Xauen, Las Liebres
Triple RRR Discos, Argentina
by Carlos Reyes
Folk rock: the self-assured music medium that’s so persistently and intensely beloved and yet so difficult to be prolonged by those artists with conceptual ambition. Hailing from the province of Corrientes, Argentina, folk-rock duo Las Liebres makes a brave attempt to divulge folk rock continuum in their second full-length installment, Xauen (named after the Moroccan city). In all its creative mettle, the trio is devoid of interesting ideas, but those ideas don’t necessarily translate to a grand melodic harmony or self-sustainable songs.
Back in 2009, Iñaki Zubieta and Federico Delbon released a wholly naïve three-track demo (recently re-mastered and re-released by Mexico’s Rock Juvenil) that gathered them attention from art curators, indie rock tastemakers, and even a few publications from the conservative bunch. Early comparisons pointed all over the place; some claimed they were the cousins of MGMT, while others assured they would be giving Grizzly Bear a run for their money sooner or later. All the scorching interest and artistic uncertainty eventually found its direction in their gorgeous 2010 debut, El Arroyo de la Miel. The band has since added Augusto Peloso to its formation, growing into a deeply contemplative act that now swirls between ascetic folk and psychedelic rock. As their recognition rises, the band has delivered the kind of album you're more likely to respect than sing along to.
Swimming against the escalating idea of rock pieces lasting only a couple of minutes, Las Liebres’ nine-track and full-served Xauen feels quite muscular. The blossoming synths that open “Montaña Anti Atlas” are suspenseful and immediately hooking, but they don’t quite prepare you for what the band has in mind. This track has texture, space, and dream-like sequencing. At their best, Las Liebres have probably made the most danceable prog rock piece to come out of South America since Gustavo Cerati’s “Cosas Imposibles.” Album highlights “Esta Noche” and “Detras del Sol” are also fine examples of the band’s rich sonority, but it’s structure in which the band lacks command. Too often in Xauen (especially in its second half) the band lets its ideas loose and they get lost in deliberation. This is a case scenario where an album just sounds much better whenever it's not as experimental. Unlike its predecessor, the uneven Xauen is more about notions than about actions in a sonic landscape that's braver than anything we could ever find in our self-ordered, common world.