-music glimmer of “Upuan” and bluesy and showtunes tinged piano-decked goodness of “Ilang Tulog Na Lang” that features B&B’s very own Toni Muñoz on vocals (she also sings on “Sugat”).  And quite apropos, gentle and folky “Kayumanggi” is the curtain closer for Ben & Ben’s game-changer-of-a-second-album.

Producing the album is Ben & Ben with Jean Paul Verona and Sam Marquez (of One Click Straight). Grammy winning engineer Leon Zervos mastered the album.  

“Pebble House Vol 1: Kuwaderno” is released through the Sony Music Philippines label.