By Jackie Dosmanos
BPM (aka Beat Per Machine) are four young men who converge most of the time in cyberspace to produce music that ultimately makes its presence first in online music platforms and in blogs. They announce their physical selves to play gigs in Manila and recently, to meet the press and promote their debut EP titled Better Than Machine.
In flesh and blood, BPM is composed of vocalist Owen Formento on main synths and vocals, Layne Harrison on lead guitars, Mark Manago on drums and percussions and Marion Claudio on synths. Each band member is skilled in using samplers to produce original creations collectively christened Filectronica to mean electronica played by Filipinos.
Despite the corny branding of their music, BPM is nothing clichéd nor half-assed. Pat Andaya of indie stalwarts Turbo Goth describes the band’s music to be a wonderful fusion of electronic, new wave and ambient genres. He says, “Their album illustrates that OPM is a progression, and BPM are the ones willing to take the progressive act of mixing the old classics with the new ones.”
The band must be at the vanguard of something ready to take OPM to the next level. Ditto Music, the new home of Sandwich, Typecast and Silent Sanctuary, signed BPM to its music platform for five years. They’ve been featured in Spotify’s New Music Friday to give wider exposure to their alternative take on electronica. The press is warming up to their music which has been favorably compared to a male version of UDD.
In his column Touchbass, music reviewer and aspiring musician Yugel Losorata wrote, “BPM has taken the brave route of sounding different and not-so mainstream. They’re committed to delivering electronica – a genre encompassing and embracing electronic-based styles.”
Vocalist Owen Formento thinks their appeal comes from their unconventional songwriting process. He explains, “We actually use simple chords then we add ambient sounds to draw emotional response. We like music that suggests its own drama and at the same time, feels traditional and inspirational.
“Our songs also have a narrative,” he continues. “Pwede siyang soundtrack to films.”
Carrier single “Isang Umaga” is a case in point.” It makes one look forward, following the beat,” describes guitarist Layne Harrison. “It will make you nod your head as the track unveils a story about longing for home.”
It’s the most ear-friendly song on an album that also contains the acid techno of “Replica” and the evocative atmospherics of “Lazy Beat.” That’s just critic-speak to situate the music in some handy context because at the end of EP “Better Than Machine”, each track has its moments of digital esoterica as well as stretches of human-sculpted melodic invention.
BPM’s musical collaboration reflects how the band came into being. Owen Formento put together the band starting with Mark (of Alasmedya & CHKNFX outfits) whom he met at an OPM Lives gig by SonicLogo.tv in Saguijo. Fil-Am transplant and former US DJ Marion is a friend of Mark from Antipolo. At a gig in BF Homes, the fledgling trio of Owen, Mark and Marion ﬁnally met Layne (The Lane Band & Massacre Party) to complete the line-up of Beat Per Machine.
Synth man Marion looks at it as an adventure in music. He says, “I’ve been making instrumental beats when I met Mark. He asked me to jam with him. Mark then introduced me to Owen and since then, we’ve been jamming.”
To produce new music, they’ve taken the jamming to cyberspace which brings the band together regularly in real time, overcoming the distance that separates them in the real world. Email has essentially become their default medium to exchange ideas.
Owen would send samples to his band mates online. Drummer Mark would treat them as homework.
“I’d place them in my music software.” Mark relates. “I’d add elements to the samples and send the improved files back to the others. They like my inputs and at the same put in their own ideas into draft track.”
The band then develops a structure for the track, Owen does the vocals and a new song rises out of their cooperation in digital space.
BPM may be breaking down genres and boundaries but their music that’s better than machine is one solid thumbs-up to the future of OPM.