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How LIKE ANIMALS escaped his creative echo chamber

Luis Gutierrez shares how moving to paradisiacal Palawan helped him return to the innate intention of LIKE ANIMALS

  • Jacob Mendoza
  • 27 March 2023

Although it has been two years since the pandemic first ravaged the world and the Philippines first experienced the darkness of one of the longest lockdowns in the world, the effects of this worldwide disease are still felt up until now. Everyone is affected, and more than half of the people in the country are still burdened by poverty reinforced by COVID-19. The pandemic catalysed the reorganisation of systems and reinforced worldwide habits.

During isolation, we got even closer to our technological frenemy, social media. After seclusion, chasing clout and rat races seemed to get even more apparent. The feedback loop of negativity and bad news seemed to increase daily, even following quarantine. It is deeply seen how this developed and electronic modern world is still fraught with physical, mental, and spiritual diseases.

So how do we escape this trouble bubble? Without ignoring the truth of suffering and the underprivileged, sometimes, all we really need to do is touch grass, play, and remember that we are creatures too smart for their own good. In other words; be like an animal! Focus on your well-being and listen to Transit Records’ latest release with the esoterically electric Filipino music producer, LIKE ANIMALS.

Also known as Luis Gutierrez, LIKE ANIMALS shared with us his latest music project last February 3 titled ‘Echo Chamber Management/Dead Internet’.The EP marks the label’s seventh release and explores techno and music for the club from the context of the tropics.

With visible Plastikman influence, the project also encapsulates the producer’s fascination with Filipino and Austronesian history and culture. Having moved to the lush Philippine island of Palawan in July last year, this is LIKE ANIMALS’ first dive into hard-hitting techno after dropping a handful of soundscape and ambient projects since relocating to the island paradise.

“I made this project toward the end of the first half of 2022,” mentions Luis. “At this time, I was feeling stuck in the city and the music scene, with things having changed a great deal during the pandemic and people’s consciousness (mine included) leaning more into a social media type of view.”

Having just started a new relationship with a partner that reintroduced him to philosophy, Luis came to the realisation that the extended periods of being on his phone or on his laptop, looking at what other people were doing was negatively affecting him. And even if nothing about it was inherently bad, he realised, like lots of us, he had created a mental existence that took place in an echo chamber.

“I found that though I was quite active in my production, much of it was a reaction to what other people had been doing to ease the tension that reduced activity in the scene had created, where ideally I would be looking inward to figure out my personal needs in the present moment,” the music producer reveals.

“LIKE ANIMALS is, as I like to see it, sort of an alternate state I enter to let music out into the world from the great unknown. The name came to me in a conversation with friends. We were talking about pathways and vibrations relating to non-verbal communication, and someone in the circle said something like “talking without words…like animals!” I saw it as a perfect way to describe the way playing my music felt!”

Other than a newfound relationship to remind him of the lightness of being, Luis’ personal transhumance to Palawan has helped him return to the innate intention of LIKE ANIMALS — to simply create music from the nameless source.

“I moved out here because of big changes in the music scene back home in Manila. Besides the music game becoming harder to participate in full time (due to the pandemic), I realised that to many people, also because of many factors, it had become just that - a game,” Luis observes. Deep inside he knew that this wasn’t the lifestyle he wanted, and when the chance to simplify everything presented itself, he took it.

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“My life is simple out here. I get up very early in the morning for my day job, I don’t have any of the conveniences I had back home, and I don’t have much dissonance in my mental space anymore. I have to face myself daily to stay here, whereas back home I was able to numb the pain by constantly distracting myself. I meditate and stay as present as I possibly can, and take each day as it comes. All of this has brought my creativity to a whole new level! I feel free to experiment, and don’t think too much about what people’s reactions to it will be. I also don’t feel like rushing at all anymore. Tracks are done when they’re done.”

With the pandemic slowly lifting and nightlife getting surely back on its feet, it sounds like a breath of fresh air to listen to the producer’s taste and sonic sensibilities evolve along with his experiences outside of his Manila roots.

In ‘Echo Chamber Management’, a tribal-esque bell puts you in a trance that carries on as the track unfolds. As the track develops, a break-beat drum pattern finishes the track and encapsulates the low end. ‘Dead Internet’ brings the theme of tribal sounds a step further. The slow-burning 11-minute B-side lifts the heavy layer of synths and tribal sounds with a dubby bass pattern signature to the Like Animals sound.

“I imagined a ritual taking place, clearing me of possession, freeing me from the past and from worrying about my future. I illustrated that with my use of gong samples and patterns inspired by indigenous cultures, and mixed them in with noises from the circuit boards of phones and laptops, as well as other modern samples. I wanted to illustrate a reshaping of the electronic drone of the modern world by the sounds of knowledge thousands of years in development."

Reflected in his music evolution from a pop-punk drummer to an electronic musician, his philosophy regarding the arts is resemblant. “It is mostly about continued learning and life practice, and an openness that allows for that. I used to be quite the purist but I’m convinced it was all youthful rage,” he remarks.

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“You can learn from anything if you know what to listen for within almost any piece of music. That being said, I do prefer music that feels truly honest.” Moreover, he shares that his life philosophy is not much different. “Learn, practice what you preach, mind your own business, be open to everything, even to being wrong. Courage is needed to live this life and developing it is very important.”

“For this EP, I decided to create a foundation as fast as I could to avoid the point where I either doubt myself or start thinking of how other people might receive it. I made the base loops in a day, then rested. The next day I played the loops that I had laid out in basic structure, and added anything my mind would add to it (fill-ins, effects, etc). I mostly used samples of drone pieces and Kulintang to make the two tracks! I used Ableton 9, which is the only DAW I have. I then brought the tracks to Thunderdome Studio to mix and master with their very effective plug-ins and crystal-clear sound system.”

In celebration of the project’s release, Transit Records set up a club night at Nokal with the line-up curated by LIKE ANIMALS himsel. The roster selected consisted of soul-hitting local acts Duality, Shaoxing, Dignos, and Dot.Jaime — all on LIKE ANIMALS’ favorite DJ list.

It was truly apt because the music shared that night was relevant to the producer’s tastes from sonic styles such as trip-hop, trance, breakbeat, and many more. “The music scene in the Philippines is big and has a lot of variety. I think it’s one of the most colorful and talented scenes in Asia. But I also feel like social media, greed, nepotism, cultishness and gatekeeping has become a norm. I’d say that could be improved,” Luis notes. “Let’s stop thinking about which one of us can stand up to the international scene or impress the people that “made it”. Music is a gift from a place way beyond us. If we make it like it’s all business then we miss the point completely.”

Luis intimates that he was initially afraid that being removed from the scene, the city and convenience would be hard. However, nowadays, he feels revitalised and youthful, as if had just learned how to make music all over again.

“I’m back on the inspirations I had when I was in my first year of music school.” Luis shares. “I study the works of LaMonte Young, an early minimalist and drone composer. I’ve also been listening to his mentor, Pandit Prahn Nath, an Indian classical musician.”

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“It’s all play, and it’s all new. I guess Echo Chamber Management and Dead Internet are postcards from the start of this journey I’m on! If so-called modern living seems to be messing you up a bit, I hope this music can remind you of that primal space in all of us. The deep humanity that isn’t a simulation, that isn’t marketing or content, that isn’t connected to what trends and algorithms dictate.”

As a closing remark, we asked Luis what words he can give as advice for budding creators. “Keep it honest, don’t think too much about what anyone else thinks of your work, and if what you’re making is doing something for you, then it’s probably worth pursuing. You can make music for yourself and share it with whoever you want to, there’s no need to become some influencer type. Most of all, keep learning! You can never be done learning.”

Listen to LIKE ANIMALS ‘Echo Chamber Management/Dead Internet’, out now via Transit Records, here.

[Images of release party at Nokal by Javier Pimentel]

Jacob Mendoza is a freelance writer for Mixmag Asia, follow him on Instagram.

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