William Elvin and the Circus: “Happy Days Ahead: The Home Recordings (2010/2011)” – free-spirited!
The short-lived project, William Elvin and the Circus, and their album “Happy Days Ahead: The Home Recordings (2010/2011)” in particular, is the work of a band perfectly in control of itself. They knew exactly how they wanted their music to sound, that’s why it comes as surprise this project only lasted from 2010 to 2011. Still, beyond that, it’s hard to write about this band. And I guess that’s because there’s no one “angle” to write from. In one corner, they have a master-class lyricist, able to reflect with the pen as jumpily and profoundly as needed. The lyrics always carry an indescribable spontaneous kind of tone which can only really be called free-spirited, but even if this kind of lyric seems simple, no one else could write it, or sing it, in the way William Elvin Manzano (Vocals/Guitar) does. And the music around the lyrics – the album’s other corner- plays to an even any higher ground.
The music on “Happy Days Ahead” molds songs to feel perfectly for an atmosphere that plays on a hundred little details at once. That’s why there are only twelve actual songs on this album, because Manzano and his cohorts – Alden Acosta (Guitars/Drums/Percs), Rigil Borromeo (Guitars), Allen Mamaid (Bass), J Victor Villareal (Keyboards) and Marvin Lorenzo Datar (Drums) “The Circus is in Town” and “Tonight, I Break Some Promises”, are so obsessed with the details and so ready to give them their space.
My sensation is that this band thrived on unconstrained improvisation, which allowed their creativity to flow. Hence their songs feels so comfortable and unforced, from the arrangements to the melodies, each of these songs feel just right the way it is, and even in 2017, many of these songs would give the current wave of indie bands a run for their money. The only real improvement could be made in the production quality which has moved ahead in leaps and bounds today.
I could talk about both the lyrics and music separately, of course, because they’re both such brilliant aspects for one band to have, but what would be the use in that? There’s no moment on this album better than the second track “March of the Groupies” to prove the point that without one the other wouldn’t exist: without the music tracing the words around it, the guitar riffs igniting the vocals, the upbeat energy drenching every moment, there would be nothing that makes the, William Elvin and the Circus as brilliant as they were. You listen to every moment of “Happy Days Ahead”, and every noise, big and small, is where it should be.
On “Curtains Fall”, the noise is big. Plenty of dirty over-driven guitars, some improvised dissonance and vocals that go from melodic to manic. It’s so strange to think of this record as the band’s only album (at least I think it was), because it is the work of a confident band and an articulate lyricist. They seem to know where everything goes, and it doesn’t go much better than on “One Five”. A track that mixes in melody, a hooky guitar riff, clean intimate vocals and some neat harmonies. The raw “Happy Homesick Blues,” is one big, gorgeous crescendo that climaxes with its sunburst guitars, a chest pounding affirmation of everything that was once pure and good about meat and potatoes rock ‘n roll in the sixties-
This is a record that you want to keep throwing adjectives at, from the all-embracing melodic splendor of “See”, to the electronic-infused thump of “Goodnight, Sheena”, the psychedelic haze of “Trialogic”, to the beautiful heartrending piano ballad “Tonight, I Break Some Promises”.
“Happy Days Ahead” is the work of a band making us listen to every piece of them. And I played it loud, so I heard everything. The problem is now that we’ve heard “Happy Days Ahead”, where do we go from here? Or maybe William Elvin Manzano is planning to surprise us with another recording…
MORE ABOUT: William Elvin and the Circus Tour is the creative project of Hong Kong-based Filipino singer-songwriter and performance artist William Elvin Manzano. Having written a number of original theater productions in his hometown of Manila, William Elvin is now offering his personal, introspective work that paints a musical picture of a journey from loneliness and depression to self-discovery.
William Elvin Manzano – Vocals/Guitars
Alden Acosta – Guitars/Drums/Percs
Rigil Borromeo – Guitars
Allen Mamaid – Bass
J Victor Villareal – Keyboards
Marvin Lorenzo Datar – Drums (Tracks 10 and 11)