Michita Rex, Chile
by Pierre Lestruhaut
For those who listened to the Michita Rex compilation Música para el fin del mundo last month, it’s no mystery that this young Chilean netlabel is becoming the home of a group of artists that’s as diverse as it is intriguing. A year and a half after the label’s first ever release you can feel its artists evolving, some of its most interesting experimenters refining their sound after solid 2010 releases (Maifersoni, De Janeiros), its dark pop enthusiasts having us yearning for a full-length release (Fakuta, Los Embajadores), and some new interesting projects continue to appear (Costavisión). Among the novelties that we heard on their catalog was also Voz de Hombre, the solo project of Cristóbal Gajardo, who happens to be the voice of Los Embajadores.
Though lately many of our favorite releases from Chile have been using disco as their ground for crafting great pop songs, Voz de Hombre’s first release, Hombre Solo, displays a different concept for creating great timeless pop music. Like many of the “michitos," Gajardo sets his music’s backbone on a ground constituted by minimal techno and its child branches of electronic music in order to give birth to songs that are traditional in structure and interpretation. Just think James Blake or Jamie Woon and all the talk there’s been about them reworking dubstep around traditional song forms and you’re actually not too far from what Gajardo’s doing here.
Initial track “Son cosas de las cosas” sees him crooning over an R&B groove and manipulated vocal harmonies (did I already mention those British dudes and their weird take on dubstep?), its appeal not necessarily lying in his song-writing abilities but more on its interpretation’s nakedness. In “Allá no es él” Gajardo shows off his first dance-floor intentions, an infectious chillwave bass line meets an elegant croon for what could pass for a less nostalgic and far more nuanced (even obscure) take on the very derided chillwave genre. “Te siento inglés” is built around the sampling of Morrisey’s “Late Night Moudlin Street," but the song doesn’t just stop at loop-oriented pop as it expands itself beyond the sampled beat and finds its way into a textured synth-driven piece that, alongside Loreto Molina’s (Namm) vocals, focuses and finds its main appeal on variation instead of repetition.
Also worth mentioning is “Para tenerte otra vez," a Chayanne cover that could be dismissed as outright accommodation of Latin pop music for the interest of snobbish audiences, but also appreciated as a subtle nod to the heavy use of vocal manipulation by indie artists in the last few years, going from Karin Dreijer Andersson to Bon Iver. Because, in the end, Hombre Solo is the kind of album that manages to display a personal vision of pop music amidst a great deal of nods and references to other types of music, a release that can only make us feel more hopeful for the future of the idiosyncratic roster of the Michita Rex label.