New Audio: Toronto’s Pantayo Releases a Cinematic and Modern Take on an Ancient Folk Sound

Pantayo is a rising, Toronto-based Filipino-Canadian quintet that aims to explore and expand upon what’s possible for contemporary kulintang music, a traditional and ancient folk music, centered around arrangements of percussive instruments, including gong, sarunay, gandingan, bendir, dabak and others by blending the atonal sounds of the instruments with electronic production in a way that nods at punk and R&B.

The Filipino-Canadian quintet’s self-titled, full-length debut is slated for a May 8, 2020 release through Telephone Explosion Records was produced by Yamantaka//Sonic Titan‘s Alaska B. Written and recorded between 2016-2019, the material is centered around discussions diasporic Filipino and queer identity. Each of the act’s five members have different experiences of settling in Canada — and naturally, that has filtered into their songwriting and art. “One way that we can make this world feel like home for folks like us is to mix the kulintang music that we learned with different sounds and song structures that feel familiar to us,” Pantayo’s co-founder Kat Estacio says in press notes.

The album’s material is a sort of audio diary, revealing how the act has grown together as songwriters and performers during the period of time it was written. Much of their self-titled album can trace its origins to when the members began workshopping and performing traditional kulintang pieces while adapting kick drums and synths to the modal tuning of the gongs — and as a result, allowing the band to incorporate modern sounds and techniques. “If you listen to the recordings of our rehearsals and songwriting sessions, you can hear us deconstructing the kulintang parts section-by-section and practicing our songs in different styles,”the band’s Eirene Cloma (keys, vocals) explains. 

The self-titled album’s latest single is the atmospheric and cinematic “V V V (They Lie).” Centered around syrupy slow and droning synths, complex polyrhythm and plaintive vocals and harmonizing, the track — to my ears — reminds me quite a bit of early 80s Peter Gabriel and fellow Canadian electronic act Doomsquad while being an inventive way to bring the ancient into a modern day context.

Interestingly, the track was written and put together one the course of a single day with the group finding inspiration, to an extent, in bubble tea. “The composition of the song was as a lot like a cup of bubble tea,” says the band. “We added 2 cups of blended percussion as the base, then some analog synth tapioca pearls to keep the texture interesting and fun, and finally topped it off with a few tablespoons of fresh tropical vocal fruits for some added sweetness.”