Unique ‘Pangalan’ Review: Unique Lets us in the Deeper Layers of his Psyche

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Listening to Unique Salonga’s sophomore effort Pangalan has transported me into the deep-seated psychedelic stream of his consciousness–sounds of isolation, clutter, disturbance, struggles. Mysterious as he is, he gives us a chance to see through him in Pangalan. That is if we puzzle out his every stance.

Image c/o OC Records

The 8-track sophomore album won’t be an easy feat for his usual bubblegum pop-loving fans unless they’ve been following Unique’s footsteps in delving into the indie, underground, arthouse, or the new wave. True, indeed; many of his fans have expressed amusement over his new album. They are dreaded by each of the notes sheathed through almost every song in the album.

The album opens up with Korporasyon, corporations–what this society is made of. I am totally stunned by how subversive this track is. It’s a total deviation from his first album and it reminded me of UNKLE, Aphex Twin, or AFX. As deep a person Unique is, one can see that all this clutter is subsumed in his mind.

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Associated with Korporasyon is the next track Dambuhala. As one of the more straightforward songs in the album, it might be a message to his fans and to his detractors.

Lahat ay umaatras
Pagyanig ay lalo pang lumalakas
At wala nang makaliligtas
Sa mga yabag, kayo’y magwawakas
Abot man ang aking kamay
Kailanma’y hindi tayo magkapantay
Kahit na walang humpay
Pang patumbahin ay ‘di mamamatay

Bukod-Tangi, a typical anthem for huge artists like him. The theme of loneliness and isolation pervades in the music industry. Artists like Britney Spears, The Smiths, The Beatles, Fallout Boy each have their own songs about desolation, despite their popularity.

Kahit may paghiyaw sa ‘king pangalan at
Kahit naririnig ang palakpakan ay
Ramdam ko ang pag-iisa
Related: Unique's Bukod-Tangi 
music video is a 360-degree whimsy

Art for Lamang Lupa © OC Records

Lamang Lupa, a personification of something from the underground that’s “in control,” perhaps like an evil deity, destiny, or no one, but himself. Whoever put him through his struggles, he calls out in the song.

Oh, lamang lupa, sa’n mo ba ‘ko dadalhin?
Lumalabo’t umiikot ang aking paningin
Akala ko, patungo na ‘ko sa taas
Ayoko sa ilalim, oh, kay hirap pumiglas!

Delubyo is a montage of sounds that, if you are aware of society as a whole, you would see there is war, a silent war, killings, inequalities. Embedded in the sounds is again, his thoughts on religion and spirituality, whatever they may be. All the sounds encapsulate the horror we live in.

My apologies, but Katulad Mo is somewhat a rip-off from MGMT’s When I Die. And I believe, Unique wouldn’t deny that. Katulad Mo is a song for his enemies once again.

Ikaw ay talunan
Kawawang nilalang
‘Di para sa’yo
Ang katanyagan
Mga katulad mo
Kulang sa pansin
Mga katulad mo
Walang mararating
Naririnig mo ba
Nadarama mo ba

Binabalik ko lang lahat ng sinabi mo

Just like his first album, Grandma, he ends Pangalan slow, as if to wallow in reflection after all the miseries that have come to his consciousness. In Pahinga, he escapes from all the noise.

‘Di tayo para sa lahat
At nalaman ko na
‘Di mo na kailangan pang
Sa alon ay magpadala
Umahon at magpahinga

The last track, Huwag Ka Sanang Magagalit, in my opinion, is an anthem of reclaim. It shows that despite his new influences and the different idiosyncracies around him, he never lost his touch in creating good melodies made for the mainstream. This track would seem like redemption to his fans. It’s great for radio play.

It might also be a song for his fans. He once said in an interview that he is timid and shy, but people make the automatic assumption that he is arrogant. In this song, he apologizes for his “shortcomings.”

Hindi naman sa ‘di pinapansin
Hindi ko lang alam ang gagawin

The album is a challenge to his fandom not because of its reclusive sounds, but because it represents Unique–who he truly is. Elusive, but electric and magnetizing. Pangalan reveals how hard it is to get into his soul and his whole psyche. And every fan could only attempt to do so.

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