Escuela de Trance
by Pierre Lestruhaut
At which point exactly did this band go from being just another Argentine act making pretty pop songs (via every other Argentine indie band), and become a shimmering entity of otherworldly hooks and far out psych pop? It’s not like I’m gonna pretend that I had been following this band closely ever since their debut EP came out last year, so instead I’ll just acknowledge it was Carlos who hit me up with this record about a week ago, while I embarrassingly failed to connect it with this particular blog post I had read sometime in mid-2011. And, sure, as delightfully charming as “Niña lluvia” is, in all of its “la la la la” hook glory, I had somehow decided to file Escuela de Trance under, well, just another Argentine band making pretty songs. But I mean what blogger doesn’t dismiss stuff that was released over a year ago, especially when it’s already hard enough to find new fresh interesting things to write about?
The things is, Escuela de Trance aren’t just crafting songs for our careless listening pleasure. Sure, something like “El viaje de la pipi” has a charming verse section with a playful acoustic guitar and lyrics that speak of singing Beatles songs and wearing coloured “pull-overs,” but what’s really awesome about it is when you finally reach that batshit chorus that seems to hit some sort of strange sweet spot in pop music that gleefully marries the cute with the catastrophic. It’s kinda like The Unicorns’ Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone in its terribly catchy, childish, even emotionally affecting quest to find the ideal balance between straightforward pop and musical absurdity. Something that actually makes them infinitely cooler than any cutesy indie act in their country.
Though they’ve still got songs that are as delightfully naive as “Niña lluvia,” perhaps not in the same style of over-proportioned and off-kilter declaration of love, but “Mandarinas” and “Energías,” for instance have the all-out teenage charm and melodic appeal of La Ola Que Quería Ser Chau, especially when you’re left wondering if the “bien bien bien bien...” hook isn’t a straight-out nod to La Ola’s “Teta.” Still, even at their most docile incarnation, these dudes can’t help to pull out some WTF-seriously? level shit like throwing an out-of-nowhere unaltered sample of JAMC’s “Just Like Honey” at the end of a song. And by shit I really mean shit, except it’s done with the sole purpose of elevating the already impressive level of quirkiness in Doktor Van Der Ger Ger Ger Ger (yes that's four Ger's). Take the Nuggets era-inspired (and sung in truly poor and hideous French) garage rock track that is “À la soir,” and tell me they just didn’t drop a total killer of a song while still managing to pull the biggest imaginable shit on their listeners.
With acts like this, it’s really not difficult to feel excited about the young crowd of Argentine indie bands that have been blossoming these last couple years (just look at all the “independiente” bands from Argentina that have made it into the Fonogramáticos series since last year). But Escuela de Trance are really onto something of their own, to the point that sometimes they even remind me of the unfuckwithable band that is Deerhoof in pretty much everything I described in this review: being decidedly cute, pleasurable, nice to hear, but also straight-out nuts and incoherent. Still, what I like the most about these guys is that they actually managed to simultaneously create the album I was hoping other bands would: the erratically beautiful record Prietto Viaja al Cosmos con Mariano couldn’t pull off, the childishly charming Los Animales Superforros sort of failed at, and the musically challenging that La Ola doesn’t really seem to want to make. In the end they’re so terribly great because they’re making ballsy pop music like we rarely hear coming from the South American indie. And they’re actually succeeding at it.