When a teenage Denice Quimbo debuted with the EP ‘Sleep’ in 2017, the indie artist who goes by Ruru was confronting a life shift, having left behind a decade of homeschooling for college. “I can’t see what’s next / I’m a pathetic eclectic,” she’d concede at the time in the EP’s opening lines. Five years later, the 23-year-old has experienced yet another life change: a recent migrant to Canada, she’s released her third project and first full-length, ‘Glorious Miscellanea’.
In the LP, Quimbo swaps the self-effacing lyricism for shrewd existential musings and an aching for things that are long gone or never really arrive. But instead of dressing these vignettes in a soundscape that previously straddled twee, lo-fi, and synth-pop, ‘Miscellanea’ largely luxuriates in bright and fizzy pop funk-jazz. Quimbo sings in earnest, breathy trills and even deadpans in rap and spoken word across the richly textured record. It’s arguably her most gorgeous and enjoyable work.
The musician/producer began writing the new songs in 2020, finishing nine tracks in Manila over the course of the lockdowns before flying to Ontario late last year. She completed the 10-track album in Oshawa, where she’s presently doing post-grad studies in music business administration and enjoying “super mundane” aspects of daily life. “I’m working on extending myself beyond just the ‘Ruru’ facet,” Quimbo told NME earlier this month.
The singer produced ‘Glorious Miscellanea’ herself, playing guitars, keys and programming bits of bass, strings and percussion. But her bandmate Travis Barce still plays drums and bass for the majority of the tracks as he’s done in past releases, while frequent collaborator Polo Reyes aka Mellow Fellow supplies a scintillating lead guitar and bass line in ‘Eyes of a Blue Dog’. In that jazzy standout track, Quimbo revels in a nostalgic past where “we could pick up the petals and sew them back on,” she whisper-sings, asking as horns blare: “Is there something out there meant for me?” Later, she arrives at her own answers in the spoken-word outro, howling: “You’ve been here before!”
Oh Flamingo!’s Pat Sarabia lends her nimble drum-playing to a pair of similarly exceptional tracks, complementing Quimbo’s cryptic ode to a lazy afternoon (or recreational downers) in ‘Snoozers’. The medley-like arrangement starts off with funky staccato rhythms and enters a brief spoken-word section that crescendos into grim harmonies – all in less than two minutes.
Other tracks are more visceral and straightforward, the songwriter confronting the nuances of existing (‘Chewing Gum’, ‘Serious’), growing apart (‘Strange World’), actively waiting (‘WYWD’), or waiting on disappointment (‘It Matters Until It Doesn’t’, ‘Non-satisfaction’). Quimbo manages deep reflection (“Chewing gum / had a sense of impending doom / had a taste of what could be / sun stuck to my feet…well, I’ve walked all over town just trying to disappear”), and casual detachment (just cast your eye over the song titles again) at the same time.
Despite its buoyant rhythms, a simmering ache permeates ‘Glorious Miscellanea’, one especially palpable in the shimmering closer ‘Non-satisfaction’. Quimbo sighs about having the odds stacked against her: “running red, running tired” only to be “back where you started”. Then over bright synths, twinkly keys, and Sarabia’s spry, rolling beats, she laments: “Always chasing time / always way too late / never making sense / never had your way… when nothing completes you… can we make it good? / can we make it right?” It’s all rhetorical, but here’s an answer just the same: on her full-length debut, Denice Quimbo definitely gets it right.
- Release date: May 20
- Record label: Independent