Wednesday, October 30, 2013

BFlecha - βeta

βeta, BFlecha
Arkestra Discos, Spain
Rating: 95
by Pierre Lestruhaut

Why not just have all these things from our past as well as all of the newest technology from today in one, and just really come up with the craziest shit we can? Let's just bring people into our imaginations as best as we can...” - Steven Ellison, a.k.a. Flying Lotus

You already saw the rating, so we can just as easily start with the obvious and totally overblown critical statement: BFlecha’s βeta is the most accomplished record in Spanish-language pop since Mena. But even within that tier, its pedigree is far more substantial, off-kilter, diverse, and unexpected. Whereas the bulk of Chilean pop that’s been championed around here looked all the way back to disco as the foundation for a new brand of escapist pop euphoria, BFlecha is far more eclectic and flexible in her own sonic references. Although she likes to namedrop '80s Spanish pop (Mecano, Tino Casal) as an influence, her vocals are also incredibly well informed by contemporary R&B. Her sonic palette, although filtered by the use of analog instrumentation, flirts with the epic build-ups of maximalist digital electronica, the bombast of southern hip-hop and trap, and the more restrained luxury of synthwave.

It’s worth noting that BFlecha (moniker of Vigo-based musician Belén Vidal) didn’t come out of nowhere; she’s been a longtime driving force behind Arkestra Discos, Galician music label that’s as forward-looking as it is backward-informed, the kind of imprint that would seem to adopt the above FlyLo quote as a maxim of sorts. But even going by the label’s standards, BFlecha is still in a league of her own. Blurring the line between pop singer and beat maker with ease, it’s insane how well she’s succeeded at it. The clearest and most accomplished representation of where BFlecha stands in her liaison between savvy beat maker, romantic Spaniard pop singer, and potential chart-topping hit maker, is precisely “B33,” the first βeta single we had the privilege to hear back in March and hands down the best track on the album.

Although her previous short releases were led by great instrumental pieces built around trap drops and Chicago house pianos (“Ceja de Carnival” and “Qvasi Naves”), βeta sees BFlecha creating a world more inviting and human, where pop gems really are the album’s absolute centerpieces. “A Marte” starts with a grandiloquent horns and bass intro that could fit in any recent trap release, until her voice finally comes in, quickly morphing the track into a seductive slice of synth-led romanticism. “Mundo Bizarro” is built around a lush beat that feels evocative of airbrush art, the 1970s Los Angeles school of bright glossy pin-ups and palm trees, with guest rapper Arufe verbalising the hedonism associated with it (“Limusina y Chanel / paraíso de papel / viento sobre mi piel”).

“Xenon” is as close as she gets to reviving her “Ceja de Carnival” aesthetic. Informed by Dirty South as much as Spaniard pop, it’s the perfect soundtrack for a 3 a.m. highway drive (“El tiempo se dilata pisando el pedal contra el metal / Dejamos un rostro de fuego al pasar la fase final”). "Мы" is by far her most melancholic and tragic piece to date, with a sly wink at Rustie (electronic music’s most prog-rock influenced producer) as it gives some room for a surprising (and surprisingly good) guitar solo in its closing moments. “Lava Templada” is as radiant and bouncy as a 2-step tune can be, which, alongside dance pop number “Finisterrae,” uses rhythm as a foundation for flowering sound sculptures with results more awe-inspiring than feet-provoking.

It’s no surprise that it was originally the British electronic scene, always being ahead of the curve, that got all over her in the first place. With βeta, though, she's made the kind of record that’s an internet-era music nerd’s wet dream, but whose craft is also populist enough that it shows no signs of underground snobbery. For all of BFlecha's referentiality and hard to nail down references, her music is embedded with the kind of larger-than-life qualities that can reach out to both electronic aficionados and dabblers alike. Her DJ sets are said to be eclectic and know-it-all as fuck, yet always focused on the purpose of getting people to dance. It’s this willingness to conjugate underground innovation with the biggest ideas and best hooks of pop and electronic music that make her a truly unique force in Spaniard music.

βeta's recurring references to space travel invites comparisons with Alfonso Cuarón’s nearly-universally loved film Gravity (I know, what a critical cliché to compare it to the biggest space-based massive pop cultural phenomenon going on right now, but bear with me here) in how these are two works that don’t really excel in neither narrative, nor concept, but in execution. Even though one could argue BFlecha has somewhat made an album album—with an intro, outro, concepts, recurring themes, interludes, thus being more than just a collection of songs—its biggest strength relies in providing an experience of immediate awe and bliss. Like Gravity, it's the perfect alignment of genius and present technology, the kind of masterpiece that could only come from an era such as the one we’re living in.

If you're located in South America or Spain, you can stream the album via Jenesaispop.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

MP3: Las Ligas Menores - “Renault Fuego”


It’s hard not to fervently root for the welfare of a band like Las Ligas Menores. From the band’s loopy name to their devotion to crafting lowbrow melodies, it would almost seem like they’re selling themselves short. Truth is, this up-and-coming band is conscious of the industry’s hierarchy and realize charm can take them a long way. Last year’s EP, El Disco Suplente, profiled the band as one of Argentina’s most promising newcomers. “Accidente” was a relative indie hit in Mexico’s alternative outlets, and they’re ready to give the project continuum. “Renault Fuego,” a step forward in their sound, is the first single off their self-titled debut album (to be released under Discos Laptra). In it vocalist Anabella Cartolano sings, “es que necesito decirte que en verdad me gustas." The new single sees the band pouring adolescent emotion in a simple verse-chorus-verse number that acknowledges the brevity of momentum. This time they leave behind the cache of bedroom hipness and expand into the road (an articulation that might just advanced them to transit in that league of Los Punsetes and Carmen Sandiego).



Memo - material.

.material, Memo
Abstrakt Muzak, Mexico
Rating: 79
by Sam Rodgers

material. begins in lower case, just like the album. We delve straight into the slightly tipsy first track's smoke machine fog, as if walking into Memo's set halfway. We've just arrived to hear the Austin-native's defiant and somewhat petulant claim: “You are not the end of the world.” This universally relatable phrase is repeated in an almost anthem-like chorus, but Memo Guerra doesn't seem concerned with fashioning a swaying, sing-a-long stadium hit. Listen closer; these lyrics aren't pussyfooting. This is a personal album and, at times, a private one, highly confessional, yet abstracted. The author has been jotting every thought down, from banal observations to poetic entendre, and these form the material for each track. Memo shares the process on “Restraint (parts 2-4 and 6)” (“from behind the shower curtains / I've always thought out loud / and made up songs about / makeshift offices and Vietnamese takeaway”) and then divulges, “then she turned scarlet / the color I most like her in.” It's hard not to blush with her. 

In the first half of the album, Catholic guilt, bloody sheets, masturbating, and penis envy have all tumbled out of the singer's mouth. The first three tracks on material.mumble into each other, like Memo has invited you over and is skipping through the songs that have been helping him out through this tough time. No, no, this next one's awesome, he says. However, the five-minute plus songs never feel rushed or out of ideas. This makes the eight-track LP a satisfying length (despite his preoccupation with size). First single, “Separate Leaves/This Is The Line,” demands attention, it sprawls on the green, searching for a lost golf ball, slightly red in the eyes. From here, Memo takes respite in a half-track, “On the Rooftop,” where he finds some peace from the incessant disclosure before it. What comes next is material.'s only straightforward pop song, “While You Were Sleeping.” It seems stark compared with its forebears, with acoustic strumming and country music allusions, yet no less sonically engaging. Here, Memo comes out of the dejected sing-speak and asks us to hum along to the melody, a rallying signal to show the past/past loves that he, too, can make a digestible, happy tune. See? This isn't hard. Memo has woken up. With their eyes closed, antagonists look vulnerable, too. With this realization, it only makes sense that following track “Answers to the Questions” is instrumental. There's nothing to say when you've moved on.

material.explores many musical styles, never adhering to any one code. There are moments of lush Zero 7-like orchestration, braided Animal Collective-esque psychedelia, Badly Drawn Boy-experiments-with-distortion vocals, and Jim O'Rourke bite in the almost muttered, cutting lyrics. Borrowed and used deliberately, Memo crafts his own, though not ostentatious, sound. Perversely, this is both the album's charm and annoyance. Like the aliases Memo plays with behind his extracurricular projects, here too he seems comfortable putting on stylistic masks when the intention of the album seems to be to come clean. This is not always a distraction, however. In this make-up, Memo is, in a way, at his most vulnerable: an understanding that an awkward frame for admission, like a cheesy greeting card, says more about intent than the actual words within.

On the other hand, the sonc obfuscation threatens to derail the album's through line. The sitar of “Separate Leaves/This Is The Line” returns in penultimate track “Open,” but all sign of traditional instrumentation disappears in electronic closer “Portugal,” when the language of choice changes to Spanish, and, at one point, aggression replaces the ponderous quasi-depression of the rest of the album. While no doubt meant to be jarring, whether or not listeners dig being frustrated by the artist will determine how material. is accepted. It could be argued that Memo has designed it so, playing with the fine line between sincerity and pretense. One wonders what his past loves would have to add to the picture, but perhaps they were just as simultaneously intrigued and baffled by this–nonetheless sympathetic–anti-hero.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Video: Marineros - "Espero"



Assuming we're all on the same page here, it was just a few months ago that the name Marineros began popping up like news of Gabbo's debut. And all there was to go on was a Radio Zero/Super 45 session that saw two young unknowns casually cover Mazzy Star and sneak in morsels of original material, sleek and confident tracks with a solemn performance that immediately earned them the title of a Chilean xx. Within weeks they quietly launched the standard fare of social media profiles, but then enough time passed where it felt like all we got were the fixings but no beef. The wait is finally over, and whether or not their approach was presumptuous or fully-earned is too soon to tell, what we do know is that right now Marineros has our complete attention.

"Espero" in its finished form is even more rousing than we were led to believe. The Álvaro Puentes-directed clip is about as auspicious as they come, expertly linking restrained anamorphic scenes in black and white to the anxious cries found in its single. While other bands are content to let nature play the lead in their own music videos, Marineros are thrown right in, acting out a nearly insatiable effort to find answers, wherever they come from. An overcast sky lingers for the majority of the video, and indeed there's a sense that a storm is approaching. It never happens, but as the motorbike engine sounds hint at, a confrontation is inevitable, and Marineros are ready to take on all forms, physical, emotional, and existential. Just pray there's a part two in the works. Marineros is the first artist signed by Unión del Sur (a label founded by Javiera Mena and Cristián Heyne). "Espero" will be released as a single (with the accompanying track "Oh Oh") and is produced by Heyne and mastered by Joe Lambert (Animal Collective, Deerhunter, Washed Out).

Juana Molina - Wed 21

Wed 21, Juana Molina
Crammed Discs, Argentina
Rating: 92
by Carlos Reyes

Juana Molina warrants many descriptions: composer, noise stylist, humanist, beat maker and former comic. But we often forget to reference what makes her divine to the great spectrum of pop culture. Molina is a master of horror. Whether juxtaposing the children chant “La Virgen de la Cueva” with the brutal family detachment that comes with aging in “Que Llueva,” or commenting on the wounded logic of incarceration in “Malherido” (those beast anguished groans are still bone-chilling), Molina’s uncanny sensitivity is the rumination of our daily appointments with existential terror. Her latest record, Wed 21, makes emotional devastation sound monstrously beautiful, in a deceptively simple manner. Conceptually and aesthetically, it’s one of Juana’s boldest provocations, and it’s far from being a shortcut to aural ecstasy.

Wed 21 starts off with a menacing, punch-to-the-face sequence. The euphoric awe of the intro in “Eras” is threatening, but the soundscape turns affectionately recognizable once Molina’s vocals rapture from the dark. We know it’s her creation from the very start, but it’s not until we hear her voice that we let down our guard. Unlike most of Juana Molina’s singles, “Eras” discards any calmness and opts to gut and challenge any pop-cultural codings (look at how violently that lovely "1-2-3-4-5-6-7" chorus is devoured by a seemingly demonic howl). And that’s just the start of what’s Molina’s most robust album to date. Throughout the record we find an artist who is compassionate to the medium, but who dares to be abrupt and compulsive for the greater service of emotional unease.

There’s a metaphorical pull in Wed 21 that stops it from being read as a mere brainteaser. Molina fills the space with sound. A whole lot of sounds in fact. When deconstructed, the swarming conditions come off as inner wars of spiritual proportions. Vocal harmonies serve as rituals, while the assembly of digital and analog instruments takes charge of the struggle and negotiation. It’s not as easy to articulate about most of Wed 21 though. The sonic collisions and deviating wavelength (especially in the album’s middle section) really leave the critic with the job of describing the indescribable. There are moments in trippy tracks like “Ay, No Se Ofendan” and “La Rata” that make it seem like she’s lost her mental bearings. The industrial qualities in the album are bound to alienate a crowd, but there’s a sense of grandiose atonement for those brave enough to evolve with the madness.

Simultaneously harmonious and dissonant, Wed 21 evolves into something profound. The sequence of a squeaky door opening and closing “El Oso de la Guarda” shows the centering and de-centering of social decay in the space. Nothing is as horrific as silence. Molina’s talent at terrorizing the soundscape (through abrupt noise) and then violently removing her own creation (by inserting silence) shows she has achieved an apex of melodic dexterity and grandeur. Darkness outweighs the light in Juana’s world. It’s an oddball way of appreciating the world, but it’s that imbalance in the communion that makes the experience so disquieting, and why we keep coming back for more. Wed 21 shows little signs of reconciling her creator’s looming present with her comedic past (although the closing track “Final Feliz” is a lovely, scornful wink to her attentive audience). It’s a turmoil of an album—assaulting and frightening—and one of Molina’s most accomplished vehicles for letting out some steam.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

San Pedro El Cortez - Creaturas

Creaturas, San Pedro El Cortez
Vale Vergas Discos, Mexico
Rating: 78
by Jeziel Jovel 

Because of its bittersweet reputation, the city of Tijuana is easy to misinterpret from the outside and hard to explain from the inside. The city that has recently seen ruidoson idols and nortec cowboys bloom is now the cradle for an unexpected resurrection of inglorious trasheostars that put anarcopunk in the social spectrum. There’s a scream behind every chord of San Pedro El Cortez, a band that flirts with the glorification of the bordertown but rejects the idea of the city absorbing them. Even in times when this kind of music is fashionable, there’s still a certain guilt (inherited by parents and nuns) that the band’s themes and punk have to challenge. San Pedro El Cortez confronts the landscape with honest and personal noise.

In 2007, a band of sick fucks called the Black Lips recorded a live album at a bar in Tijuana. The youngsters from the then-recently assembled San Pedro El Cortez were there, and the event stirred a potential path for the band to take. That particular night was full of everything and nothing. Black Lips surfed a night of drugs, wigs, and makeup and, as if they were living inside of an Emir Kusturica film, they saw the noisy night transforming into one where a drunken mariachi closed the night playing José Alfredo Jiménez’s “El Rey” (the eternal hymn of all the cantina’s drunks). “They’re living the real dream of rock and roll and do whatever they want to do…having fun and getting drunk while playing your own songs, that was a shocking revelation for us,” says San Pedro’s leading vocalist Diego Cordoba.

The UK invented punk, the gringos sold it, and the Latinos have fun with it. San Pedro’s latest EP, Creaturas, is living proof. The EP explores the hardships of a youth searching to escape absurd realities imposed on them, a sonic youth’s robbed soul that fights against the fears that now make the punk zeitgeist seem loveless. Produced by Dr. Bona (Los Fancy Free, 6 Million Dollar Weirdo), Creaturas is a notable step forward in sound from San Pedro’s first release, El Vals Mefisto. Explosive guitar riffs pristinely combine with primitive drums in fast-paced songs like “Castañeda” and “Chica Mala." It may seem like the least thing to expect, but the assembly of their instruments showcases a band that’s resourceful and attentive of your attention span. San Pedro El Cortez share a similar escapist urgency with other contemporaries like fellow punks Ave Negra, their profane compatriots Calafia Puta, or even the acoustic norteño strings from Juan Cirerol.

Coming from the absurd, chaotic, and dirty things of routine life, every track on the assaulting Creaturas feels like a platform where the band unloads their daily share of mental sickness. They search for receptors open to share the experience, continuum, and a few bucks to buy some caguamas at the after party. “Yo solo quiero escapar de esta absurda realidad,” sighs the band in “Conjuro del Diablo.” There’s nothing poetic to overanalyze—San Pedro El Cortez kicks and bites, and they’ve found a channel for escapism and rebirth in the warm yet cruel infrastructure of that almighty genre we call rock and roll.



Saturday, October 26, 2013

BFlecha - “A Marte”


BFlecha’s full-length debut album βeta is our most anticipated album for the remainder of the year and it will see the commercial light in less than two weeks. The album is already at the Club Fonograma headquarters, and all we can say at the moment is that it’s not a record delivered on a silver platter (a very good thing). “B33” (one of the hits of the year) has earned Belén Vidal an intercontinental following anxious to dissect her new songs. Arkestra Records has unveiled “A Marte” as the album’s new single, and it’s a tour de fource. The horn-heavy, triumphant intro sets up a kaleidoscopic, love-in-space song that strangely resonates with the most pedestrian feelings. The beats are swooning and estranged from symphonics. “No tienes que preocuparte, voy a Marte a buscarte.” It’s beautiful how BFlecha builds a relation and trust with the listener by holding and releasing her synth ammunition in circular, compassionate streams. We know cinema is the art of light, but BFlecha’s technical and humanist approach to (and through) the beat shows light can truly transcend any form lines.


Friday, October 25, 2013

Pedropiedra - Emanuel

Emanuel, Pedropiedra
Quemasucabeza, Chile
Rating: 70
by Carlos Reyes

Juan Manuel Torreblanca opened his review of Pedropiedra’s self-titled debut inquiring two questions: “Que le pasa a Pedro? What’s wrong with him?” Pedropiedra’s sudden emergence provoked this kind of reaction. It was the result of a collective concern that attempted to understand how a man could sound so equally miserable and grateful. Almost five years later, we found ourselves right at home immersed in the Pedropiedra experience. Cripta y Vida was a harder swallow than anyone could’ve predicted (as we saw Pedro’s songcraft going into content territory), yet it offered what’s arguably his best single to date (“Vacaciones en el mas alla”). Emanuel, his third album, doesn’t contain such a hit single and struggles to depart from the comforts of its predecessor delivering what’s Pedropiedra’s most abrasive music box yet.

Despite being right in the middle of it, Pedropiedra’s burgeoning in the industry is rarely associated with the Chilean pop stamp. His anti-hero (almost antagonist) temperament and unmeasured humanism still make him sound like an outcast in Emanuel. “Yo no se sonreir, ni mucho menos llorar,” sighs Pedro as he verges his themes from atypical to subversive. “Pasajero” is an odd choice of a first single (it’s in fact, a winking anti-single). The song’s tempo is buoyant and the lyrics are candid, but, like the traveler in the story, the melody never really gets where it’s heading. It’s confined and displaced, something that not even the album's mentalist/cleansing intro and album cover can prepare us for. Pedropiedra’s against-the-grain tenor is far better realized in the quieter moments of the album. Particularly in the gorgeous “Eclipse Total,” where Pedropiedra forgets about granting privilege to subversive lyrics and instead goes for the kill servicing from what he does best: vocal harmonies. I still get goose bumps whenever I remember those few seconds the world got to listen to the chorus of "Ay Ay Ay" at the Golden Globes as part of La Nana's soundtrack.

Sometimes vocal harmonies make all the difference. Very few songwriters have the gift for cascading, restraining, and releasing vocals the way Pedropiedra does. This compositional device is ultimately what saves Emanuel from sounding mundane and turns it into a self-sustaining album. Those aerodynamic vocals in “Granos de Arena” (featuring Gepe and Delaselva) and that optimistic blooming whistle in “Lima” are in full command of melodic timing. Pedro is at his best whenever he personalizes song structure and makes it as important as any lyrical fixations (that "Nazi Nazi" wordplay in “Más Rápido Que Tú” is disastrous, yet the mirroring synth crescendos in “Noche de San Juan” are worthy of the highest praise). In the end, it's the material, and not the actual narrative what keeps the album at middling terrain. Perhaps it just needed more time to cook. Emanuel is a defiantly difficult album to grab onto, yet it’s in its own failures and triumphs that it manifests its unfulfilled rage. Even at its most understated hour, Pedropiedra proves to be auteristic and earnest.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Joe Crepúsculo - Baile de Magos

Baile de Magos, Joe Crepúsculo
Mushroom Pillow, Spain
Rating: 76
by Glòria Guirao Soro

The punk troubadour, as we used to know Joe Crepúsculo back when he started doing music solo, comes back with an album that is clearly inspired by the Spanish techno of the '90s. Thus he completes the slow transition from his first lo-fi punk recordings as an outcast songwriter into these more deeply ironic canned techno rhythms as a satirical disco commentator. Composed and recorded in Mallorca, Baile de magos has a subtle Balearic taste expressed in very pushy synthetic progressions, sometimes mixed with a slight touch of free jazz and house sounds, but never abandoning the jokey, somewhat cryptic and rather philosophical tone of his lyrics and the scratchy, unprocessed voice.

It’s difficult to say whether this is nostalgia or just a jokey experimental trip, it seems to me that it is more of an homage to '90s Spanish electronic music, an epic appropriation of its sound, but in an estranged way, as the treatment of the voice track shows. As for the lyrics, Joe Crepúsculo keeps writing about life and death, relationships, drinking coffee, saints and robots, even about dancing in the bathroom. But, if we could just leave the texts behind and focus on the sound itself, we could see that this album is not like the five previous ones.

Baile de magos is about dancing in every way, starting with the reminiscences of the bakalao club culture and even the references to popular music and cumbia, like in “Hoy no me quiero levantar,” continuing with the structure of the songs, all of them having a strong climax that pushes us to dance (or at least to move our head back and forth), and ending with the epic lyrics of songs. “Nuevo Amanecer” describes a new awakening, “Mi fábrica de baile” presents Crepúsculo’s unstoppable dance factory, “Batalla de robots” tries to wake up the robot in us, and “Leyenda” (featuring Russian Red), with all its references to swords and fights, is the most epic track. Just don’t listen to this record in the office; it may be too awkward for your coworkers.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Video: Alegría Rampante - "La Iguana en la Ventana"


Eduardo Alegría (leader of the now dispersed Superaquello) continues to surprise us as he unveils new chapters of his “singles collection,” Se Nos Fue La Mano. Earlier this year he released the heart-wrenching black & white video for “Un cuarto más pequeño,” reaffirming what we already knew: the man is a storyteller. It’s been a while since the last time I enjoyed songwriting as clean and straightforward as that offered by Alegría Rampante. The approach seemed sweet and soothing, as well as effortlessly introspective.

Alegría's new single “La Iguana en la Ventana” is in contrast, a hard-hitting number whose bold composition is more assaultive than calming. It’s a major change in tone and structure, but the outcome is equally intriguing. The single’s video (directed by William Rosario and Kemel Jamis) starts off with terrifying riffing despairs that eventually stumble upon marching drums and dramatic strings. In the frame, we see a distressed man reviving his lover, who lies in bed in an apparent vegetable state. The man holds his immobile partner close and lays his head on his chest as he croons about the man he loves (also breaking the fourth wall and confronting the intolerant and fractured society they live in). He drags him, bathes him and offers him the affectionate care and rhythmic stimulation that will return the man his own voice.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Mariel Mariel - Foto Pa Ti

Foto Pa Ti, Mariel Mariel
Pan Dulce Productions /
Cosmica Records, Chile
Rating: 67
by Carlos Reyes

The first time Mariel Mariel contacted us she introduced herself as “Mariel, la chilena chilanga.” The title fits her well. She’s become a distinguished musician for Mexico’s cream of the crop indie acts (particularly as part of the band that accompanies Carla Morrison) and has slowly, but determinedly, pushed inward her solo project. Although she has yet to massively breakthrough in the same way her peers or compatriots have, Mariel Mariel has built a bit of a cool underdog status (something that has allowed her to venture from one genre to another). Mariel’s latest EP Foto Pa Ti is a significant departure from the disco diva and melodic chanteuse paths she’s surveyed in her two first references, No Me Despierten! and La Musica Es Buena. And it’s an abrupt, head-scratching (yet smart) reconstruction. Her crossing over to urban pop opens a query on credibility, posture, and appropriation, all of which seem to be confronted (to some degree) in her new EP, the very entertaining Foto Pa Ti.

There’s no denying this new phase of Mariel Mariel is in need of articulation. “Foto Pa Ti” (and its accompanying lyric video) screams Rita Indiana in both sound and aesthetics (who could ever forget that video for “El Blu del Ping Pong”?). But stripped down from its tropical frenzy, “Foto Pa Ti” is still admirable in structure and its tailored wittiness (besides, EPs are meant to be vessels for confessing the references upfront). Songs like the seductive “Noche Noche” and catchy first single “Tirame Un Beso” reveal a lyrical imagery that is sensual and populist, but it’s missing that tragic resonance that recent mantra mavericks (Leidi Li, Valentina Fel) have delivered to us. Foto Pa Ti (produced by Latin Grammy winner Sonido Landon) also includes a collaboration with the EP’s executive producer Carla Morrison (under her Pan Dulce Productions imprint) and a quite amusing maximalist cover for Juan Cirerol’s narcotically poetic “Toque y Rol.” It will take Mariel a proper full-length album to aptly resolve the eyebrow-raising query, but the potential for something big (and geographically significant) is certainly there.



Monday, October 21, 2013

Video: Univers - "Cavall Daurat"


Mixing members of Piñata and Mujeres (already CF favorites), Univers is a fresh noise pop outfit that's been long overdue for a blog introduction. This year saw the release of the stellar La Pedregada EP, and with a full-length in the works, their newest single, "Cavall Daurat," is a gold star sticker on top of a promising discography. The video (directed by Martín Gutiérrez, ex-drummer for Mujeres) appears to reference the band's own cut and paste lineup, collaging camcorder psychedelics with a dead-eyed, stoic performance. Perfect contrast to the scuzzy energy that fuels the song (think Crystal Stilts, or if Los Blenders had cousins from Barcelona) and incites that cross-cultural need need to fuck shit up while still teasing a sensitive side. Anyone else crushing?

Monday, October 14, 2013

Babasónicos - Romantisísmico

Romantisísmico, Babasónicos
Sony Music, Argentina
Rating: 57
by Carlos Reyes

In my review of Babasónicos’ A Propósito, I commended the band’s selectively unorthodox discography and pointed out that, despite a few raised eyebrows (Babasonica, Mucho), they had yet to release a single bad album. Well, folks, the inevitable misfire had to arrive some day. Early word on Romantisísmico, Babasónicos’ twelfth studio album from reliable Argentinean critics referred to the album as something disjointed and melodically sporadic, reactions that somehow seemed to excite me more than make me wary of the forthcoming experience. First single “La Lanza” seemed conceptually hazy and weird. As an outspoken fan, I was praying those critics had been turned off by the weird. I craved weird; as good as it gets on the creative spectrum of Babasónicos.

The easiest/laziest way to discredit an album is by focusing the critical eye on how innovative the record is. Most of the commentary on Romantisísmico dealt, in some way or another, with the notion of Babasónicos not offering anything new (neglecting to articulate much about auterism, idiosyncrasy, and structural language. In other words, the album’s actual content). Despite the disregard of reviewing those elements, I’m afraid Romantisísmico is still as flawed or even more disappointing than the early word made it out to be. “We departed from the irony and cynicism that we had been carrying in other albums,” confesses vocalist and main composer Adrian Dárgelos. Reading that almost makes it look like the band set itself up for self-sabotage. The removal of those parts really takes a toll on the album’s thematic and structural core. Bound to be singles “Negrita” and “Los Burocratas del Amor” could’ve benefited from those deliciously evil punchlines Dárgelos is known for and that serve as motifs and dynamite on their rock & roll journey.

Romantisísmico is the album for all those demanding Babasónicos to deliver “something new.” The changes are not assaulting enough to send the band in a new direction, but their presence (serving substitutionary roles) really prevent the album from being good or even developing a personality (save for the tenderly accomplished “Aduana de Palabras). What’s truly scary here is that Romantisísmico not only falls short on its content, its manufacture is incoherent and roughly compressed. The responsive chorus in “La Lanza” and those cascading synths in “Run Run” are ideas compromised in their mere conception by poor design (they’re obtrusive to the grand gloss of the production). Other tracks are just awkward to listen to as a whole (“Humo” and “Paisano”). Romantisísmico couldn’t have arrived at a worst time. Fans are still nostalgic and re-discovering the 2012 re-edition of Jessico (which turned ten years old last year). It’s unfair to compare them, but the timing of both releases makes it difficult to turn away from the comparison. And it’s a huge difference. Jessico still sounds as urgent and weirdly majestic, a true conceptual masterpiece with many decades ahead of it. Romantisísmico is a tiny attempt at a roar, and a bit of a chore to sit through.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Mahmundi - Setembro EP


Setembro EP, Mahmundi
Independiente, Brazil
Rating: 75
by Souad Martin-Saoudi

Mahmundi is the musical project of singer songwriter and self-taught multi-instrumentalist Marcela Vale. The prodigy from Rio de Janeiro unlocks Setembro (the follow up to her first effort titled, Efeito das Cores), a fragmented collection of six tracks that condense and disperse in rhythm with the tides. The amalgam of atmospheric synths, well-calculated guitar splashes and haunting drum machine beats creates an impressive landslide her husky and sensuous voice breaks against, commanding a constant yet hurried side-to-side movement of the whole body. Introspection and fortitude could be Mahmundi’s credo - 'Mah' being a nickname of Marcela and 'Mundi' a derivation of 'Mundo', meaning 'world', something like 'Marcela’s world'.

The EP’s opening number and first single off, “Vem - {Selah}” perfectly embodies the artist’s premise. “Vem, me dê uma dança, me dê um abraço, vê se não se cansa, segura o meu braço, eu te levanto, caso o cansaço, venha te puxar pra baixo, dos lençóis” she declares in the first lines of the song as the sharp drum machine and synth feed a dark and contemplative soundscape on the verge of tropical and industrial. Vale’s take on becoming a better person while finding inner peace and serenity acts as a balm on the electronic undertows of co-producer Lucas Paiva. With “Preludio” and “Quase Sem Querer” Vale's lyrics navigate even further in her land-locked sea of confession and nostalgia, all with an '80s breeze in its sails.

We then reach “Arpoador," where Vale makes us disembark to admire one of the most beautiful sunsets in Rio de Janeiro. Her breathy inflections, that echo the works of iconic figures and role models Marina Lima and Rita Lee, are reassuring. The sadness that overwhelmed us in the early morning is now unraveling itself in the water and sun of Arpoador. Simple, crystalline words swirl and fold back into the emotional ebb and flow of Mahmundi. The title song, with its autotune incursion, exudes a gentle wistfulness. Vale’s voice is meant to reverberate ad infinitum. The 25 minutes EP closes with “Leve”, a stripped-down (scaled down) track on which she accompanies herself on the guitar, revealing her strength as a composer. Till the release of a proper full-length, you can download Setembro HERE.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Fishlights - Fishlights EP

Fishlights - Fishlights EP
Dos Pelícanos, Mexico
Rating: 69
by Giovanni Guillén

Among other things, Exam Week last semester completely threw off my listening habits. Piled onto that usual practice of looking for new music were those 4 a.m. urges to rediscover everything I ever liked in high school. Which might actually explain my openness towards Fishlights, side project of Plastics Revolution full timer Fernando Heftye. On his debut EP, Heftye trades power pop for a sound that’s kind of all over the place: shoegaze, indie pop, post-rock, certainly nowhere we haven’t been before. Yet, even with its obvious nostalgic properties, the EP does create some sweet moments that are worth keeping, at least while we wait for future Fishlights releases.

Lead single "Desprender" contains an impossible-to-hate sincerity in which calm water patterns swell into waves of infatuation. Julio Gudiño (I Can Chase Dragons!) shows up to inject his familiar post-Alegranza zest, not to overtake the track, but to underline other themes of fantasy and escape (“persigues la ficción en busca de / un lugar donde llegarte a esconder”). “Origami” is another highlight, probably the EP’s standout track. Pacing itself with beautiful Souvlaki-era guitar and percussion, it aims for the deep, diving head first after hypnotic echoes and vocalizing. It’s also the first song in which the "underwater dream pop" tag feels like a legitimate description to link to Fishlights.

Approaching the EP's less memorable moments, “Ice Age” and the eponymous opener can drag, partly because both attempt to sound bigger than they actually are. Even though these songs could’ve benefitted from scaling back their ambitions, it helps to think back on projects like Silva, who in 2011 was similarly grazing the fields of entry level “epic” songs. Only after his spectacular 2012 full-length did it become apparent how the EP’s flaws just needed time to fully flesh out. Likewise, Fishlights might be out to surprise us soon.



Monday, October 7, 2013

Video: Memo - "Separate Leaves"


Memo Guerra is awash with aliases, which he uses to explore distinct sonic projects (alone, or with bands like White Ninja); but he keeps his first name attached to the more straightforward song-writing led tracks. "Separate Leaves" is off the Austin-based, Monterrey-bred musician's new LP, material., and at first viewing, makes us think of Noah Lennox (Panda Bear) with an overt sense of humor.

The video, directed by Sefárdico, keeps a cheeky eye on death, religion, and a bad sell. The protagonist self-deprecatingly becomes the guru of his own expectations. Through the mumbled, layered chanting, you hear phrases like “false starts” and “second time”—echoes of a romance or a life that he wishes he could rewrite, but still can't clearly articulate. Maybe he's embarrassed, or the pain of separation still needs to subside. The tinkering of a piano and lush organs offer a solvent to the distorted, white noise pulse of the track, which underpins the ethereal loops and sitar, skipping like the mantric, disillusioned thoughts of the singer.

In turn, these sounds are mirrored by the play between the Jodorowsky shaman, psychic hotline, and introspective variety hour imagery of the video. Memo is seeking a balance between despair and hope and where one finds it. They say depression is just frustration with not being the person you want to be. By the end of the video, this incarnation of Memo has been reborn a man, taking control of the cross he bears.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Triángulo De Amor Bizarro - Victoria Mística

Victoria Mística - Triángulo De Amor Bizarro
Mushroom Pillow, Spain
Rating: 88
by Andrew Casillas

I can’t identify what’s great about this band, but every listen is powerful and cathartic and…hazy. Yet, there’s not a doubt in my mind that what TAB does is special and outstanding. And with their third full-length, the mesmerizing Victoria Mística, they continue their quick ascent towards venerability.

Victoria Mística is a concept album of sorts—spirits, magi, and human unrest all come into play—but lyrical themes matter nothing to the ownage within. While their previous two albums contained a handful of marvelous lyrically-driven songs (including the untouchable “El Fantasma De La Transición”), their latest operates best when left to their histrionic id. Gone is the primal (but still of its time) group from the self-titled debut. Instead, TAB is delineating the terms of this party. From the opening shred of “Robo Tu Tiempo” to the closing lilt of “Clara,” Victoria Mística swirls and shreds its way into your skull for a half hour, without letting up.

Not that it’s particularly aggressive. Victoria Mística contains more breathing space than TAB's prior albums, and, most key, the band knows how to use these moments for maximum impact. Most special is “Un Rayo De Sol.” What would have previously been a downer on either of its predecessor records, the vocal track is lifted right into the front, and the instruments leave their plumbing exposed for your picking. Then the breakdown arrives for the final 90 seconds before dissolving into a thump of victory. One wishes that the melodies were as strong as on Año Santo, but we’d just be nitpicking. If you can't find a thousand things to love here, you need new ears.

TAB is far past the point where you can point to your favorite My Bloody Valentine album track as proof of quality. Where MBV and their other heroes have long since given up musically evolving and their sonic contemporaries escaped the nostalgia wave, TAB keep propelling themselves past black sunglasses and evolutionary scuzz. Instead, this is a band quickly reaching new and longer-sustaining peaks. Don’t get lost in the haze.