Hijas del Diablo, Los Protones
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.