Video: Fakuta - "Tormenta Solar"

Fakuta's first single since the enchanting, still-classic "Juntapena" left a few on the staff, myself included, unmoved when it debuted three weeks ago. Like other highly anticipated pop comebacks from 2014, this one sounded too safe, especially in an over-saturated genre where the year's most talked about tracks (though fascinating) are basically alien reworks of Aqua and one has to really try to stand out. But just as "La Joya" surprised our Carlos Reyes over time by unveiling its hidden genius within the messy structure, I can now come around officially and declare my love for "Tormenta solar." This is a song that redeems itself with its thematic force. Fakuta is a force. Its chorus finds hope in destruction: "Suelto los brazos, los pies y me expando como una tormenta solar. Y los pobres chicos que quedaron dentro ardieron al bailar" to which the only appropriate response should be: YAS.

For its newly released clip, Fakuta enlisted the prolific Bernardo Quesney, whose videography this year alone has kept us beyond impressed. Along with DP Matias Illanes, Quesney executes a treatment that's both elegant and completely irreverent (just as we hoped). Here, Fakuta plays the role of a mother superior. All members of this religious trio seem possessed by a desire to know sacrilege. Images of the sisters smoking are intercut with rotating shots next to white statues till it's almost poetic. It's not long, however, before their spiritual search becomes a game of survival. Fakuta, of course, comes out the winner.

Nunca fui a un parque de diversiones - Mover Canival

Mover Canival, 
Nunca fui a un parque de diversiones
Independiente, Argentina
Rating: 85
by Carlos Reyes

Every so often we stumble upon a potentially great album that makes us feel uncomfortable because of how similar it sounds next to other contemporary works. I’ve always bragged of belonging to the school of thought that not all music needs to be inventive, and that the concept of originality is banal and subjective. During the first spin of Mover Canival, by Argentine band Nunca fui a un parque de diversiones, I found myself betraying my own beliefs and finger-pointing the band’s influences (El Guincho, Animal Collective, Sigur Ros), with little disposition to become receptive of the band’s immediate text and pedigree. Further spins have displaced that focus away from the derivative, and have illuminated the path to what makes Mover Canival so grand: its execution.

Hailing from La Plata, Argentina, NFAUPDD come through as Noah Lennox enthusiasts from a mile away. Like fellow compatriots Los Animales Superforros, they employ the vernacular to tackle on their rhythmic endeavors. If El Guincho personalized Lennox’s digital wooings with tropical immersion, NFAUPDD offer a similar anthemic raptness but exercise it through percussion-heavy folk. “Suerte que el totem de piedra desde lo alto nos cuida,” sighs the opening track of the album. “Deus” starts with tranquil white noise, and gradually adds characters to its sonic, near celestial scope. This anchoring of the cosmos, as if we were contemplating the morning horizon from a distance serves as a very effective intro for the sound-packed universe that follows.

Promotional cut “Abrazos de rio manso” is quick to reveal some of NFAUPDD’s core elements/obsessions: song structure, vocal group linings, and the collision of both analog and digital tools coming together. In paper, we would classify this music as powerpop, but the keener focus on song construction tells us otherwise. NFAUPDD strike to sound weird, cluttered, visceral, and at times, cacophonic. With more than half of its tracks surpassing the 5-minute mark, you can be sure Mover Canival targets maximalist canvases with little concern to sound pompous. And it’s not that they’re accomplishing merit solely by their guts. You must give them mad props for the unlikeliness of carrying out something as melodically ambitious as “Una tarde arrestrada por una babosa,” which almost clicks the eight-minute mark but never drowns in its meta nature.

Mover Canival is a conglomeration of vocal melodies working at the service of harmony. Even if overworked at times, bringing shape to these songs required borrowing narrative tools from some of their contemporaries, and that’s ok. At the end of the day, this is an album that sounds influenced by the avant-gardness of Lennox, but also by the earth-loving grace of someone like Juan Luis Guerra -not to mention the andino weight in songs like “Chupetines Violentas” and “Papa Pelo Largo.” NFAUPDD has delivered a truly round album, featuring a gorgeous intro, overwhelming catchy tracks, and an 11-minute outro that recollects and deconstructs the fruitful, multi-directional universe the band came to construct in such convincing ways.

Whitest Taino Alive - ¿Dónde Jugarán Los Cueros?

¿Dónde Jugarán Los Cueros?, 
Whitest Taino Alive
Stereotipico, Dominican Republic
Rating: 88
by Carlos Reyes

Trying to locate the zeitgeist becomes a priority to the tastemaker. While it’s true the Internet brought fragmentation to the way we listen to music –and that the zeitgeist can be found scattered at a dozen places at once –there’s still a place for those of us romantic enough to theorize over the notion of the it occupying a physical space. Not to call ourselves oracles of any kind, but we were very attentive to the blossoming of the new wave of Chilean pop before anyone dared to call Chile a pop paradise. In the last year we’ve responded ecstatically to emerging talents from the Caribbean, particularly from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Perhaps we’re cheating when bundling both nations together (a la FIFA 2002 worldcup), but both scenes are sharing a discourse of carnal and digital burgeonings that is beautiful to witness.

Dominican newcomers Whitest Taino Alive join Füete Billēte and Buscabulla as one of the most memorable emerging acts of the last few years. Led by the equally prolific and abrasive producer Cohoba, and branding on the idea of providing the audience with something they call Choperia Fina (rocking beats while wearing leather), WTA afford to sound truly colossal on their debut album. Featuring a grand-sound design and an ambitious composition, ¿Dónde Jugarán Los Cueros? is an album that sounds nothing short from pristine (and puts the latest Calle 13 to an even bigger shame). We wouldn’t expect anything less from Cohoba, whose stellar EP Chroamatism earlier this year has profiled him as the Dominican Republic’s most distinguished music maker since Rita Indiana. For a producer with a fondness for rapture and visceral banging, he is faced with the task of negotiating his beats for the vocal dissertation of WTA (conformed by Cohoba, Blon Jovi & Dominicanye West). The results are valiantly tackled and arresting for the most part.

WTA pop references a wide number of topics that go from Sosa, Heisenberg and Lara, to celebrating Selena’s butt as a cultural monument. While the abrasiveness of the lyrics makes it seem like they’re name-dropping indiscriminately, they’re actually using pop culture as a tool/hook to welcome non-Dominicanos to their idiosyncrasy. Take for example the album’s concept. The title ¿Dónde Jugarán Los Cueros? winks at Molotov’s ¿Dónde Jugarán las Niñas?, which itself mocks on Mana’s ¿Dónde Jugarán los Niños? This chain of smartass referencing would’ve been tiresome by the third time, if it wasn’t for the album cover (showing a thong sliding hasta abajo) validating WTA’s intentions of providing a lubricant to the Dominican way upfront. Which begs the question on how WTA, or Füete Billēte for the matter, would sound if reggaeton had not become the phenomenon that it still is. We might be talking about hip hop music here, but the reggaeton influence can be felt from a far distance. It’s in this way that WTA’s debut feels personally accomplished, but is also a cooperative from the pool of influences that brought it into being.

From the first immersive brashes of intro “Chillin en Jaragua” to the syncopated horns of the gigantic “En Canoa Pal Seibo,” the first half of ¿Dónde Jugarán Los Cueros? privileges the spellbinding over the immediate. Promotional cuts “Burlao” and “Mi Bandera” are two ideal tracks to taste the WTA experience. The former surfs slowly above synth crescendos, while the latter confronts the soundscape in a massive and unapologetic way. The second half of the album lacks fury on the chorus department, but somehow manages to sound even more melodic than the first half. The outstanding “La Resaca” is particularly exciting in how it tailors and manipulates beats to simulate the feeling of feeling hangover –with a narcotized voice of reason serving as a chorus. Lyrically, the album delivers plenty of hilarious one-liners, but frequently struggles to accomplish roundness in the storytelling. The narrative is still wonderfully uncompromised in both, their outburst and restrained lines of attack. And that’s perhaps WTA’s biggest attraction, its ability to position itself as understated text and then become a major threat to the dancefloor by the very next track.

MP3: O Tortuga - "Cool"

“A mi me da igual, nunca voy a ser genial” sighs the latest single from O Tortuga. More unchained on their motto than defeated, the Mexico City act unveils another fast-paced, near furious single aptly titled “Cool.” Last year’s release of the Palma Linda EP brought the band plenty of recognition, including an Indie-O Music Award and significant play on the FM airwaves. At less than two minutes long and without much departure of what they’ve shown in the past, O Tortuga’s new single has the purpose of keeping the momentum going. The geeky and oh-so-cute “Cool” isn’t a novelty song either. This might be the most lukewarm year for Mexican rock in a long time, and O Tortuga’s new single splashes the field with shockingly vivid breeze. Download the track (name your price) through Bandcamp.

Arca - "Thievery"

While no one’s going to deny that Arca’s solo output so far -- the collection of three excellent EP’s which earned him the #2 spot in our 2012 Albums of the Year countdown, plus a mixtape that had its own film played at MOMA last year -- should be enough merit to justify the attention the Venezuelan producer has been enjoying lately, there will be few out there arguing against the fact that it’s his collaborations with Kanye West and FKA Twigs that gave him his biggest moment on the spotlight yet. Or at least, his more accessible. That could all change very soon as excitement seems to be everywhere for Arca’s upcoming debut album (called Xen, and to be released via Mute on November 3). The increase in attention that Arca’s material has been gathering isn't really due to an improvement or transition in his production (the new track could fit in either Barón Libre or &&&&& and actually not even stand out), but rather to the fact that, thanks to Yeezy and Twigs, he’s no longer one of the best kept secrets in off-kilter electronic music. His aesthetic might be even less-inviting than before: the cover art finds new levels for the post-human imagery of Jesse Kanda, and the music is much more focused on mood rather than movement, although the breakbeat might finally earn the producer a spot on a few dancefloors. But if there’s anything that “Thievery” makes clear, it’s just how much Arca’s prints are all over the work of his recent collaborators: the screechy synths could make for a beat for Twigs to sing over, and with the grim piano melody, also carries all the chagrin and fuzziness that made Yeezus such a distinctively produced rap record. For most of these last couple of years, the whole world has been listening to Arca via the footprints he’s left in his collaborators output. But with Xen the whole world is finally going to be listening to what Arca can do on his own. It’s his chance to take the spotlight for himself.

Video: Ama Ia - "Voces"

One of the best news from the last few weeks is the forthcoming debut LP from Ama Ia, who just won the 2014 Autoplacer’s demo competition. Member of Kokoschka for the last six years, Ama Ia started writing songs and, as she believed they didn’t fit in the band’s style, she decided to try her luck and start a parallel solo project. "Voces" is the hit in her demo. It is a song about a break up, or better said, a song about a dying love story written after its end -at that moment when the sequence of events that lead to the break up seems clear. Dreamy atmospheres over a pop basis, with synth melodies and rich textures, result in a devotional and nostalgic ensemble. The video reflects this environment of intimacy and sadness by translating the lyrics in blurry, almost vintage, images literally. Three other songs about feelings in the aftermath of a break up are included in this first demo (listen to it in Ama Ia’s bandcamp) that recalls the extinct girl duo Granit and, in some ways, the music of Aries but in a darker tone.

Juanita y Los Feos – Nueva Numancia

Nueva Numancia, Juanita y Los Feos 
Beat Generation, La Vida es un Mus, Spain
Rating 75 
by Glòria Guso 

After ten years playing together, with two albums and several singles in the market, Juanita y Los Feos come back with a collection of twelve angry punk anthems reunited under the name of their neighborhood in the suburbs of Spain’s capital. Loyal to their raw and unadorned style, Nueva Numancia is darker than all their previous releases, digging deeper into new wave sounds and with very apocalyptical lyrics. Both the current economic crisis in Europe, specially severe in Spain, and the band’s outsider status in the country’s musical scene can be the reason for this shift into more obscure atmospheres -making this album a very plausible portrait of this generation’s mood and a true contemporary punk jewel.

Lyrics like “si no tienes dinero, te quedas con la gente fea en el agujero” ("if you don’t have any money, you stay in the hole with the ugly people") or “devora o serás comido” ("devour or you will be eaten") build a very pessimistic picture of our world. Also prevalent is the violent reaction in songs about a hypothetical cannibalistic revolution or in uprising anthems like "Escupe en la tumba." Nueva Numancia is not only about politics, there’s also room for romantic lamentations ("Me arrancaría los ojos"), introspection and sadness ("Nunca volverán," "Noche más negra"), existentialist thoughts ("Vacío," "No debería"), rage and vengeance ("Cien puñaladas"). Juanita y Los Feos owe their most striking particularity to Juanita’s voice. Her singing is the center of each and every song, not only is it as strong as any other instrument, but it's also as the best way to deliver the angry message of the lyrics. Over a simple punk basis with squared drums, heavy bass line and tangled guitars, the voice track builds a counterpoint with the synth melodies.

Nueva Numancia is fast and nervous, almost hysteric with its twelve songs in half an hour. It is raw and rude, and immediate. This has been a collaborative release between Spanish label Beat Generation and La Vida es un Mus from London, UK (that also have Barcelona based Belgrado in its bands rooster, another band that militates in the most outsider DIY underground local scene). Nueva Numancia is, by far, Juanita y Los Feos' best album to date. Perhaps not an instant classic, but it has its own character, both musical and lyrically, and could easily become the soundtrack of the current uncouth moment we are witnessing.