Video + MP3: Girl Is TÖUGH - "Touch & Play"

Back in 2009 we featured “Touch & Play”, an infectious upbeat dance track form up-and-coming Sonoran glam-pop duo Girl Is Tough. It’s 2011 and we find ourselves writing about that exact same song, which has been wonderfully carved and polished, and now comes in the form of a video (directed by Romeo Chuffe & Carlos Montiel). “Touch and Play” is the first single off the duo’s debut EP Key Transpose Vol.1. The sonic techno bridge of this song always takes me back to that famous line by El General, “Que es lo que quiere esa nena.” They certainly bring a quirky form of the ‘four-on-the-floor’ rhythm pattern and the vocals are delightfully aggressive. Their dynamic EP is now available for free download via Bandcamp.

Neon Walrus - Épico

Épico, Neon Walrus
Rock Juvenil, Mexico
Rating: 70
By Carlos Reyes

On their new album’s leading single “Símbolos”, Neon Walrus sings about five body-less slaughtered heads rolling down on a port. This is the large-scale landscape of the band’s sophomore release, one that streams consciousness, stretches the disco sphere thematics, and codifies Mexico’s current violent narco war by brushing it into a smart conceptual album with an ironic uneven composition.

Neon Walrus put out a stellar self-titled 3-piece EP two years ago with a neo-rock premise to envy. Despite having built the perfect backbone for their music skeleton, they’ve decided to release yet another EP titled Épico. In this album they keep themselves mostly away from their socially-staccato ‘feel-good’ debut, and have flipped the equation into an album that demands further reading. The Mexican electronic duo comprised by Mateo González Bufi and Francisco Martinez didn’t cook the full-length album we were all anxiously waiting for, but Epico is a captivating good assortment of songs that function at their own tempo, and should (at the very least) provide the band with some momentum.

Épico’s album cover lives up to its title as it starts the narration of an album that goes from the baroque, to the sensationalistic. Neither tragic nor heroic, Neon Walrus’ approach to a nation’s political agenda is both, ambitious and dangerous. The experimental framework of the band has been put to the test not only on its conceptual lyrical chops, but also on their journey to darker landscapes. Album opener “Beta” is the album’s ultimate peak, a track that bleeds social resonance and poetic abstraction. Neon Walrus doesn’t strike to be a politically-conscious band, but steps in that territory do to a lumpy album structure. Nevertheless, the band’s relentless search for rhythm and sequencing (particularly in the über-optimistic “Camaleón”) proves Neon Walrus’ extraordinary qualities to hue electronic patches.

Video: Astrud & Col.lectiu Brossa - "Lo Popular"

The tendency of turning music video into mini films seemed to have died in the nineties, but with the Internet it has once again grown powerfully in the past few years. Definitely there’s something exciting in the idea of adding a parallel narrative to what could easily be expressed with a literal or unrelated interpretation of a song. Under the direction of polemic cinematographer Jimmy Gimferrer, Astrud’s disconcerting new video for “Lo Popular” does exactly that. Featuring a surreal party with silent dancing girls, we can hear lead singer Manolo Martínez speaking passages about Adam in voice-over that makes one of the ladies stumble. There’s another spacey-voice that indicates him to present himself to the person orchestrating this whole event: the director. Martínez finally shows up coming out of the living room and we get to the core of the video with a sequence shot of him intoning reflection about modernity, with a gentle camera movement and bandmate Genís Segarra standing in the background.

Video: Javiera Mena - "Ya No Quieras Comprenderlo Todo"

NPR’s AltLatino recently unveiled Julieta Venegas’ “Actues Como Un Hombre”, her contribution to the second volume of Varias Artistas (the infamous all-women project by Argentinean pop visionary Lucas Marti). Now it’s time to listen to the other intercontinental star on the album, our beloved Javiera Mena (who also appeared on two pieces of the first album). Under the chromatic scope of Ezequiel F. Munoz and featuring animations by Marti himself, we’re presented with a cute clip of Javiera Mena as an astronaut. The frame never really shoots her into space, but she would be a great tour guide to your local planetary museum (indie stars are amazing cosmos teachers, remember El Guincho in "Bombay"?) Se Puede can be streamed on its entirety via Soy Rock.

Video: Uvi.Lov - "Поехали!"

Monterrey’s Uvi.Lov doesn’t take the “cinematic” description slightly. As our friends at Matinée As Hell point out, they’ve caught the attention of academic institutions within the cultural circuit, and they’re taking full advantage of such unsuspected encounters. After musicalizing Robert Wiene’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and making a conceptual album out of it, Uvi.Lov is back in the scholar department with a stunning audiovisual piece titled Поехали! (which translates as “Vamonos!”). This time, the band pays homage to Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin (“first human being to journey into outer space”, 50 years ago). “Поехали!” is part of the art exhibit Saludos Gagarin: La Popularidad Irreparable, and brings Uvi.Lov to an astrophysical paradise. Through the accommodation (and manipulation) of historic audio, the song takes us straight to the moment of the launch as it celebrates a man’s journey into spacecraft.

Santos - La Sombra de Satán

La Sombra de Satán, Santos
Tropic-All, Mexico

Rating: 65

by Enrique Coyotzi

Along with the enormous phenomenon that 3Ball is becoming in the north of Mexico, Ruidosón is without a doubt the most exciting movement (not genre) happening right now in Tijuana, which is starting to obtain a stronger merited recognition. This can be reflected in these past two months’ buzzed events, 2do Aniversario del Ruidosón and Chupetón Ruidosón, where according to various tweets by assistants and the performers, both nights were an extremely wild stupendous success. Ruidosón’s most famous exponents and ClubFonograma’s beloved María y José and Los Macuanos were there, as well as the mystifying figure of a DJ working under the name of Santos.

While Santos hasn’t received the same amount of blog content his other peers have, he is also one of the ruidosón wave initiators. His debut La Sombra de Satán actually was released around January endings but ever since has remained like a well-kept secret in the blogosphere (just like his real name), excepting a small number of sites that provided their support on Santos’ presentation card. La Sombra de Satán is basically a house record that incorporates cumbia, banda and norteña; it gets in occasions as obscure as its title suggests, but essentially is filled of celebrative ready-for-the-rave smashers that rarely get macabre, yet encapsulate the essence of what this whole movement is about.

Santos definitely knows how to get bodies moving with homemade production wonders but lacks the sensibility of assembling a coherent album to digest. Clocking at almost 50 minutes long, La Sombra de Satán can get immensely tiring after the first three strong opening songs, afterwards it feels unfocused, almost like a collection of pieces put together with no planning at all. Whereas this record might seem a mess in its sequecing, Santos' electronic craftsmanship is commencing and might blossom into a more engrossing work; still the idea of partying hard with his tunes is stimulating, at least for dancing.

MP3: Balún - "El Medio Contenido"

Written on the contrasting landscapes of Brooklyn and Paris during a summer, Balún has just released a delightful dreamy-pop treat with French electronic label BEKO DSL. “El Medio Contenido” is a swirling mélange of sounds and space finding their rhythm; by far, one of the band’s most astral & mystique pieces yet. While most of Balun’s songs tend to throb in the air (especially the instrumental pieces), here Angelica’s soft-spoken vocals punctuate, and lead us to the middle sections of a captivating song that happens to be perfectly titled as well. “El Medio Contenido” folds and extends with baffling ease and beauty, something truly impressive from a group that still shoegazes on ambient platforms.

The single is available for download via the label’s website, and it comes with the instrumental (and very Italo-renaissance) bside “Catorce.” This is the last slice we’ll get from Balún until the release of their much anticipated new full-length.

Gloria Trevi - Gloria

Gloria, Gloria Trevi
Universal Music Latin, Mexico
Rating: 43
by Blanca Méndez

These days Gloria Trevi makes lip sync for your life kind of music. (That’s a RuPaul’s Drag Race reference for you.) It sounds like glitter and Lucite heels, and she has the big hair, sparkle eye shadow, glossy lips image to match. Somehow Trevi’s tumultuous career trajectory has led her to gay icon status, a status that she neither honors nor deserves. Full disclosure: My relationship with Gloria Trevi has been a long and troubled one. As a child, I admired her rebellion, her fearlessness. "Pelo Suelto" was my anthem and had me whipping my hair back and forth way before Willow Smith joined the game. I got in trouble for ripping all my tights once and never did it again because I was too much of a good girl to fully embrace the Gloria Trevi lifestyle. I guess you could say I lived vicariously through her music. She led me to seek out other strong women making music, and for a while I forgot about her, instead devoting my attention to artists like Fiona Apple and PJ Harvey. Then when The Scandal broke, I was appalled. How could a woman I had admired so much have gotten involved in something so awful? How could she have been an accomplice to inflicting such pain on so many of her fellow women? I felt betrayed. The separation of the music from the musician is a subject too involved to go into further, but I obviously wasn’t able to make that separation.

So, when she tried to revive her career with 2004's Como Nace El Universo, I refused to listen to it. I was through with Gloria Trevi and everything she represented. Later, when everyone was talking about “Todos Me Miran,” curiosity got the best of me, and I watched the video. It seemed that Trevi had reemerged as a drag queen-level diva to show the world that she could make it through the rain (shout out the true diva, Mariah). But I wasn't convinced. There was nothing special about the new Gloria Trevi, none of that refreshingly unabashed presence that had drawn me to her in my youth. She was making club music now, and not even the good kind. Let's be real here, you don't have to be a groundbreaking musician to be a hit at the club. But you do have to get people on the dance floor. The songs on Gloria can't even do that. They are bathroom break songs.

The album starts with "Fuego Con Fuego" and total fire imagery overkill. There are matches, flames, explosions, and burning souls, like a strange caricature of hell that might result from Pixar taking on Hieronymus Bosch. All it needed was a few erupting volcanoes and flowing lava to complete the Ring of Fire. This would have been a challenge on RuPaul's Drag Race in which the contestants had to represent an element, and Trevi would have been eliminated for being too much, which is quite a feat in a drag competition. The partner challenge is "No Al Alguacil," in which Paulina Rubio joins her for a fun, but standard track that starts off steering a little Ke$ha, a surprisingly good thing in this case. They would have been middle-of-the pack and safe for this challenge, and that is a shame considering this may be the best track on the album.

One song that would be a total hit in the competition is “La Noche.” RuPaul loves the campy queens, and the song’s pinging lasers, spooky effects, and almost theatrically clumsy tempo would score major points. It’s like an SNL skit that’s so bad that it’s good. Nicki Minaj as Bride of Blackenstein, anyone? But the humor here doesn’t seem to be intentional and it probably isn’t part of some larger strategy in “Y Ahora Te Sorprendes” either when the flute comes in with a sadness that you just can’t take seriously. It’s even more difficult to take “Sobrenatural” seriously because its sweetness isn’t the least bit believable. Not only because of her past does the sweetness seem artificial, but Trevi’s naturally raspy voice simply doesn't allow for it. And the violins are out of place in their attempt to inject some novela-style drama into a song that doesn’t call for it.

But despite the kitsch and melodrama, the album is, quite frankly, dull and tired. “Vestida de Azucar” sounds like every cheesy ballad made in the 90s, like something that Cristian Castro might go for. “Me Rio De Ti” is a half-hearted demonstration of perseverance that’s been done before and done better. And the wake me up, make me feel alive storyline of “Despiertame” has been told incessantly since the beginning of time. Nothing about Gloria really stands out, and that’s its main flaw. Anyone who has seen RuPaul’s Drag Race knows that mediocre and forgettable are the two worst things you can be in the competition. If you don’t stand out, you go home. So, sashay away, Gloria.

Fother Muckers - Entrega Tu Espíritu (Muerte a los Fother Muckers)

This morning I found myself writing a rave review for Fother Muckers' latest video "Retorno a la Base", celebrating the band's "healthy and still rising career." Well, a few hours after publishing that post, the Chilean quartet has made an unsuspected and quite shameful announcement, they're calling it quits (?). The tomato slaughter seemed to be a bloody metaphor of what was to come. It could be our wishful fan-mode thinking, but like many other fans out there, we're a bit skeptical of the news. This is the Fother Muckers we're talking about after all; a band known for its witty dramatics. But if the news are true, we can only thank them for such an amusing career. The band says goodbye at the peak of its career, and they've released one last album in the purest FM swag. Entrega Tu Espíritu (Muerte a los Fother Muckers) counts as the band's ninth album, and on its first spin, it plays as a great last embrace. On the album's artwork, FM claims this EP is their Last Supper. (Here is hoping they also revive at the third day). Here are some excerpts from the album's back cover:

UPDATE: Fother Muckers will come back under a different name. Tentively 'Los Ases Falsos'

“Por fin es Semana Santa, momento de poner en marcha el plan este. Aprovechamos la sincronía con los eventos de aquel remoto fin de semana de locura del Nazareno para ejecutar nuestra propia despedida…. Ya se pueden escuchar los “lastima, justo cuando iban a dar el gran salto.” Este es nuestro gran salto… Dejamos botada la cruz de los Fother Muckers, apartamos un par de guardias y seguimos nuestro camino. Sírvanse este EP como una ultima cena, disfrútenla y miren como el velo se rasga en dos. El niño se vuelve hombre y el hombre se vuelve loco. Este cuento se ha acabado.”

Video: Fother Muckers - "Retorno A La Base"

The Roberto Cisternas & Cristóbal Briceño directing duplex is back to the virtual window with another thrilling video by Fother Muckers. No other contemporary band in Latin America has accomplished such a practical videology between the prosaic and the pedestrian. Their latest addition "Retorno A La Base" (second sigle off El Paisaje Salvaje) expands the urban commonality by framing a savage landscape of The Great Tomato War, while making a parallel career-battle showing footage from Fother Muckers as they head up to perform at Chile's Lollapalooza. The red tomato slaughter accentuates the band's struggles, and the stage loops their healthy (and still rising) career into an explosive sauce.

Los Ginkas - Retumbarama

Retumbarama, Los Ginkas
Spicnic Records, Spain
Rating: 77

by Pierre Lestruhaut

Even though Los Ginkas’ Retumbarama was released a few months ago, and “El Gran Salto” was featured in Fonogramáticos Vol. 11, no one in CF (myself included) seemed willing to take the task of finally reviewing the album, which we would think is normal for challenging albums or bands, those that demand heavy reflection and repeated listens in order to grasp all the subtleties and references they contain. But in the case of a band like Los Ginkas’, as Carlos Reyes mentioned in his post for Alt.Latino, the Spanish sextet “not only revives the aesthetics of another decade (the late 70s), they also opt to make accessible, crowd-pleasing songs”. This is basically the type of band in search of making great simple timeless rock music for the purpose of having a good time, while celebrating a certain savoir faire inherent to a past time in rock music through the embracing of lo-fi and vinyl record releases.

So how’s that significantly different from other CF beloved albums like Los Claveles’ Nacional 42 or Dávila 666’s Tan Bajo, which we didn’t hesitate to review? Or from the myriad of interesting indie revival acts that continue to proliferate? Probably because Los Ginkas’ music, as opposed to the aforementioned acts, is not self-conscious about its status as revival music, because it doesn’t want to be more than playing some cool danceable “popabilly” songs that praise partying, having fun and... that’s about it. There’s never been really anything wrong with good pop music that has no interest in intellectualizing itself, like the one that used to do most of the bands featured in the album’s B-side (which a quick online search will tell you know they have been referred to as “tontipop” in the past), I’ve always found that the simplicity and sincerity of indie pop is in fact its most appealing feature. Yet there’s also something a lot more exciting in the repetition of Dávila’s “Noche de Terror” than Los Ginkas’ “No te quiero ver”, similar to how Vivian Girls manage to successfully construct a song built around the word “No” as opposed to Best Coast’s blunt repetition of “I wish he was my boyfriend”.

Also, Retumbarama is an extremely uniform album in its structure, consisting of 14 songs that never make it past 3 minutes and show no attempt of going outside of the contrasting verse-chorus form, therefore displaying an almost disciplinary uniformity that makes it both difficult and useless to reference any particular song in the album. There are clearly no standout tracks nor any fillers, except for maybe “Babia” which sees the band take a small step away from the dance floor and have a very successful attempt at pop balladry with great melodic treatment. Other than that it’s all about good hooks, sing-along choruses and fairly danceable tracks for a very pleasant 32 minutes, which has never been too much of a bad thing anyway.

Stream: John Talabot - "Families" (feat. Glasser)

Our favorite Spanish blogs have been warning us about it, and they’re not kidding around. Barcelona disco maverick John Talabot will be 2011’s biggest Spanish import, or at least that’s the confirmation we get after listening to his great new single “Families.” The song is a blissed-out summer hit that’s also feels like a communal middle ground between the melodic, and dancefloor absolution. It features guest vocals from the gorgeous Cameron Mesirow, better known as Glasser. Her ethereal vocals give the track an enthusiastic burnish. Both, Talabot and Glasser are known for building up songs with incredible sweetness and synth sweeps; “and we always find our way.” “Families” is the title track out of John Talabot’s debut EP for Young Turks, out May 9th.

Video: Disco Ruido - "Amorfos"

It seems like every Indie band in the planet is visiting the forest lately. I’m not complaining nor embracing the cliché, I’m just acknowledging it as a sort of generational discharge (the most obvious response after two decades of green screen torture). Mexican electro-bombastic band Disco Ruido has employed the incisive eye of renowned music video director ‘Chicle’ in “Amorfos”, the band’s very first music clip, which is all over the place in its topics & its form. The video’s entrance is of analog proportions, and yet spectacular (the rest goes from the random, to the WTF). The pretty, but arbitrary video frames two lovers getting off the road and penetrating nature through the always silly “hide & seek.” There’s obviously, something wrong in their faces (they look like their storing fungus), but if you’ve seen Miami Horror’s “Holiday” you won’t get disturbed a bit. What those kids don’t realize is that there is a forest vigilante ready to punish them.

Videos: Alexico - "Extraña Silvestre" + "Róbame el Dinero”

CF writer Pierre Lestruhaut hit the jackpot in describing Alexico’s latest Acosador de Media Noche (Episodio No.2), as a “polarizing” record, where he “values consistency over previous thick experimentation.” It’s crazy, almost irrational, to put Alexico and ‘consistency’ in the same sentence, but for those aware of his profile, you’re probably nodding your head right now. As we informed you before, Acosador de Media Noche is an EP trilogy released by Melodias Belafonte that happens to be out of sequence. Episodio No.1 is now out available for free download, and according to the label, it’s Alexico’s most personal album yet.

Two out of the five tracks in Episodio No.1 have been given visual motion. The first clip “Extraña Silvestre” is directed by Patricio Hinojosa parallels insanity with floating heads. The second video "Robame El Dinero" is helmed by CF friend Cuauhtémoc Suárez (designer of the Fonogramaticos Vol.8 album cover) and brings a much more sober Alexico enjoying el Distrito Federal (through the eye of a flip), and looping the very appropriate “Goold Ol Boys” from Dukes of Hazzard.

El Sueño de la Casa Propia - Historial de Caídas Remixes

Historial de Caídas -Remixes-,
El Sueño de la Casa Propia

Pueblo Nuevo, Chile
Rating: 77

By Carlos Reyes

A couple of months ago Jose Manuel Cerda Castro (El Sueño de la Casa Propia) turned to social networks and asked if anyone would like the idea of remixing any of the songs from his spectacular 2010 debut. The response was of course, overwhelming. Historial de Caídas is a frenetic, captivating ride; the kind of colossal-youth album we’ve learned to embrace and re-discover.

The adornments, complications & manipulations of ESDLCP’s soundscape contradict its triumphant results, and these conditions now find themselves expanded into broader territories through the holy grace of the REMIX. Cerda Castro is a heroic infringer to the industry and the senses; in Historial de Caídas Remixes he has found himself an impressive Oceans Twelve entourage. In this album, El Sueño de la Casa Propia gets to play ‘submissive’; tonight he is the Michael Jackson, and the Nelly Furtado. ESDLCP is in great hands. The album’s chops are given shape by some of Latin America’s most intricate electronic gurus. Chilean power duo De Janeiros opens the show (and sets the bar high) by embedding their industrial spark to “En Mangas de Camisa”, the first cut that signals this album as a puffy yet mesmerizing experience.

Historial de Caídas is like a mine of precious sounds, and the premise offers absolute freedom to bring rich & diverse carving. Venezuelan pop executioner Algodon Egipcio accentuates the density of “Cortina de Humo”, Pepepe takes “Puertas Adentro” to the Ringling Bros., Sr. Amable sees the other end of the world in “Un Paso Al Costado”, and María y José dismembers ESDLCP’s hit “Voluntad de Oro” into the pre-colonial “De Oro La Voluntad.” Unlike the perfectly whole-hearted structure of the original, the sequencing of this album is all over the place, and that’s as far as I could go in highlighting its weaknesses. Unlike any fraternity in the world (including those famous 12 disciples), these guys have made something quite precious; a full topical treatment for an album that’s no longer a novelty, it’s officially on the side of the transcendental.

Vive Latino 2011: Part Two

Part Two | by Enrique Coyotzi

After spending the whole day all by myself during the second day of Vive Latino, I decided to attend the third and last chapter of this year’s edition with some of my buddies. I spent the last pesos I had left for the ticket and hurried to the entrance because Jessy Bulbo was about to start rocking out. Unlike second day which had been frenetic, on Sunday the environment was pretty relaxed; of course it was early but you could tell already it wouldn’t be as crazy due to the visibly decrease of assistants. Not even booking an international acclaimed act like the British electronic duo The Chemical Brothers as headliners could achieve the same success Caifanes had obtained with their sold-out historic night. But really, none of this mattered cause ahead of the journey awaited wonderful performances.

My friends decided to check out someone else’s show, so I hurried to Escenario Indio and got just in time when Jessy Bulbo was taking off a red-blood colored scarf that revealed her figure wearing a skin-color bodysuit. Visuals were lysergic; I swear there even was a drawing of Top Cat on acid. With probably the most elaborated show of the whole day (masked back-up dancers with inflatable guitars and trapping ribbons), under an assassin sun, Bulbo put the audience into rocking mood with set opener “Mala Respuesta”, some of Telememe’s best songs like “Jaslo Casvie 1” or lead single “La Cruda Moral” and brought the slam (mosh-pit) with cult darlings “Maldito” and “Sexo Sin Amor”.

I would’ve switched the order of presentations; Chikita Violenta is always amazing live and this performance was no exception, but as lead singer Luis Arce suggested, it is indeed very hard to surpass Jessy Bulbo’s explosive show. They also experienced some technical problems; the audio disappeared for a couple seconds but the crowd demonstrated support with unstoppable handclapping. I was super excited with “Laydown” and TRE3S’ standouts “Tired” and “Roni”, this last one accompanied by Rey Pila who would take the stage after their partners. I met my comrades while the crowd was having a fantastic time with Rey Pila; you would’ve imagined first single “No Longer Fun” resonating the most, but Solorzano’s cover of his previous band, Los Dynamite’s “Frenzy” caused a bigger emotion than any of the songs from Rey Pila.

The first rocking third of the day ended; my buddies didn’t care moving to the main stage to catch up Fidel Nadal but I wasn’t going to miss this opportunity. You just had to walk a little into the audience to find tons of joints and long-time supporters of Nadal high as kites. I’m afraid this will sound totally cliché, but honestly, Fidel Nadal’s presentation was a moment of union between all of us assistants who were letting ourselves go with the Peace & Love vibe. Jumping from genre to genre, abruptly interrupting his band after a song started and getting the crowd chaotic constantly when asking them “¡¿seguimos?!”, Fidel Nadal redefined the swag term of reggae in his Vive Latino appearance.

Sacrificing the chance of watching Andrea Balency Trío performance, I moved to Carpa Roja to meet my friends. Bad move because I had to stand Telefunka’s final songs off of their live set. Since their beginnings I’ve always found this group terribly average and this time around was no exception. Thankfully La Mala Rodríguez was next so she would make up for these forgettable ten minutes. We got to Escenario Indio (again!); La Mala’s outfit seemed to be of some dominatrix hipster taken out of a daydream anime. Another one of Vive Latino’s surprise collaborations, Rodríguez was rapping with Kinky’s Gil Cerezo and delivering some verses of Kinky’s “Más” when we arrived. By the time she interpreted “Por La Noche” it was a striking ferocious moment. She closed with one of my favorite ghetto-living pieces “La Niña”.

We then moved up to the stadium stands just when The National was starting. It still seems random to me why they were selected to play in this festival as a headliner and still consider them one of the most boring overrated bands in the current indie landscape. It was enervating watching them and I couldn’t stand their whole performance. It was time to split up roads again and I didn’t have the minimum intention in watching Adanowsky so I opted to move again to Carpa Roja on my own for Disco Ruido’s electropoppy full-of-dance event. All acts had begun on time so far, and although ten minutes late, it probably was the revelation of this third day to me; the only part of the festival that featured heavy resonating beats and a celebration in the vein of a Justice concert.

Considering Disco Ruido had commenced kind of late, I was worried I wouldn’t be in time for Carla Morrison’s triumphant Vive Latino premiere and I was right for being preoccupied This was the first time I’d visited Carpa Intolerante and I had no idea it would be so tiny, even though I already had the feeling it wouldn’t do justice to Carla Morrison persona. I had to push a couple of girls to get a decent place; this was 20 minutes before Morrison began, if I had gotten there later it would’ve been almost impossible obtaining a decent place. The whole tent was full and audience was salivating for her to show up. She was received with the warmest ovation of the whole journey and it was just a matter of minutes before she put tears in the eyes of the assistants, including me. She opened with “Esta Soledad”, then her band that consisted of Juan Manuel Torreblanca, Mariel Mariel, Marian Ruzzi and Andrés Landón (Sonido Landon) joined her to continue breaking hearts with “Compartir”. The singer played the most heart-trenching songs off Mientras Tú Dormías, a breathtaking take of “Lágrimas” and invited Natalia Lafourcade to sing with her “Pajarito del Amor”. The performance was enchanting and it was over very fast, but it left me a tremendous satisfaction on my chest.

Babasónicos were closing their set at main stage where The Chemical Brothers were about to perform, but I didn’t have the chance of catching up the last songs they played. I met with my buddies and we moved to the main stage. After the melancholic mood Carla Morrison had put me into, it was awkward getting into the party with The Chemical Brothers but really, it just took a minute before they kicked off with “Galvanize” to get me dancing. The third day of Vive Latino 2011 was the best of all; I could enjoy a greater number of performances, had the chance of sharing some of them with my friends and finished a long day with an enormous big beat party and hypnotic visuals.

Video: Ed Wood Lovers (feat. La Bien Querida) - "Ciencias Exactas"

Spanish nu-pop-folkloric duo Ed Wood Lovers released an interesting album last year titled Lesiones Cerebrales, which seems to have caught the eye of Elefant Records. Four of the tracks from that album have been given the studio treatment and will get to showoff their new makeup as part of a translucent green 7’’ EP, which should do the job of putting them on the Iberoamerican indie map. The title track “Ciencias Exactas” sounds a thousand times better than the original cut, and features the always-stellar vocal companionship of Ana Fernandez Villarde, La Bien Querida. The song features a charming clip sure to excite more than a few. In the age of the cubicle, it’s only fair to find escapism; Farmville, Epic Duel, World of Warcraft, and Dating Sites seem to offer the conditions for such escapism. As shown in this clip, clicking through life in a costume is fun & today’s most logical form of community-leisure.

Toy Selectah - Mex Machine

Mex Machine, Toy Selectah
Mad Decent, Mexico

Rating: 78

by Carlos Reyes

Monterrey filmmaker Rene U. Villarreal recently captivated the film festival circuit with his masterful debut Cumbia Callera, a film with minimal dialogue that through the magic of Cumbia (+ Son, Paseo & Puya), referenced everything from Cinderella, to 3-some erotica. Plenty has been said about Cumbia’s status as one of the new forms of global pop, and after witnessing its cultural rundown across various platforms, it’s time for a slight (if not shallow) re-contextualization of the cult phenomenon.

There are Cumbia-clerk scholars out there who would do a far better job outlining the health & credit report of the genre. I would however, arrive at the same landscape on an individual scale; there’s not a single profile more exciting to dissect than that of Toy Selectah. It might be a geographical matter, but Cumbia and all its mutations always seem to be pointing to Selectah as a sort of ultimate visionary. The legendary Mexican producer has built more bridges than anyone else in the world of Cumbia & Hip Hop, and those are the same channels that now find him celebrating the global-speaking Mex Machine, Toy’s best release to date.

After a few transitional releases (The Mex More, Bersa Discos, Sonidero Nacional), this 6-piece jukebox marks Toy Selectah’s career as a sort of career landmark in his role of music executioner & researcher. Mex Machine is a record in which percussion, harmonies, drums, beats, synths, excerpts & lines of speed melt into a global-sound village. Album opener “Sonidero Compay” shows the instinctive eclecticism that Selectah has embraced for many years (never discriminating genres or caring about indie vs. mainstream tags). Like a shamanistic workshop, "... Compay" is a piece that celebrates its cumbia-reggaetonesque vertebrate by embracing its own spiritual paradox. Despite always having both feet outside the norm, tracks like “La Ravertona” and “El Sabanero Raver” showcase a crowd-pleasing creator in absolute control over his medium.

Production-wise, Selectah employs a wide treatment to every piece in Mex Machine, mostly on the side of the hypnotic. There is physicality in every idea, and there’s plenty of room for exercise; hence, you could sense his music as foreign policy and realize it is of maverick caliber. The infrastructure in album-best “Half Colombian Half Mexican Bandit” is dualistic and celebratory to that extraordinary group of people in Monterrey (and other parts of Mexico) who see themselves as 'honorable' Colombians. Toy Selectah is Cumbia narrative. Whether it is Digital Cumbia, Hip Hop, Reggaeton, Rave, 3BALL or Ruidoson, Selectah is always ahead of the game as an artist, curator & tastemaker. Mex Machine succeeds in almost every artistic test it sets up, it’s a sonic minefield.

Video: Bomba Estéreo - "Ponte Bomb"

After a triumphant performance at Vive Latino, Bomba Estéreo is about to embark on an extensive U.S. tour and they’ve just premiered a weird looking, yet entertaining clip for “Ponte Bomb” (part of Levi’s Pioneer Revivival Sessions, and recently released as Ponte Bomb EP by Nacional Records). The Technotronic cover demanded an over-the-top set of images and plenty of movement, and that’s exactly what we get in this clip helmed by graffiti artist ‘Chanoir’. Li Saumet commands every frame with energetic wisdom, and when she isn’t in the frame, we get some fluffy creatures showing off their fur & dance moves. Everything is shamelessly low budget, but they’ve managed to visit the Yo Gabba Gabba weird cousins and squeeze them into RoseArt, impressive.

Vive Latino 2011: Part One

Part One | by Enrique Coyotzi

Friday was a disastrous first day at Vive Latino, no point getting into details but let’s just say that a photo pass doesn’t precisely grant you the option of watching a full performance by any band. Having obtained a different type of acreditation, today’s experience at Vive Latino was a completely different and a satisfying one. This is the only day (second out of three) that has sold out of this edition; of course this happened due to the reunion of the legendary rock band Caifanes – you could tell this was their day: most of the merchandise outside Foro Sol was dedicated to them; veteran fans, neophites, even parents with their children wore proudly their idols t-shirts, while the most hardcore fans stood in front of the stage since access was granted.

My arrival at Mexico City was late and unfortunately I missed Vicente Gayo and Joe Volume’s performances, but was just in time before El Guincho began. I catched up the last couple of songs by Bengala which are indeed a mexicanized version of Kings of Leon; people went insane with their popular single “Carretera” and an awfully underwhelming cover of Alaska y Dinarama’s “Ni Tú Ni Nadie” that was their set closer. Their fans quickly left and allowed us El Guincho devotees to get in front of the stage. Accompanied by a bassist and guitarist, Pablo Díaz-Reixa offered a fascinating set that consisted mostly from last year’s magnificent Pop Negro as well as some of the best tracks from his beloved Alegranza; it was amusing watching the audience trying to find out how to move to “Ghetto Fácil” or “Soca de Eclipse”, yet they had no trouble finding the right steps for “Palmitos Park” and “Bombay”, this one especially had everybody dancing.

Like in most festivals, travelling from scenary to scenary is exhausting, but I never thought it’d be that exhausting getting to the stage where Torreblanca would perform. After rounding Foro Sol and running like a roadrunner, I finally arrived to Carpa Roja stage (more like Dust stage) in the middle of Torreblanca’s presentation. Juan Manuel looked spectacular with that long white coat, he’s got a unique elegant presence and is a virtuoso performer. The band was playing an upbeat new song that finished with an extract of Café Tacvba’s “Last Batallas”, this was followed by their new single “Lobo” which if it wasn’t huge enough in mp3 format, live is a mind-blowing flood of energy. “Defensa” was the song that ended the presentation, I was very happy people responded so enthusiatically, they really were craving for more. Luckily Natalia Lafourcade’s show was going to take place in the same stage, so I didn’t have to move. You can tell Lafourcade is already one of Mexico’s most adored chanteuses, you could see people running to the scenary minutes before she began just to get a good view. Featuring a big band with a brass section, Natalia owned the night even though she couldn’t play any instrument due to doctor’s orders, yet she mesmerized us all with Hu Hu Hu’s outstanding gems “Cursis Melodías”, “No Viniste”, “Ella Es Bonita” and “Azul”; Amar te Duele’s soundtrack heartbreaker “Amarte Duele” and Natalia y la Forquetina-era “Casa”, where Lafourcade announced a guest and Meme joined her in the vocals, it was an special moment seeing them on the same stage.

Afterwards I moved to the main stage where Caifanes was going to play, and although I tried to avoid Los Enanitos Verdes show, I managed to catch the last 2 songs they played – of course they predictably closed with “Lamento Boliviano”. When these guys were over, expectative among spectactors grew even bigger. I have never been a big fan of Caifanes but it was exciting sharing the anticipation of the audience before the band came out and how Foro Sol was filled of ovations when the band finally took the stage. Caifanes are responsable of some of the most important rock songs in Mexican rock collective memory. Classics like “Viento”, “Afuera” and “La Célula Que Explota” had practically every mouth at Foro Sol singing them, but pretty much everyone there knew the lyrics to all of the songs. Caifanes performance closed the biggest day at Vive Latino 2011; today promises to be a good day too.

Video + MP3: Francois Peglau - "We Know We Won't Make It"

In the last year, Peruvian singer-songwriter Francois Peglau has acquired a great amount of international attention, enough to signal him as Peru's most lauded export. Almost every publication out there claims he makes lo-fi indie music, but actually, all of his songs are like quirky slim boleros (at least like those documented on 80's Television). Peglau's methods of composition might not be the most intricate, but they're sharp enough to tell a story. As seen on his new clip "We Know We Won't Make It" (from his album The Imminent Failure of Francois Peglau), Francois has the personality of a well-collected stage comedian; he's so charming I want to hug him. The clip sets up a sort of 2011 Cinderella story (or maybe closer to Betty La Fea), where a girl finds gets to live her fantasy when she breaks 'the fourth wall', finding her freedom, a new look, and the boy of her dreams along the way.

MP3: Vicente Gayo - "Cosas Que Encontrar"

You might not notice it because we strike to be ‘selective’, but in the last week there has been a storm of new singles popping out of Mexico. Yes, just in time for 2011’s Vive Latino. Vicente Gayo is one of the bands making this smart step forward, and they’re hoping that at least a fraction of the El Vive’s massive crowd will be singing along to their brand new single “Cosas Que Encontrar.” We’ve always been attracted to the band’s energy and its fixation with technicality, and there’s plenty of these qualities in the new track. In the other hand, we’ve also pointed out Vicente Gayo’s lack of direction in the dance-punk circuit, and here’s where the new track shows improvement. This is not to say they’ve made a better song than “GAYO” or “Fin de Transmision”, but they’ve come to terms with their songcraft. They no longer sound like outsized kids running away for no reason, now they’re after something (schizophrenia).

Video: Monstruobot - "Todo Lo Que Tienes"

Bursting out of the archipelago of the Canary Islands, Monstruobot is on its way to internationalize its squiggly music and its blissful aesthetic. The band just liberated an EP titled Buenos Tiempos (via Caucho Discos) and although it’s not the most varied-in-sound album out there, it’s got definition and a feel-good attitude that should do it well throughout the summer. Leading track “Todo Lo Que Tienes” (and its kaleidoscopic clip) makes me think of Spanish pop pioneers Aviador Dro, and some of the newer subtropical rock-inflected acts such as Extraperlo, Tarantula and Los Directivos. Monstruobot succeeds in making a verse/chorus pop song that feels familiar, yet is distinct in its elements, a seemingly random success... the Spaniard idiosyncratic.

Stream: Pegasvs - "Atlántico"

A few months ago we fell in absolute love with Pegasvs' "La Melodia del Afilador", a mysterious band by ‘Sergio y Luciana’ whose sharp, cutting-edge approach to rock&roll had as brainstorming them as part of the new ‘Spanish Rock Flair.’ The band’s profile is still pretty much in the dark, but a new song has unveiled a few hints of where the band is headed, and we’re excited. First, we’re just happy they’ve finished a second song, a good sign of the band’s solidification. We also learn half of Pegasvs is actually Sergio Perez, an interesting character in Spain’s indie, mainly as the head of Thelematicos (whose debut album we weren’t too enthusiastic about). The new track “Atlántico” isn’t as poignantly catchy or jagged as their first track, but it carves further into your skin using it as a map to some kind of hazy to-the-core experience.

El Medio - El Fin del Sueño del Helicóptero Personal

El Fin del Sueño del Helicóptero Personal, El Medio

Simplemente Records, Puerto Rico

Rating: 80
by Pierre Lestruhaut

Leonardo Velázquez’s approach to songwriting is as personal as you can get. His subjects of interest are his own life, memories and experiences; his favorite medium to express them is a room-constructed arrangement of string instruments and ambient synth washes; and finally it is shaped in the form of a lo-fi home-recorded product uploaded for free on bandcamp. As much personal as it is DIY, yet it’s through his own DIYness that his songs excel as universal entities. Take his outstanding single “Que bueno que nadie piensa en mí” from last year. While its whole construction responds to all these different levels through which Leo developed his very own personal vision of loneliness, its appeal eventually resided in how it managed to transcend the small sphere of the songwriter and actually become a universal manifesto for the lonely kids of the digital era. The ones who would rather spend a Friday night listening to the stuff they downloaded through the week and waiting for a (1) to appear on their twitter account.

Leonardo’s latest release as El Medio, a six-song EP titled El fin del sueño del helicóptero personal doesn’t see him moving away from his personified and individualistic way of writing and performing, now relying on the use of thematic unity to reach to earn the tag of the conceptual album. Though he maintains his first person narrative writing style of “Que bueno”, he doesn’t seem interested in singing about his present intimate-yet-universal concerns, but rather about observing the past as a mean to escape from the present. The desire for escapism is expressed through the craving of the imaginative life of fetal serenity, warmth and protection in “El primer azul borroso”, as well as the use of images reminiscent of childish curiosity and innocence in “En el patio”. I can guess that lines like “esas jeringuillas ya son las cuchillas que usa un policía como su arma principal” are not only personal recallings of Leo’s childhood but in fact of pretty much everyone else’s, and of how every child uses whatever means are available to them as a withdrawal from reality.

Yet even if this personal-universal duality constantly found in Leo’s lyricism is quite compelling, he actually reaches the full expression of his individual artistry in how he manages to distinguish himself as a great songcrafter, one that’s extremely apprehensive of the importance of choosing the right musical medium for sharing his singular worldview. From the acoustic vocals/strings intimacy of folk rock, to the naivety and innocence of twee pop themes and melodies, as well as the escapism of ambient sonic landscaping, not only does he manage to effectively employ these mediums, he also has his own attempts at breaking their traditional patterns and structures. They might not be as unique and accomplished as the non-linear arrangements of Phil Elvrum, or the fragmented compositions of Emilio José, but they do seem to be shyly pointing in those directions.

The two-songs-in-one concept works effectively in “En el patio - El fin del sueño del helicóptero personal” as it subtly abandons its initial twee balladry towards more dense and textured synth developments. But it’s probably with “O Futur O” where it gets the most surprising, using the constant shifting of its particular chord progressions as a mechanism to confront the intimacy of these acoustic progressions with the chaos created by deviating electronic sounds and the calmness of his laid-back vocals. Elements that would separately seem to belong in distant fields are brought together in unison. While later on, the final three tracks of the EP allow Leo to create a very personal take on lo-fi folk, as he cohesively builds his memories around the combination of ambient synth washes and constant strumming of detached melodies. A stunning example of a singular lyricist expanding his influences to create something truly personal, even if it might not be the most thematically consistent of concept albums or the most innovative demonstration of songwriting, it’s still a very rewarding experience.

Video: Hello Seahorse! - "Me Has Olvidado"

The physical edition of Lejos. No Tan Lejos, the third full-length album by Hello Seahorse! is out now in the U.S. via Nacional Records. Although a grower, the universal reception of the album seems to be more respectful than enthusiastic. The band has had to reconcile with its audience one step at a time, and we’re glad they’re picking the right singles to make that happen. “Me Has Olvidado” is one of those operatic songs that (without asking), stamps into your walls and is hard to let go. Music video director Diego Martinez Ulanosky is creating a solid body of work as the band’s recurring audiovisual creative. Here, they pick up on the narrative of their ghostly video for “Un Año Quebrado”, where a man goes on a journey to realize he’s dead. This time, the band stands on what seems like the ruins of a cathedral, looking pretty evil and entertained watching a man ‘detach’ his life strings. Conceptually, this looks like a frame of De Palma’s The Black Dahlia, except that here, we could argue LoBlondo and his allies are having a great time deciding the faith of the poor man.