December 7, 2013
“You’ve gotta listen to this intro!” Clementine typed his message to me excitedly. I could tell he was on his fourth cup of coffee and it was not yet 10 a.m. in Manila. “Kakoy is crazy!”
Together, yet more than seven thousand miles apart, we clicked ‘play’ almost simultaneously and our ears filled with an incredible futuristic unravelling razor blade sound – like a speeding bullet passing by: guitarist Kakoy Legaspi detuning a string while running his pick along it, captured for eternity.
Then an aggressive roaming bass line pounded after the guitar noise, the imaginations of Vengee Gatmaitan, one of Clem’s earliest collaborators from his youth growing up in Bulacan.
An unusual drumming pattern kicked in, courtesy of Jojo Gatmaitan, another highschool bandmate-turned professional, bringing the three wild things together in a mad waltz rhythm. As the dust settled, a solid acoustic guitar arose, backing Clementine’s trademark gentle tones “I can’t find the right notes for you/ to curl my back with/ Crawl into amorphous space and back.”
And I was drawn into a memory from a year ago…Clem and I exploring the strange rock formations and caves on a hiking trail at Joshua Tree National Park in California. My fearless friend squeezing himself into every little cave he could find, scrambling up and down beckoning slopes that begged to be climbed.
The pounding rhythms returned, building under the intensifying voice now demanding to be heard: “ ‘Cause there are no wrong turnings / Being betrothed to the unknown.”
Last year as we wandered in the Mojave desert, Clem was facing a big unknown future. The Camerawalls, his band at the time, had run its course. A professional recording artist for nearly a decade, Clementine needed to reinvent himself. Orange and Lemons had been wildly successful but other people held the puppet strings. The Camerawalls allowed the artist known as Clementine to have more artistic control. But it was as if he was still holding back, hiding behind the guise of a band, not yet willing to step into the spotlight as a solo artist and be recognized for his award-winning work as himself.
“I see a vision of stellar proportions / A revolution of stars and constellations.” A Paul McCartney-esque keyboard riff (a la Wings) chorded crisply from the fingertips of Wowee Posadas. “Wandering around with a rucksack / Climbing steep mountains to pray / How I smile as I follow a trail.”
I smiled at this. I had wanted to climb something so badly at Joshua Tree but we didn’t have a lot of time. In a guidebook I found a 6,000 foot bump of a mountain approached by the Lost Horse Mine trail. It was the first mountain Clem had ever climbed, and it was definitely not the last. It wasn’t much, but the view was incredible: barren, empty, Mojave. At the summit, Clem wrote on a small rock his new mantra: “Expand your horizons.” I took a photo of him, arms outspread, embracing the world. Later, he made arrangements with a friend to climb Angel’s Landing in Utah’s Zion National Park. He’d got himself a proper backpack this time and was excited to break it in on this incredible, exposed ridge. I was so pleased: caught by this new bug, he was now unstoppable.
“When the ascent lights up a soul / There is no remaining in place.” A still, quiet voice, rose steadily from the empty desert left by muted instruments, but for a lone cello, Ascending and overtaking the voice to burst into the guitar solo, whipping up the drum and bass again.
“Give up these things that weigh me down, I fly.”
Fly is exactly what Clementine has been doing since his return from the United States last January. He has emerged from his cocoon where he took the opportunity to do some serious soul-searching and realized that now is the time to step into that spotlight by himself. He has worked hard for many years, honing his craft as a songwriter and musician, and none could be more deserving of that recognition. He knows instinctively that, like the existence of a Dragonfly, life is short and therefore one must live in the moment and live life to its fullest. Now is the moment of his maturation as a songwriter. There is no Remaining in Place is only the beginning of Clementine’s next phase of life.
The Dragonfly Collector has arrived. Let the next adventure begin.
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