Stand Scared, Bahía Inútil
Discos Río Bueno, Chile
by Carlos Reyes
“So now is when you disappear, and now is when I hold my breath,” says the heart-wounded opening line in Stand Scared, the debut album from Chilean four-piece band Bahía Inútil. Initially conceived as the solo project of playwright and theatre director Manuela Infante, Bahía Inútil unfolded its dramatic treatise with the adeptness of renowned folk composer Fernando Milagros, who serves as the producer, escort, and sailor of a campestral record that is as meticulous in its bared chords as it is deliberate in its storytelling.
Framed by string melodies and night howls, Bahía Inútil carries on the premise of that sad opening line throughout a seven-track album that, at least thematically, could sit contently next to Antoine Reverb’s Goodbye Victorian Houses and Wild Honey’s Epic Handshakes and a Bear Hug. “When you disappear” is a time-warped opener that’s stripped down to its own romantics. Milagros’ grief-stricken vocals and the occasional (almost deceptive) use of hand clapping speak for a band that’s clearly in the process of finding its most suitable itinerary. In the title track, Bahía Inútil goes even further with its delegation of exposing a state of melancholy that disturbs the psyche and spreads to a physical state. When Milagros sings, “I must confess just how scared I stand before you,” you just know there’s no turning back in the album’s baring-the-heart disposition.
With devious song titles as “Under the deck” and “One song for right now,” it’s safe to say Stand Scared sails through present-time nihilism. This ill-treated, almost defeated anxiety is not only felt in the songs, but also in the thin emotional tissue that connects them as a bigger whole. If you’re up for the emotional punches, this record will do the trick. But if you’re a disciple of any theorem related to James Murphy, you’ll probably reject the mumbled waltz-y progressions in “Horseback riding down the street,” or at least question Bahía's chain of melodic reasoning. It’s probably too obvious to say, but the sincere romanticism of the band will eventually lead them to more fertile land. At the end, in all its virtues and flaws, Stand Scared is more likely to resonate with those who are less about “no guts, no glory” ideals and more about the hues of our old-fashioned heart.