Mar Muerto, Cancioneira
YoConVoz/Entorno Domestico, Venezuela
by Sam Rodgers
This is Linda "Cancioneira" Sjöquist's 'debut' LP (via YoConVoz)– which can also be an EP (via Entorno Domestico) – which isn't really a debut – as we have known her as ...al cruzar al calle until now (yes, the same voice behind Best-of-the-Year selections "Asuntos Internos," and "Romanticismo Ultravioleta"). This is the only confusion you should suffer at her guitar-plucking hands, as she continues the straight forward, folksy pop of the Venezuelan's former incarnation.
Mar Muerto floats above and is engulfed by a sonic seascape, both providing background ambience and influencing minor instrumentation: a blast of horns, clam castanets, siren calls. The LP, at only twenty-two minutes long, aims to capture moments on the beach, and at sea, with rain disturbing sleep, and wind whipping hair into the singer's mouth. The mood is Scandinavian: grey, cold, isolating; the protagonist feels hollow, dreamy, undone. Sometimes Sjöquist's voice returns in gusts, then bounces around the vast empty; and then, pulling focus, we're inside an echo chamber, and aware of the sheltered recording studio. It's this voice that at once draws you in and shoves you away that will garner Cancioneira with a cult following, or leave a listener isolated. The songs contain indelible melodies, but most have butterfly lifespans of around two minutes, fluttering past before dying rather abruptly. These are quick chapters in the LP's novella tone; it's easy to miss moments of transcendental beauty, and remember only the gentle guitar chords and slightly off-key vocals. The latter adds to the sea(love)sick quality of proceedings.
At the end of opener, "Labios Motores," an emulation of fog horns calls attention to the world Mar Muerto inhabits. It's a damp one: reminiscent of that of Finnish band Paavoharju – almost of another time/reality. The warmth of the album is not instantly accessible, but there are silver and gold linings that flicker in Sjöquist's compositions like a wistful jasmine garnish on "Quien te viera" and an angel's chorus on "Ausencia." As a whole, the LP is a collection of shells picked for aesthetics and similarity. Not that the songs sound the same or lack melodic depth, but they are pieces of a cohesive idea/mood board. Its brevity can be disarming, and sometimes off-putting: the lightness of musical flourishes can caress a listener, but can also evade them completely. Mar Muerto is a piece of driftwood, hard to cling on to, and easy to drift from. It's not a perfect album, but what it lacks in sonic heft, it makes up for in its relatable vulnerability.