If there was ever a contender for most unique album title, Ira Lawrence’s MAPAGKAWANGGAWA could be it.
The title refers to a street in Quezon City, The Philippines, a country where Lawrence, a playwright and musician, traveled to right before the creation of this album. Upon his return to the states, Lawrence channeled his feelings and thoughts into MAPAGKAWANGGAWA. The album features only Lawrence’s voice, and a supposedly haunted electric mandolin inherited from Lawrence’s grandmother Sylvia.
There’s a lot to be proud of on this album: the rhythm, mixing, and the many, impressive sounds Lawrence is able to create using just one instrument are all reason for exuberant celebration. That experimentation is a force to be reckoned with. Individual songs have incredible moments: “All My Fake Friends” should itself in a film trailer of some sort something that could capture the creative nature of a city. The echoes embedded in “Inconsistency” nearly jump out of your headphones (in a good way). “Leave it In The Philippines” boasts an impressive, layered, sound developed by Sylvia’s instrument, and a rhythmic strumming pattern keeps the energy up in the track. I literally leaned backwards in confusion and bewilderment for “Scot in Spacehotels,” wondering if I had actually heard a mandolin or an electric guitar. The array of sounds and skills is marvelous.
But while having no supporting instruments was the purpose, MAPAGKAWANGGAWA feels like a template; a basic structure for full fledged songs. While it was not the intent of the album, so many songs have perfect natural entires for instruments that you feel like you’re waiting for them to start. Take for instance 0:41 on Perpetual Bachelor Party. The brief paused creates a great entry points. Otherwise the track can indeed feel perpetual.
The album is described as having ghostly melodies. But the true ghosts seem to be the rest of the instruments. Without those supports, it’s a unique offering that stays one dimensional.