Kinetica - II

II, Kinetica
Dilema Industrial, Chile
Rating: 71
by Andrew Casillas 

Over the last few years, the state of web music criticism has evolved into an atmosphere of “hot sports takes”-style socio-political-gender-bias diatribes. While there are plenty of great pieces out there illuminating the discussion of the current pop landscape, the majority of these works take on the air of “WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?” as a means of generating easy click-bait and easy Facebook shares. But it’s important to keep in mind the power that the current web has in exposing and charting the growth of promising artists. That doesn’t mean the latest “buzz bands,” or groups with a steady P.R. machine. What I’m talking about are the “long game” artists, the ones who don’t storm out of the gate with a fully-realized masterpiece, but who exhibit the tools necessary to eventually create something unique.

And that brings us to the intriguing, yet somewhat overestimated, Kinetica. It’s been three years since the Chilean actress/songstress Emiliana Araya released her debut album under her nom de aural. While her debut was promising, it felt entirely weighed down by the many Ana Tijoux/Michita Rex sound-a-like tracks. In the interim, “Halo,” Kinetica II’s first single, has been garnering high praise and anticipation from many of her contemporaries (and CF faves), including Javiera Mena, Mamacita, and Fakuta.

Kinetica's II is a much more fully realized and adult piece, similar to Jessie Ware’s outstanding Devotion. Off the bat, “Halo” sets the appropriate tone—moody, intelligent, and above all sexy. It’s more akin to MBP (think Marisa Monte) than any sort of hip-hop, but it’s far from dinner party catnip. This, along with the more beatzy “Iré Tras de Ti” and full-on garage stepping “Quisiera,” showcases Araya’s versatility and justifies the opinions linking her as the conduit between Chile’s vibrant hip-hop and sophisti-pop scenes.

But, ultimately, Kinetica's sophomore album falters in keeping its distance from producing anything truly bold. The album as a whole plays it far too safe at times, never giving the sense that it’s going to rock the boat melodically or musically, which is a shame considering Araya’s fluid and versatile vocals. But Araya is playing the long game. If we’re lucky, we’ll get to see the fully realized potential the next time up. Until then, we’ll just have to wait and hope.

Füete Billēte - Música de Capsulón

Música de Capsulón, Füete Billēte
Independiente, Puerto Rico
Rating: 94
by Enrique Coyotzi

It was back in January, when we first stumbled upon the thrilling “La Trilla,” that Füete Billēte, Puerto Rico's hottest rising act, started creating a significant amount of buzz. Ever since that promising introduction, Füete Billēte uploaded periodically to their SoundCloud many more dazzling tracks, whose quality promised a daring, piercing, and remarkable first reference. After some months of waiting, the superb, scandalous, hit-packed mixtape Música de Capsulón is finally here, marking the boldest debut release by any Iberoamerican artist this year.

Füete Billēte, made up by rappers Beibi Johnson and Dávila 666 frontman Pepper Kilo, along with producer Freebass, seem to be sailing under A$AP Rocky’s “PMW” philosophy. Their lyrics, while consistently offensive and misogynistic, honestly share the point of view of a street dog, a pimp, a gangsta—dudes who are real and aren’t afraid to explicitly speak about the shit they’ve gone through, their experiences exactly the way they’ve lived them. They tell it like it is. Despite falling into bad taste territory, as Pepper Kilo declares in “Bien Guillao,” “una vida como ésta hay que contarla.” He also justifies pretty well the group's motifs in this interview, explaining, “Rap shouldn't be an acceptable thing for everyone. Rap is about speaking the truth, what happens in the street, and how people live in the streets.” While some listeners may take Füete Billēte as a joke (some of their lyrics are simply too damn funny or purposefully outrageous), you can tell Pepper Kilo is being dead serious when making this statement.

Hate them or love them, there’s no denying Música de Capsulón is a hell of an accomplishment—a necessary refreshment for 2013’s closure. If you've been following their SoundCloud activity, chances are you probably know by heart the majority of these songs. The real pleasure is to have them, at last, in a perfectly sequenced release, where there’s hardly chance to breathe. And I mean that as a compliment. Like Janelle Monáe’s The Electric Lady, or even El Gran Silencio’s Chúntaros Radio Poder, Füete Billēte include a couple of skits resembling radio listening and a couple of others that bring to mind that disconcerting, yet hella funny voice message at the end of Calle 13's “Uiyi Guaye.” With hardly any pause between tracks, the MCs found a robust manner to accommodate their previous offerings, assembling an entrancing narrative. Whether it's with the assistance of Freebass' luxurious beats or Overlord's under-purple-drank, stoner production, Füete Billēte's vast musical spectrum, which ranges from '90s rap, to crunk, to contemporary hip hop, stands out throughout, revealing new genius in every spin.

Beibi's and Pepper's performances, however, are what steal the whole show. Johnson's reggaeton-esque flow is commanding, while Kilo's sick, often Auto-Tuned verses are intrepid. If the listener could picture their physical state during the entire record, one would admire them with red and dilated eyes. The sheer volume of smashers on Música de Capsulón is impressive. Following the throwback intro “Mira Esa Perrita,” the title track quickly makes itself present. It easily equalizes the same exciting effect we had when we first heard “La Trilla.” The self-aware “La Moda,” hard-hitting “Hasta el Piso,” and Aaliyah-sampling “Una en un Millón” are ultimately designed for perrear/twerking. Outstanding singles “Bien Guillao” and “Al Mando” bring out their most gangster side, while Overlord-produced tracks “Fumaera Namás” and “Vaso Lento” exhibit them DUI all the way. They even show their more romantic style in the fucking sexy “No Me Quito” and get dreamy in the opulent “Peces Cuadraos.” Whichever side they present, they succeed in it.

From the Fugees’ inspired album cover to the notable invested labor in its conception and brilliant nods to its influences, everything about Música de Capsulón feels meticulously mastered and conferred. Even though it's conceived as a mixtape, just like BFlecha and her panoramic βeta, Füete Billēte confected a release that surely feels like an album in the whole extension of the word. Inescapably irresistible, potentially controversial, and already exuding timelessness, Música de Capsulón certainly establishes one of the greatest hip hop careers in years to come.

Javiera Mena - "Espada"

I think Meek Mill summed up the mood in the Club Fonograma virtual offices today: JAVIERA BACK, ALL THE HIPSTERS SCREAMING THAT JAVIERA BACK. "Espada" begins with the simultaneous bang of a snare drum and Casio key, (appropriately) cutting an earworm so large you could fit twelve Paulina Rubio singles in comfortably. Lest anyone think that Mena would play it safe and choose a more subtle comeback entry, she makes it damn clear from the outset that her third album likely won't be about playing to expectations. "Espada" is big, bold, and catchy as all hell. Particularly the last minute and fifteen seconds, where Timbaland synths crash with Europop hooks topped with Mena's brashest vocals to date. This is gonna be the hottest Christmas ever, y'all.

Video: Banda De Turistas - ''Química''

There’s something undeniably fresh about young-blooded bands reviving the past, and Banda de Turistas is strong proof of it. They crafted blunt and gorgeous records (Magico Corazon Radiofonico & El Retorno) that felt like instant classics but, after the third record, the pulse of their magical radiophonic heart went on a not-so-exciting tangent. Their third album Ya (produced by Babasonicos’ Diego Tuñon and Diego Uma) wasn’t a bad record, but it sure profiled Banda de Turistas as a band that lost the element of surprise at an early age.

Banda de Turistas is already looking ahead and want to be ahead of the curve with the release of “Quimica,” the first single (produced by Los Pericos’ Juanchi Baleiron) that kicks off the promotion of their 2014 album. The attached clip (directed by Ezequiel de San Pablo) shows a vignette of designs and effects that mix well with the song’s gleaming synths, even if there’s nothing really substantial to overanalyze beyond what’s presented. It’s a simple, catchy song, a friendly pop song. This stripping-down-to-the-essentials decision is a safe, yet ultimately smart, step to move forward (or actually, a good opportunity to re-encounter with what they were producing on their first two records). Here is hoping the band will amend into their remarkable past and take a hold of the nostalgia that’s been leaking out of them lately.

Video: Hidrogenesse - "Hidroboy"

Hidrogenesse’s newest video commemorates the 15th anniversary of "Hidroboy," first recorded in 1997 and released on the Lujo y Miseria compilation by label Acuarela in 1998. To commemorate, the infamous duo (just announced as part of this year's Festival NRMAL) recorded a new version of the song this year to be released by Austrohúngaro, the label managed by the members of Hidrogenesse themselves. This rework of the track is being published on a limited edition 7” blue flexi disc as part of the label's singles collection series, Golden Greats. “Hidroboy” tells the story of a swimmer who spends a great amount of time in the swimming pool - a devoted athlete with swimsuit who's also worth looking at. Hidrogenesse approaches the song as usual, with loopy and funny lyrics that celebrate the pure electro song, this time, attaching a lot more sound effects to the classic and making it as robust as it has ever been.

Video: El Remolón - "Flashback"

ZZK Records darling Andrés Schteingart a.k.a El Remolón has made a name for himself amongst producers working within a nebulous aesthetic that encompasses electronic music, ambient, cumbia, and just about any other electronic sound that's evolved out of Latin America in the last couple of years. After releasing the energetic Pangeatico EP (2010), Schteingart this year produced the electro-cumbia soundtrack to Boxeo Constitución, a documentary exploring the harsh realities of boxing in Argentina alongside Lido Pimienta. He is ready to unveil his next trip. “Flashback” is the first single from his upcoming LP Selva and finds the artist evolving from an electro-ambient producer to a guy who produces tangible songs. The video that comes with it (directed by Ezequiel Mateos) works as El Remolón's first video ever and introduces a character that transports between realities and hallucinations while escaping his lunatic wife through the track's catchy beat.

Cuello - Mi Brazo Que Te Sobre

Mi Brazo Que Te Sobre, Cuello
BCore Disc, Spain
Rating: 75
by Glòria Guirao Soro

Earlier this year, label Mafiosos del Sol, El Re Mayor y el Fa Sostenido released Cuello’s first album, Mi Brazo Que Te Sobre. Cuello is one of José Guerrero’s many projects aside from Betunizer. He also plays in Jupiter Lion, La Orquesta del Caballo Ganador and Rastrejo, as do the rest of the musicians in this four-member band: drummer Oscar Mezquita of Derrota and Zanussi, guitar player Ubaldo Fambuena of Tracahombres, and bassist Nick Perry of Tucán and Obleans, among others. Cuello, based in Valencia, is their excuse to play easy pop rock songs about love, friendship, and human relationships in general with guitar-based melodies, very fast drums, and a characteristic thick voice.

Mi Brazo Que Te Sobre was recorded live in the studio, and that’s what makes the sound of this album so special, so raw and immediate. The very first riff of the opening track, “Trazo Fino,” announces a collection of songs to sing along—more like scream—to and, with raised fist, shake one’s head to. “I don’t care what you say to me” is the chorus line of “Te miro sin valorarte” (I look at you without appreciating you) and the rest of the lyrics is full of such statements that sound sometimes like verbal, psychological attacks, which, combined with the fat rock and greasy punk pop melodies, makes a very energetic ensemble that reminds us of American bands such as Archers Of Loaf, Weezer, Superchunk, Dinosaur Jr., or a less angry version of The Jesus Lizard.

This album is appealing in many ways, and one of the main reasons is because it sounds totally unpretentious and free and, at the same time, it reveals maturity and digestion of musical influences. “Come and play with me,” say the lyrics in “La Terraza del Amor” and, as can be deduced from the guitar line in “Fácil Pensé,” that's what this record is about: having fun, being fresh and honest, and self-conscious, too. I am only hoping to see Cuello live (if the full schedules of its band members allow it to happen) and to sing along to all the hymns found in between the album's opening track and album closer “La Verdad.”

Arcángel - Sentimiento, Elegancia & Maldad

Sentimiento, Elegancia & Maldad, Arcángel
Pina Records, Puerto Rico
Rating: 85 
by Carlos Reyes

As cleverly stated by reggaeton scholar Raquel Z. Rivera, “folks have been pronouncing reggaeton dead since before it was even called reggaeton.” I don’t know about you guys, but there’s not a day where I don’t encounter the beat, even in the most unexpected places. It’s far from dead, but the slightest immersion makes it hard to be optimistic about the genre’s possible pedigree, at least from an artistic viewpoint. Names like Daddy Yankee and Plan B have offered the genre enough powerful singles to maintain a degree of creative momentum, but the genre is undergoing a major depression when it comes to pouring self-sustaining full-length albums. As we’ve been predicting throughout the years, Arcángel (Austin Santos) is the one name capable of amending the future of reggaeton.

Arcángel is very well aware of where he’s standing. Arrogance and self-absorption often get the best of him (he self-proclaimed God way before Yeezus did), but I guess stubbornness is something you can afford after crafting the best reggaeton album of all time. La Maravilla (which remains commercially unreleased as a whole) was a one-of-a-kind event unlikely to be matched any time soon. His follow up (considered by the industry as his official debut), El Fenomeno, introduced him to the transnational leagues that unfortunately brought artistic confinement to his rising career. El Fenomeno was a tacky move from his label to recondition La Maravilla (at the hands of producers Luny Tunes) for mass consumption. And yet, the album was considered a commercial flop that made many wonder if Arcángel really was the individual dictating the genre.

Five years have passed and we find Arcángel more popular and consistent than probably any other name in Latin urban music. Well, that’s not necessarily true, but let me make my case. Calle 13’s political activism has nations sending delegates to the duo’s press conferences, and that’s something no one should overlook. But, while Calle 13 used the reggaeton beat as a platform (with glorious artistic and commercial results), they’ve now made every effort at their hands to disassociate from it by turning up the alternative, and subverting the urban. Arcángel on the other hand, remains loyal and affectionate to the genre. While Rene and Eduardo have turned their music into a social mission, Arcángel has kept his focus on transcending reggaeton beyond the beat. He refuses to reduce reggaeton to that essential beat, but rather presents it as set of conceptions (hooks, flow, tiraera, melodic bridges, etc.) that are tailored with a sensibility that is particular to reggaeton. In other words, what he’s bringing to the table is an assessment of the genre as something worthy of its own idiosyncratic narrative.

Three paragraphs in, and I have yet to bring up the reason behind the excitement. Arcángel just released the best reggaeton album since, well… La Maravilla. It’s nowhere near flawless, but it had been a while since an album of the eternally-controversial genre felt this complete. At 18 tracks long, Sentimiento, Elegancia & Maldad is not an easy album to dissect despite the fact that it holds some of the catchiest, funniest, and most hybridized songs released this year. I have single-handedly reviewed every release by Arcángel. It’s not that my fellow Fonograma writers neglect him (we placed “Chica Virtual” in the top 15 songs of the past decade), but I’ve used my editorial perks to become a sort of specialist/scholar on his profile. SE&M’s first single, “Hace Mucho Tiempo,” is better than 95% of the hits on FM airwaves, but in no way did it convey how good SE&M ended up being.

Immersing into SE&M is uncomfortable at first. In its mere aesthetic presentation, the album is problematic and off-putting. The album cover shows a topless model on top of the artist. She’s been branded with Arcángel's logo on her back. It’s a bit frustrating to see someone who is a bit of a genius not realize he’s taking part of what has wounded the reggaeton pedigree above anything else: its artistic prostitution. The cover isn’t as evil as R.Kelly’s latest one, but it sure is disappointing considering how progressive and androgynous most of the songs on the album are. Arcángel is more incongruent than a misogynist in that regard, but I’m sure deducting him points for not being able to filter the degrading parts of the genre he’s claiming to reform.

“Aún recuerdo mis tiempos de bandolero / cambie el flow / y sigo estando entre los primeros,” brags Arcángel in the M.I.A.-esque “Por la plata baila el mono,” just before humbly reminding us he is the King Kong of reggaeton. SE&M is not set up to revolutionize the genre in the way his debut endeavored. Arcángel instead, puts on a historian outfit and makes an index of sorts of when the genre started (the hypersexualized and bared-to-essentials “Que Le Den”), its absorption by the mainstream (“Sola” featuring ex-partner De La Ghetto), the moment it became a monopolized mafia (“Pacas de 100,” featuring Daddy Yankee), and its subsequent, sugar-coated dissolving with synth pop (“Tiene un piquete”). This historical reading of the album was most probably not intentional (the sequencing is nonlinear), but considering Arcángel's artistic escapades (highly celebrated by people like Tego Calderón and Rita Indiana), it’s consistent to conclude that Arcángel was conscious the genre needed this assessment more than another “Gasolina.”

But what makes SE&M so special is how Arcángel envisions the future of the genre: reggaeton transcending from a beat to an increasingly versatile genre. Perhaps it’s too much of an assumption, but it seems that Arcángel has bonded with his contemporaries. He encounters Drake in the dazzling “Me Myself & My Money,” swims around Frank Ocean in the melancholic “Cuando Tu No Estas,” gets as mucky and dope as Danny Brown in “Gucci Boys Club,” and croons over the R&B balladry of Miguel in “Lentamente.” While it seems like he’s borrowing, he approaches and executes each with the sensibility and idiosyncrasy of a reggaeton artist (while also holding up to the fact that he is also American). Arcángel proclaims leadership of a new line of artists he calls “La sangre nueva." If Sentimiento, Elegancia & Maldad is able to shift the gears of those subscribed to this new blood (Plan B, Ñengo Flow, among others), while also outlining the genre’s history and cultural impact for the sake of its pedigree, then we can officially consider this a triumph. And that to me is more of a revolution than trying to figure out what the hell “Multi_Viral” is really about.

Capitán - Compulsión

Compulsión, Capitán
Discoteca Océano, Spain
Rating: 69
by Glòria Guirao Soro

Recorded more than a year ago and already presented live, Compulsión (Discoteca Océano, 2013) finally got a release. Capitán had kept it almost as a relic, since only two of its songs had been included in a 2012 compilation by Discos Walden, La Fonoteca, and Maravillosos Ruidos, which also featured tracks from Barcelona bands Viva Ben-Hur, Arponera, and Villarroel. It’s not until now that we have been able to listen to the complete oeuvre of the band led by Cacho Salvador, who is also Extraperlo’s bassist.

Capitán is a three-member band from Barcelona, formed by Cacho himself with musicians Adrián de Alfonso (Don The Tiger, Bèstia Ferida, Veracruz) and Pau Riutort (Beach Beach, Extraperlo). Quite a supergroup, we could say. Compulsión is a dark, enveloping, and depressing album. It is about anxiety and pressure, about feeling lost and lonely. With simple and repetitive rhythmical progressions and atmospheric sound effects, the deep voice dives into gloomy waves of melody. It is related to Spanish New Wave, especially to bands such as Golpes Bajos, but it is also clearly influenced by the music of Bauhaus, Joy Division, Nick Cave—I think of “Do You Love Me?”, for example—a more opaque version of Echo and the Bunnymen, or even Interpol, although this last comparison may irk some.

The idea of a concept album sounds to me a bit too pretentious, but it is true that there is a common mood to all the lyrics and a defining sound of the whole. This homogeneity has to do with some improvisation and with de Aflonso's noisy touch that spills over from his project Don The Tiger. On the contrary, side projects of the rest of the members in the band are far more colorful and brighter than Compulsión, which is one of the interesting things about this album. Intuition, experimentation, immersion in the deep, dark ambience of loneliness and distress are the key concepts to understand this exploration of other paths in music and emotion that Cacho Salvador and bandmates are in.

Video: Ocellot - “Lonely Friends”

“Lonely Friends” is the first single extracted from Ocellot’s first album Molsa Molsa, just released by catalan independent labels Famèlic and Discos La Gàbia. Ocellot is a four member band based in Barcelona, famous for their psychedelic and colorful live performances, sometimes accompanied by light and video artwork by Lluís Huedo, the director of this video. The clip translates the music into images almost literally, recreating the loneliness transmitted by the lyrics and turning the sound loops into a liquid ambience where the tribal, folk touch of the music is shaped as nudity.

Video: Violeta Castillo - ''Las Cremas''

Violeta Castillo believes in the predilection of pop songcraft as something universal. But, even if approachable, she still shows interest in experimenting with new structures. Though her songs don’t necessarily follow the verse-bridge-chorus pattern, she shows plenty of command placing and displacing beats between love ballads and acoustic melodies. Her latest single, “Las Cremas,” is a hybrid of sorts, but still undoubtedly pop. Like many of her peers, Castillo’s composition has put aside the acoustic guitar and tuned to the keyboards. “Dame unos minutos para actuar y hacer efecto como las cremas,” sighs the singer, responding to the medium with affection and sincerity. Directed by photographer Catalina Bartolome, the clip for “Las Cremas” shows a group of women who discard all sense of vanity and move around the frame as if there were no tomorrow. “Las Cremas” is the first single off Castillo’s new EP, Hasta Abajo.

Zoé - Programaton

Programaton, Zoé
EMI Music, Mexico
Rating: 55
by Carlos Reyes

Art is always conflict or in conflict. Unfortunately for Zoé, conflict (as an artistic choice and characteristic of beauty) has become a concept and not a purpose. Their latest record, Programaton, confirms they’ve become responders to regularity and sees them subscribing to linear narrative. There’s little construction or deconstruction here, and, when your music mainly focuses on the progressive relationship between time and space, the dissemination of your discourse is in big trouble. Sure, there are moments of lyrical urgency and digital distortion to be found here, but they all sit in the superimposed and very obvious comfort zone that ultimately comes to delineate the album.

Zoé’s current status as Mexico’s most critically divisive band is conflict enough some may say, but that’s an absorbed comfort all on its own. Instead, I’m pointing the finger to the album’s lazy articulation with spatial conflict, tempo conflict, and form conflict. Opening and promotional track “10 A.M.” is an easy-listening offering that never experiences any sort of melodic angst nor aspires to negotiate with space. Dissolving song structure so extremely and with so little regard is a way of absolute thinking, and that amounts to a compositional emptiness that distracts but never attracts. Without conflict there is no creation, and, if the material doesn’t challenge the listener, there’s only so much provisional power to sustain your themes.

Singles “10 A.M” and “Camara Lenta” aren’t necessarily flawed on their own (the hooks are actually pretty easy to grab on to) but, as part of the bigger picture, they are the outcome of Zoé favoring an obvious (concrete) narrative over a submerged (abstract) conception. Even if the band was aiming at sounding effortless, Programaton’s biggest deficiency is in its lack of excitement. There’s little to no fragmentation across the album, no introspective gestures or towering attractions (of any nature), no assaulting of the senses. Zoé patches those plot holes with chunks of melodrama (“Arrullo de Estrellas,” “Game Over Shangai”) that, although occasionally whimsical, they seem to be part of the very same escapism offered by Zoé in their last couple of albums.

There’s a moment in the intro of “Dos Mil Trece” where the band seemed to be pretty close to recruiting the reggaeton beat as part of their arsenal. Sadly, it was only my hopeful thirst for some excitement. More than a rock and roll album, Programaton is a collection of templates designed to fit Zoé’s linear and metaphorically weak lexicon. In the most head-scratching line of the album, Zoé mentions Pedro Infante with no emotional tissue to sustain the reference. This is only one of many unwise instances blinded by the band’s ultra sentimental regression, one that has inevitably turned passive populist and of minor sensible appeal.

Fonobisa - 12:68

12:68, Fonobisa
Bad Pop, Mexico
Rating: 84
by Enrique Coyotzi

It’s a well-known fact that the best Mexican producers (Mock the Zuma, Siete Catorce, Wyno) are hailing from the north, but we can’t ignore other often overlooked artists (Kryone, Turning Torso, Carlos Pesina and his many pseudonyms) based in some of the country's central states, whose fruitful labor has also helped to shape the national electronic field. The prolific Edgar Mota (aka Colateral Soundtrack or cltrlsndtrck), member of the disappeared Los Amparito, easily fits into this category. The tapatío's last EP as cltrlsndtrck, Cifras, put him in the spotlight, but more recently, he’s been acquiring more attention with his newest project, Fonobisa, playing at gigs like Festival Antes and becoming a favorite for the NAAFI parties’ lineups.

As Fonobisa, Mota’s been restless. He’s offered three compelling EPs in 2013, where he has explored from crazy, kinetic footwork (Frecuencia errónea) to weird-as-fuck, chopped postcard experiments (Abstracción). Still, his most absorbing contribution appeared between these both, with the playful, jaw-dropping 12:68. Under the mixtape format, the producer expertly tests his poppiest facet yet, along with a top-notch selection of collaborators, including Matilda Manzana, Pájaro Sin Alas, Onenina (Capullo’s Cris), and Marinero (Francisco y Madero’s Jess Sylvester), while devoting himself to a concept that feels both flexible and wide-ranging, allowing the listener the possibility of free interpretation—a circular release that can truly be perceived as cyclic, as well as mind-expanding on its own.

The seven songs' names point out specific hours of this time lapse. Starting with the title track, 12:68 takes off in an introspective, almost meditative, lo-fi dance note. Thick bass, a jaunty rhythm, and Marinero’s ethereal vocals set the mood. In “5:17,” urgency is the key. Pájaro Sin Alas, with his towering voice, delivers a fiery performance with a trace of Radiohead's anxious efforts in Amnesiac. Revisiting the chemistry between both, Fonobisa teams up for a second time with Matilda Manzana in the bouncy, ghostlike “6:06,” which Óscar Rodríguez has described as “anti-scene.” Onenina's contribution turns out as the most entertaining. Fonobisa’s shadowy landscapes represent a different zone for Cris, yet she unravels with no problem, singing one of the year’s catchiest hooks (“No puede procesar tus labios en tiempo real”). Nevertheless, the only piece sung-spoken (à la Daniel Maloso) by Mota, “11:25 ( mensaje directo ),” takes the whole prize. “Como un loop estás en mi razón,” the beatmaker enounces over reflective, neon-like synth lines nuanced by increasingly voluptuous beats and swooning effects, setting the body into inevitable motion. “11:25 ( mensaje directo )” wouldn’t feel out of place inside the Cómeme catalog. The roundness of 12:68 arrives courtesy of Hiram Martínez's 2-step pacifying edit of the title track—a version which definitely spells "hangover."

Up to this stage, it’s fair to establish the incredibly creative Edgar Mota as one of Mexico’s top electronic underground figures. His cerebral approach is defying as well as inspiring, and no one around sounds like him right now. One must check out his whole body of work to actually understand (and taste) his entire artistry. However, with 12:68 he’s crafted a sensationally contagious and outstanding entry point to discover what his challenging music is all about.

AJ Dávila y Terror Amor – “Ohhh (No Te Encantes)” (Feat. Fofe Abreu)

Even considering that Arnaldo José Lozada, was once part of a death metal band called Tortura and later the bassist and vocalist of Davila 666, he doesn't seem like the vicious kind. Whether writing/producing garage cuts for Davila 666 or releasing perverse pop punk songs with catchy melodies, like “2333” (feat. Meche Oller) or “Lo Que No Será (feat. Alex Anwandter) under the name of AJ Dávila, Lozada has consistently shown a knack for the crestfallen feeling he invests in his performance that cuts through loud and clear.

In his latest single off upcoming debut LP, Terror/Amor (Nacional Records), AJ Dávila and Terror Amor deliver another melancholic (if still fuzzed-out) balladry, and it’s a rewarding one. Featuring José “Fofe” Abreu, one of the leading voices of the Puerto Rican music scene with bands Circo and Fofe y los Fetiches, and Los Negretes’ Jinmmy Vitte, “Ohhh (No Te Encantes)” is addictive due to its gusto and playfulness with lyrics like "sabes nena tu y yo aberrante" or "pal de buenas tu y yo y palante" to the repeating line “tu y yo,” all of which combine to engender a greater emotional depth. Besides Fofe and Vitte, Terror/Amor features a top-notch selection of collaborators, such as Juan Cirerol, Alex Anwandter, Meche Oller (Las Robertas), Cole Alexander (Black Lips) Juanita Calamidad (Juanita y los Feos), Selma Oxor, Sergio Rotman (Los Fabulosos Cadillacs), Johnny Boy, Armando Lassus (Los Nadie), and Dax Díaz. You can download “Ohhh (No Te Encantes)” here, via MAP.

María Magdalena - CVMC

CVMC, María Magdalena
MMD, Chile
Rating: 75
by Pierre Lestruhaut

A lot of us around here hadn’t heard about María Magdalena, the Chilean singer-songwriter who between debut and sophomore releases made the transition from electric guitar to music sequencers as her composition tool, until her single “CVMC (Cada Vez Más Cerca)” dropped earlier this year. In retrospect, the song isn’t just a tour de force, it’s also a reinvention of the artist. Her self-titled debut album was mostly made of organic indie pop balladry and led by her own vocal melodies, so, in a way, this new CVMC EP feels like the work of an artist that's gone from indie pop songwriter to disco pop diva. The kind that can get away with having her songs featured both on Niñas Mal and a Club Fonograma compilation (for what it’s worth).

The eponymous leadoff track still hasn’t worn out even six months after being released, and its endless series of hooks is enough to place it high among the continuous stream of Chilean pop hits that’s invaded the blogosphere these last few years. But even then, she still hadn’t shown all her cards yet. “Niñas hardcore” slows down the tempo and, with it, exudes a Balearic pop exuberance that’s hard to find in any recent Chilean pop releases. It actually manages to one-up “CVMC” in that it’s warmer, sexier, weirder, and (what’s ultimately really important here) catchier.

The EP’s existence could be solely justified as a way to include both singles in an official release of sorts, being clearly the two standout tracks on the 5-song EP. Magdalena is a self-declared fan of Giorgio Moroder and, with “Relámpago,” she explores the juxtaposition between the coldness of arpeggiated Italo disco beats and her warm voice. It’s her less hook-oriented song but it could still fill any early '80s dance floor. “La Isla” and “Segunda Vez” bring down the EP’s gloss levels, going into synth-pop territory in what serves as an interesting backdrop for Magdalena’s vocal melodies. Yet the instrumentation's darkness makes these songs fall a bit flat in comparison to the luxurious singles.

CVMC is proof enough of María Magdalena’s huge potential for creating pop gems. What she lacks in Icona Pop-style sing-along escapist pop she makes up with her ability in song crafting, and what she may lack in Charli XCX-style glistening, off-kilter, post-internet pop she makes up with an aesthetic that sounds both timeless and placeless. Her decision to go digital has given her a more versatile backdrop to sing to. Although she still might not have the genre-bending experimentation that has allowed a musician like Grimes to thrive in the LP format, it seems, for now, María Magdalena can easily blossom as a singles artist. Going with the EP format seems like the wise decision from a musician who’s very aware of the missteps that can come from releasing too much too soon.

Roy Valentín – Crónica

Crónica, Roy Valentín
Entorno Doméstico, Venezuela
Rating: 72
by Souad Martin-Saoudi 

Three years after the premature death of Elaine, IL Gimón hasn't ceased developing his sound. As a matter of fact, the musician from Caracas now going by Roy Valentín released his first solo album (the anticipated follow up to his intriguing EP “Música/Corazón”) last month on Venezuelan label, Entorno Doméstico. Crónica, which was produced, mixed and mastered by Heberto Áñez Novoa (musician for Tlx/Presidente and founder of Entorno Doméstico), is the result of eight months of studio work dotted by collaborations with Luis Ángel Martínez (Piyama Party/Los Mundos), Xavier Nadal (Grushenka/Creamy Creature), Andrés Morillo (Tlx), and our own Cheky Bertho (Algodón Egipcio/Jóvenes y Sexys). There is something so complex and dense in this collection of nine gritty songs, a mixture of raw music and vocal performances that are just as raw, but integrated with rather sophisticated arrangements where every detail is important.

With its metronome-like percussion, “Intro” shrewdly stresses that a crónica is primarily the writing of time. The opener, all in gradation, shades into “Uno,” a potent lo-fi track that announces that guitars shall not be the only ones in the forefront. In fact, Añez Novoa, who serves as the drummer on all of the songs, bears such ardor, it gives the impression that percussion acts as the central thread to Roy Valentín’s tale of ordinary life. Yet we soon realize each beating is the countercoup of sharp riffs. Gimón’s voice feels lost in a mass of sound generated by the ongoing dialogue between strings and drums. Then on “No Sé,” an acidulated rock track that manages to conserve a very intimate atmosphere through the vortexes of distortion, Valentín becomes both prosaic and ethereal. The instrumental “El Sol” transforms the intimate into something far more tenebrous, allowing for “GmFm” to arise. This free adaptation of Bauhaus’ “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” released back in July as part of a two-track EP, is the dramatic drop this LP needed.

Clocking in at 31 minutes, Crónica breezes through without knowing, which is a testament to how the compositions, all tightly stitched together, hold up well, making repeated listens more than likely, but also to the presence of some linearity. Whether it's a punk inflicted garage track (“Esta Vez”), a ballad-like tune loaded with layered guitars (“Ya No Importa”), or a rock revivalist lament (“No Se Parece A Mí”), Gimón’s smooth/raspy vocals rarely fluctuate from a nonchalant sigh, indicating that the temporal complexities of everyday experiences are better recounted by notes than by words. Such is the case with the mystifying instrumental “HCTWJ.” The eight and a half-minute percussion-less psych rock trip reveals how Roy Valentín can crystallize the fragments of everyday life and social complexity of the city in reverb and layers. The Caraqueño has found a sonic niche that’s as much comfortable for him as it is enjoyable for the listener. You just wish the same sense of narrative found in his instrumentals was reflected in his vocals.

♫♫♫ "No Se" / Download EP

Nicole - Panal

Panal, Nicole
Chika Entertainment, Chile
Rating: 77
by Carlos Reyes

“Nicole featured on Club Fonograma? Now, that’s something I’d love to see.” That was the reaction from renowned producer Cristian Heyne when we approached him about opening our midyear compilation with Nicole’s blissful and pitch-perfect single “Baila.” His surprise makes sense. The Chilean singer has experienced everything there is to encounter on the path to pop stardom. Her journey has been more interesting than most: she had a gold album at age 12, reached multi-platinum status by her second album, achieved legitimacy with her Gustavo Cerati-produced third album, and got signed by Madonna’s label, Maverick, for the next one. What’s left for Nicole to experience? The hipsters.

Although highly recognized and admired, Panal is Nicole’s first introduction to music’s newfound consumer hierarchy. Not to say the music industry is fully dependent of hipsters, but when it comes to endorsement and relevancy, tastemakers and music geeks have climbed way higher up the ladder than the last time Nicole was around. She couldn’t have found a better guide and associate for this new landscape than the man who has triggered the sensibility of a generation: Cristian Heyne. Departed from the major-league labels that surrounded her renowned, yet inconsistent, discography, she’s back in the game with her best work in over a decade. Just like that lovely, back-in-the-womb music video for “Baila” suggested, Panal is Nicole’s gleaming renaissance.

“Baila” starts with an alarming clicking sequence that announces something colossal ahead. Nicole’s voice comes to the rise neutralizing the menace of the intro and pouring sentiment to a childhood memory of her floating and dancing in the air. And just when the song seemed to have turned into a lullaby that deviated from the established menace of its intro, the track suddenly escalates into a louder, bolder, and more stirring track than anyone could’ve anticipated. Heyne’s attentive theories of pop music as something round and approachable work exceptionally well alongside Nicole’s low-registered vocals and clear-minded composition. This time around, the producer isn’t competing or negotiating with conceptual forms. If there ever was a time when Heyne made his presence be known, this is it.

Needless is to say that Panal sounds truly pristine. Yet the album is a little more than what it appears to be. Beyond the splendorous spectacle lies an album that’s truly contextual in both its literal and figurative ambitions. This is most visible in the album’s sequencing. The way the synth-euphoric “Nuestro Tiempo” is juxtaposed with the bare-to-the-bone analog beauty of “Columna Vertebral” says a lot about an artist whose straightforwardness affords her the luxury of showing great amounts of versatility. Perhaps the most important moment of the album (at least for the sake of this review) arrives with the sky-scraping “Color.” Nicole and Heyne seemed to have been aware of the hipsters all along, and so they tailored this track with a towering chorus rapture that rubs elbows with the very best of Charli XCX and Icona Pop. Nicole recently celebrated her first 20 years in entertainment. Whether Panal will constitute a new parting point for Nicole remains to be seen, but in the meantime, it seems like she’ll be more than fine with any future urban tribes threatening to gain control over the zeitgeist.

Rey Pila - "Alexander"

My Fonograma colleague Blanca Méndez hit the nail on the head when foreshadowing that Rey Pila’s vastly overlooked debut would be one to revisit again and again, “if only to discover more of its subtleties with each listen.” Yet, in the last couple of years, it seemed like Rey Pila had lost momentum. Though quiet, the project has remained very active. Following the underrated success of the first release, Rey Pila toured extensively with the likes of Interpol, Muse, TV on the Radio, and Ariel Pink. In 2012, Diego Solórzano, alongside bandmates Rodrigo Blanco (Dirty Karma) and Andres Velasco (Chikita Violenta), moved to New York City to work on a sophomore release. With the help of producer Chris Coady (Beach House, Smith Westerns, Wavves), Rey Pila are putting the final touches to their second album, which they described as “a synth-laden, guitar-driven collection of pop gems.”

With cover art inspired by Halloween III, the band has unveiled “Alexander” as their new single. Momentum seems to be on their side again, as the band has officially signed to Cult Records (Julian Casablanca’s label). The single comes with B-side “Lady in Red,” a Chris de Burgh cover. “Alexander” seems to emerge from a place of solitude, where rhythm, timing, and arrangement are negotiated for a post-new wave, almost cinematic outcome. Diego and his band mates don’t shy away from ambition, and their trickery of the medium pays off as they create a number that’s equally exquisite as it is atmospheric.

Video: Ulises Hadjis - "Diciembre"

"Diciembre" is the most recent single off Cosas Perdidas (Entorno Doméstico, 2012), the second album by Venezuelan singer-songwriter Ulises Hadjis. It is a little pop gem that barely hits the 2-minute mark and has a very unusual structure driven by a guitar riff that references the main one from "Every Breath you Take" in a very clever way. In its music video, Hadjis is joined by Linda Sjöquist (Cancioneira, ...Al Cruzar La Calle) and artist/designer Valentina Alvarado, and they present themselves as a cute, fictitious indie pop band playing the song lightheartedly under the Maracaibo sun. And that's pretty much it! It sounds pretty basic, and it probably is. But the truth is that the video, directed by Heberto Ánez, is the perfect companion to the song, transmitting exactly the kind of vibe it is supposed to deliver. It makes you want to grab an instrument and join their fun get-together in the shade of the trees.

Juan Cirerol - Cachanilla y Flor de Azar

Cachanilla y Flor de Azar, Juan Cirerol
Independiente, Mexico
Rating: 76
by Carlos Reyes

Cachanilla y Flor de Azar will always be remembered as the album whose high demand brought down Juan Cirerol’s website. Within half an hour of it becoming public (offered as a free download), the server was no longer capable of providing its services. Fans (our staff included) turned to social networks looking for those lucky people who got the chance to download it. The widespread interest and artist-advocated sharing of this material validated Cirerol’s profile as both new cult icon and active populist. The burgeoning popularity of Cirerol (often called Johnny Cachanilla) brought disproportion to the artist’s means of distribution, which is why we are to understand his recent inclusion to Universal Music as something inevitable.

We’re unaware of the timing between this release and his induction to the transnational label, but it wouldn’t be surprising to find a correlation between the two. Cachanilla y Flor de Azar feels like it was put together as one last offering of informality. It’s hardly an album; it’s actually a mixtape of sorts. The 14-track package is disorienting to say the least (a possible outcome of not having Vale Vergas’ Txema Novelo overlooking the details this time around). The album is impulsive (abrupt sequencing), disorganized (muddled iTunes tags), and aesthetically indifferent. But beyond its manufacturing flaws, this is also Cirerol’s most punk moment yet, something of great regard in his young yet prolific career. “Soy un junkie cualquiera,” he confesses after rowdily wounding the soundscape with his harmonica. His grasp of the vernacular had rarely been this frank and uncouth.

Even when flirting with the sweeter side of imagery (like in album standout “Cerca del Mar”), Cirerol still opts to sound more blood-rushed than reflective to the medium. The most memorable moments arrive with tracks like “En donde esta el corazón” and “El Carril #3,” which witness the troubadour reacting to melody through Mexico’s most pedestrian and popular genres (rancheras and corridos). Hits like Café Tacvba’s “La Ingrata” and Jessy Bulbo’s “La Cruda Moral” have reconciled rock and roll with Mexico’s regional/folk sounds, but unlike those acts, Cirerol’s accomplishment works for authenticity rather than comedic hubris. We’re sure Cirerol will overcome any future label confinements he might stumble upon. Cachanilla y Flor de Azar’s production is a great departure from the glossiness acquired in Haciendo Leña and is a comeback to the DIY assembly of Ofrenda al Mictlan. It’s Cirerol’s most wild and busiest collection yet, and that’s enough for it to transcend beyond a novelty release.

♫♫♫ "Cerca del Mar"

Video: Gepe - "Bomba Chaya"

Last night, Gepe unveiled the music video for “Bomba Chaya,” the fourth single from 2012’s excellent GP. The gorgeous short by Gustavo de la Torre finds the Chilean musician singing and strumming a charango amidst the colorful puppets, stilt walkers, street performers, caporales, and other folkloric dancers of Peru’s carnivalesque “Gran Marcha de los Muñecones.” In many ways, the video for “Bomba Chaya” feels like the perfect circle-closing complement to last fall’s “En la Naturaleza (4-3-2-1-0).” From its warmer, sun-colored hues to the marching revelry through Comas’ streets, Gepe’s latest brims with life. It’s a visual love letter to tinku, saya, and all of the rest of the Andean folk culture that’s the wellspring of Gepe’s inspiration.

Coiffeur - Conquista de lo Inútil

Conquista de lo Inútil, Coiffeur
Quemasucabeza, Argentina
Rating: 86
by Carlos Reyes

Intrigued by the global interest sparked by Rodrigo y Gabriela’s roaring chords, NME once consulted Club Fonograma about other Latin American acts that placed the acoustic guitar as the backbone of their pedigree. We listed a few namesfar less "exotic" ones of course, which is probably why they never referenced our shortlist. Among them was Coiffeur (moniker of Guillermo Alonso), a man who seemed to be subscribed to the school of "Mi guitarra y vos," but whose swooning composition had elevated him from the rest. Last year’s release of his EP, Nada, witnessed the composer “turning his rumbling chords into disco deep cuts.” It’s a transmutation of sorts and, although confusing at first, we must say Coiffeur has never sounded this good.

Conquista de lo Inútil is Coiffeur’s first full-length record on this new, avant landscape. There was undeniable warmth in the echoes of his acoustic guitar, but that doesn’t mean he’s abandoning sensitivity. He’s just using a different vehicle to move forward. Coiffeur’s approach to disco and dance music is one where he still wears his heart on his sleeve. Conquista de lo Inútil starts with bare vocal harmonies announcing concepts about space, time, movement, and density. Shortlisting the themes in the first breath of the album is a crude way to negotiate with form, but Coiffeur somehow gets away with it. As he extends his harmonies, the concepts begin to personalize and, in a miraculous, almost sexual way, we hear synthesizers welcoming the emotional discourse. That acceptance from the canvas to his illustrator is a beautiful thing to witness. Virtuosity and palpable artistic choices take care of the rest.

It’s a surprising and perhaps arguable statement, but Coiffeur’s music has acquired seriousness (in the same way Reflektor has brought magnitude to the Arcade Fire discourse), something truly startling considering Coiffeur’s start in folk music. “Una idea nos atraviesa y una accion nos dispersa,” sighs a singer who is conscious of the privileged canvas he’s working on. First single “Damero” is a splendorous example of how Coiffeur personalizes the concepts and topics of metaphysics in an uncluttered, introspective way. The desolated, almost tragic treatment of organic tools in tracks like “Ovo” and “Christine” speak of a composer/stylist who’s still a little more preoccupied with the tailoring of his keyboards than with the artificial glow technology might offer. The amount of organic and synthetic fabric here is carefully calculated, something that prevents the album from sounding innovative but that also moves it away from becoming a pastiche.

Recent years have positioned Argentina as a fertile land for left-field dance music (Isla de los Estados, Matilda, Michael Mike) and, although glamorous on its own, it has struggled to internationalize in the same way Chilean pop has. Under the always dependable and prestigious Chilean label Quemasucabeza (Gepe, Pedropiedra, Caravana), the distribution of Coiffeur’s reconditioned venture (assisted by synth pop-provocateur producer Juan Stewart) seems all that more promising. Potential singles “Oxigeno” and “Nudo” are sure to help the artist find an intercontinental audience. One line in the album stands above any synthetic design: “la moral no va a servirte de mucho.” Coiffeur is still verbalizing universal feelings regardless of the vessel he is surveying. At its most accessible numbers, the album deconstructs the no-strings-attached (to verbal and lyrical context) notions that inhabit dance music. Coiffeur wants emotional strings attached, the whole ball of yarn in fact. And it’s ultimately this conscious (if outright romanticized) choice that makes Conquista de lo Inútil truly essential and transfixing.

Video: Becky G - "Built For This"

Becky G’s new video for the song “Built For This” is a modern sci-fi fantasy of spaceships, choreographed intergalactic skeletons, and Becky’s robot partner. It has a virtual reality, video game aesthetic and spotlights Becky's dance moves. The track serves as her second single taken from her debut EP, Play It Again, and is characterized by an up-tempo electronic dance-pop with rhythm that blossoms into an interweaving of drum machine patterns and synths, incorporating effects with highly energized and bass-filled beats alongside Becky’s vocals.

During the video Becky is seen as an agent of her own desires. The lyrics are honest and sharp, no sugarcoating. Questioning her future prospect, she asks, "Can you take control? / Boy, I gotta know / Wanna know if you’re built for this." She conveys the need for reciprocity from a partner who can, like her, be in control of emotions and words.

"Built For This" is another milestone reaffirming Becky’s power and increasing confidence. Despite her age (just 16 years old), she’s a young woman aware of her surroundings and in tune with her deeply rooted traditions. Seen in another video, “Becky From the Block,” she proudly represents her barrio, family, and culturally religious figures like La Virgen de Guadalupe. Now in "Built For This," Becky gives a shout out to Mexico, reclaiming, prioritizing, and acknowledging her hyphenated identity, and proving that she's in control.

Ave Negra - Enamorados...

Costa Rican revivalist duo Ave Negra may sound dusty and cluttered, but their latest maxi-single (mini EP?) finds them surveying the emotional circuit of platonic love. This is an ode to those punch-drunk moments when sensations of youth (first love, rejection, remorse, heartbreak) sweep over our sanity. Side A “Esto Es Amor” makes a direct statement of everything we feel when that first realization of being in love arrives. With witty and corny lyrics like “soy ese que tu mamá escogería para vos,” or something bolder like “esos ojitos me dicen que te coma toda,” the band makes it pretty hard to resist singing along. The drum progressions here are reminiscent of The Ramones’ “Do You Remember Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio?,” guys who knew their way around platonic love songs.

The single comes with B-side “Vos y Yo,” where Ave Negra makes good use of raspy and whining guitar strings. The slowed-down tone and melodic push remind me of those glorious times when Los Saicos stepped away from the demolition to instead write love letters to that infamous lady named “Ana.” Although it’s a tiny release, Enamorados… is a solid set of two punkishly polished love songs that feel immediate and that should provide the band with plenty of momentum until that first full-length record arrives. Download Enamorados... on the Bandcamp player below.

Dënver - "Negro es el Color de su Corazón"

It took us almost five months to publish our review for Dënver's Fuera de Campo. It was a conservative and not-so-brave decision to let the puzzling (and very divisive) album sit for a while before reacting to it, but time is proving Dënver’s vast landscape to be one of the most significant for our generation. Dënver's sketchy and controversial breakup earlier this year is as difficult to understand as that virtual kidnap of Delorean in Mexico, but we’re glad Mariana and Milton are back in the field. The duo has unveiled the new track “Negro es el Color de su Corazón,” which is an entry for a contest by Phillips. The freedom of not having to respond to an album’s concept or cohesion makes the band sound truly assaultive here (those cascading synths might make your ears bleed). Just like they did in the also unpublished “De explosiones y delitos,” Dënver takes a chance at confronting dance music at its most grandiloquent extract.

Video: Delorean - Unhold

One of the standout tracks off Apar (Mushroom Pillow, 2013), the latest album by Barcelona-based band Delorean, if not the best, is definitely "Unhold." The combination of the band's new found "rock band" approach to their easy, fun sound and the out-of-this-world vocals of Chairlift's Caroline Polachek makes the most memorable moment of the album in the form of this lovely, nostalgic tune with very interesting chord changes. And one becomes more aware of the merits of Polachek's vocal take when learning that it wasn't auto-tuned, as stated by the band on their Twitter account. Not entirely surprising from the singer who opened the Chairlift show at the Pitchfork Music Festival 2013 with an opera piece.

The accompanying video for the new single, directed by Eric Epstein, is a stunning display of visual technique. There are basically two sides of it: the footage of the band playing in a studio in front of a simple white background juxtaposed with the shape of this geometric structure and the takes of Polachek wandering through the Opus 40 sculpture park created by artist Harvey Fite and looking like an elegant Red Riding Hood. But the whole thing is filtered through this very interesting warping planes effect that breathes life into an otherwise simple video and makes it a very surreal and trippy view. A very notable complement for an amazing song.

Video: Tiger Menja Zebra: "No cal ser de Brooklyn"

The three ex-CAMPING members forming Tiger Menja Zebra released their debut album Com començar una guerra (“How to start a war”) in 2012. Back then, the video for the homonymous song caused a bit of controversy, as it showed the three musicians from behind throwing eggs at a piece of white cloth where the names of other Spanish bands were shown. Everything was, so we imagine, ironic, and they have played in several festivals in Catalonia (Sónar, Emergència, or Festival Hoteler, for example) since then. “No cal ser de Brooklyn” (“There’s no need for being from Brooklyn”) is the second video presenting this first eight-track album and it shows the mothers of the band members reacting to their sons’ song. The song is equally as noisy, saturated, and experimental as the video is humorous and tender (or at least less violent). The three mothers dig the song and reacted saying: “it is funny,” “it goes up,” and “oh, those kids of ours.”


Prima Crush / Discos Tormento
Rating: 81
by Marty Preciado

MCMXCVIII (or 1998) had been in production for years, with Ibi Ego's proclivity for perfection keeping their light in the dark, so much so that their debut album was becoming more and more of a far-fetched idea. It took time for the Tijuana band to burnish sound and deliver an album encompassing high caliber production, sound, and overall quality, but, thanks to Tijuana cassette label Prima Crush and Mexico City's renowned Discos Tormento, the album finally came to light.

And the result is superb dream pop, a gem sitting somewhere between Xiu Xiu and Cocteau Twins. It’s bathed in synths, loops, melody, noise, fuss, and guitars; all of the aforementioned conducive to lush lo-fi textures. The complex layers of instruments are backed by You Schaffner’s beatific voice, glowing over rich melodies.

Catering and staying true to the bi-national identity of their city, the album consists of 10 tracks intermingling in Spanish and English. "You and me vs. the sea" is the opening song of the album, and it’s explosive. Accented with pulsing sounds, it conjures a frenetic strobe in the dark. The track is enhanced with electronic beats leading to a dynamic mix of a reverb-tinged dream and haunting nostalgia. It's the perfect juxtaposition: light and dark, haunting and joyful, melancholy and happiness.

The jaw-dropping, hair-raising, synth-drenched "1998" sends chills down the spine. The soothing vocals enveloped in guitar loops usher in kick drums that heighten the song to a steady build up of layers of reverb and clashing sounds. But a breakdown of the tracks of the album would be a mistake. The album serves as one piece, with every song intertwined with the next, a natural and organic flow of sounds and ambience.

A debut album is the hallmark of the sound of a band, but most importantly, it establishes the foundation for further output. With no doubt, Ibi Ego has not only reaffirmed their talent in execution, but has also pushed the boundaries of sound to deliver an album whose clashes and contrasts, like a risky chemical reaction gone surprisingly right, surpasses conventional formula and structure to create something new and exciting. It forces the listener to expect the unexpected, to believe in the surreal, and to embrace it all. This is what dreams are made of, and MCMXCVIII is the laboratory where it all happens.

♫♫♫ "Hookie"

Video: Elsa de Alfonso y Los Prestigio: "El oleaje"

The video for “El oleaje” announces the forthcoming EP (to be released by Canada in 2014) of Elsa de Alfonso’s new musical adventure, a sort of solo project with the help of Los Prestigio, including members of Doble Pletina and Extraperlo (Alba from Extraperlo directed the video). Elsa is a very well-known musician in Barcelona, we could even say music activist. She has been part of bands such as No Band In Berlin, Villarroel, Kana Kapila, and Imperio, and one can find her at almost every local underground event. “El oleaje” has a dreamy tropical sound based on '80s synths and subtle guitar plucking over a very classy rhythmic base. The voice track, as well as the enveloping sugary reverb, make this song somewhat onirical and even devotional, from another age. Let’s wait for the EP to see what this can be. To date, they have already opened for Sean Nicholas Savage in Barcelona and Madrid.

Las Acevedo - Fiesta en la Vitrola

Fiesta en la Vitrola, Las Acevedo
Independent, Dominican Republic
Rating: 73
by Monika Fabian

Even with 2014 within sights, I keep returning to June’s Fiesta en la Vitrola EP by Las Acevedo. It’s the Dominican twin sisters and bandmates’ most mature release yet and easily one of my favorite EPs of the year. Anabel and Cristabel Acevedo seem to be doing whatever they want in Santiago, however they want—handling everything from composition to mastering—and having a blast with all of it. As aural enjoyment, their combination of sweet, two-part harmonies and sunny folk-pop on Fiesta en la Vitrola is absolutely inviting and rewarding.

“Una Sola Canción” is a gem made from cascading lyrics, gentle percussion, and layered guitar and ukelele strums. But beneath that cheery warmth, for the first time, there’s an almost literary sense of metaphor and nuance to Las Acevedo’s music. “Estas flores no son para ti,” they sing in the chorus of “Flores,” the EP opener about a man who wrongly thinks he’s the object of the singer’s affection. Assuming the song’s protagonist is female, a more feminist reading suggests she’s rejecting the male gaze and her implicit interest/role in it.

“Casa,” a gentle bachata ode to tranquil music-making at home feels wonderfully feminine in this male-dominated musical genre—even subversively so. The guitar at the heart of this ditty (and bachata itself) is female, since “guitarra” in Spanish is feminine. The gorgeous bachata is also Quisqueyan pop at its finest. “Casa” is at home in pop culture and cultura popular much in the same way as Rita Indiana’s “Da Pa Lo Do” and Juan Luis Guerra’s “Ojala Que Llueva Café.” And then the party’s over after the flirty “Tú Sí Me Quieres.” The longest song on the four-track Fiesta en la Vitrola EP clocks in at just under three minutes. I’m torn about the brevity of Las Acevedo’s latest. I want to hear more, which is a good thing, but then again, there’s genius to subtlety and simplicity. Las Acevedo might just be teaching us that.

MP3: No Somos Marineros - "Violencia River"

On their first proper studio recording, Mexican band No Somos Marineros deliver on the promise of Demo Juvenil, a three-song demo recorded entirely live earlier this year. Their new track "Violencia River" is a dynamic, full-blooded track that sounds like a simpler take on math rock à la Don Caballero mixed with the energy and chord progressions of post-hardcore and '90s Midwest emo bands like Braid and The Promise Ring. "Tres días sin dormir, todavía no termino. No lo entiendo, todavía no termino." These are the only lyrics in the entire song, shouted in a very raw and frustrated fashion. And almost like the river in the middle of la violencia, there's a beautiful and sparse break that evokes the work of the Kinsella family, especially American Football. But the calm doesn't last long, and they bring us back to the heavier part, now giving us the feeling of an epic resolution. No Somos Marineros succeed in a very hard task: they incorporate and update all of these sounds and influences (and playing guitar using finger tapping) without sounding like Austin TV, which is, frankly, an easy route to take. They sound fresh and relevant and hopefully won't take too long to bring us more new music. Download the track on the Bandcamp player below.

Post by contributing writer Cheky (Ezequiel Bertho) / Algodón Egipcio, Jóvenes y Sexys

Dënver - Fuera de campo

Fuera de campo, Dënver
Feria Music, Chile
Rating: 89
by Enrique Coyotzi

Dënver reached remarkable status with their untouchable sophomore record Música, Gramática, Gimnasia. Not only did it bring us lifetime classics like “Lo que quieras” or “Los adolescentes,” it also became, as these past three years have certified, a milestone generational masterpiece inside the Iberoamerican pop field. After such a colossal achievement, where do you go from there? Fuera de campo, the San Felipeans' elegant third studio album, encounters beauty within restraint and delicacy, demonstrating refinement in the magic enveloping the beloved duo's striking art.

Whereas MGG principally stood out due to Cristian Heyne’s spectacular assistance, this time around mastermind Milton Mahan takes the reins painting an exquisite, gratifying production, maximizing orchestral arrangements (check out the breathtaking final minute of “Mejor más allá” or the magistral ending of “Profundidad de campo”) performed by a score of Mexican musicians. Fuera de campo is paced gorgeously through a cohesive ordering of heavenly songs, which electrocute, emote, and caress the deepest fibers, allowing each composition a place to breathe on its own—the Dënver way, one of the most sumptuous imaginable. 

Back when we premiered the spooky clip for second single “Las fuerzas,” fellow Fonograma writer Giovanni Guillén suggested that our review had been on queue since this track had commanded so much of our attention it simply had “delayed the listening experience altogether.” He was right. “Las fuerzas” is a force of nature, a sublime work that requires just one spin for the listener to realize it’s already a quintessential reference of the band's career, an on repeat can't-get-out-of-my-head melody. “Revista de gimnasia," winner on our Midyear Report 2013 compilation, follows and shoots lights on the dance floor, marking the ABBA-esque universe prevalent on upcoming disco-imbued takes, like the tempting “Tu peor rival” or the uplifting “Torneo local,” whose elements feel more like reverent renditions rather than recycled pastiches.

The first four songs on the album display some of Dënver's strongest material to date. The next couple step into harder to digest territory. The Stereolab-on-speed “El árbol magnético ataca por sorpresa” and the arresting shoegazey Cristóbal Briceño collaboration “Concentración de campos,” are damn good, but could have used some editing. Similar to what occurred with Odisea’s self-titled debut, the songs turn out too prolonged, even over-ornamented for their own sake. Bewitchingly, Mariana Montenegro soon brings back the tender tone, delivering two of the duo’s most luscious moments ever: the soft pop á la Tears for Fears of “Medio mal” and the stirring, synth lullaby “Medio loca (Hasta el bikini me estorba).”

According to Mahan, the conceptual Fuera de campo, which is linked to a story of a war, is structured in a “very narrative sense.” Listeners will have to be attentive to the lyrics to fully catch the warlike storytelling, which makes itself first present on “Las fuerzas” and the line “No gana la guerra quien más soldados ni armas tenga” and detonates violently in the battle-reminiscent “El árbol magnético.” With Fuera de campo, Dënver may not have not surpassed the greatness of Música, Gramática, Gimnasia, nevertheless, they’ve accomplished a well-thought out, charmingly-crafted follow-up. Most importantly, they've proven that their spark hasn't gone anywhere.

Video: Juana Molina - "Eras"

Juana Molina’s latest music video for “Eras” illustrates the mastery of horror found in the "assaultive and frightening" Wed 21. Accompanied by the solitude of shadows, the mysterious being Bichapong orchestrates a sort of “spirit disco.” A “spirit disco” is a religious practice by the Urapmin people of the New Guinea highlands where men and women gather in a building to sing, to dance, to be possessed, and to be cleansed of all sin. In "Eras," Bishapong’s guests are imprisoned in a melodically choreographed substance-induced psychosis, reminiscent of Juana Molina’s infinite loops. Director Mario Caporali’s embodiment of Bichapong truly captures the delicacy and dark fantasy of Alejandro Ros’ Wed 21 album artwork, enhancing the aesthetic and discourse of an album that truly feels whole.

Video: Las Ardillas - “¿Donde están?”

It’s been a while since we last heard about the prodigal children of Bayamon, Puerto Rico, Las Ardillas. Early this year they performed at the closing showcase of the fourth edition of Festival Nrmal in Monterrey, at SXSW, and afterward embarked on a U.S. tour alongside their fellow Puerto Ricans, The Vigilantes. In the midst of all these events, they released “Linda Niña," a surfy, vintage-flecked garage single with catchy hooks all over.

With their newest single “¿Donde están?” the band looks to attack all their detractors that once believed they were going to climb their way up over the the band but have vanished like dust along the way. The video features the band performing at the San Juan bar El Local En Santurce, where Gianki yells the new, soon-to-be Puerto Rican hymn “¿Crees que tu algún día nos puedas parar? No lo lograrás, estamos aquí no queremos cambiar.” “¿Donde están?" can easily become a classic garage/punk stomper, replete with Eskorbutian attitude-soaked lyrics like "Hasta en el infierno nos podrán escuchar.” If this is the first taste we have of their second full-length, Canciones de Amor, Locura y Muerte, happening later this year, I can comfortably affirm that the Boricua heroes manage to not only display better songwriting and musicianship than most punk bands of the era, but also to out-do them in the performance category with their wild, dangerous, and violent style, which are all represented well in this song.

by Pablo Acuña  / Pablo Acuña is the editor-in-chief of Costa Rican blog Dance to the Radio