Originating centuries ago in the southern Philippines, kulintang music is played on a set of brass gongs strung on a cord, sitting on a wooden resonator and hit by wooden mallets. Each gong has its own tuning and timbre, and players usually improvise over set rhythms with additional gongs and drums. The result is both melodic and percussive, with the tones and rhythms creating a hypnotic soundscape that straddles the contemporary and the ancient with admirable ease. The five members of the Toronto group Pantayo take that concept and run with it on their second album, Ang Pagdaloy (“the flow”), fusing the traditional gongs and drums of their Filipinx heritage with the modern pop, electronica, indie rock, R&B, and experimental drone music of their adopted city. And the quintet—Eirene Cloma, Michelle Cruz, Joanna Delos Reyes, Kat Estacio, and Katrina Estacio, along with producer Alaska B and drummer Vania Lee— have created a sound that is dazzlingly diverse, danceable, hummable, atmospheric and uniquely their own.
Three of the eight tracks include vocals; the opener, “One More Latch (Give It to ’Ya),” is a seemingly simple pop/R&B track with a sneakily insistent beat and a melody of gongs that starts in the background and eventually takes over, while “Mali” is an indie-rock love song of sorts, with a catchy chorus and a backdrop of gongs behind the guitar and drums. Others, like “Sapa(n)ahon” and “Dreams,” are intricate instrumentals that balance the gong melodies against drums, while “Masanguanan” features a driving techno beat and bubbling gong patterns. The epic closer, “Bastá,” has massive, looming gong sounds that echo and resonate with clicking percussion and droning synths. It’s vastly different from the other tracks, and yet it seems like a logical conclusion to the marvellously broad scope of Pantayo’s reach.