Burning Momentum

As far as music scene watchers go, the biggest hump recording talents need to get over with quick is the dreaded sophomore jinx. In this day and age where performers are discovered everywhere û from your local shows to the hundreds of music websites scattered across the net û what really sets a singer or a band apart from any other act is momentum.

It was already a little past 3 in the morning. Inside the dimly-lit floorspace that is Wombworks Studio, members of Sponge Cola have called specific spots home for the past 2 months. It was the last day of recording, and they have managed to squeeze some precious shut-eye as their producers, Pat Tirano and Yan Yuzon, run the new album back and forth to themselves, before letting the band have a go at it. After the last track, Keep the Fire Burning ends, the producers nod at each other, and wake the boys up.

2 weeks later, the CD is pressed, shipped, and made available in record bars nationwide. The first track, Puso, has skyrocketed through charts and is still burning. Momentum? Definitely.

Sponge Cola have already proven this 2 years ago. Transit was their follow up to 2004Æs Palabas, and formally initiated the bandÆs transition from being underground favorites to one of the front-runners in the OPM scene today. The albumÆs opening salvo, Bitiw, quickly gained massive airplay in radio and music channels, even hitting the top spot in charts everywhere. The tune gained even more widespread attention when it was used as the theme song for a local TV series. The same success was heard on Tuliro, and again with succeeding singles Movie and Pasubali. With Transit, Sponge Cola reached heights the band has never seen or experienced, culminating in a concert in Dubai in 2007, their first ever outside Philippine shores. Whatever momentum they had going from Palabas, the boys still certainly had upon TransitÆs release.

And now, it seems they're at it again with this new, self-titled record. And the band couldn't be more grateful.

ôThis album was by far the most difficult that we had to do in terms of fatigue, physical stress, and sleep deprivation,ö guitarist Armo shares. Although exhausting, he was quick to stress that it was also ôthe most convenient, comfortable, and easiest to do because we were always by each other inspired to make something good out of itö. To illustrate, the new album boasts of 14 tracks, matching their 2004 debut Palabas, the most they have ever done for a single recording. It may have taken a lot from the band, and they responded by giving exactly what the album demanded from them, and much more. As if to paint this record's feel, Yael sings of perseverance and hope despite the seemingly impossible in Puso, the first song to be written and completed. Consequential triumph all the more sweeter.

With Puso somehow dictating how the entire album would eventually grow, Sponge Cola took liberties into digging deep within themselves to explore the limits of their music. Step Back is the group's first time dealing with varying time signatures, with verses opening on a 10/4 meter, before smoothly sliding to 4/4 chorus. Synths and drumloops can be heard in both All the Time and Meteor Shower, another territory which the band hasn't tread, till now. ôI guess the experimentation came without anyone forcing anything,ö Yael points out. ôWe did, but I wasnÆt aware that I was experimenting, I was just doing my thing. I was really just committed to the idea of coming up with good songs and tried different ways of achieving what I wanted to achieve.ö This, however, doesn't necessarily mean they've completely switched lanes in the direction of their music. The charismatic melodies and superb songwriting fans have grown accustomed to are evident throughout the album's entirety û Puso has already established this, while `Di na Mababawi, Makapiling Ka, and Wala Kang Katulad will reinforce it. Fans of the band since their underground days are also in for a treat, as two cuts from the group's 2002 EP were rerecorded and rearranged û the hard-hitting A Tear and Saturn. As for what other gems the new album has, pick up a copy and be delightfully surprised.

Doubling the band's name for an album title, Sponge Cola explains that they felt no other word could've expressed everything they've accomplished with the production of this record. This was entirely them; who they were then and who they've become now, a reaffirmation of the band and their music. Armo sums it up: ôWe exhausted every other possibility in order to come up with something thatÆs naturally cohesive and straightforward.ö.

Back to that final recording day, after rousing from slumber that until then had become rare, Sponge Cola listens to their material for one last time before it hits shelves. As Keep the Fire Burning puts a definitive dot to all those long nights of production, they too, give each other nods. A new chapter in the Sponge Cola story has unfolded right before them, and the burning momentum that brought them where they are now is slowly gearing up for another massive push forward.

- February 2009