Manila Killa releases her first album of intimate dance music

“Dusk” follows Manila Killa’s hit single, “1993,” which introduced this young EDM producer to the world in 2019. John Liwag

Filipino-American electronic dance music producer Manila Killa (aka Chris Gavino) released his debut album titled “Dusk” (Moving Castle Records) in August.

“Dusk” follows his hit single “1993” which introduced this young EDM producer to the world in 2019.

While “1993” is extremely danceable, “Dusk” is more contemplative and sensual as it was conceived and recorded during the height of the global lockdown due to the COVID-19 virus.

“The album started around lockdown week,” Gavino recounted.

“I had a lot of shows scheduled and they were all cancelled. There was a time when I was alone and thinking about what I could do with all this time. I had time to think about where I was and how I got here. I toured a lot and never had time to think about the direction I wanted to take. So the lockdown gave me a break to think about my roots and my music.

“I made pop dance music with ‘1993’ but now I’ve gone deeper into my self and the new style I’m looking for. So ‘Dusk’ is about contemplation, growing as a person and COVID being a difficult time for me.I was about to find another job and go to Manila, but after a while I figured things out and things fell into place.

The 12-track album (now out on all streaming platforms but soon on vinyl) is like a day in the life except it’s not exactly a concept album.

“Dusk” follows Manila Killa’s hit single, “1993,” which introduced this young EDM producer to the world in 2019. Handout

“Dusk” and its track list are like a soundtrack from sunset (the first half of the album) to when it gets dark and yet the night comes alive (the second half of the album).

Think driving and natural fades and artificial lights come on. Think staring out into the night with a glass in your hand and thinking. Contemplate.

“It’s exactly the vibe I was looking for as it reflected how I felt during the pandemic,” Manila Killa agreed. “It’s dance music that is contemplative and introspective.”

The first single, the title track, was recorded with the vocals of Canadian singer Lights (aka Lights Poxleitner-Bokan).

“Lights is an artist that I personally admire and have listened to for 10 years,” Gavino revealed. “The first gig I went to was Lights and so I wrote that song and I was going back and forth with my manager about who could sing to it. I didn’t think I could get Lights (they went through a friend of a friend to invite her to play on the song).

“I was able to explain the vibe of the album to her and she returned the vocals and went back and forth a bit and then it was done. She really understood what I was looking for.

“’Dusk’ is a song I always imagined to be played on the road out of town and into the desert. I made sure to encapsulate that feeling through my production, and reaching out to Lights to drop the vocals was the missing piece to complete the song.

“This one is special to me because I admired Lights and was listening to it long before I started my music production journey, so it’s like a looping moment to have him on the song. Hopefully that people will feel a kind of fiery emotion listening to it, because that’s what I’ve felt throughout the journey of creating this song over the past year.

Another track which is “Best Part of You” which is the second half of the album. This time, Manila Killa collaborated with Brooklyn singer EVAN GIAA (aka Evan Giarrusso).

“Evan is a super talented artist in the United States,” Chris pointed out. “She’s a classically trained opera singer, but she chose to play pop music. The song is a style that we both haven’t gone into – it has no drums and a groove just focuses on synths and the emotional aspect of it. It’s a very contemplative and intimate song.

There’s a sense of intimacy in my music and that sums up what I was trying to achieve with the music on “Dusk”.

Gavino was 16 when he left his studies at the International School in Manila to return to the United States. He decided to go into music production and his parents asked him not to use his real name.

“I wanted to pay homage to the Philippines in some way so I used the word ‘Manila’. Then a friend of mine suggested using a word that rhymes with ‘Manila’ in which he suggested “killa”.

And the rest is history.

Her debut EP ‘1993’ garnered praise from media heavyweights like Billboard, Forbes and Ones To Watch, adding to a long list of rave reviews from trendsetters like Complex, Paper and NYLON. He was invited to work on official remixes for Chvrches, The Knocks and Tegan and Sara at festivals like Firefly, Electric Zoo, 88rising’s Head in the Clouds.

The main streaming markets for Manila Killa’s music are Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan and Singapore.

“I hope everyone listens to it and it gives them time to reflect and formulate their own thoughts. I’m relieved it’s out. It’s been a tough two years. It feels like a catharsis. I I feel ready to move on.”

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