Lola, Karen, Rita, Margarita. Dulse
by Carlos Reyes
“Laughs and rococo melodies from the west.” That’s part of the well-grounded description provided in the first referential music box from Buenos Aires’ indie pop novelty band, Dulse. In the current re-blossoming of an Argentinean indie scene, Dulse’s eclectic factory of earcandy and melody-making doesn’t struggle to find a purpose, but it’s that all-encompassing temperament that also shakes them into uneven ground. Under a mediated spectacle of rural and urban stencils, Dulse exploits the idea of a first album as a trial-and-error opportunity. Although their craftsmanship is in danger all throughout, it’s one of the few instances this year in which the use of the word “harebrained” as an attribute would fit pertinently.
Let’s get one thing clear first: There are more hits than misses in Lola, Karen, Rita, Margarita than on your average three-star rated album. In fact, when it comes to acknowledging a debut album as the first measurement for a potential career, L,K,R,M makes Dulse seem like the next household name. The infectious, girl-next-door cumbia “Chica de Barrio” makes a giant introduction in an album that leaves very few things to chance or to the imagination. Sounding pretty close to their fellow punk cumbieras from Los Labios and Kumbia Queers, Dulse made an affectionate Cinderella tale that finds the idea of a happy ending comforting and blurs the lines between cumbia and reggaeton. The other big peak in the album follows right afterwards in the clicking, almost chip-tuned “Los Sueños del Campo.” Within less than five minutes in the album, Dulse managed to jump from chola land to twee land. That kind of adventure is what I would credit as pop gymnastics.
The eight-track album never looses its eclectic, double-edged appeal, and neither does it find the shape in which to sustain the gimmickry of its frenzied pieces. Among the tracks that work alone but not necessarily within the album is a version of “Mil Horas” by Los Abuelos de la Nada (and written by Andres Calamaro), which might just be the most covered Argentinean song in pop music today. And ultimately, this is the case for most of the songs. They all have the potential of becoming successful singles, but struggle to work for a single narrative. Throughout the album there are uncomfortable silent seconds in the beginning of some songs and sudden endings on others, but there’s an understandable reason for the overall uneven structure. As shamelessly disclosed by the band, these eight songs were never intended to be grouped on an album and are actually the first report progress in Dulse’s truly hopeful career.