Requiescat In Pace (Latin for “May he rest in peace”) is my second 2021 release. Check it out if you like synthwave and synthpop with an unmistakable undercurrent of grief and desperation. The EP has 6 instrumental tracks composed on a laptop using only QWERTY keys instead of a full keyboard and my Reason 10 software. The impetus for recording? It was my way of coping with the death of my father, and not being able to see him laid to rest.
The Heartbreaking Story Behind the EP
Our family knew my father was not long for the world. After a long bout of not being able to speak (the return of a singer’s nodule) and a drastic loss of appetite, he was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in December 2020 and passed away on March 21st, 2021.
On March 22nd, the morning I was supposed to fly to Manila to attend the funeral, I found out the Philippine government had enacted a travel ban for all non-Filipino travelers just hours before my flight due to a 2nd wave of COVID-19 spreading throughout the country. Despite having a ticket in hand, I was not allowed to board my flight because I no longer held a Philippine passport.
Of course, I found the right channels (government agencies) and tried to appeal for a travel exemption citing humanitarian reasons. So I waited at home, with bags packed, and ready to leave at a moment’s notice. And I had no other way to cope with the grief than to sit and write music.
Long story short: the travel exemption didn’t come in time. My dad left instructions that the burial not be delayed. So I attended his wake, his funeral mass, and his burial all on a screen using a combination of Zoom and Facebook Messenger. It was just as I’d watched his last moments… on a screen with my family. I eventually processed everything I was experiencing through the music I made — also on a laptop screen.
About The Song Titles on R.I.P
Half of the track titles are based on phrases or quips that my dad would constantly bring up at his staff meetings, or around the dinner table. He would often say: “Assuming can be dooming,” when talking about statistical research or “Beware the arrogance of a little knowledge,” when opining about politicians who like to bandy their power about, or “Nothing is for certain…” when talking about life.
Then there is “Cut the Corny Bits,” which is a phrase my mom used when the funeral coordinator was explaining all the fancy rituals they could do, such as having the family place roses on the casket, or having people say final words. My mom cut her off and said: “Let’s just cut the corny bits out.” LOL. Ladies and gentlemen, my family.
“Read the Circular” refers to the government agency circular explaining the travel ban that was enacted on March 22nd, 2021 and what it meant for travelers. I did eventually get the travel exemption, but by then my dad was 6 feet under and COVID-19 was having a field day in Metro Manila. And everyone, family included, suggested I not push through with traveling.
Finally, “I Told You Smoking Would Kill You” is something I did indeed warn my dad about multiple times. But what can a lifelong smoker do? Shrug and go on until lung cancer eats away half your left lung and leaves a black mass where healthy tissue used to be. I also implored him to stop smoking back when I was in high school, “Or else you may not live to see your grandchildren!” Good news is he did indeed get to meet his grandchildren.
The Album’s Sound
Like the previous 2021 album, this EP combines my love of 1980s synths with driving machine rhythms. This time around though, I purposely limited myself to not using a traditional MIDI keyboard controller, and instead opted to input notes using just my typing keyboard. This forced me to play less notes overall, to edit my notes more, and to use more effects to keep things interesting.
Musically, it still falls well within the genre of synthwave and synthpop, and retains some of the bittersweet nostalgia that the brand of music is known for.
Most of the songs were composed and arranged the week of the funeral and finalized a month later. And listening to it now, it sounds bleak initially as it seeks to express being in stasis, being helpless, being separated from family. But as it ends, the album points toward hope.
Perhaps because in its unique way, music and art are the only channels that can process pure emotion and turn it into something positive for others to enjoy — no matter how dire the source material may be.
Happy listening to all.
Released May 3, 2021
All music production, sequencing, arrangement, and art: Lionel Valdellon.