Midyear Report 2013. A compilation by Club Fonograma

Midyear Report 2013
A compilation by Club Fonograma
Album cover by Daniela Galindo

  • Nicole – “Baila” (Chika Entertainment Inc. Chile)
  • Dënver – “Revista de gimnasia” (Feria Music. Chile)
  • El sueño de la casa propia – “Balbina” (Michita Rex. Chile)
  • Maria Magdalena – “CVMC (Cada vez más cerca)” (Independiente. Chile)
  • Jean Nada – “Nilsson” (Unreleased. Puerto Rico)
  • Füete Billēte – “La Trilla (Montate Aquí)” (Unreleased. Puerto Rico)
  • Bflecha – “B33” (Arkestra. Spain)
  • María y José – “Ultra” (Casete. Mexico)
  • Alejandro Paz – “El House” (Cómeme. Chile)
  • Mañaneros – “Revólver o Pistola” (Independiente. Chile)
  • Piyama Party – “Los perdedores no bailan” (Independiente. Mexico)
  • Los Blenders – “Meta y Dinero” (Independiente. Mexico)
  • AJ Dávila feat. Mercedes Oller – “2333” (Unreleased. Puerto Rico/Costa Rica)
  • Franny & Zooey – “Paola y José” (Independiente. Dominican Republic)
  • O Tortuga – “Palma Linda” (Independiente. Mexico)
  • Triángulo de Amor Bizarro – “Estrellas Místicas” (Mushroom Pillow. Spain)
  • Carmen Sandiego – “Sos Más Bien” (Unreleased. Uruguay)
  • Bam Bam – “ROD” (Arts & Crafts MX. Mexico)
  • Lainus – “Toque” (Unreleased. Chile)
  • quieroStar – “Bolas de fuego” (Unreleased. Chile)
  • Alex & Daniel – “Una nueva aventura” (Quemasucabeza. Chile)
  • Installed – “Confundido” (Unreleased. USA)
  • Helado Negro – “Ilumina Vos” (Asthmatic Kitty. USA)
  • Empress Of – “Tristeza” (Terrible Records/Double Denim. USA)
  • Pablo Malaurie – “El beat de la cuestión” (Independiente. Argentina)
  • Hidrogenesse – “El Artista” (Austrohúngaro/Vale Vergas Discos. Spain)

Helado Negro - Invisible Life

Invisible Life, Helado Negro
Asthmatic Kitty, USA
Rating: 90
By Carlos Reyes

Helado Negro’s Invisible Life is the scoping of small gestures working for broader themes. But to read Invisible Life simply as a metaphor (of big or small scales) limits the absorption of a work that rises above a sonic thesis. Striving for emotional intricacy, Roberto Lange poured his ideas on humanism, spiritual awakenings, and the painfully familiar into a subdued yet quite illuminating phantasmagoria. Heartbreakingly mysterious and brooding in silences, Lange’s dreams make an improbable organic whole. In some ways it’s smaller and simpler than Canta Lechuza or any other Helado Negro release, but the narrative display and rhetorical flourishes accomplished here are fantastical and unmatched.

Appearing darkly menacing from its very start, Invisible Life’s quaint conception might intimidate more than a few. Lange’s sound stimulations are unrestrainedly fanciful and marked by extreme individuality. But alienation is not stimulated, nor desired. “Ilumina tu voz con rayos x” croons Helado Negro as he grants us access to his thoughts and encourages for self-introspection. This interaction from the performer to his audience is eye-opening and emotionally resonates. The lyrics of “Ilumina Vos” seem scattered and indefinite. He’s not being vague or playing with a fill-in-the-blank dynamic, Lange is utilizing language to create spaces where the full range of human interaction can become aware of the worlds concealed/withdrawn from our physical/visible world. His approach is small, invisible, but ultimately real.

Invisible Life reveals itself through a nuanced rhythm where spaces, layers, and melodies have an opportunity to breath and build/unfold before our eyes. While most synth folk albums are preoccupied with surveying a landscape, Invisible Life doesn’t just float around, it acquires physicality. Occupying a physical space seems like an incongruous attribute to the album’s fantastical core, but this is a work so remarkably deft that it must trascend its own spiritual and physical barricades. “Like so much of Helado Negro’s understated tropical synth, it walks a fine line between heartbreak and hope,” says fellow Fonograma critic Claire Frisbie about first single “Dance Ghost.” Most songs in Invisible Life are soulfully blended with such complex human behavior. From the bubbly timbres in “U Heard,” to the echoing chorus in “Arboles,” Lange proves to be both, challenging and compassionate to the medium.

No phatasmagoria is complete without a moment of terror. “Lentamente” is a richly textural piece that goes smooth until its last fifty seconds, when the soundscape is abruptly terrorized. Here we witness Helado Negro throwing caution to the wind and soundscaping a seizure. The combusting sequence is so surreal and touching, that it plays like a quiet cry of anguish rather than the rapturous pinball adventure we’re likely to find if we were to isolate it from its vessel. Only a few can make the incomprehensible so compelling. It’s this kind of trenchant that makes Invisible Life be so personal and yet so affordable to the common pedestrian. This is no happy-go-lucky moment though. Invisible Life is estrangement set in motion. Luckily, Helado Negro illuminates the path towards the presentation of his themes by directing the blood flow of his audience, quietly guiding us to leave our own spiritual comforts.

Plan B featuring Tego Calderón - “Zapatito Roto”

“No puedo confiar en una lista que tiene a Plan B, que patrañas son estas?” Those are the words of a reader reacting to our staff placing “Te Dijeron” among the best songs of last year. Whatever misconceptions about reggaeton an “alternative” audience might have, let’s get one thing straight: Plan B is awesome. The Puerto Rican duo is responsible for some of the most accomplished reggaeton singles in the last few years, with “Si no le contesto” being amongst the best ever. They’ve done it again. Their new single (off their forthcoming album Love and Sex) is the hard-hitting blockbuster Hollywood simply couldn’t deliver this summer. What’s even more exciting than Plan B releasing a new single? Knowing Tego Calderón is in it. “Zapatito Roto” starts with a fade-in sequence of dembow that serves as an immersion into a rhythm box full of possibilities. As Plan B and Tego begin to articulate about psychotic girlfriends (and their ways of detaching from such relationships) they rapture the dance floor with one catchy hook after another. It might sound like turmoil at first, but the song’s structure (driven by Plan B’s skyscraping chorus and Tego’s rhyme sequencing) proves this is a song closer to Gepe’s “En La Naturaleza” than to any other reggaeton hit on the radio today.

Los Ángeles Azules - Cómo te voy a olvidar

Cómo te voy a olvidar, Los Ángeles Azules
Sony BMG, Mexico
Rating: 71
by Carlos Reyes

No matter how high in the hierarchy an individual might stand on, when that hook of “Cómo te voy a olvidar” takes over the room, it demolishes social rank and most sense of individuality (not a bad thing as cumbia is to be danced with a partner). The hook has been so nurtured by Mexican culture, that referring to it as a form of social intervention is not too much of a stretch. Whether the listener is part of the condechi (the fashionable neighborhood in Mexico City that sets the example for Mexico’s hipster-fresa culture), or part of the populacho (the so-called underdeveloped class), the three-decade sonic legacy of Los Ángeles Azules offers an integrationist canvas that surmounts the social differentials.

The announcement of Los Ángeles Azules performing at this year’s Vive Latino was controversial to say the least. Seems it was a move to prepare the Vive crowd with what was to come (although we could argue the public has been ready ever since Julieta Venegas and Jarabe de Palo's Pau Donés internationalized “El listón de tu pelo” over ten years ago). Renowned producers Camilo Lara and Toy Selectah are in charge of Cómo Te Voy A Olvidar, a collaborative record that brings together some of the most distinguished names in Latin Rock and Latin Alternative. With names like Saúl Hernández, Lila Downs and Celso Piña on the menu, Cómo Te Voy A Olvidar is eventful. The first striking realization when approaching the album is the impressive amount of hits Los Ángeles Azules have conceived over the years. Lara and Selectah worked with a strong repertoire and seem to have gone on a no guts, no glory rampage when recruiting the album’s collaborators. The results vary in achievement and ambition. Some acts personalized the cumbia (Kinky, Nortec Collective Presents: Bostich + Fussible, Los Amigos Invisibles), while others had a strict vocal appearance (every singer-songwriter on the bill).

It’s perhaps in that last bunch of vocal collaborators that Cómo Te Voy A Olvidar shines, even if the pieces are less artistic from a conceptual perspective. Carla Morrison (“Las Maravillas de la Vida”) and Vicentico (“Juventud”) provide a warm factor in their vocals that validate the premise of fusioned Mexican tropical music that can strike for alternative arenas. Not every piece goes as smoothly. Moderatto’s Jay de la Cueva manages (through very little effort) to extract all the charm out of the otherwise lovely “17 Años,” Nortec’s treatement to the title track is no more than a decoding brush, and the lesser-known acts (Centavrvs, Canijo) just fall short from providing any freshness (where’s Capullo on this pool party?). But however the guest performances turned out to be, it’s the consistent presence of Los Ángeles Azules on every track that makes Cómo Te Voy A Olvidar truly engaging and far more than just a novelty release. Unlike other tribute albums made by rock stars (Rigo Tovar, José Alfredo Jiménez, Intocable), it’s beautiful to see the distinguished legends taking part of the gala (and in way better hands than Los Tigres del Norte did in that MTV Unplugged misfire).