SXSW Entry #2: Empress of, Delorean & Fakuta

My friends hate me. I don't blame them. SXSW is long over and i'm still bringing up my NRMAL weekend in Monterrey. What can I say? It's been hard letting go of the sweet memories created at the Parque del Ferrocarril, especially when the vibes Austin gave out was a nauseating mix of Doritos cheese and people traffic. I'm only exaggerating, of course. SXSW, like the internet, is what you make of it. And I was out there for most of the festivities (albeit minus one #PincheAndrew) making the most of it and representing Club Fonograma. Here are some of the festival highlights:

photo by Daniela Galindo


While last year's South By centered on welcoming long overdue acts, this year it was the rising stars who commanded our attention. First up on the CF itinerary was Lorely Rodríguez aka Empress of. My (H-town) crew and I arrived at the Pretty Much Amazing showcase making a conscience effort to keep cool and dissimulate the fan boy/girl on our faces. As Lorely and her band began to set up, it was clear we weren't alone in those attempts as a small group of smiling spectators filled the front row anxious to catch a glimpse of the Empress. For anyone familiar with her "colorminutes" project, the show itself was a straight up greatest hits set. Even if it took Lorely a few tracks to get into her zone ("Champagne" and latest single "Hat Trick" underwhelmed as a result), her stage presence evolved. Soon her dance moves became totally in sync with the projections that hugged the stage. On the closing track, Lorely chanted: "I-I-I-I've be-e-en waiting for you" but we're all pretty sure it was the other way around.

photo by Giovanni Guillén


Leaving the cavernous Empire Control Room, we moved outdoors and into the Old Emo's just in time to catch the end of a Savages set. Now, i'm all for a good punk show, but something about having it right before Delorean felt totally wrong. And being outside in the Texas sun definitely didn't help. WE CAME TO DANCE. QUEREMOS BAILAR. Once Delorean took to the stage it felt like seeing old friends we hadn't heard from in years. Upon hearing them actually play, it hit me just how much I missed their special brand of larger than life house-accented pop. Understandably, their setlist was heavy on new material (luckily for us the new songs sounded fresh). Only a handful of tracks from the still great Subiza made the cut ("Stay Close" and "Real Love") but it was enough to cause me to lose it.

Side note: Midway through their show, Delorean's guitar player broke a string. Luckily our friend Alex Segura stepped up and fixed it on the stage in time for their next song. My hero. <3

photo by Daniela Galindo


After a much-needed break on the Texas Capitol Building lawn, we closed the evening at the Javelina Bar where Pamela Sepúlveda opened the Intolerancia showcase. Recalling how 1/3 of the Club Fonograma staff attended the Nrmal/Chilean showcase in Monterrey (where many of us were traumatized by its congested space and an overdose of cellphone camera usage) it's worth mentioning how this setup was the complete opposite. Fine by me because it felt like I was actually gonna see Fakuta for the first time. Backed up with just one Laura Palmer, Felicia Morales, Pamela treated us with highlights from Al vuelo. Equally pleasant in the show was observing how the two friends exchanged playful looks as if silently acknowledging the crowd differences and reception of Mexico with Austin. Songs like "Las partes" and "Armar y desarmar," however, were able to pull in some curious bar patrons (who says it isn't about the music anymore?). When I finally got to once again hear the sweet "Juntapena," I found myself without a dance partner. Still, knowing I wasn't gonna get a chance to hear it live anytime soon, I at least made an attempt to slow dance with myself.

Piñata - Amics/Enemics

Amics/Enemics - Piñata
Hao!Discos, Spain
Rating: 78
by Pierre Lestruhaut

After seeing David Bisbal perform “When a Man Loves a Woman” on Operación Triunfo, I really thought Spaniards couldn’t sing in English. Truth is, after Bigott, Cut Your Hair, and now Piñata—Barcelonan 5-piece band of raucously upbeat rock that could percolate the blogosphere without anyone being surprised that they’re actually not an indie rock band signed to a Williamsburg-based label—the unwritten rule that a Spaniard rock band is not supposed to sound like a Brooklyn rock band has been betrayed too often now. At times we would even forget Piñata actually sung in English—given their proclivity to effect anthemic 3-in-the-morning drunk-style howling—and were misled into believing, for a moment, that bearded drunk indie rock dudes just shout the same things in English, Spanish or Catalan.

First single “Mexican Machotes” was quintessential indie rock-inspired juvenile flare that, despite being able to draw immediate comparisons with compatriots Margarita’s tropical punk, also saw them juxtaposed with a variety of acts fitting in the spectrum of rollicking, buoyant guitar music that’s been made since 1977 in the English-speaking world. Then “Llampec” became the first signifier of their own Catalan origins, ‘cept if you believe the lyrics in Hao!Discos’ Bandcamp page. All they do is actually just shout “Bleeding teeth / I want to kill your faith / Llampec.” It’s a lyric that doesn’t really make any sense whatsoever, but as long as it elicits that raw feeling that makes you want to tear your shirt apart, grow a beard, and scream “Llampec,” this is still a Top 25 song of 2012 by any sort of calculation.

I could go on and waste the whole set of synonyms related to raucous, boisterous, and thunderous, as well as references to bands that sound like Surfer Blood and Japandroids in order to discuss their new songs. But the feeling about them seems to be that they don't really reach the height of the previously released ones, meaning that Piñata keeps a place in our hearts as more of a singles band. They remain one of Spain’s most promising acts, which they surprisingly achieved while sounding decidedly not Spaniard; but also one of the most overlooked as well, which probably happened for that same reason. One could diverge towards a reflection on what it means to be a geographically misplaced band these days, but in the end we all really just care about one thing. And that is: “Oh oh oh oh! Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah!”

Video: BFlecha - "B33"

Being a music blogger is in a certain way a little like being a futbol fan: surfing through the anarchy of social media and blogs during countless hours just to find that one track that turns your world upside down is at times so similar to watching 22 players tumultuously chasing a ball for hours just to catch a glimpse of some stroke of genius. Those glimmers of brilliance (musical or footballistical) are few and far between, but once they materialize in front of you, they are the one reminder of why you really dedicate your time to it. Which is to say coming across BFlecha, moniker of Belén Vidal, electronic musician from Vigo, Spain, felt like one of those glorious moments.

Her latest single, “B33,” is a romantic slice of retrofuturism that speaks volumes about the breadth of BFlecha's musical and lyrical spectrum: 808 percussion, synth pop, and auto-tuned R&B vocals getting together for an interstellar tale of finding lost love in the fourth dimension. With a video that’s remarkably shot by Tomás Peña, space exploration is given the retro treatment, while the loneliness of BFlecha’s character feels both liberating and claustrophobic amidst a scenery of grandiloquent nature and alienating technology.

But even more intriguing than that was discovering BFlecha’s pair of previous releases on Galician electronic label Arkestra. Her 2010 debut, Ceja de Carnival/Kosmic Lovers, juxtaposed Dirty South, Rustie-like maximal electronica, and purple wow, while last year’s Qvasi Naves was the sort of rare release that settled any struggle between pop and avant-garde, where Chicago house, Spanish pop, crunk, and contemporary R&B could happily hold hands. This is the kind of project that effectively embodies the internet-era eclectic music fandom, and for that reason her upcoming debut full-length βeta, from which “B33” is taken, has to be among our most awaited releases of the year.

MP3: O Tortuga - "Foránea"

“Urban pop punk and marine flavor from Pantitlán” is the description on newcomers O Tortuga’s Facebook page. Similar to colleagues Los Blenders, O Tortuga is a chill four-piece that also remains like a best kept secret in Mexico, but eventually, is bound to fucking murder it. Despite not owning a Bandcamp or a Soundcloud account yet, two appetizers published on YouTube were exciting enough to get us pumped and to ask drummer Osmar Espinosa for their outstanding first single, still in demo form. And it’s ferociously catchy. One second in you’ll find yourself absorbed, wildly nodding your head, perhaps wanting to smash something. But it comes as something natural—pungent, full-bloodied energy, such as the one found in Las Ardillas' or Los Vigilantes' hardest smashers, inevitably fuels the listener into frantic agitation that tastes like coconut bubblegum. Assembled with buddies Ave Negra and Los Blenders, O Tortuga appears to finally give birth to a new fraternal, lo-fi, garage punk sacred triforce.

♫♫♫ "Foránea" | Facebook

Los Blenders - Meta y Dinero

Meta y Dinero, Los Blenders
Independiente, Mexico
Rating: 76
by Enrique Coyotzi

If we could honor Los Blenders right now with a single prize, it would be for Mexico’s most overlooked group. Seriously, these guys are incredible. I don’t quite get why they haven’t exploded yet. Sure, they've only received moderate exposure by some local music magazines and they rarely offer shows in Mexico City, but then again, they recently toured with Las Robertas and Ave Negra in Costa Rica (bless the Internet!). 

What’s wrong, mipster indie rock audience? This is the kind of refreshing surf pop worthy of wider acknowledgement, diffusion, and buzz—the type of ensemble you’d like to see owning Caradura or El Imperial, instead of revisiting I Can Chase Dragons!, Verano Peligroso, or other unconvincing and overhyped national names included in a great portion of Distrito Federal's shows and festivals. 

For better or for worse, Los Blenders don't seem to be seeking mainstream success or a bigger public outside their Internet-reaching niche. The Coapa four-piece has opted to walk small but precise steps with short releases. Following last year's brain-blowing, hysterically euphoric Ah Oh, the happy-go-lucky youngsters quickly come back with Meta y Dinero, a slice of three radiant pieces that remove the destructive guitar noise of its predecessor, substituting it with a chiller attitude, shinier hooks, and a stickier approach (as more recently accomplished in "Yumbinha"), upholding a tail of fierce, carefree adolescence, a feeling of momentary freedom enveloped in less than ten minutes.

What's next for Los Blenders? Hopefully they’ll soon release a proper full-length. In the meantime, I can't wait for the summer to see how Meta y Dinero develops; heat must reveal these grooves' balmy aspects. The title track is a straight sunny season anthem, all packed with LSD and MDMA consumption lyrics. "Surf de Amor," the best song in here, could reasonably turn into a spontaneous visit to the beach for riding the waves while being fucking high (I would do it, with a lover), and "T&T" slaps any of Best Coast's or Wavves' efforts in the face. This is how it's done, guys: genuine and heartfelt rock and roll playero.

SXSW Entry #1: Fakuta, La Entrevista

photo by Daniela Galindo

Puras tragedias. That phrase accurately sums up my first night at SXSW. A lost wallet incident not only set me back hours of daycasing (sorry I just wrote that), but I also had to cancel a scheduled meetup with Pamela Sepúlveda a.k.a. Fakuta. And, since the Chilean Estrella would only be in town for three days (and understandably had other plans besides business), another meeting seemed difficult. My luck changed once I caught up with her at the Intolerancia showcase. After the show, Fakuta and her bandmate Felicia Morales were in a bit of hurry to attend an Austra show, but also saw no reason why we couldn't get in an interview on the way there. Here's what we talked about on our walk:

Giovanni Guillén: Al vuelo has been out since 2011. What can you tell us about your new album?

Fakuta: It's still in the early stages. I have a few songs ready but I’m the kind that likes to have a concept thought out. For me, albums should be albums. They should be a complete work like a soundtrack. My last record started out the same way—loose tracks that eventually became something. It's happening again, getting these individual tracks sorted out. Right now they're missing the consistency for me to call it an album. I am sure, however, the record's production will come out faster. I'd like to do it this year. I also want the producers to really play a part in the process. On Al vuelo I came to the studio with everything basically done. I'd like the new songs to come in bare, so that we can all contribute something. "Juntapena" was formed like that. We had a lot of fun with it, and it came out a lot quicker.

GG: You pretty much know all the big Chilean artists. Which compatriots would you like to get for the next record?

F: Many, I think. Actually, I’ve always been more about finding collaborations from the underground. There's a girl called La Entrópica who has a great electro sound with this deep voice. That'd be cool. I've thought about it. Besides Chileans, I’ve already got a collaboration with Coiffeur from Argentina. We've become good friends. We even played together at Festival Neutral a year ago.

GG: How did Neutral go for you this year?

F: Really cool. It isn't a huge festival. Everything in Chile is a lot smaller. The Gabriela Mistral Cultural Center is such a wonderful space and it got pretty packed. I'm still not that well known in Chile, but at least I got to play for a lot of new faces, as well as old friends. It was just fun. I’ve also started playing with a new band that includes Felicia Morales, Pablo Muñoz, Anita Gallardo, and my boyfriend, DJ deMentira.

GG: A lot of music in your genre typically doesn’t allow the lyrics to be so clear and so easily understood. Why is that the case for your music?

F: I think that started more as a decision from my producers. Pablo Muñoz and Milton Mahan (from Dënver) have such strong pop leanings. Back then, I was more into Nite Jewel and other artists who put effects on the vocals and I also wanted that. When I started out I had, like, zero confidence in what I was doing. Pablo and Milton really helped me out. Milton would always tell me good things about my lyrics. After a while, I started noticing how people who listen to my music got something out of the lyrics. It was either personal to them or they identified with it in that moment. That's huge for me.

GG: Plus people can sing along with you at your shows.

F: Yeah, definitely. I've also learned about myself, too. Like, how I have so much influence from Latin music and even romantic singers like Yuri. Those are things one can't escape from. I remember before making my album I used to be ashamed of all of that. I would write songs and then think, "No, I want to be in a rock band." I guess I needed time to figure out it's what I do best or what comes out more naturally.

GG: I feel like your lyrics touch on very similar themes, like the need to travel. Where does that come from?

F: It isn't necessarily a need to travel. More like a need to elevate myself. I feel like I belong in the air (laughs). I guess those themes are a little esoteric. I'm also really into things like machines and technology. For "Juntapena" I kind of imagine a road trip to the south. I also think of a childhood vacation or something like that.

GG (after having arrived at their venue): As a music fan, who are you most excited to see at SXSW?

F: I'd love to see Prince but we're not gonna be here for it. Or even Nick Cave. But this festival has always intrigued me. It's like Carnival out here. I also love that there's so many groups who are kind of like where I am, starting out without a big following. I'm not here with the expectation that I'll blow up or anything like that. Ultimately there are still a lot of cultural differences.

GG: So do you think the language barrier is still a big issue?

F: It's getting better, I think. But I feel like English speakers who listen to music in Spanish are kind of viewed as weird. I think it's great. As someone who grew up listening to music in English there's definitely another relationship with the music. One appreciates the composition and the structure. That's also important. Maybe later you learn the real meaning of the words, and it's disappointing because of how dumb it was (laughs). Still, I love how there are people who don't speak Spanish but who listen to our music. I feel in some ways it's more genuine and honest. Sometimes I even see it see as an advantage.

Hidrogenesse - "El artista"

Although united by the most elemental of cultural vehicles (language), transatlantic bridges between independent artists from Spain and Hispanic America have always been hard to find, yet seem to gradually flourish with the facilities of the digital world. The news of Barcelonian indie scene mavericks Hidrogenesse teaming up with Txema Novelo and Vale Vergas Discos for their latest video and upcoming single on the label’s always idiosyncratic body of work is certainly one to be causing a certain commotion among music fans of Old and New World alike. Matter of fact is, we didn’t really muster the courage to properly review Hidrogenesse’s 2012 techno pop, intellectually dense concept album, Un dígito binario dudoso: Recital para Alan Turing, despite continuous warnings from Spain’s most trusted tastemakers. “El artista,” though, sees the duo turning up their accessibility levels (without sacrificing their inherent quirkiness) in order to turn in a Glitter-influenced, hook-centric rendition of the independent artist's worst nightmare: fund seeking. Shot in Paris, Txema Novelo’s characteristically contemplative and vintage lens here delivers a rather shaky and claustrophobic rendition of the crowdfunding experience. As it later loses itself in opulent close-ups of various bills, it leaves you with the subtle conclusion that seeking funds is, in and of itself, an art.

Festival Nrmal, Part 4: Throw to Lion

photo of  Lulú Melón Sandia by Jaime Martínez 

In a double twister of fate, .gif-fabulous photographer Jaime Martínez presented Throw To Lion, an experimental arts space placed onto Parque del Ferrocarril at Festival Nrmal. Martínez's Throw To Lion, had previously been a tumblr, a book, a radio show, and a noise outfit, but last Saturday, it was both exhibited and performed in a cargo container. The showspace's exterior, facing the black stage, was a shared with a muralist but used a corner quadrant to indicate a tentative schedule of music performances and a spray of visual collaborators (Victoria Nuñez, Lulú Melón Sandía, and Meredith Jay). The red (Christmas) light district was layered with drying leaves and  decorated in printed posters of the internet paranrmal (female centipede, pointilistic porn, etc.). The frequency of people visiting fluctuated as did the jump rate. I noticed a couple enter the trailer, only for the female partner to display a disgusted visage and immediately walk out of the trailer. A rightful reaction when considering the art involved itself with digital violence to the female body in a time of techno-industrialism.

photo of  Victoria Nuñez by Adrian Mata Anaya

T2L was maybe not as family friendly as watching Brujeria perform, but it was still a familial effort. DS RE grinded up cassette recordings and shot shards into an electrostatic field. Terribly comfortable in such an environment, Lourdes Martinez aka Lulu Melón Sandía jumped on the mic. The femme phantasm would stay in close proximity to the trailer, video recording various performances, but ended up straying elsewhere apparently, as evidenced by her VHSGIF entries from Nrmal. With delays and schedule  accelerations, Brontis and Parque Frensei eluded me, but they were ever present, a gift to the space. My double rainbow, HDXD, Delia Beatriz Martínez (MX) and Hector Llaquin of Megajoy (CH, Michita Rex), produced a sonic warp, proving romance and experimentalism go lip and lip. Though untouched in previous reportage, Jaime Martinez surely has Festival Nrmal's commitment to the techno-raw and the non-Coachella.

photo of  Throw to Lion Trailer by Adrian Mata Anaya

More photos the event and its collaborators can be found in this album, and Throw To Lion's audio performance has been recorded and presented here.

Festival Nrmal, Part 3: After Party and Casablanca Pool Party

Picture by Souad Martin-Saoudi


Shame on me. I left the festival grounds around 11: 30 p.m. to take a much-needed siesta after marathon dance sessions in the desert sun fueled by beer excess. (And that’s how I disappeared and missed Maria y José, Javier Estrada, and Daniel Maloso’s sets). A couple of hours later, I was feeling strangely fit as a fiddle. (Or maybe I just wanted to redeem myself.) So I made my way out of the hotel and to the after party. The shuttles were about to leave for the venue, so I packed in with the rowdiest bunch, essentially members of San Pedro El Cortez and Ave Negra. The drive up was punctuated by inevitable shouting and weird conversation about sanctification, while we chugged down a bottle of cheap tequila.

Dusty festivalgoers sitting in small circles at the red light-lit entrance greeted us. Inside, DJ Sliink was making the crowd shine some serious juke and footwork to potent house and trap-fueled hip-hop and r&b remixes. We followed the fluid moves of the anonym bodies until we reached the stage. Then Erick Rincón warmed things up with a set that jarringly married the heavy basslines and layered beats of trap to insane cumbia breaks and synth samples. The sonic transition well secured, Rincón ignited the whole warehouse with heavy digital tribal guarachero.

In the interest of journalism, I told Blanca Méndez during our last Fonocast that I didn’t think a 3Ball MTY-esque party would be my thing, since I usually go out to sleazy dive bars with live music. I was wrong. I presumed Rincón would serve us a collection of catchy instrumentals, but instead Monterrey’s enfant prodige constructed a pervasive, dark, and pulsating body of work ideal for an afterhour’s context. We might have danced until Siete Catorce was on. After this point, it’s all blurry who was mixing. One thing’s for sure: I didn’t drift off into dreams until around 6:30 a.m.

Sunday’s Casablanca Pool Party Showcase in Sierra Sagra was, after the all-star Chilean Showcase on Thursday, the one I anticipated the most. I arrived too late and missed Los Vigilantes (what is wrong with me?!) but caught a glimpse of Algodón Egipcio’s set while getting myself an umpteenth campechana. Cheky’s beautifully crafted sonic soundscapes made the whole pool party in the mountains even more surreal. All that was left to do was to find Enrique Coyotzi (last Fonograma member still in Monterrey) and abandon ourselves to his very à propos subtropical and lighthearted yet nostalgic tunes. Jamaican Queens and Splash, both hailing from the United States, followed. It seemed like pretty decent sets from what I heard while in the bathroom line. Kitty Pryde went on at 7:30. Not surprisingly, the teenage rapper made a point to diss the audience, complaining about the lack of people bouncing to her rhymes. She finished her disconcerting set ensuring us that the recording sounded better than her live voice.

Las Ardillas were the last act on the bill. Thank you Satan! They made us forget about the previous display of gratuitous flippancy and moodiness, overturning any preexisting conceptions about troublemaking music. The hyperactive Boricua garage act opened with the anthem “Cancion de La luz”. Gianky’s distinctive howl and tiptoes dance made the crowd trade stylish shoulder moves for some head banging under the aegis of desultory cigarette burns and scattered beers. As their set went on, the raw vox and devilish guitar riffs became even more snarling and thrashing. The pool party may have reached its pinnacle with everyone belting out the chorus of their last track, “algun dia vivir sin problemas, algun dia podre ser feliz,” until voice extinction.

But for Enrique and I, the final adventure in Monterrey was still yet to come.

Festival Nrmal, Part 2: Chipinique

Picture by Giovanni Guillén


For the worst, I was mostly alone on Friday night. I used Gomez as a yuppie pit stop, grabbed a veggie burger, and was eating in the dark, when a grayscale Gepe crossed my path. God willing, a good omen. After scrambling onto the three-stop shuttle, I embarked on the first of two thirty-minute sit-abouts. I had wanted to pop in at Sergio's, a mung, dimly-lit front, featuring some trans-locals, including Husky and Little Ethiopia. But stopping meant missing Zutzut and Vampire Slayer. Right as we left for the hills, Todd P ran after the bus, made us stop, and guided Trash Talk on the bus. For the remainder of the weekend, the DIY promoter, half of the festival music direction, could be found herding his flock of North American-plus transgressives.

Onto the third venue, we left for another sitcomic thirty. Some hunchy punks on a little spiked punch rambled about a sort of secret contract option: a two-day extension for visiting musicians with a curated peyote horse-riding excursion. A reunited couple babbled about the Babylonic enslavement of the populous through fear, and a lady holding onto her empty beer and a full bladder, danced on her seat in a lunar cycle, reaching a full moon of intensity as we got to the venue. I hope she didn't piss herself.

With Festival Nrmal's vision and professional preparation, I made it to Extasis/Finesse showcase at Chipinque in Monterrey, Mexico from Texas. But don't worry, Austin, I immediately kept it hella weird, y'all. I danced alone in line, stared into the ground during Zutzut's set, and spent thirty minutes on a secluded rooftop watching Laurel Halo. The rest of the night was a rope-a-dope between people watching and music feeling. Unfortunately, the dopamine of my Ritalin had worn off, so I took to Indio beers and got high on dope cameos by DJ Smurphy, DS RE, Toy Selectah, Erik Rincon, Alexico, and Tony Gallardo, among others. The mansion's mountainous terrain, a proper Monterreño slope, created sloppy clots on the stairs between the two stages. On top of it all, I peered the panorama, trying to figure out the updated sets schedules without any visual indications. Shame on me, I missed Teen Flirt, Vampire Slayer, and Menudo Coincidencia/Tocadiscos Trez. It's become a bit hazy to who I did catch, Physical Therapy retwerked a salsa track, Lao brought the crowd an explosive boil with some radioactive numbers, while an underestimated Zutzut, went first, to close friends and some handfuls of early love birds.

When the Club Fonobros and Sista Souad made it to the rave, an emotional dam broke. I blacked out in an ecstatic happiness. Game Over.

Continue? 10! 9! 8! 7! 6! 5! 4! 3! ...

Picture by Giovanni Guillén

Festival Nrmal, Part 1: El Evangelio

Picture by Pierre Lestruhaut



It’s no mystery that this site has repeatedly stated its own admiration for Festival NRMAL and the kind of line-ups that they’ve put together over the past three years. I’ll point out the obvious: the curation is so good that it just makes other festivals on the continent look like overpriced crowd-getters where smaller acts have to play in front of a crowd who’s just waiting to see a big band that’s playing in the city for the first time in 10 or 20 years. And I mean what kind of crowd-getters does this festival have anyway? Ariel Pink and Sky Ferreira for people who only read Pitchfork? Brujería for old-timer metalheads? And ignoring Todd P‘s American-centric vindication of the festival, this is a solid forward-thinking platform that showcases plenty of emerging Latin acts. But then I think about my own self-centeredness and realize perhaps I’m only validating an event because it aligns itself with most of my own musical taste. And then I wonder, if I might be traveling too much just for something that could be another excuse for twentysomethings to get wasted... 


Finally reunited with half of the rest of the Fonograma crew that was coming into Monterrey (Enrique Coyotzi and Souad Martin-Saoudi), the festival started for us at Sergio’s for the Vale Vergas Discos Showcase. Selma Oxor put on a show inclining toward electronic abrasion and disruptive sexiness, though I still have a bit of trouble getting around her whole electroclash aesthetic. It was Soledad that really fucking owned the night, though. Before the show, I hadn’t heard more than a couple songs that I thought were pretty decent, but on Wednesday they were a sharply different band from the one I remembered: pretty much the kind that reminds you how much a guitar, a freakin tom-tom drum, and a whole lot of talent are enough to make a show that’s both intimate and wild. Back at the hotel, Coyotzi and I talked about how wrong we both were to have completely slept on their previous EP Fe. Now that I had the chance to give it a few more listens, I kinda already miss the band that played at Sergio’s.


Someone else will probably have a more elaborated reflection on the Chilena Banda Showcase that took place at Gómez on Friday and that featured Fakuta, Gepe, MKRNI and Alex Anwandter. I’ll just go ahead and point out that having these amazing musicians from the other end of the continent playing at an acute-angled corner in an outdoor venue was seriously one of the most unreasonable things I’ve seen in my own sparse experiences with live music. I mean, sure, seeing Gepe and Anwandter was something close to a fucking dream come true, but, come on you guys, these dudes deserve an actual stage where they can actually do their thing, not that claustrophobic attempt at a stage that they ended up playing at.


On to the actual festival on Saturday, after CF favorites Ave Negra, Capullo, and Matilda Manzana pulled out good (though very short sets) in front of small crowds in the early hours, Escenarios Rojo y Azul had a pretty good series of erection-inducing guitar acts for which my own expectations were high. Tijuana’s San Pedro El Cortez were the kind of act that lights up any crowd with just a few chords and a good dose of strident on-stage energy. Sure, they also thrive on own goofy on-stage antics, which just adds the kind of positive carelessness that makes for good visceral live rock. And, seriously, this was stuff that fluctuated between raucous and psychoactive, hysterical and resolute. In short, this shit spoke to me on many levels.

After that, Chilean psych-rock band The Holydrug Couple were pretty much the kind of mid-tempo dreamy rock band you’d expect them to be (which, fine, their record is quite good but I prefer falling asleep to them on my headphones and not at a festival venue). Then Protistas had to face the challenge of playing after Brooklyn act Parquet Courts (who pretty much pulled the best set of the afternoon) and deal with the bass-heavy sound at Escenario Rojo. Even though they were a bit short on the vivacity that has characterized so much their own recordings (maybe because you just couldn’t hear their guitars and Álvaro Solar’s singing that much), the rockist in my heart went on to accept the fact that well-rehearsed rock is mostly about hearing the songs you love, and I was reminded of how much I really fucking love Protistas. And how much I still fucking love guitars in general.


Contrary to popular belief, in the evening, the magic was happening over at the Panamérika stage (or at least I’d like to think). I chose not to believe the Sky Ferreira hype and stood around for the entirety of White Ninja's loin-awakening series of mid-tempo sonic, soul-wrenching grooves. Since their set was made almost entirely out of Sounds Like Cocoon Fever hits (which, awesome!) I’ll be lazy and just steal a few lines from Carlos Reyes’ awesome review of it to describe what the show was like: “With sweaty grooves dripping into slow-burning acid, White Ninja’s flirtations with wavelength allocate the act as part of the exciting group of artists pulsating rhythm into faded synth-pop memories.” Still, hearing it live, this was some seriously penetrating stuff. The kind that magically reconciles the struggle between ethereal electronica and heartfelt soul.


Almost every person I have talked to that has been to a Mueran Humanos show has told me of how an absolute must see it is, which is why I was surprised that Enrique Coyotzi was the only one of the Fonograma crew next to me when the show started. Although it’ll sound like a terrible cliché, the show the Argentine duo living in Berlin put on for us was the sort of climactic event the festival needed. And what will sound like an even more terrible cliché is how much words are lacking to describe the emotions elicited by their show. There’s a French idiom that refers to the orgasm as “la petite mort” (the little death), and listening Mueran Humanos play live with such a collision of energy, anger, pleasure, and sexuality, was conflicting on so many levels simply because of how their music so overwhelmingly depicts both pleasure and pain. I don’t really like singing along, but for some reason I found myself disturbingly shouting “Tu madre dice que eres basura” in front of Tomás Nochteff, and then immediately after that I was almost gushing because of how discordantly beautiful their music is.


The most unanimously loved act around CF headquarters, María y José, saw the whole Fonograma male contingent at NRMAL reunited under the tent at Panamérica stage to see his performance. That being said, expectations were high as fuck. And Tony delivered. As he lit up a fire under that tent and induced his crowd into the biggest collective dance I experienced during the fest, we saw every facet of Tony’s artistic persona right in front of your eyes: the unknown kid from Tijuana singing over laptop beats, the internet-era enfant terrible as he dissed Ariel Pink, the eccentric self-worshiping artist, the refined music fan he became with his Tony Gallardo II persona, the elegant songwriter and crooner with his slower songs, and obviously the party starter that he’s always been. As I enjoyed seeing Tony unfolding every angle of his music that I love, and as I danced with the rest of the Fonograma crew and a few other friends, I could swear that, for a moment, Carlos Reyes was dancing with us too.


Out of mostly morbid curiosity Enrique, Adrian and I quite wrongfully left the Panamérika stage where Nguzunguzu were soothingly growing their set into a true muscle-challenging dance and decided to go across the border from Latino Hipster Land into the ghoulish darkness of Latino Metal Land over at Escenario Negro to catch Brujería. The huge blanket on top of the stage that read “TODOS SOMOS PRESOS” was probably a motto that a 16-year-old social reject that gets into metal for rebellious reasons might have found interesting, which quite curiously fits the profile of the people I would think are into a band like Brujería. I’ll go ahead and admit that I really don’t know shit about metal, to the point I just had to go into Wikipedia to figure out which subgenre Brujería fits into (Death metal?), so if I piss off any metal fans just know that my criteria here isn’t to be trusted any more than that of the kids who bought a ticket to the festival just to catch Sky Ferreira. That said, even accepting my own ignorance on the subject, it’s hard for me to really see the band as being musically or artistically interesting in any way. It seems to me Brujería isn’t much more than a politically thoughtless, culturally equivocated band that’s trying too hard to still be subversive some 15 years from when it actually stopped being, if it ever was.


Half an hour after Adrian politely declined our invitation to continue to see Brujería after he had heard about 30 seconds of it, Enrique and I proceeded to leave Escenario Negro as well. And as fatigue defeated our own thirst to hear more music, the fusing echo of Juan Brujo’s own riotous fantasy, Javier Estrada’s all-referencing global bass, and Daniel Maloso’s cold disco were the last sounds that I heard at Festival NRMAL. By then my own thirst to hear good music played live had probably been satiated for at least another year, and I could finally leave Monterrey having fulfilled my selfish need for cultural consumption.

MP3: Porter - "Kiosko"

Why isn’t Club Fonograma jumping up and down from excitement about Porter’s reunion? Considering they placed two tracks on our Best Songs of the Decade list (“Espiral” at #11, “Cuervos” at #8) and crafted the third best album of the aughts, I guess we should be thrilled. We are relatively excited, but also cautious, as reunions are not for the faint-hearted. Juan Son’s artistic excursions encountered mixed degrees of success: from the still gorgeous Mermaid Sashimi, to the underwhelming AEIOU debut alongside Blonde Redhead’s Simone Pace. His return to a band formation might just give him the right amount of restraint to balance his wild persona.

As they put the final details to their reunion at this year’s Vive Latino, the band shows they’ve also reconciled at the studio releasing the brand new track, “Kiosko.” The song’s entrance is so polished it’s almost disturbing, and as the song moves on we’re essentially presented with a sentimentally-tailored track that might just be the most commercial piece Porter has ever put out there (it’s seriously ready to score the trailer of a Sundance movie). There’s not a lot of edge in “Kiosko,” but it might just have the right amount of harmony to push the band into recording a proper album –if it’s half as good as Atemahawke, we’ll be happy. Grab the MP3 at the Soundcloud player below.

Sudakistan - "Dale Gas"

PNKSLM is releasing the first physical reference (a 7’’ vinyl) from Stockholm-based Sudamerican rockers, Sudakistan. We applauded the band’s first single “El Movimiento” as an anthem that “deliberately cruised through lo-fi and Latin heritage” and eventually immersed us into an “abrasive delirium.” The band is ready for continuum and is releasing the hard-hitting, sound wall-demolishing piece, “Dale Gas.” The track starts with distanced riffs that seem to survey a soundscape. Once the band flirts back with some bells, everything is in place for a noisy ride that will urge you to push that gas pedal. There must be something about living in the old world (see: Mueran Humanos) that makes Latin rockers just a little more intense than the rest of us. "Dale Gas" is as intense in its journey as it is in its release. I don’t think we’ve heard something as robust and hyperbolic since Mockinpott’s “Vitiligio.” About time.

Video: Kali Mutsa – "El Jardín"

What made Kali Mutsa's breakthrough Tunupa such an exciting double-take, sonically, was that it wasn't trying to fit into current pop genres. At first ear-glance, it was hard to pinpoint where the sounds came from. The label said "Chile," but had you inadvertently put on a Bollywood soundtrack? No, not Bollywood. Was it a gypsy band? No. There in the background was a frenzied sense of Latinoamericano: whistles, Carnival, tropical, a hibiscus and a tuba. All the while refusing to be boxed neatly into (shudder) "world music." "El Jardín," the new single from her upcoming LP, features call backs, folk fiddling, and the same oversized found-object embroidery of her EP's "Tunupa" (and, to a lesser extent, "Jauja"). However, "El Jardín" goes one further and chucks in another genre finding its resurgent home in Chile: the video game synth.

In the video, the character of Kali, obscuring her uber-femme lingerie-dressed self with eye-patch and gold tooth, like a Kill Bill assassin, invites you into the titular garden, where, swimwear clad women dance the seven veils, whilst swimwear clad men run from a praying mantis, whose penchant is for devouring loved ones post-coital acts as the game's Pac-Woman. This is Roisin Murphy from the Andes, though a volcanic fire replaces the Irish artist's dour, steel-grey delivery. Both are just as unhinged as the other, just as fun to tangle with, and irresistibly dangerous. Level up!

María y José - "Ultra"

After a sojourn with his alter-ego Tony Gallardo II, El Rey de Reyes returns as María y José  with "Ultra," a track that merges the harshness of the King of Kings (a drunken stagger of an intro) with the endearing naivety of tracks like "Granada" or Los Espiritus's "Pacífico-Atlántico." As a counterpoint to "Club Negro," "Ultra" suavely cruises by in slow motion. Its protagonist is wide-eyed and brimming with emotion, he duets with a distorted self. But we're still in the club, the strobe still strobes (albeit slowly). Featuring the infamous hook of Kendrick Lamar's (by way of The Chakachas) "Backseat Freestyle," this is somewhat of an unexpected rap ballad from someone who doesn't stop surprising us.

The distorted vocal sounds like some cute robot toy (a similar one appears on Tony's "Tormento") and on first listen distracts from the story of the lyrics. But the genius behind this subterfuge is that the less you pay attention to the track (as with most of the catalogue), the more the track reveals itself: it's that dulce moment when you let go of worry, you find acceptance, you get zen on the dance floor. The dredge reality might lurk at the edges, but this is a moment of clarity. You weren't even listening closely, but the intimate piano melody is now stuck in your head. "Ultra" is not smash hit single material, however. It's too straightforward, too ponderous for what we've come to expect from María y José. But it's still slick in its design—a polished chrome bumper, just one small part of the whole vehicle. Soon we'll know for sure if the sophomore release also has wheels. (And we're certain it has.)

Alex & Daniel - Alex & Daniel

Alex & Daniel, Alex & Daniel
Quemasucabeza, Chile
Rating: 85
by Giovanni Guillén

The first Mecano song I truly fell in love with was “Hawaii-Bombay.” Before I picked up on its more suggestive tones, I was completely mesmerized by the mood it created. Ana Torroja appeared to understand and appreciate the sensation of wanderlust better than anyone else. Her descriptions and sighs weren’t just from casual daydreaming they were clearly hallucinatory. And although the places she described existed, they could be found in pictures or experienced first hand, they could never compare to the ones she envisioned in her bathtub. That feeling is something I immediately recognized upon listening to Alex & Daniel. Chilean idols Gepe and Alex Anwandter deliver on their first collaborative album and it's a pleasant little trip filled with oneiric and seductive gems.

From the time it was announced, Alex & Daniel felt like a bold career move. It wasn’t failure that it risked, but the possibility that as an experiment it would struggle to find a place among either artist’s oeuvre. It certainly isn’t as ambitious as Odisea, nor does it contain the raw and personal narrative found in Rebeldes or GP. Not as a whole, anyway. What Alex & Daniel does accomplish is effortless studio magic, two friends at their artistic peak going with their gut. No sonic impulse is ignored, every idea feels necessary: a saxophone to close out things (“Cada vez que invento algo sobre ti”), steel drums to illuminate (“Mejor que yo”). Another worry that was much-discussed between CF writers was whose presence would overtake the album. First impressions viewed Anwandter as the main character, but as we listened more the dynamic became clearer. The compositions on Alex & Daniel truly resemble double exposures, no foreground or background; their appeal would be lost or at least incomplete without each contributor.

My year-end blurb for “Mundo real” was quick to declare Anwandter “back in Odisea mode.” That might’ve been too easy. Even if Anwandter’s hands are all over the production, it is still a distinct effort. The world of dreams plays a huge role in shaping the sound of Alex & Daniel (“entre las sábanas me vuelvo a armar”). While our protagonists seek refuge in sleep, their subconscious takes over. Traces of both artists and their respective solo efforts are everywhere. "Baby" revisits the scenic bliss of Rebeldes highlight "Como una estrella" and, as with any recalled experience, becomes an invention of the mind, embellished here with bleeps and boy band chorus perfection. “Mejor que yo” picks up where “Campos magnéticos” left off, and actually comes across as small victory for Daniel.

It is strange to think of Alex & Daniel as a commercial product that needs to be promoted. Chances are if you read this blog you didn't need 500 words to convince you to listen. If there's anything that should be put into question, it's what songs will outlive the Alex & Daniel project. Twenty years from now, at a 10-day-long Coachella, what recordings will be absolutely essential to perform.

The closers "Miña" and "Una nueva aventura" rise to the challenge and produce glorious results. "Miña" soars, recalling the eccentric flourishes of Fleetwood Mac's Tango in the Night. And as if lines as beautiful as "quiero morir así, me llevo a ti" weren't enough, the song is engulfed with love drunk beats that are just begging the listener to break out some Anwandter choreography (or maybe just some classic Gepe moves). "Una nueva aventura" is an anthem for those yung & restless types, a lustrous theme for anyone who romanticized Antoine Doinel's escape ("el día es muy corto para dudar"). You heard Alex. Go on adventures. And take this album with you.

Mueran Humanos - "El Círculo"

Industrial music is too often perceived as intimidating when it should be embraced as one of the few genres that show awareness of the real, constantly tensed world we live in. If you find warmth in Mueran Humanos’ latest piece “El Círculo,” it doesn’t mean you’re a threat to society, on the contrary, it probably means you’re mindful and putting the mantra into context. Released as a 12’’ vinyl through UK’s Vanity Case, Mueran Humanos (Carmen Burguess and Tomás Nochteff) are quick to establish a menace: “no nos importa nada, creo que pronto vas a entenderlo.” The Argentine act is not implementing elite margins to its audience; that build up of techno progressions make it really obvious they want you to gear up and join them on a passage that will lead to the re-positioning of a socio-political hierarchy (“nacimos para caminar descalzos sobre las cabezas de los reyes.”) Side B of the maxi-single is a 20-minute survey (titled “La Langosta”) of deep textures and dulcet strolls that will reward those searching for a true spacious symphony.

Empress Of - "Hat Trick"

As Empress Of (Brooklyn-based "project of sight + sound" by Lorely Rodriguez) continues to seep through various spots around the blogosphere and starts to gain attention from even the most revered of zines, it’s hard for us not to feel bad about not covering her until now, considering the musical output she’s been laying out these past few months has been both riveting and atypical. Her "colorminutes" project of fifteen one-minute-long songs playing in front of a uniquely colored background on YouTube is an unsettling experience of short-attention-span pop music, and makes us think about just how little the one-minute song format has been exploited (or at least popularized) outside the form of three-chord guitar jams - whether it’s through the viscerality of punk rock’s various branches, or the hook centricity of Guided by Voices-style lo-fi.

Rodriguez, though, has claimed these small tracks are only snippets of forthcoming full ones, which just confirms the fact that, as captivating as some of these color minutes can be, most of them do have a sense of incompletion to them. Which is why she developed a couple of these snippets into full 3-minute tracks. Her previous single “Champagne” is an intriguing slice of pop (or watermelon) indulgence, whose unabashed beauty via erratic songcraft delineates very well her self-declared fandom of Cocteau Twins and Deerhoof. On her latest track “Hat Trick,” she appears to gracefully settle on a more traditional approach to song structure and pacing. Featuring a Laura Palmer-esque cover photo that could be a subtle nod to Julee Cruise-style dream pop. Most recent comparisons tend to gravitate towards other contemporaries (St. Vincent) who, like Empress Of, have elegantly conflated the gap between pop and experimentalism.

Her forthcoming bilingual EP Systems is out on Terrible and Double Denim next month.