by Carlos Reyes
It’s a beautiful thing when the personal approach becomes universal. I can’t remember the last time I heard a line diagram of bird chirping, bird calling, and bird singing and actually found it cute. This is the gorgeous vignette that surrounds Caravana, an album enriched by melodic muscle and moody cohesion. Quemasucabeza’s music director, Rodrigo Santi, departs from his previous music adventures (Congelador, Paranormal, Barco) to find his most intricate project yet, Caravana. Recruiting the MVPs from the prestigious label (Gepe, Pedro Piedra, and Fernando Milagros), Caravana is the extension of the one-man band into a perfect-pitched pilgrim.
Sounding closer to Iron and Wine, Mexico’s Nos Llamamos, and Spain’s Pumuky than any of its Chilean contemporaries, Caravana’s approach to songcraft is one where music strength is the cohesive endeavor of richly textured frames and melancholic center parts. First track “Reconocer” grasps its landscape with menacing rhythm and cavernous consummation. Opening a record with such commanding literacy usually means sacrificing forte for turmoil, but Caravana’s expressionistic borders balance out with the band’s gorgeous tranquility. It’s this combination of straightforwardness and subtlety that will also alienate those with thin appreciation to something as dualistic as a wildflower.
With every one of its gears clicking nicely toward some sort of darkness progression, Caravana’s dexterity at bundling instruments is extraordinary. You can actually hear the edges and stomping walls within each frame. It’s almost as if Santi sharpens his tools to achieve precision. Especially in its middle section, Caravana’s panoramic inquisition is wide, almost provincial. Standout tracks “La Entrega” and “Garantia” reveal Rodrigo Santi as a sharp observer of composition. Think of Lisandro Alonso or Lucrecia Martel and how they’re able to frame emotional depth by painting their characters and landscape at equal density. Album best “Sigue Sus Ojos” is the finest example of a pop narrative working under coats of countryside garments. Felicia Morales’ gorgeous vocal contribution here is only the last slice ricocheting towards absolute pop resonance.
If there’s a single thing holding Caravana from unanimous triumph it is a certain level of conservatism in mood from one track to another. Yet, there’s a nice variation in track timing and overall structure to embrace these pieces as individual merits pointing to a bigger whole. Vocally, Rodrigo Santi could be described as the opposite of Bon Iver and a cousin of the Mongolian throat singers (pay close to attention to “Despacio” for that latter resemblance). Caravana is woody but also garnished in an evocative fatalist crimson. It’s also the kind of half-broken album that’s more about its space than about its spirits. Slow-paced and obliquely self-indulgent, Santi’s solo return to the front stage plays as a surreal garment of compositional prowess.