semilucent is a five-track glimpse into the summer that could have been
88rising’s popularity—both as a record label and as an Asian movement—leaves little room for question. Except, perhaps, the single question that has hung over local 88rising fans’ heads for years: where is the Filipino talent? With no shortage of talent and an abundance of aspiring musicians trying to own their own spaces on the scene, it just didn’t make sense for Sean Miyashiro and the rest of the 88rising team to end up empty-handed.
Spoiler: they didn’t. They just had bigger, better plans.
Teaming up one of the Philippines’ major telecommunications companies, 88rising created PARADISE RISING, a project focused on bringing Filipino talent to the world, “From our hearts to your ears,” they declared at midnight, launching the long-awaited project into the open arms of a music-obsessed audience already itching to hear the tracks live.
semilucent, a five-track mixtape, features the likes of Kiana Valenciano, Jason Dhakal, Fern., Leila Alcasid and Massiah. Similar to the original 88rising roster, no artist was a nobody before jumping on board the project, equipped instead with existing record deals, a thousands-strong following, existing work, or all those things.
Jason Dhakal is one such example. His February release lovesound rode the wave of Valentine’s Day emotion, earning Spotify listens and Instagram shares with rich production and lyrics that communicated I love you’s without ever having to say them. Fast forward to present day, Dhakal’s Endlessly+Tenderly opens the semilucent EP on an atmospheric note. Opening with hazy hums and a slow drum beat, the intro lays a deliberate 30-something-second foundation for his signature drawl to sway on. Sonically, the track resembles those on lovesound. It sounds like a freedive to the bottom of the ocean. The same feeling of sinking, sinking, sinking slowly—only this time with a more climactic ending. It’s almost, I would say, an epilogue of sorts. Is it particularly new? No. But it’s captivating all the same. (Also, casual flex: he was our cover boy a year ago.)
The second track, Clouds, is a collaboration between Leila Alcasid and Moophs. It has all the makings of an easy listen: the pluck-and-strum of an acoustic guitar, the repetitive hook, the sweet, floaty vocals. Clouds takes a brave step beyond Alcasid’s existing discography. It’s another love song, yes, but it’s coupled with a serving of introspection. A stark contrast to her Better Weather EP, Clouds doesn’t anchor itself on the feeling of love, rather the quiet uneasiness that can still persist despite it. And with lyrics like “miss the warmth for a while now, lost in cumbersome somehows,” and “days are passing but too slow,” it’s a glimpse into how everyone has been feeling. Under the weather, but staying afloat somehow.
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After Jason Dhakal and Leila Alcasid set the scene, semilucent breaks away from that rumination and pulls listeners in for a palate cleanse with On God, Massiah’s contribution to the record. Despite building up a discography with his friends at Careless Music Manila since arriving in the city, the track lends a new personality to his body of work. Trap-inspired and built for sonic recall, On God is put simply, a bop.
Track four cuts back to a slower tempo with Fern.’s Kaori. Reminiscent of love songs from the late 1990s, it’s a slow-paced ode to love and longing. It spells nostalgia down to the production and structure. The sober intro. The canned vocals. The dramatic guitar solo leading the song’s dismount. While Kaori is far from our favorite release from Fern., it bears striking similarities to his most streamed song Lie 2 Me, a nice touch for fans who found him through that track.
Safe Place, the last on the album and the first to receive a music video, puts Kiana V’s best weapons into play. Wistful. Yearning. It’s the bittersweet flavor of Circles and the dreaminess of Corners. Sonically, it’s another easy listen, but emotionally… those with lingering what if’s might argue otherwise. The track wraps up the album with a stripped down confession, a shot straight through the heart.
PARADISE RISING’s first EP is, as cheesy as it sounds, a balm for the soul. It’s the eternal summer of the Philippines—the warmth, the sun, the breeze and all the things that once spelled our everyday—bottled into five dreamy tracks. semilucent slice of paradise in a time of unrest, and god knows how long we’ve needed it.
Image c/o Paradise Rising
Art Alexandra Lara