Ben&Ben's sophomore album is a record of the youth's sentiments amid the pandemic

A tour of the critically acclaimed folk-pop band’s Pebble House, Vol. 1: Kuwaderno

MUSICIANS AND CHRONICLERS Clockwise from left: Ben&Ben members Agnes, Jam, the Benjamin brothers, Andrew, Toni, Kiefer, and Poch

August ended with a bang as Ben&Ben launched their latest album Pebble House, Vol. 1: Kuwaderno via Sony Music. The much-anticipated second album exceeds all expectations and shows the improvement and maturity of the nine-piece outfit.

Formed in 2016, Ben&Ben has come a long way. The critically acclaimed folk-pop band’s growth manifests in the latest album with a bolder approach in musicality that ventures into different genres while still maintaining their distinctive and evocative sound the Liwanags, or their fan base, have come to love.

“The biggest difference is the weight of the themes that we chose to tackle here and the depth by which we tackle said themes,” explains Andrew de Pano, the band’s percussionist. “When listeners get to hear all of these songs, they feel like these songs accompany them whatever they’re going through.”

Beyond their usual romantic songs, Ben&Ben tackles relevant, timely issues, from anxiety to politics, for the new album. It starts with a few songs with a summer vibe, transitions into somber tunes, shifts to strong and provocative songs, and, toward the end, offers nationalistic-themed ballads.

The 13-track album mirrors the young musicians’ stories, experiences, and realizations, like a journal, hence “Kuwaderno.” “If you listen to the songs, they’re like a collective journal, so to speak, of our thoughts, feelings, and memories during these months,” says Miguel Guico, one of the leads of the group. “We felt it would be important for our second album to be a work that brings us closer to our listeners and introduces them more to the wide spectrum of what we are capable of and of who we are as people.”

HOME, SWEET HOME Pebble House, Vol. 1 Kuwaderno album art

Another impressive feature of the album is the number of collaborative pieces in it, and not just with regular artists but with some of the best musicians in the Philippines to date. These collaborations work well, bending the familiar sound of Ben&Ben into fresh styles that give a pervading and satisfying listening experience.

The entire album is also in Filipino, as the band’s statement to support our own culture and language.

Involved in the co-production, mixing, and co-engineering of Pebble House, Vol. 1: Kuwaderno were Jean Paul Verona and Sam Marquez (One Click Straight). Grammy Award-winning mastering engineer Leon Zervos, on the other hand, led the overall mastering of the tracks.

‘The biggest difference is the weight of the themes that we chose to tackle here and the depth by which we tackle said themes.’

In July 2020, Ben&Ben, which consists of twins Paolo and Miguel Benjamin Guico, Poch Barretto, Jam Villanueva, Agnes Reoma, Pat Lasaten, Andrew de Pano, Toni Muñoz, and Keifer Cabugao, decided to live together under one roof in their own creative bubble to keep the music going. The album name is inspired by the pebbles of the street where Ben&Ben currently resides. In a deeper sense, Pebble House is a representation of how little things accumulate into something great. “And these little things are very much like a pebble. We’re building a house one pebble at a time,” says Miguel.

Here are the titles, lyrics that best symbolize them, as well as the vibe and messages of each song in the album.

“Kuwaderno” – No Lyrics. Ethereal introduction to the album.

“Kasayaw” – “Pag-aalangan na lang ba ang kakapitan? Nag-iisa lang ba ‘ko? Tanging kasayaw ang aking anino.” Touches on the question of whether two people are in the same groove. The tragic lyrics are ironically accompanied by a subtle groovy beat.

“Swimming Pool” feat. Chito Miranda – “Swimming pool ang ating buhay, ‘pag naulan ng mga problema, mababasa pa ba, eh, basa na nga.” Let-go-of-your-inhibitions kind of summer anthem.

“Elyu” – “Pakiusap lang, lumayas ka sa ‘king isipan, nang umahon na ang puso sa dalampasigan.” Where do broken hearts go? Cry your eyes out in “Elyu.”

“Pasalubong” feat. Moira Dela Torre – “Pasalubong naman sa ‘king nararamdaman. ‘Pag umamin sa ‘yo, sana ay mapagbigyan.” Get ready for more tears. Heartwrenching lyrics, melody, and vocals.

“Magpahinga” – “Magpahinga muna, lalabanan din mga dambuhalang ‘di maubos na problema. Malapit na, pero ‘di rin kasalanang magpahinga.” Don’t beat yourself up too much. It’s okay to let loose and rest.

“Lunod” feat. Zild and Juan Karlos – “Nalulunod sa pangangamba, puno na ang baga, pasuko ka na. Sa’n ka kakapit kung malalim na? Ang sabi ay ‘arte lang yan.’” One of the most powerful tracks in the album. Talks about the pressures and storms of life, and to brave them as best we can. May also allude to depression, sometimes dismissed as self-indulgence or a tantrum.

“Sabel” feat. KZ Tandingan – “Sabel ‘di ka nila pag-aari, nariyan na ang bahaghari.” Discusses the power of women. It’s KZ Tandingan! Of course, it’s good. To highlight KZ’s voice and the vital message of the song, the melody consists only of chanting and clapping.

“Kapangyarihan” feat. SB19 – “Akala 'nyo ba, ang kapangyarihan ay nasa inyo? Sino ba kayo?” A straightforward political song that calls out the abuse of corrupt government officials. It’s SB19, so of course it’s also good.

“Sugat” feat. Muni-muni – “Kung ayaw mong balikan ang iyong mga nakaraan paano ka lalayo? Pa’no ka tutungo sa paglaya ng ‘yong puso?” The perfect palate cleanser for “Kapangyarihan.” This song on healing brings out the best in Muni-muni’s stellar vocals as well as Adj Jiao and John Owen Castro.

“Upuan” – “Upuang magkatabi mayro’n bang kahulugan? Kaibigan o pag-ibig, ano ba’ng nararamdaman?” Encapsulates the feeling of sitting next to the person you like. After listening to the diverse tracks, it’s refreshing to hear Ben&Ben’s signature sound with this song.

“Ilang Tulog Nalang” – “Matatapos din ang pangungulila kong ito, ilang tulog na lamang ang bibilangin ko.” Long-distance relationship? This lullaby-like serenade might resonate with you. More of the band’s recognizable sound.

“Kayumanggi” – “Pagkapanganak hanggang sa paghimlay, yakapin ang kulay.” A kundiman, a love song to our national identity. The right end to an album dedicated to the Filipino.

Pebble House, Vol. 1: Kuwaderno is available on all major streaming platforms worldwide, including Spotify.