Monday, October 31, 2011
A Tutiplén Records, Perú
by Carlos Reyes
Surf music lives within the context of our modern age as the sort of syndicated genre that has aged along with the sensibility of the wavy '60s. On their sophomore album, Hijas del Diablo, Peruvian all-instrumental quintet Los Protones grasps onto the swirling infrastructures of metric and periodic strings given shape by the likes of surf apostles Dick Dale & the Del-Tones and The Ventures. It would be somewhat scratchy to approach an up-to-date record like Hijas del Diablo with the resulting nostalgia sensed from the age when analog technology revolutionized politics (and thus the common household), and yet, its release couldn’t have had a better timing.
When trying to distinguish period recreations from genuine novelties you come to realize that it takes more than mere disposition for a band to carry on with a genre as focused and aesthetically confined as surf rock. Unlike lauded contemporary surf acts like Los Straightjackets and Los Gatos, this Peruvian band levels musical bravura with the mysticism of the genre. Los Protones, as the passionate and subatomic band they’ve come to be known as, comes to grips with the thorny trail of establishing a trademark very early in the album. Opening track “La Hija del Diablo” displays a marathon of fast tempo harmonies lining up to the sound of waves and eventually amplifying into a tongue-in-cheek sequence of tremolo picking and rockabilly revivalism. This is an appealing dualistic intro especially for those film buffs out there whose image of Silvia Pinal as the devil in Luis Buñuel’s Simón del Desierto is forever ingrained in our contentious judgment of good and evil.
Los Protones might do very little to contemporize surf rock as an odd shell of dance music, but somewhere between the reverence of cavernous bass and cultural affectations, they manage to cultivate their own inbreed of seeds. Take album highlight “Chichasurf” as an example. Here we have a song that syncopates the Amazonian Chicha music of Peru with the rudimentary 12-bar blues sections that trace back to Orange County. With so many fast tracks in its middle sections, the album does suffer from the dissonance of custom percussion and echoing, but surf ballads “Mescalito” and “A La Deriva” serve as optimum breathing lungs. (Not that you wouldn’t be tempted to smoke afterwards because this is the kind of album that asks for either a cool haircut, or a bit of your soul in the exchange for arpeggio reverb.) Perhaps it's the wordless vulnerability of instrumental albums, but I’ve culture-referenced too many outsiders in this review. Oh well, it wouldn’t hurt to say this is as good as any of those very handsome albums by The Drums.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Nene Records, Mexico
by Carlos Reyes
Back in the winter holidays of 2009, before the exile of the Monterrey indie scene to the Mexican capital, our circle of trusted tastemakers made sure to build significant buzz for the new great band in town, Mentira Mentira. Two years later, the promising band has proven to be more than a stroke of infernal glow. The opening sequence in MM’s debut LP, Meaningmore, is a combustive line of resonant drums where MM’s conductor, Gaby Noriega, makes us jump drastically into a blood-rushing chase that seems to be spiraling from many blocks away. When the melody mutineer shouts, “Let’s keep on waiting!” one learns to recognize this procession as an admonition to formative rock and an amendment to the Mentira Mentira jargon.
This sort of around-the-corner vibe in the band’s nostalgic spectrum provides the emotional tissue necessary to afford roundness in an album that’s as captivatingly uncouth in its production and as wildly obsolete in its topics. From very early in the album, Noriega makes sure everyone knows how unconcerned he is with employing music form (or providing for an any easy listening experience), but there’s something so adherent from one track to the next and within the songs themselves to claim otherwise. Whether it’s in the proportional carnage found in modern hard rock or in the banquet of psychedelia that derives from it, there’s always a line of harmonies that rises up to the occasion. Yes, somewhere within MM’s throat roaring in “Turnaway” and the riff-clouded environment in “All My Bones,” there is room for melodic hope and retaliation - it’s beautifully condescending, but also inherently arousing.
Just like the pop elements that seem to naturally catch up with Noriega’s self-serving pieces, trouble also has a way to find him. A recent performance in his native Tijuana turned chaotic when the audience didn’t appreciate the provocative, tone-decaying wit found in MM’s live shows (they obviously had not experienced Meaningmore in all its depth). Because really, once you realize the Mentira Mentira experience is a double-edged abstraction of teen spirit and rock nostalgia, it’s best to carve into your senses and just run along with it. Album highlight “My LSD” plays like that big anthem every band should be entitled to, yet it also has the characteristics of an anti-single. It’s this raw combination of escalating noise and catchy hooks that might alienate more than a few, in fact, the majority. The most accessible tracks on Meaningmore (those that go beyond the three-minute mark) avert short timings and contemplate soundscape as a sort of dawn-tinted work-in-progress.
We often talk about authorship as a way to add credibility to those subjects who turn into misfits whenever given the chance, so it's not a surprise to see Noriega’s self-instinctive codes of rock and roll conduct shine in amplification throughout this remarkable first album. It’s also fascinating to see a one-man operation so ferociously conceived despite the obvious agonizing wounds toward existentialism (two decades since Nevermind came out, and we can’t seem to get over ourselves). Meaningmore is the bewilderment of feeling meaningless in an absurd world. Colorful ropes and vintage Mickey Mouse sweaters outweigh gothic sway in MM’s wardrobe, perhaps the most arcane showing of modern rock absolution. Meaningmore is a troublesome and captivating album that's been best described by its producer Mou (Bam Bam, XYX) as something that “sounds like it will blow up the speakers.” Agree.
Although they’ve had back-to-back appearances in our last two compilations, we actually know very little about one of CF’s favorite new bands: Piñata. For someone who used to hang out around the local all-you-can-eat buffet (yes, the one with the two-digit health code violations and the tiny stage at the corner) just to catch the beginnings of Harlem and Smith Westerns, witnessing the first steps of this hot new band from Barcelona has been quite thrilling. You can call it a transatlantic romance, but between the dust-swelling oomph portrayed in “Tambourine” and the unveiling of a tribal-harmonious exposé in “Mexican Machotes,” this five-piece band just seems like the real deal.
Under the hyphenated premise of a garage-tropical sound (like that of Margarita or Kana Kapila), they claim to have an affinity for punches in the mouth, sexy moves, and an adoration for counterfeit idols. With virtually no attention from any of Spain’s major indie publications (mad props to Zumo en la Nevera for discovering them), Piñata is truly promising. There’s something very special when hearing a band shout “Uno, dos, tres, cuatro!” between the bridge and the climax of their songs; they’re immersing us into their garage rehearsals and, in a way, making us part of the pushing of the pedals. The band just released three rough demos in a cassette split with fellow Spanish rockers Salvaje Montoya. Here’s looking forward to a first proper release from these guys at the hands of Mama Vynilia Records.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Mushroom Pillow, Spain
by Enrique Coyotzi
One of the most critically acclaimed records to come out this year from Spain is El Columpio Asesino’s formidable fourth album, Diamantes, which we’ve unfairly overlooked for months. While we’re still eagerly waiting for compatriots Pegasvs' and Violeta Vil’s debuts, it’s a fact that, together with Odio Paris’ self-titled, this is one of the year’s greatest rock marvels to be released from that country. A work that has signified an evolution for the Navarre group in many favorable ways. After almost a decade, they’ve parted ways with Astro Records, moving to Mushroom Pillow (home of Triángulo de Amor Bizarro and Delorean, among others); the lineup of the Arizaleta brothers’ band has changed, and the sound of Diamantes is much brighter than any of their previous albums. With a cleaner production, surging electronic arrangements, and more direct lyrics and songwriting, this is their poppiest effort yet. The rawness that has characterized their music since the beginning isn't gone, though.
It’s remarkable how the new direction El Columpio has chosen has raised some eyebrows; it hasn’t been that drastic, though, especially if you consider how the band’s somehow always been in constant reinvention. But if you’re one of those who believe that the group reached their peak and perfected their aesthetic with 2008’s explosive La Gallina, first listens will probably be disconcerting. Nevertheless, the album—with its ideal length, just like La Gallina—is packed with a collection of sparkling jewels or, as the title indicates, diamonds. First single “Toro,” as many mediums predicted, became an enormous international hit. It’s also possibly their widest known song to date and has gained them a strong new base of fans. Featuring a simple bassline, a sung-kinda-spoken conversation between lead singer, drummer, and leader, Álbaro Arizaleta, and singer, guitarist, and front woman (at least on stage), Cristina Martínez, the song gently builds up until it sonically bursts (“no me vengas con que es vicio”) and emotionally concludes. Hinting at sex, decadence, and excess in its lyrics, “Toro” is already a classic, one that attracted many of our favorite artists like Algodón Egipcio, Dënver, and María y José, among others, to join forces and release a disc of remixes (more like reconstructions) of the track.
At first listen, “Toro” serves as the most memorable theme of the record. But those huge passages are identifiable since tortuous opener “Perlas,” which beautifully unravels while guitar work provides a floaty state of mind, taking off as the singer achingly reveals “un animal es lo que soy, con un enorme collar de perlas acumuladas”—a declaration of the faults of a whole life, a burden destined to be hanging from a defeated neck, yet valuing these trajectory failures as precious stones. “Diamantes” appears to be a new version of La Gallina’s “Aleluya,” employing an almost identical sung melody, but musically with a complete different purpose, as this piece’s krautrock approach resembles partially the likes of Can or Neu!, with a touch of psychedelia in the guitars. The album also features a trio of tributes to artists/bands El Columpio Asesino admire. Inspired by MGMT’s dense “Siberian Breaks,” “MGMT” is a track that originally lasted around 16 minutes, but in the end was reduced to four. “On the Floor” is a dance-punk rebuild of We Are Standard’s song of the same name, and “Cisne de Cristal,” sung by Martínez, a bleak adaptation of John Cale’s excellent “The Endless Plain of Fortunes.” Songs where electronic elements colossally collide are particularly striking, like the mind-blowing mid-section of “Corazón Anguloso” or closing mindtrip “MDMA,” which is trippy, glowing, and uplifting, with buoyant voices that dissolve as the experiment gorgeously shapes the state that this substance provokes. It’s a perfect closer that condenses the essence of the whole album, without the necessity to include lyrics. It speaks by itself, and it’s exciting, because it might be showing us a more experimental side by the Navarre ensemble in the near future.
Diamantes is an exemplary accomplishment which confirms how El Columpio Asesino keep growing and getting better, sharply adopting and incorporating their vast palette of influences into their compositions. This time around they’ve crafted their most accessible record to date, and this modification of M.O. has effectively worked, since now the group has obtained its biggest recognition and is playing in important music festivals around the world. Diamantes is a grower, it’s impossible not to mention how the ensemble’s become kind of lighter, but this has been progressive. Now they are finding new ways to mix dirty indie rock with experimental pop structures, therefore reaching a wider audience with this new sensible formula.
Argentinean pop-avant trio Isla de los Estados is the kind of deranged band whose under-the-radar status has shifted them into cult territory. Fronted by the wonderfully eccentric Lolo Gasparini, the band is so elaborate in its eerie aesthetics and so elemental with its melody lines that it’s not too hard to feel emotionally bonded to at least one half of their dualistic profoundness. Film enthusiast Maria Zanetti illustrates and confronts the trio’s mindful decision to juxtapose slo-mo vocals with bits of dub in the band’s new video, “Balanceo.” Weighting a mise-en-scène of vogue and gothic fashion against the backdrop of the obscure woods, Zanetti gets the band to sit adjacent to the world of Fever Ray. “Balanceo” is the last promotional single off Isla de los Estados’ 2010 album, Expreso, which featured stellar contributions from Kelley Pollar and Gustavo Cerati. A remix of “Balanceo” by DJs Pareja is now available for open download via SoundCloud.
Sunday, October 23, 2011
Spain, Susy Records
by Giovanni Guillén
Sundae’s self-titled EP doesn’t completely alleviate these worries, but it does showcase a step in the right direction. For one thing, the EP travels a lot, touching on a variety of genres (bossa nova and noise pop sound so good together) while remaining surprisingly cohesive. Of course, this is mostly due to those vocals and the themes of love and adolescence (which at Club Fonograma will never get old). Sundae certainly seems to agree with Chilean writer María José Viera-Gallo when she called dream pop a more romantic rock. At just 12 minutes, the four songs play out like a class period of trying to steal glances at your crush. And if there’s any shoegazing going on here, it’s because our lead singer is smitten. On the fuzzy and anthemic closer, “Sunny Sundae Smile” the lyrics actually shout, “Let’s fall in love.”
Opener “Britney” stands out as the EP’s best track. The '90s rhythm sample stomps along for a few seconds, recalling Soda Stereo’s Dynamo in a more subdued form, and eventually glides along at just the right pace. Comparisons aside, it is a perfect example of Sundae in search of what is uniquely “them.” Elsewhere, new wave ballad “Tiempo perdido” underwhelms in the same way the Plásticos y Etéreos song did, not to mention it also runs about a minute too long. Such complaints, however, are not to be taken too seriously. There’s nothing wrong with being derivative as long as there are signs of trying to evolve. Sundae is a young band having fun while imitating the sounds that (let’s be honest) we can’t get over either. In the meantime, it is best to just enjoy it with them.
Thursday, October 20, 2011
Exactly one year ago, upon the much-lauded arrival of Rita Indiana’s debut album El Juidero, CF published a five-star review for an album that is already transcending marvelously. For those of us who are not too persuaded about Calle 13’s scratchy and ultimately over-sentimental “Latinoamérica” (which is still way better than Maná's "Latinoamérica"), Rita Indiana y Los Misterios' “Da Pa Lo Do” provided us with last year’s most poignant political piece. In his review of the album, Carlos Reyes described this particular piece as one that would ridicule the Vampire Weekend indie-tropical hipsteria and hit the nail on the head, calling it “a bona fide piece of tropical bravura.” The stunning track with the stunning strings and the wounding palos has a wonderful video helmed by Engel Leonardo. This time around we’re taken to a land of faith, borders, and brotherhood, where the roads are redirected by the wind itself, and Rita Indiana makes a Marian apparition as a Blessed Virgin Mary. This is a video that excels in proportions, colors, and especially in the narrative of its rhythm. Yet another knockout in Rita Indiana’s treasure of stimulating aesthetics.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
The war on drugs implemented by president Felipe Calderon has supplied Mexico with countless buckets of blood for horrified showers and few strings of sociopolitical progress. Tijuana’s rhythmic maverick Ceci Bastida is responsible for framing the single best-crafted soundtrack about Mexico’s bruised efforts to afford peace of mind in the narco era. Produced by Diplo and featuring Rye Rye, “Have You Heard?” is bold and touching while staying within the proportions of its pop frame. In this music clip, video director David Herrera succeeds in keeping things intimate, switching the eyeball to the wounding reality of drug dealing as the one sustainable family business.
With contributions of first world artillery for the drug cartels from political fiascos like ATF’s Fast and Furious and all the jammed moves for narcotic legalization, the future does not look promising. “Dollar’s green and border’s red,” and we’re pretty close to filling the three stripes of the Mexican flag with new color substance. Throughout the clip we follow the eyes of a birthday boy as he learns the business. Eventually, he’s put at the center of a table filled with gifts as they recreate the The Last Supper. "Have You Heard?" is the latest single off Ceci Bastida's superb debut solo album Veo La Marea.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Maybe you thought that all we would be talking about in these podcasts was teenage angst, telenovelas, and chillin with our frenz, but we have news for you: We can be serious too. Like, really serious. This Occupy Wall Street thing that is happening right now is pretty major. People who have long been silent are rising up and speaking out against the injustices that are being perpetrated in the name of corporate interests. Whether the movement will continue gaining momentum until it leads to real change remains to be seen, but the fact that it's happening and gaining support has us at the edge of our seats, anticipating what's next. This got us thinking about past and present political climates in Latin America and the music that was born out of these climates. From nueva canción in Chile in the ‘60s to nueva trova in Cuba and Puerto Rico and later iterations throughout Latin America and Spain calling for everything from economic justice to educational reform and gender parity. The protest song takes many forms, and in this show, we listen to versions by Molotov, Ana Tijoux, Aterciopelados, and Mercedes Sosa. Get ready for some serious discourse, critical thinking, and big words.*
Triángulo de Amor Bizarro - "Isa vs. El Partido Humanista" (MUSHROOM PILLOW, SPAIN)
Omar Rodríguez López - "Polaridad" (RODRIGUEZ-LOPEZ PRODUCTIONS, USA)
Molotov - "Gimme the Power" (UNIVERSAL LATINO, MEXICO)
Ana Tijoux - "Sube" (feat. Invincible) (NACIONAL RECORDS, CHILE)
Gepe - "Ayudame Valentina" (Violeta Parra cover) (INDEPENDIENTE, CHILE)
Gal Costa - "Tuareg" (DUSTY GROOVE, BRAZIL)
Aterciopelados - "Cosita Seria" (BMG MUSIC, COLOMBIA)
Rita Indiana y Los Misterios - "El Juidero" (LATIN MUSIC PREMIUM, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC)
Lourdes Pérez - "Paloma Urbana" (CHEE WEE, PUERTO RICO)
Mercedes Sosa - "Sólo Le Pido a Dios" (UNIVERSAL MUSIC LATINO, ARGENTINA)
*The views expressed in this podcast are those of the hosts and not of Club Fonograma.
Monday, October 10, 2011
Historias del Desencanto – “Termine El Guión”
(JADE FILMS, INSTITUTO MEXICANO DE CINEMATOGRAFIA, LAS PERLAS DE LA VIRGEN. Alejandro Valle, México)
Niños del Perú – “El Sol” (Michita Rex, Chile)
Sonora – “La Selva” (Unreleased, USA)
Emilio José – “A amizade (B)” (Discos Garibaldi, Spain)
MKRNI – “Andinita” (Madhaus Records, Chile)
Prietto Viaja Al Cosmos Con Mariano – “El Bombero” (RandomRecords, Argentina)
Lucila Inés – “Todas las letras de tu nombre” (Independiente, Argentina)
El Sueño de la Casa Propia – “Pobre Ave” (Unreleased, Chile)
Helado Negro – “Lechuguilla” (Asthmatic Kitty, USA)
Astro – “Ciervos” (Terrícolas Imbeciles, Chile)
Los Protones – “Chichasurf” (A Tutiplen Records, Perú)
Fauna – “Para Mi” (ZZK Records, Argentina)
Pájaro Sin Alas – “Alfombra Mágica Mental” (Unreleased, México)
Historias del Desencanto – “Los Ombligos”
(JADE FILMS, INSTITUTO MEXICANO DE CINEMATOGRAFIA, LAS PERLAS DE LA VIRGEN. Alejandro Valle, México)
Marian Ruzzi & Sr. Amable - “Una pieza más” (Unreleased, México)
Furland - “Faladó Falá” (Terrícolas Imbéciles, México)
Prehistöricos - "Inventame un Final" (Unreleased, Chile)
Pernett - “La Galáctica” (Unreleased, Colombia)
Los Rakas – “Camisetas Borda” (Soy Raka, Panamá)
Chucha Santamaría y Usted – “Fiebre Tropical” (Young Cub, Puerto Rico/USA)
Piñata – “Mexican Machotes” (Mama Vynilia Records, Spain)
Bigott – “Cannibal Dinner” (Grabaciones en el Mar, Spain)
Afrodita - "La Cumbia de los Guerreros" (Discos Tormento, México)
Gordi – “Suave & Salvaje” (Unreleased, Chile)
Monte – “Imperios” (Independiente, Costa Rica)
Poliedro – “Sweet Home Everywhere” (Independiente, Chile)
Saturday, October 8, 2011
by Souad Martin-Saoudi
Member of the thriving Chilean scene since 2008, MKRNI is definitely one of its most intriguing acts. Making the most out of their keyboards, synthesizers, and drum machines, producers and DJs Marcelo Miopec, Seba Roman (Roman S), and Elisita Punto (also a prolific visual artist) approach their collaboration as an opportunity to explore and evolve musically. Quietly released last April, Jumper gives the impression of an electro-pop demo where anything goes and every song on the album is different both in genre and influence.
Elisita Punto’s sassy, casual vocals ride distinctively upon the extended repetitions and enigmatically crafted effects and it’s basically what anchors the trio's second EP. The two singles, “Humedad” and “Srta. Robinson,” clearly demonstrate MKRNI’s ability to create music that will get you moving the coffee table out of the way, kicking up heels, and dancing til dawn. The rest of the album reveals the band’s aspiration to fuse those predominant dance rhythms with pre-Hispanic melodies, post-punk, and krautrock influences. This indiscriminating collection of styles still gifts us with well-executed experimentations, the most convincing ones being "Humedad" and "Andinita." Through Punto’s seductive yet disconcerting tonality and a dulcet beat bordering on cumbia, "Humedad" tastefully refashions tropical psicodélica sounds. This gem could easily be described as one of the most exciting pop tunes to come out this summer. The warm and almost whispered "hace calor sin sol, hace calor sensual" made those particularly execrable hot, sticky days in the city seem bearable. "Andinita" pastes ancestral patterns, creating a distant reggeaton beat. The song reaches the pinnacle when it unravels its prodigious huayno melodies.
With some futuristic spatial sonorities, "Srta. Robinson" appears like a satiric Italo disco song. Punto suggests a new imagery for the 1960s American blockbuster, where teachers dance to old school Afrika Bambaataa jams. The other songs found on this EP are more discrete and somewhat lacking in creating a cohesive whole. While "Lorelei" brings into play some yodeling, "Yo no sé" echoes minimal techno songs by recent electro-pop acts like Hot Chip. "Chercan" is an instrumental exploration with sounds of marimba and melodica, discrete voices landing on eerie, worrying beats and dissonant chords, and the post-punk inflected "Shark" is a clever introverted exploration. The trio is definitely fearless of boxes and boundaries. After making audiences from New York, Baltimore, Paris, Berlin, Barcelona, and Sao Paulo bust some serious moves this past summer with Jumper, the band is already announcing a third album entitled Playa Futuro. We’re guessing it will be full of hits.
Thursday, October 6, 2011
I know what you’re thinking, it’s been been decades since Loveless, just stick a fork in it already. Well, yeah, but then you have bands like Guadalajara's Lorelle Meets the Obsolete, which render your petty doubts, well, obsolete. If the excellent On Welfare wasn’t enough to curb your doubts, a video for one of its better songs probably won’t do much to sway you, that is unless it’s directed by Jaime Martinez (of jiggly-gif fame) and features an innocuous-yet-oddly-alluring girl slowly ingesting an ice cream cone...backwards! To be fair, it looks better than it reads. Rather than recycle the pixel-junk psychedelia of "Turnaway" – a move that, admittedly, would've fit all too perfectly with Lorelle's sound – Martinez chooses to fixate on a single, oneiric image as it unfurls from a simplicity that borders on banality toward aesthetic transcendence. And the song's not too shabby either.
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
In this clip for the single "Sí" director Benjamín Estrada attempts to translate the rich soundscapes and theatricality of Bella Época into something visual. We see Torreblanca and crew performing for a young bride on what is presumably her wedding day. Things start off pretty well, the girl is wrapped in some dreamy lens flares (think Beyoncé/Halo taken down a few notches) as she walks down the aisle. Just as the chorus takes off, the drama unfolds: the bride flees and we get some gorgeous black and white (very filmic) exterior shots intercut with all kinds of colorful objects. Most impressive, however, are those artwork-inspired animation bits, adding just the right element to the clip. Sure the photography is all over the place, but if it works in Torreblanca's music, then it definitely also works in this video.
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
A confined chest of folk elementals is the common denominator in the current Chilean advocacy movement to reconstitute the popular song. In a scene where most of its artists are able to mingle contemporary enigmas with resolutions from the past, Fernando Milagros is much more confrontational. Avoiding most technological flares and opting for a stunning sequence of wall-of-sound progressions, Milagros’ forthcoming album, San Sebastian, is unlike any of the recent albums birthed from Cristian Hayne’s magical production pop house. Any phrase sung by Milagros feels like a fragmented vocal journey, one filled with the joy and the scars of the Latin American vernacular. “Carnaval” is the first single off the album and features vocals from the always fragile and often dramatic Christina Rosenvinge. Like his labelmates Daniel Riveros (Gepe) and Rodrigo Santi (Caravana), Milagros seems to be on his way to consolidate a career with a truly promising album.
Sunday, October 2, 2011
Arts & Crafts, México
by Enrique Coyotzi
With exceptional talent, determination, and passion for creating music that transmits vivid imagery and sensations through finely crafted melodies and precisely chosen words, Torreblanca has rapidly become one of the most imaginative bands in Mexico, delivering highly complex pop music combined with confrontational structures that incorporate a great palette of musical influences like swing, jazz, and alternative rock. Ever since last year’s stupendous Defensa EP, there has been great anticipation surrounding their first proper LP. After craving for months since ferocious first single “Lobo” was released, Torreblanca’s first full-length, Bella Época, is a captivating work crafted by a five-piece of distinguished musicians that, under the direction of visionary leader Juan Manuel Torreblanca, have created a record whose compositions, with a certain level of obscurity and irony, remind us of past eras that appear to be distant, comfy, and sometimes scarily violent.
Blissful opener “Las Horas” is the perfect example of how connected the band is now. The song starts with Torreblanca’s soft hypnotic piano playing that gets more dynamic, while Andrea Balency softly captivates with her accordion entrance. Alejandro Balderas intensely erupts with saxophone energy, then Carlos Zavala and Jerson Vázquez, with bass and drums, both smoothly adapt. In the first seconds of this song we appreciate a top-notch quintet that have found harmony and the virtue of sounding like a solid group where each of its members contribute and stand out. While Torreblanca is the author, the one who sculpts the backbone of these songs, it’s evident how the band members have gotten to know each other and have contributed more directly in aspects of arrangement, execution, and development of the pieces, never losing the essence of the original sketches. Under the assistance of Café Tacvba’s Quique Rangel, the group finally sounds like a complete ensemble, as every single instrument employed in the mix shimmers. While Rangel is not as bold a producer as his bandmate Meme, utilizing a more conservative and grainy, not so risky production, this kind of retro conservative approach works with the theme of the album, which also recalls vintage appreciation based on the record’s artwork: old photographs and warm nostalgia through cursive lyrics on the booklet (written by Torreblanca’s grandmother), conducting us to momentums that feel surprisingly like home.
Torreblanca has one of the most divisive voices, and many people I know will reject his voice almost immediately just for how unconventional it is. Truth is, in the great tradition of unique vocalists like Björk, Rubén Albarrán, or Tom Waits, Torreblanca belongs to that group of edgy, one-of-a-kind voices that may be be so uncommon, so different, audiences will dismiss it without allowing many chances to decipher its real beauty and the intense emotions he proportions throughout, establishing himself as a daring singer in the current indie panorama. The vocalist also possesses a fascinating capacity of painting different characters in each of his tracks, as well as adopting their personalities through the striking vocal interpretation and versatility he gives to every number. He also has a facility of creating situations that are kind of cryptic (“Hueco” and “Lola en el Sillón”). Some of the themes are completely relatable for almost any public (“Si” and “Roma”), still, the words employed invite the listener to personally interpret the meaning of the message and create hypothesis with the richness of the writings. “Dejé de Ser Yo” is a tale of a gentleman that loses his reason after meeting a courtesan. It’s impressive how Torreblanca picturesquely delineates characters, such as the woman with a “cinturita de reloj de arena” – a rich employment of language that sharply draws detailed contexts about lasciviousness and desire.
On the other hand, more straightforward songs don’t get too complicated and simply hook with the universality of their message, like in “Roma,” colored by delicious brass sections – easily the quintet’s most joyous tune, one that you’d long to dedicate at one time in your life. “Lodo” is a bitter realization about getting old while still living in a puberty mindset, with the track's choruses resembling Café Tacvba's golden age. “Otra Decepción” surpasses the demo version with its cathartic declaration of “¡no voy a dar lugar a otra decepción!” And, though the strong presence of flute after the first chorus is missed, Balency’s accordion is a fine replacement. For a record titled Bella Época, whose title may or may not be ironically related to Mexico’s current violent landscape, “JB” is a completely depressing, low-key conclusion that flirts with PJ Harvey’s To Bring You My Love era. To me, it is the voice of the omnipresent nature manifested by vulnerable areas, hinting at the destructive power that’s inherent in them. Featuring an engrossing collection of inventive songs, including multiple highlights, Bella Época is a wonderful achievement that’s not precisely groundbreaking, yet it’s a mesmerizingly composed LP that exudes delightful quality and provides extraordinary touching feelings throughout its assorted stories from beginning to end, condensing Torreblanca as an atypical band in matters of unusual confection, obtaining bewildering results. Despite minor production flaws, Bella Época is a record that reflects its concept ambitiously, offers unconventional creations, and manifests the loving labor that went into it.
Saturday, October 1, 2011
by Pierre Lestruhaut
Of course it’s easy to imagine that listening to a relatively unknown act borrowing their sound from a widely praised contemporary band would trigger more eye rolling than head nodding, yet I still feel that, being a pretty big AC fan myself, the Argentine outfit is producing some really exciting music. One reason is that indie-psych-folk is very slippery territory, with many people not fearful of exploring it in very kitsch fashion, leading to polarizing results that can go from the jaw-dropping gospel of Danielson to the annoying cheesiness of Andy Mountains. Los Animales Superforros on the other hand (at least in this Coplas EP), succeed precisely in not taking the easy way into indie-psych-folk, avoiding silly ironic self-aware lyricism and twee indulgence and going for a much more psychedelic and melodically sophisticated approach.
Opening track “Copla del Pensamiento” is by far their most accessible track, a pretty straightforward folksy song that’s off-kilter enough for some indie appeal, something not unlike what other Argentine oufits like CLDSCP or Pequeña Orquesta de Trovadores try to do. “Señor de la Montaña” then sees them quickly take the path of electronic venture, with samples taking over the song’s hooks in what’s probably their most post-Sung Tongs AC effort. “Superfurrie” is their catchiest and only sing-along track, an absorbing summer camp effort that holds the anthemic and almost religious qualities of early Akron/Family releases.
But their coolest track, behind the awesome “Chacabit,” is probably “Arpegio,” a beautiful piece that’s melodically absorbing as it is unpredictable, with all of its overlapping free form vocals and AC-like psych-pop glory. Because, yes, Los Animales Superforros will do very little to make us forget just how AC-influenced they are, but in spite of it they still seem to have developed a sound that feels a lot more asserted than the sketchy kid aesthetics of Monona en la Calesita or their electronic-driven early demo recordings. And I think for now, that might just be a good starting point for a sound that could evolve in some very interesting directions.