Arca - Mutant

Mutant, Arca
Mute, USA/Venezuela
Rating: 78
by Zé Garcia

Remember the nightbus trend that was first articulated in 2009-2010? It was cinematic twilight: arousing, dejected, and demented. Arca's latest is night bus, militarized. Mutant sounds like a nocturnal, imagined war zone. Nighthumvee. Or maybe even nightdrone. Mutant is not as transgressive to the sonic pallet as Xen, less extroverted than Xen's forays into dembow ("Sisters") or the dissimilar reggaeton of Arca's absolute exemplar,  "Thievery". Mutant does still feel like Arca is creating the most accurate soundtrack for a generation drowning in electronic excess and informational saturation, behaving and maneuvering erratically because of lived trauma, siphoned potential, and dreams deferred.

On "Alive" emergency response units resuscitate a dormant impulse towards capturing the emotions Arca portrays best: vastness and terror, awe and deep wounds. It sounds like a depersonalized aerial assault, flickering lights (or a flickering humanity). From on to off. For all its tragedy, there is a sense of hope in "Alive", one of the finest tracks of 2015. Like brief calms in a storm, "Mutant" pauses, the sonic walls dissolve & ripple, under siege by weaponry, the melancholy of a guitar like yearning gets codified into the fabric of sonic warfare. "Mutant"- the title track- gives "Alive" a run for the album's crowning achievement.

Alejandro Ghersi has a penchant for making the malformed sound erotic. "Vanity" sounds like something grotesque checking itself out in the mirror, feeling itself, unleashing a scathing wrath onto the listener in its self obsession. Album standout "Sinner" walks runways like "Bullet Chained", vogueing down an alley like a techno insect, sirens in the background, under a police state declared state of emergency. "Anger" almost sounds tropical in its first moments, filtered through a nightmare. "Snakes" is enigmatic, a ceremonial showdown in a cave near the sea at sunrise. A superlative version would feature FKA Twigs leading the ceremony, contorting, bizarre, making the serpents bow down. "Else" is the crystalline shattered pieces of "Held Apart" with added harpsichord. "Umbilical" first appeared on Sheep which I first described as sounding like Chancha Via Circuito purging his insides. "Hymn" and "En" are also taken from Sheep. "Hymn" is sonic anxiety, the cry of an elephant in crisis. "En" is luxurious, throttling, and sexy. "Front Load" and "Enveloped" are a return to Arca's shady, wayward hip-hop beats.  The percussive elements of "Enveloped" seem taken from a vignette where artificial intelligence plays table tennis.

"Gratitud" is disconcerting yet inessential at almost 4 minutes. "Faggot" points to an imagined Asia with faint traces of Fatima Al Qadiri's Asiatisch before Arca grabs the luminous machine gun of his sonic arsenal and takes down all the haters. Album closer "Peonies" is also forgettable, nothing close to the epic final moments of  Xen  or Sheep. The excellent "Soichiro" follows in the steps of this "imagined Asia", deploying that legendary elephantine trumpet. Not sure what "Soichiro" means in the context of Soichiro Honda and the fact that Arca is also the acronym for the Automobile Racing Club of America other than Alejandro Ghersi's music does make for some pretty visionary blunt cruises in fast cars.

I've always described Arca as colossal, an epic Arca de Noé of sound. And although Mutant lives in a similar sonic continuum as Xen (our #4 album of 2014) and the luminary Sheep, Arca will have to increase our sonic threshold soon. We have built a tolerance to Alejandro Ghersi's demented soundtracks. We need a stronger dose.

Ibiza Pareo - Ibiza Pareo

Ibiza Pareo, Ibiza Pareo
Geiser Discos, Argentina
Rating: 80
by Zé Garcia

Sand, water, heat, jungle. These are the words that illustrated an emerging band from Argentina still in its demo phase. Ibiza Pareo "couldn't be more devoted to dance and the sun" the girls explained to me via email: "we are inspired by the sun, nature, travel, and the dance floor". All of these elements are present on the band's self titled debut. Ibiza Pareo sounds like 90s music: alt rock, lounging house, & a lethargic hi-NRG. Ani & Marina perform some compelling vocal performances (wailing in anguish but also rapture) yet the entire album is sung in the shadow of an alluring deadpan delivery. Ibiza Pareo is arid dance music. Ibiza Pareo is tropicgoth.

Second tracks on pop albums are generally a slot reserved for the album's top banger. It is interesting that Ibiza Pareo choose to devote this space to "Viva, Ahí Están los Chicos", a song that only begins to reveal its appeal after repeated listens. This is also true for the rest of Ibiza Pareo, an album that would undoubtedly fall under the "grower" adjective. Ibiza Pareo is a quiet hit with a promise that signals Ani & Marina's best work is still to come. The choice tracks on the record employ a flute that could be described as Andean (think "Suerte"). The beaches of Ibiza don't come to mind while the flute plays, but the Sonoran and the Atacama Deserts do. "Dame un guitarron, esa dulce flauta" Ani & Marina beckon on the foggy safari of "Cha Rup" whereas second single "Ritmas" is the perfect example of the way that flute delves into a more personal space and demands spiritual communion. "Ritmas" sounds transcendant, the keyboards echo, become decidedly house by the end of the first chorus. Where the chorus of "Ritmas" speaks to the soul, the verses are delivered with an attitude befitting Sentidos Opuestos. First single "Arido Espejismo" is a candidate for Record of the Year. A live version has the potential to create something akin to our generation's Negra Tomasa, Ibiza Pareo just has to allow the track to become an all out tropicgoth cumbia. Vocals are pushed to a certain extreme,"Sigo tus huellas movedi-ZAS" the effect is almost psychotic, but the girls catch themselves: "siento la intensidad del aire. Aaaaah". The harmonizing laments (auuuuu, aaaaaah) sound desolate & divine and work as the track's de facto chorus. The flute soars high above the heavens- an avian cry full of stoic pain. The lyrics sound romantic, but their delivery suggests a vía dolorosa: "busco tu imagen en la arena / te veo en el reflejo del sol".

"Viajeros" is another key feature of the many accents of Ibiza Pareo. The synths this time are atmospheric & introspective- the textures of Klaus & Kinski come to mind with the percussive claps of "Triangle Walks". An elegant saxophone meets unrestrained electronic effects channeling a dimension where empathogens, psyschedelics, & a somber poise connect. "Viajeros" (like the rest of the album) is sung in a druggy delirium that is made all the more powerful by Ibiza Pareo's affirmation: the world is in chaos. "Disco de Verano" sounds mischievous and operates like an interlude (in a similar vein to the aptly titled "After") for the road, high from the party you just left, on your way to the next oasis. It is unclear whether the sun is setting or rising: this is for the low-key pregame or the sleep deprived, blissful comedown. "Discoteca" also sounds like an interlude, but this one has lyrics that signal the album's mantra: "que el beat tome mi cuerpo / quiero viajar en el sonido, en la melodía". Six minutes into the trance and you are swept under its somber, spellbinding qualities. "Nuestro Amor Es Musica" takes us on a far out, melodic techno odyssey right before we escape to the cascading closing track of "Tunisia" where synths rise and wane. A guitar wails, the club beat thumps. "Tunisia" becomes impossible not to picture the silhouette of las chicas losing it on guitar and keyboards in a live setting- the strobe lights steady, sweat streaming down your face.

Ibiza Pareo proves that even dance records in the 2015 Club Fonograma sphere carried a moodier tone. A trend towards guitars and distortion will be even more noticeable as our Best Of 2015 lists become available in the days ahead. On Ibiza Pareo, we find ourselves club hopping in the desert. But these days and nights spent turning up aren't vapid. This desert nightclub is a place for introspective wonder, a place to process, celebrate friends, celebrate bodies, movement, & melody. Ibiza Pareo have technically delivered a dance record, a dance record veiled by the morose: "esta noche voy a bailar con mis amigos, celebrar que estamos vivos."

Video: Adrianigual - "Rap y Amor"

Two months after releasing “Nunca vienes a mi casa,” a Chicago house-influenced banger, Adrianigual brings us his idiosyncratic and modernistic vision of Rhythm & Blues with “Rap y Amor.” Bearing the signature of his current influences: Young Thug and Chayanne, the skillfully measured amalgam emerges at the interface of both a classic rap game aesthetic and a disproportionately free, bold and unrepentant weirdness. Adrianigual is lazy and yet invigorating, touching and fascinating in the same breath. The video, written, directed and edited by Diego Adrián, follows two rebellious heroes fleeing after robbing an ATM. The outlawed pair embodies a liberated love, arrogant, modern. The kind of terrible love we all need to face in those troubled times.

Video: Fakuta - "Luces de Verano"

Oceanic 90s psychedelia, pineapples, Internet Explorer icons, dolphins & the symbol of eternal life (the Ankh) adorn "Luces de Verano" by Fakuta, the Chilean space pop prophet who channeled ghetto goth for the 90s freestyle of "Despacio" and has continued to look forward ever since.

"Luces de Verano" (that features Dënver's Milton on acoustic guitar and production) was likely the least interesting track on 2014's Tormenta Solar- perhaps because of its mainstream crossover appeal. Assimilating towards mainstream radio formats can be met with very mixed reviews and overt skepticism around here, especially when the results are Estilo Libre. But this is coming from a publication that also reviews the likes of Selena Gomez, Plan B, and Shakira. In other words, we are not elitists. Who doesn't enjoy that moment when good music and radio coincide? It took almost a year to fall in love with “Luces de Verano”; its subtle reggaetón tendencies, the steel drums reminiscent of one of the greatest pop songs of all time, and lyrics that unite the cosmic, the seasons, and the interpersonal. Dále Shine- a Chicago based collective I am a part of- even named its 2015 summer mixtape after the song. Calling "Luces de Verano" a blemish back in 2014 was not just totally harsh, it was also a mistake.

References to #seapunk are (hopefully by now) pretty far removed from the ego of those gentrifying white kids who moved from LA to Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood and started having house parties (yeah, I was there once: their house was painted a shade of blue and they brushed their teeth with seafresh toothpaste) where they sold deep sea diving outfits & played aquatically themed Sega Genesis games. Visually, “Luces de Verano” is undeniably indebted to Nenneh Cherry's international sensation, “Buffalo Stance”. Credit to Fakuta for knowing her context.

The fourth single from Tormenta Solar should have been Fakuta's duet with Cristobal Briceño or maybe even "Mascota". And we for sure should have gotten a proper video for "Guerra Con Las Cosas". Still, you can add “Luces de Verano” to the (at times subversive, always stellar) portfolio of Enciclopedia Color who (visually) set fire to that skyscraper in Santiago. Also listen to the bong ready vaporwave remix of "Luces de Verano" by the "ephemeral future / lobby music" project from Nicaragua, h y p e r n o v a 航海ハイ.

Odio París - "Camposanto"

It’s been a minute since we’ve had Odio París in our lives. To be exact, 2011, when they delivered one of the strongest debut LPs of the decade. They’ve recently returned with “Camposanto,” the first single off of their new album Cenizas y Flores, due out early next year. In typical Mushroom Pillow-style, there are plenty of shoegazing tropes to be found. But what makes Odio París special is the level of fury they can exact on very delicate melodies. “Camposanto” never kicks in that extra gear that elevated tracks like “Cuando Nadie Pone Un Disco” to new classic status, but the level of precision is definitely higher. So that’s good. Some more shredding on the album please, though.

Video: Ela Minus - "Kiddo"

With a spot on Festival NRMAL's 2016 lineup and her inclusion on Ornamento Inútil (vol. 26 of el amarillo's compilation series), it was only a matter of time for Ela Minus to appear on our radar. Gabriela Jimeno, the voice behind the project, communicates in a special diminutive. "Kiddo", taken from the forthcoming First Words EP, delivers glacial textures and ornamental beats. The Colombian singer even expands her palette with English lyrics. Sure the vocals may be chirpy, but don’t confuse it as too delicate. Gabriela’s delivery is hyper, dead set on convincing us to follow our hearts ( “even when it hurts”).

Ela Minus’ First Words EP drops December 11 and is produced by Andrés Nusser (Astro).

We went there: 8 things we learned at Festival NRMAL Costa Rica 2015

Text by Pierre Lestruhaut 
Photos by Carolina Vargas

And so it happened… Unexpectedly, Festival NRMAL expanded all the way to the capital of the small Central American nation that’s been trying to place itself as the musical bridge between contemporary North American and South American musicians with the recent efforts of Epicentro. Hosted in a single day at Centro de Eventos de Pedregal, in a typical November afternoon of rain, umbrellas, fashionable ponchos, a lot of booze and some very good music, we experienced the first edition of Festival NRMAL outside of Mexican territories. Here’s what we learned from it.

1. NRMAL lineups are never disappointing 

At least if you’re musical sensibilities are similar to our own. But it’s not only the fact that the line-ups are usually stacked with bands that we’ve constantly praised over the last few years, it’s also the ballsy decisions to avoid cash-grabbing headliners, give way to very disparate styles in a single stage, and showcase acts with barely any material released. Thus, this edition was not devoid of very-well respected independent acts (Gepe, Helado Negro, Algodón Egipcio), pioneering legends (The Sonics, aUTOPerro), and up-and-coming electronic musicians (Raido, AAAA, The Wiesengrund Project).

2. Respect your elders…

Though NRMAL and Epicentro have let it clear that they are big supporters of young and emerging Latin American artists, this festival also outlined just how much NRMAL acknowledges artists who have been keeping it real for decades. Local noise duo aUTOPerro (who were making avant-garde sonic experimentation right around the time Throbbing Gristle were experiencing their creative apex), took the main stage early in the afternoon and despite stylistically contrasting with the rest of the acts performing there, managed to get a furious roar and applause from the crowd following the climactic ending of their set. Much in the same way that 60’s pioneering garage rock band The Sonics attracted the biggest crowd of the whole afternoon, which was predictable, given the Costa Rican indie scene's still overwhelming preference for good ol' rock music over anything else.

 3. …and give credit to those who were there before you 

As expected, Buscabulla put out a very pleasant show that induced the movement of loins and played her hits from her debut EP with a few unreleased tracks and covers. If you’re not aware that Raquel Berrios started making rounds in the NYC scene as a DJ, one listen to some of her mixtapes will let you know of the deep-knowledge she has of Latin American dance music. Of course, she wasn’t shy of handing out her respects to some of her beloved artists from the past, especially when performing her tribute to Frankie Ruiz, and it’s precisely this constant awareness of the greatness of past musicians that make her music so appealing in the first place.

4. Hijos might be deserving of some pre-debut album hype and high expectations

They’ve already been praised elsewhere, and it’s about time they got praised here as well. Hijos, the solo project of Costa Rican Pablo Rojas (Monte, Florian Droids) is a solid candidate to become the next great act to come out of the small nation. There are have been couple of pop-hued tracks circling around the internet these last few months, and “La Playa,” where vocal duties are taken by Kumari Sawyers, is deserving of superlatives such as “excellent,” “blissed-out,” and other adjectives like “tropical” and “heartwarming”. Hijos put out a solid early afternoon set where their already known pop melodies stood seamlessly and successfully side-by-side with the more proggish oriented soundscapes that Rojas’ other bands were more accustomed too.

 5. Gepe is getting closer to Latino pop stardom with every album 

A strange statement to make about an artist headlining what has been one of the most underground-promoting festivals in Latin America, NRMAL Costa Rica wasn't really the platform or the audience for him to feel like a pop star yet. But it’s Gepe’s conflation of Latino pop and folk motives, his undeniable charisma, irresistible dance moves, and catchy pop idioms that make him more suitable for grand arena Latin pop. And we wouldn’t be surprised if he got there rather soon.

 6. … and “En la naturaleza” is still the greatest latino song of the last few years

Even though Estilo Libre is Gepe’s biggest effort at exploring some of Latin folk’s most danceable patterns, “En la naturaleza” is still his most accomplished effort in fusing modern dance music and Latin folk. Despite dembow being a Latin club staple for more than 10 years, Gepe’s “experimental conquest” still feels fresh, unmatched, and absolutely drives the crowd insane. As DJ deMentira, who was wearing a Discos Pegaos shirt, took over PedroPiedra’s duties as Gepe’s sideshow rapper, the realization came forward that Gepe is all the things we’ve usually admired from a musician: crowd-pleasing enough to want to be a continental star, ballsy enough to explore territories no one else in his niche would dare to, and self-conscious enough to always be aware of his indie origins.

7. 10 pm is a very early time to end a one-day music festival 

The best music festivals we’ve been are obviously the ones that extend the partying well past midnight and allow dance music lovers to keep on dancing through the night. This first edition of NRMAL Costa Rica had a very well-crafted and conceived electronic music dome stage, much in the vein of Primavera Sound’s Boiler Room tent where sets could extend for those looking for non-stop dance action. In between main stage performances, we managed to catch a small portion of each of the acts playing the dome: The Wiesengrund Project’s drone-oriented and politically charged beats and visuals, Raido’s more introspective synth-driven hip-hop, and AAAA acid and Chicago oriented sounds. The only downside: 10 pm was a very early time to shut down an overheating dome that reeked of sweat and weed, hypnotized its crowd with warping beats, and should've kept the party going longer.

8. Enrique Coyotzi is an insensitive prick 

Promises were made. Expectations were raised. But our dear dear Enrique Coyotzi was nowhere to be seen at NRMAL Costa Rica, despite those very promises that were made, those expectations that were so highly raised. We will still hold on to those memories of NRMAL 2013, of seeing him arrive midset to Fakuta’s performance at Gómez, watching him leave after hearing 10 seconds of Dustin Wong at Panamérika Stage, and swinging like a lost child amidst the hip crowd of Monterrey. Your presence was missed.

Mahmundi - "Eterno Verão"

Marcela Vale aka Mahmundi is back. For anyone unfamiliar, the Brazilian artist first became to known us in 2013 as a rising talent with a promising, eclectic career. She returns now with a striking pose against a sky blue backdrop. The image is an LP sleeve waiting to happen. It also suggests a new level of craftsmanship that favors cleaner, bigger sounds to the more condensed production found on her Setembro EP.

On "Eterno Verão", we hear real instruments (pianos, guitars) matched perfectly to Mahmundi's disarming voice. There is a call to find an ideal ("Nesse verão que nunca tem fim"), but knows that pure nostalgia is not the way. Mahmundi wants to hone in on more affecting melodies. Her vocalizing signals a shift between the feel-good pianos to nighttime passion. In any language or season, it still translates as a beautiful track.

Video: MINT FIELD - "Petty Box"

Tijuana's MINT FIELD come with very few words on "Petty Box." Their brief observations sound ripped from a teen movie to which the song’s sinister, psychedelic riffing could easily fit the score. As one of the darker tracks from their Primeras Salidas EP, the trio faithfully present themselves in this light for the accompanying video. In it, we see background beauty queens and home movie shots chock-full of dream symbolism (bathtubs, bananas, credit to Noisey for the introduction and that dissection). The last shot frames the band looking straight on and extra moody in a way that only an emerging group could get away with. These are eyes that give us chills, but more importantly also signal the future.


Pesi The Mixtape, PESI
Independiente, Spain
Rating: 75
by Giovanni Guillén

Recently our blogger friends at Tacón De Oro have jokingly (but kind of seriously) become ambassadors for Spain’s influx of rappers, producers, reggaetoneros and trap artists (the biggest being PXXR GVNG along with all associated acts). Our own coverage has been limited to the party anthems, distancing ourselves from the flow of single after single from their expanding repertoire. As we approach the end of the year that output has become daunting. We don’t even know where to start.

PESI is not a singular project but a collective effort. Leading the brand is El Mini aka Moisturisin Mini aka Boyito K.R.E.A.M. (there might be more, we’ve lost count). 2015 has been a bit of a breakout year for El Mini thanks to his features and standalone singles. The most notable contribution from the Spanish artist came this summer with “Tacón de oro”, the glittery highlight from the Joseo De Oro compilation sponsored by the aforementioned Mexican blog. In seizing the titular inspo, El Mini imagined himself as a nini caught in a classic scenario of falling for a girl out of his league. It was this move that instantly helped us place him as a main character behind the PESI brand.

PESI THE MIXTAPE opens with an insane vocaloid performance from female MC Zowie. The production from Steve Lean charges with aggressive bass, which Zowie exploits to a full degree as she stunts over her own sexual prowess. The bars are nothing special, but Zowie comes in as an opener ready to rile up an impatient crowd. Especially those wanting to fight everyone before the actual show starts. Next we hear “No tengo nada”, a straightforward but stellar exercise in trap. The song is credited to Los Zafiro$, a Madrid-based duo of Dominican and Cuban origins who’ve carved out their own lane both as rappers (see: “Los Santos Me Acompañan”) and reggaetón artists (see: Gipsy Lovers).

Boyito K.R.E.A.M.’s “Blue” blends a Kingdom Hearts sample for a Sad Boy moment. While not necessarily a bad track, it still gets an eye-roll for being as unremarkable as a Tumblr feed full of Yung Lean and Arizona Tea gifs. In a mixtape bursting with fresh talent and energy, slow songs feel extra. This misstep does little to dispel the other highlights featuring Boyito. He assists with Zowie’s return on “No Money Makes Money” where both shine as if blessed with the chrome Midas touch of BFlecha. Interpolating the line “De lunes a lunes, ganja y autotune...” the pair already sound past a mere meteoric season. They’re ready to get higher, You know you at the top when only heaven's right above it-higher. In the end, this mood is what gives value to PESI THE MIXTAPE. Here we find a group of artists on the eve of something huge, and even these initial efforts are worth paying attention to.

Club FonoGRAMMYS - Best Alternative Song

A photo posted by JAVIERA 🌹 (@javieramena) on

Finally, after years of twisting Carlos's arm, Club Fonograma presents it's First Annual Latin Grammy coverage! Join a few of the crew as we give our thoughts on various categories. And, if you're catching this early, hang around our Twitter account during showtime as Andrew Casillas provides real-time analysis of presenters' hairstyles and identifies which performers sweat more than Patrick Ewing. So without further ado, let's kick off the 2015 Club FonoGRAMMYS!

Category 1: Best Alternative Song

  • Famasloop — "Allí Estás"
  • Astro — "Caribbean"
  • Natalia Lafourcade — "Hasta la Raíz"
  • El Cuarteto de Nos — "No Llora"
  • Javiera Mena — "Otra Era"

  • Zé Garcia: The Alt Record of the Year category shows the expanding spectrum of the Academy's considerations. On the (as expected) terrible end, we have Venezuela's Famasloop with "Allí Estás." Clearly, we can think of dozens of recordings more deserving than what sounds like background music for a Comcast commercial.  El Cuarteto de Nos is not as terrible as the Febreeze pop of "Allí Estás" but "No Llora" is still pretty annoying. Visually, "No Llora" channels the work of Kraft Mac & Cheese commercials complete with cute (read: obnoxious) child. The "Gloria Estefan-but-on-acid" bros of Astro also land a nomination with the pretty cool "Caribbean," but clearly one of our girls is taking home that prize and it's probably the recording industry's darling, Natalia Lafourcade. Yes, "Hasta La Raiz" is clearly one of the finest recordings of the last year, a song whose poetry and strings measure up to the word "epic." But it's going up against "Otra Era," one of the best songs of this young century. "Otra Era," our pick for 2014's best song, would probably land the top stop in a Club Fonograma mid-decade's best list. And why shouldn't it? "Otra Era" is sublime. It contemplates empires--a time-space pop gem composed of an ulterior reggaeton beat, the urge of a disco house piano, and a final climax that sounds like a doomsday siren. Mena's vocals get pitch shifted into a malformed future in the song's final moments and the effects are both terrifying and exhilarating. The transcendent quality of "Otra Era" has the ability to drive a perceptive listener to tears- a recording to match a beautiful & tragic existential crisis.

    Andrew Casillas: I legit lol'd at your comment that "Allí Estás" sounding like a Comcast ad. I mean, you can't be mad at El Cuarteto de Nos sneaking in here--I mean, there are way worse dinosaur bands getting Latin Grammy nods. By the way, when did "Caribbean" become Astro's breakthrough? DID NO ONE LISTEN TO "DIMENSIÓN SUPREMA?!" That song's got bars, son. So yeah, it comes down to the CF darlings Natalia and Javiera. I think we can agree that "Otra Era's" mere presence is a legitimate win for the 21st century Chilean pop monolith. And it's certainly the most innovative song in the category. But I'm not 100% certain that "Hasta la Raiz" isn't the better song. I may prefer "Otra Era" as a whole, but Natalia Lafourcade's spent an entire career working her craft to make something as instant and delicate as "Hasta la Raiz." And let's take a minute to understand how difficult it probably was to craft something like that. Is it her best song? No. But is it something worth giving an award to? Damn right.

    WHO SHOULD WIN: Javiera Mena, "Otra Era"
    WHO WILL WIN: Natalia Lafourcade, "Hasta la Raíz"

    Coral Casino - "Kendall Jenner"

    Argentine vapor/chillwave/synth entrepreneurs Coral Casino released the very intriguing $lytherin mixtape early this year with little to no attention from the blogs. And in all honesty, how many of you would be willing to sponsor a work titled after the evil house at Hogwarts. Lara Artesi and Roque Ferrarri have followed that mixtape with a bolder and less unapologetic pop referencing in the beautifully crafted track, "Kendall Jenner." You may accuse the Kardashians of doing more evil than the fictitious stamp of Slytherin, but Kendall is undeniably the most glamorous out of the bunch? Also, don't miss out on that "Kim Kardashian" track by Emilio José. Faithful to their premise of presenting a "fragrance" over musical pedigree, "Kendall Jenner" feels like it's been airbrushed and decoded into a coming-of-age romance. It also sounds like a missing track from Justin BIeber's Purpose, and that's a compliment by all means. Download the mp3 of the track on the Soundcloud player below.

    Video: Silva - "Eu Sempre Quis"

    We’ve long been aware of Silva’s universal appeal and star quality. Grandiosity is not a hard sell if you are earnest and selective (e.g. not cheesy) in the approach. Silva has already twice succeeded with this formula. Rather than burn out under his own trademark sound, he welcomes change.

    On his latest single, “Eu Sempre Quis”, the Brazilian producer stands in quiet rebellion to previous work. This is not a sweeping first single of horns, big synths, and life-affirming hooks. Silva’s performance is delicate, a “here I am” moment that works as a private exchange and a public confession set to serene guitars. The opening shots establish the need for silence and the chance to transmit his own feelings (“Amor, eu sempre quis / Desde quando te conheço”). Silva’s positioning in a plain white studio is counterposed with many shots of Jupiter. Just as the name suggests, our own mythology has obsessed over the scale and power it evokes, but here only appears fragile, lonely even. Despite this and even despite the sparse, metronomic beats, Silva manages to dance and to smile. A sight that our minds have been conditioned to reject, much like how when we saw “Hotline Bling” we could only see memes. It’s too late for Drake, but please let’s let Silva have his dance.

    “Eu Sempre Quis” is taken from Júpiter, Silva’s third full-length album due November 20th.

    Bairoa - "Sumersión"

    Days before we were approached by Bairoa (born Luis Valentin from Borinken) to premiere "Sumersión", I wanted to bring you his demo edit for "Sixteen Candles", a lo-fi R&B gem that sounds like Helado Negro x Dënver's cinematic wonder piece "Medio Mal", complete with affective strings and those haunting synths. We were captivated by the cool pastel motifs running through Bairoa's cover art, his flair for gold chains & rings, and that really sexy bigote. This brown boy with perceiving brown eyes came with flowers- we couldn't say no.

    With "Sumersión" Bairoa joins Buscabulla at her trippiest- part of a nascent island scene that could be perceived as a psychedelic revival in Puerto Rican pop music. Tropicália comes to mind in textures and atmospheres but not in politics- at least not yet. "Sumersión" begins with distortion & guitars à la Maggot Brain before the heartbeats of Afro-Caribbean drums begin their cyclical & meditative loop. Bairoa's dreamy vocals at times rupture, becoming those same guitars & far out electronic distortion. Bairoa sounds like he is attempting to convey the mysteries of the cosmos, so many porous vignettes of 1970s psychedelia come to mind.

    Bairoa's debut EP is slated for an early 2016 release. This debut single was produced by Bairoa himself along with Luis Alfredo Del Valle (of the mystifying Buscabulla).

    Neon Indian - VEGA INTL. Night School

    VEGA INTL. Night School, Neon Indian
    Transgressive / Mom & Pop, USA
    Rating: 85
    by Sam Rodgers

    The middle of VEGA INTL. Night School, the seven and a half minutes of "Slumlord" and "Slumlord's Re-lease", is transportive. Whether taking you to the generic 80s tubular-steel chairs of a cruise ship's dining room, the newly installed neon at a foreign casino, or flashbacks to those nights out where you reach flow and things got better, if not a little steamy. The myri  ad of sonic confection is humid, tropical, and yet metallic and cold. There's a fun darkness underpinning Neon Indian's latest LP, and it's the Mexican-born, Texas-native's best. This is one of those albums where you really could judge the interior on its cover: a primed rock star, but instead of guitars and a band, he has synths and a speaker in an underground venue. This self-mocking alternative-section theme is furthered by the fact you're purchasing the 'Japanese extended version' of the album without being a super-fan (the final track is called 'News From The Sun [Live Bootleg]').

    Alan Palomo demands you take the ride with him - he fills the spaces between songs with sound realia so as to not lose your attention. You're now just switching radio stations on a planet where Neon Indian has taken over the airwaves. This could be a risky move, but it pays off here. VEGA INTL. Night School is a world unto itself. It's very self-contained and self-aware. On track "Smut!", when the lyric "she takes me to night school" occurs, a bloodshot-eyed voice comments: "hey, that's the name of the record!"

    Lead single, "Annie", is the bridge between the innocent sounds of 2011's "Polish Girl" and the sweaty bosom of the "night schools" mentioned on this record. The track bounces but it's the lament of a lover being ignored by the title's antagonist. In this way, VEGA INTL. Night School plays like Blondie or Jamiroquai level levity in face of despairing lyrics, but unlike the latter band's earnest strut, Palomo is meta-peacocking. Listen to the grind of "Street Level", Palomo sings: "Cause we all know how to do the side walk" while recounting a night keeping confidence while tripping. He's anthropological in his storytelling: the "honesty of the night" - as he's said about the inspiration for the album - is a curio of the culture we have, not to be glorified nor scorned, but rather appreciated for what it is. This makes the album fun and, while not quite sober, grounded in a this-is-what-I-did-in-my-20s way. On album highlight, and hopefully future single, "Dear Skorpio Magazine", the younger version of Palomo confesses to the 80s porn mag editorial: "Every time I see her / Walking down the street / I'm wondering who she's going to meet / Often from a distance / always so discreet / keeping prowler's pace / through the dirty sneaker squeak".

    For the impatient, VEGA INTL. Night School could be seen as one of those solid and soon-to-be ubiquitous dance albums akin to Hercules & Love Affair's debut for this decade. Throw in the layering of new Panda Bear and the tropicana of El Guincho and you can understand the sonic language of Neon Indian. However, where VEGA INTL. Night School emulates the influences (think Prince and even Phil Collins on 'Baby's Eyes'), it never loses focus on its own aesthetic. This is one of those albums where you're not waiting to see what comes next, but know you'll revisit it for some time to come.

    Turning Torso - Adinkra

    I'll just say now what I never got to say last year: David Sánchez aka Turning Torso is a genius. The fact that his releases rarely conform to our pop sphere of coverage should not discount his efforts anymore. Algidus, 2014’s most underrated experimental album, should've put him on the map next to whatever else we were talking about then (Arca and ?). Yet unlike what other high-profile electronic acts expect from the listener, Turning Torso’s work never reaches an exhaustive point, on the contrary, it maintains a spellbinding quality. A rare feat from compositions that rely purely on spontaneity and repetition to reach their potential.

    On Adinkra, Sánchez digs deep on three tracks to test his own penchant for repetition. Standout track “Iris” shows how simplicity in music is still an illusion, hidden beneath there is always an elaborate scheme. This microscopic impression is rewarding in how it can feel unique and familiar all at once, there are traces of dance music and in the far distance even guitars. Elsewhere it seems Sánchez has consolidated all of his previous styles into a seamless, calming delivery. Not even the six-minute plus runtimes deter from the experience. By now Turning Torso has surpassed the mere prolific tag, which can make an entry point into his vast soundscapes difficult to calculate. Adinkra not only provides this entry point, it makes for another stellar release from the Queretaro producer.

    Marineros - “El Lado Oscuro de Tu Corazón”

    Self-described as their most romantic song yet, Marineros' "El lado oscuro de tu corazón" is an instantly affecting ballad. After many singles of blending a tough, guitar-heavy (or just heavy) sound to pit against Constanza Espina’s delicate voice, the duo have softened their technique. Oneiric beats float in and out as melodic guitar lines sweep in to complete the picture, leaving a feeling of warmth. And yet, buried into its lyrics is also lingering pain of failed romance, and so the song is really classic Marineros as we’ve come to know them over the years. Bittersweet to the end, and made for deep backseat reflections. Marineros remain a treasure in the new class of Chilean pop.

    Emilio José - "Kim Kardashian" / "Bruna Linzmeyer"

    It’s unlikely now that we will ever get over Chorando Apréndese, Emilio José’s sweeping and epic masterwork. Few pop albums, in the Ibero-sphere or anywhere, challenged us the way Chorando did. It’s the Infinite Jest of independent music. Everything from the linguistic stunts to the restless, nonlinear style gave Emilio José’s work a mythic, ephemeral quality. Like an elusive beast that only rears its head at certain times of the day. One could then say that his snippet-heavy approach was a courtesy, meaning we weren’t ready to hear fully fleshed, traditional “songs.”

    This, of course, changed with time. As we learned from later work (the unforgettable “A amazide”), Emilio José could do more than scurry on their own melodies. They could evolve and build towards something made to stand on its own. Earlier this year we were ecstatic to receive a 20 minute medley teasing his new album, and yet a part of us was also intimated as hell. How could we even begin to imagine a full-length album of songs on this scale?

    Thankfully, the two newest teases ("Kim Kardashian" and "Bruna Linzmeyer") have been an instant delight to experience. “Kim Kardashian” breathes along to woodwinds and whimsy. The reference to the ubiquitous Kim K (the most popular person on Instagram) is an afterthought. Emilio José sounds smitten by all women, like something out of Les Contes d'Hoffmann (without the heartbreak and deceit). Side B (“Bruna Linzmeyer”), is a gorgeous dance track made from the scraps of top 40 radio. The song teases a climax that never arrives and takes more joy in the buildup from handclaps and soft vocals in true Emilio José fashion. Agricultura Livre is set to arrive next month. Be ready.

    MOURN - La Entrevista

    Photo: Mathieu Foucher
    by Glòria Guso

    Catalan teen band Mourn came to Paris last summer to play at the opening party of French festival La Route du Rock. Ever since I first listened to Mourn I've been curious about the band. They released both an EP (Otitis, Sones, 2014) and a self-titled album (Sones, 2014) last year and are now back with another EP (Gertrudis, Sones, 2015) full of emotional, energetic songs recalling noise bands from the nineties as well as powerful female voices like PJ Harvey. Not that I know everyone in Barcelona, but for the last few years, every new band in the city included members of other bands or someone already known in the scene, thus making the job easier for us writers. This was not the case for Mourn (apart from the father from two of the band members, who wouldn’t be a participant from that aforementioned scene either), and then there was the unexpected success story with the signing from Captured Tracks and the spotlight with videos and an interview in Pitchfork which made everything even more exciting. In Paris, I got to talk with Jazz (guitar, lyrics) for about ten minutes after their set and I asked her about Mourn’s place in the Catalan scene and about their plans for the future. 

    [Glòria Guso]: Unlike other bands in Barcelona and its area of influence, you first released an EP (Otitis) and an album (self-titled) before starting to play regularly in public. Do you think that this has somehow influenced your music, your way of composing and playing it live?

    [Jazz Rodríguez Bueno]: I think that this has maybe influenced our live act, since we had already some recordings and songs but we had never really played live, we had only rehearsed at home, without any public, so we were clumsy and nervous. There has been a progression, we play better, we are more confident and I think everyone can see that. I am not sure that this has influenced the composing process but I can see that we keep evolving and changing our way of doing things, not on purpose because none of us knew this would happen (and maybe if we had known we would have done things differently) but as a result of it.

    Do you think that all this learning by means of extensively touring (both in Spain and abroad) is going to somehow influence the making of your next album?

    The songs in which we are working right now are not that different –generally speaking- from the previously released ones, but I think they are a bit more elaborated, maybe because of the practice.

    I guess you all must feel surprised and maybe overwhelmed by this sudden success.

    Yes, of course, we didn’t expect this at all. We hadn’t fully realized it until we were invited [by Captured Tracks] to play in the United States. But we are very happy about it because it allows us to play concerts very often, so as do many other bands from Barcelona, even if they don’t play that much outside the country.

    Do you feel a bit like a fish out of water in such as scene [the Catalan one] in which a lot of bands share members or play concerts together very often and everyone (musicians, public, bloggers…) is friends with everyone ?

    We have never really thought about this. Maybe because we don’t live right in Barcelona.

    Or because you are younger than most of the bands [Univers, Da Souza, Furguson, Beach Beach…]?

    Yes, definitely. We don’t have the same friends nor the same habits for going out. And most of these bands tour and play together very often, which we don’t. But we keep, of course, a good relationship with everyone when we get to play together or when we see each other in public. Before we had the band we didn’t know any of these people personally, and this of course changes the way we relate to each other.

    In this case, I guess any of these bands have been a direct influence to your music or to your decision to start a band or writing songs. 

    No, not really. We like Beach Beach a lot (and of course Tomeu has designed our covers), but it would be too much to say that they have been an influence, if anything a later one. Leia and I used to listen to The Unfinished Sympathy a lot but it is mostly through Minimúsica that we have gotten to know bands like Doble Pletina, Anímic, Beach Beach…

    Would you rather say that your father being a musician has been this model figure?

    Yes, definitely. Leia and I have seen my father rehearse and tour since we were very young, sometimes we went to his concerts, he played in the living room or taught us how to play guitar… I have always liked it and wanted to do the same.

    You only play concerts during the weekends or the holidays. I have been told that this is because of Leia’s age and school schedule [Leai, the bassist, is 16 years old]. Do you plan on becoming a professional band or, like Leia, the priority for the moment is not a career in music?

    In my case, I am just starting a degree in video, so a career in music will have to wait. Leia is continuing her studies as well . As for Antonio and Carla, they are not that concerned about this at the moment, but we all agree that we want to do something else aside because we don’t know if we are going to do music forever. For us, it's important to have fun and that is what we are doing right now.

    In your latest EP, Gertrudis (Sones, 2015), there’s a song in Catalan... 

    We composed this song long ago for Minimúsica [a Catalan festival in which bands play songs for kids. They collaborate with big festivals like Primavera Sound and Sonar] and we decided to include it now in this EP because we thought it was a fun. We have been thinking about writing in Catalan or Spanish or whatever, as it comes– for now it has come in English because of the music we have been listening to, not because of other reasons. We don’t have the objective of singing exclusively in English, we are open to mix songs in different languages.

    Are you already working on a second album? 

    Yes, we are working on some new songs.

    Video: Arca - "EN"

    Arca is back. But somehow it feels like he never left. Our Club Fonograma staff picks usually take years to germinate between album cycles, so the fact that Mutant will drop a little more than a year after Xen feels…generous. Or maybe it's that Arca has been cornering the sensuous / disfigured R&B market in the interim, (mother) creeping up on FKA Twigs' M3L155X (an EP that is decidedly weirder than LP1, a respectable decision given that she’s since become a household name) and carrying Kelela down similar, if more reserved, tropes on the very good Hallucinogenic EP. And then there was Arca's majestic work on the dense Vulnicura alongside Björk.

    Even I was tossing out descriptors such as the "Next Big Thing"and "The Future of Music" to conceptualize Arca’s music in 2014. Since then we have had ample time to assimilate Arca's tumultuous, wondrous soundscapes so the great "Vanity" did not feel as monumental. Then again, what can come close to the reggaeton-dembow structured masterpiece, “Thievery”? Arca's sonic continuum seems unchanged since Xen- our 4th best album of 2014. "EN" is also not necessarily new as most of it belongs to his commendable Sheep soundtrack.  Visually, Arca is contoured (or contorted) to a more decidedly human presentation, its own. The visuals for “EN” introduce a big ass yellow bota-tacón distrocionada, attached to Ghersi's slender frame which slowly descends into the picture, revealing some gratuitous booty shots, as it beautifully sways its arms around, does that thing with its shoulders, its black dress fluttering. Remezcla called “EN” 'next level' and 'a statement on gender' but "EN", like the visual treatment for “Soichiro", feels like something out of the local School of the Art Institute. And can wearing gendered clothing in 2015 really be seen as that much of a statement? Gender destruction has been the next frontier- notice the use of ‘it’ as a gender neutral pronoun. And that's what the trans(anti?)human gender-void of Xen was all about- the absence of gender, even though Xen preferred 'female' gender pronouns. We will be listening to Mutant with open ears, which arrives November 20th.

    Dënver - Sangre Cita

    Sangre Cita, Dënver
    Precordillera, Chile
    Rating: 93
    by Zé Garcia

    Pop chicloso is what Mariana Montenegro indicated in the days before the release of Sangre Cita, as we were masticating through its second single, the ebullient “Mai Luv”. We were still processing first single “Los Vampiros” (On first listen: did I click on the wrong song? Is this even Dënver? What happened to Milton Mahan’s silvery vocals? Those inconsolable piano touches sound like Dënver but is Milton even on this track?), still contemplating its b-side, “Noche Profunda”. We could have been given “El Fondo Del Barro”, a track that had already been making the rounds on tour and would have allowed devotees to better assimilate Dënver’s transition from chamber obsession to Pop Stars. Dënver was excellent since Música, Gramática, Gimnasia, larger than life since (should have been Club Fonograma Record of the Year in 2013, nothing against “La Trilla") “Revista de Gimnasia”, but Dënver in 2015 has been, if anything, abrasive.

    Sangre Cita begins with the dreamlike R&B of "Noche Profunda”. Mariana is rhyming about being narcotized, consumed by bad premonitions, wanting to be silenced by kisses- she sounds like she's cooing. A raconteur pondering nighttime conspiracies, Milton’s vocals are transmuted cold, interrogating that which we yearn for, that which we conceal. The fact that Milton doesn’t sound like himself on most of Sangre Cita, only adds to the mystique of an almost completely reformatted band. Among the catchiest and greatest works in the Dënver catalogue, “El Fondo Del Barro” has to be Dënver’s next single. It is prodigious, fervent, earnest- disco house- a song for those of us living in the margins to feel our own eminence.  “Mai Lov” is just as luminary, the perfect analgesic, full of endorphins. An obvious comparison points to J-Pop and its nominal leader, the fascinating  Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, mixed with the stultified PC Music crew, but lets not forget the nuanced eccentricities of Otra Era compatriots, “La Joya” & “La Carretera”. The opening lines of “Bola Disco” function as the criterion of not just Sangre Cita’s hits, but also Dënver's greatest accomplishments:
    "Puede que muramos en un baile / Que ese coro nos haga explotar ¡paf! ”
    It sounds like traditional Dënver, a return to the disco soft of “Los Bikers”. At first listen it feels like a misstep, especially in between titans "Mai Lov" and the epic, “La Última Canción”. But the dainty arrangements, the otherworldly electronic effects, its funky climax make “Bola Disco” a victor.

    Mariana’s character development on Sangre Cita is pretty impressive, another factor in the mystique of Dënver refurbished, adding to our mounting anticipation for her debut single as a solo artist under the potential pseudonym, Nausica. She seems more candid, vulnerable but astute. On “La Última Canción” she’s even moaning with desire, “Acércate a mí / Desvísteme”. She even has her lover drinking liquor from her ankles. Milton’s sexy confidence in the background, Mariana fully aware of her youth, flaunting it. Carly Rae Jepsen alongside superproducers Ariel Rechtshaid & Devonté Hynes tried their best at crafting a Dënver & succeeded in the should have been global hit “All That”. Cinematographic coming of age nostalgia from 1980s teen flicks, a sweeping chorus, compelling synths, “La Última Canción” succeeds where “All That” couldn’t, namely in storytelling. Mariana is moaning again, masturbating to piano touches on the sparse “Pequeños Momentos de Satisfacción”. Sonically, it has much more in common with Las Caras de La Muerte than anything else on Sangre Cita so this isn’t sex appeal, this is about tears and those tiny moments that give us hope about our own agency. This is almost as personal as "Jesús, María, No Sé". Sunny verses that blur the line between adoration and adulation (much like this album review), a chorus that makes Milton sound like a boy band on an ominous dance floor, “Yo Para Ti No Soy Nadie” goes back and forth between a semblance of old Dënver and their current obsession with the nightlife. & we are definitely at the club on "Mi Derrota". Mariana is moaning again, this time like Shakira on "She Wolf” or Britney on "I'm A Slave 4 U". Unequivocally, this is another era of Dënver.  

    Los adolescentes have grown up in “El Infierno” and this time they're going after the Establishment in true BBHMM fashion. They are robbing banks, dodging $tate bullets, swirling in a noisy technicolor pop insurrection, and escaping by train. Bombastic hand clap verses, Milton singing from 1 to 6 (even the English only crowd can sing along), an escapist, j’accuse, vox populi chorus, this one would fill a stadium. Who said our generational protest anthems had to exist within the realm of the legal? Or that pop hits aren’t subject to détournement? In the Chilean political reality, don't doubt that “El Infierno" isn't mirroring lived lawlessness. From Chile’s first ever bank robbery in 1925 by Buenaventura Durruti, countless bank expropriations during the U.$. installed dictatorship, to 2013 when 26 year old anarchist Sebastián Oversluij was gunned down by BancoEstado security, to the biggest robbery in Chilean history in 2014. Remember when Dënver stated they were more interested in making music for our parents generation? They finally accomplish this on "La Lava" with the help of Fanny Leona from 2015 Club Fonogrammy "Best New Artist” Nominee, Playa Gótica. We hear traces of Peter Gabriel & Kate Bush, Milton's voice altered to sound like Miguel Bosé. They sing about being impenetrable, surrounding themselves with contemplative maturity and graceful restraint- this is some of the most powerful sonic energy Dënver has ever crafted. Lyrically it is the most poetic song on the album, creating surreal imagery about washing one's hands with a lover's saliva, with a foam emanating from their lips. Is this the image conveyed in that striking cover art? Fanny wistfully bemoans, "las ratas, la falta" then interjects "¡de una tecnología capaz de conservar la moral subversiva al paso del tiempo!" This song is about nourishing weary souls & energizing our magic. Against demons, against vampires...

    Milton & Mariana enacting choreography fit for a girl/boy band from the early 2000s, a crucifixion inside a bathhouse pumping testosterone, unobtrusive and tasteful lasers, the visual treatment for "Los Vampiros" was everything. Attempting to dispel suspicions about accessorizing their aesthetic with Black bodies for the “Los Vampiros” video, Dënver talked to me at length about their indebtedness to Black music, specifically Black music from the U.S. Fuera de Campo was their homage to soul, disco, funk, Motown. At times Sangre Cita continues that tribute (and expands into R&B with "Noche Profunda") albeit in a more plastic, less orchestral way.  "Los Vampiros”, assisted wonderfully by (me llamo) Sebastian & Fanny Leona, will be remembered as one of the most jarring reintroductions in Iberopop band history, without a doubt Song of Summer 2015, and among the greatest records of the year. Where "La Lava" served as a protective spell, "Los Vampiros" works as a declaratory hex on the dance floor. Dënver has a history of epic closing numbers. "En Medio de Una Fiesta” adorned the melancholy of failure with cosmic phenomenon, whereas "Medio Loca (Hasta El Bikini Me Estorba)" pulsated tragedy & redemption in its final moments. “Sangrecita", the title track, announces itself like 80s heavy metal (King Diamond, anyone?)- the drums menacing- backed by a nonsecular choir. Instead of a brutal metal arena, we enter an esoteric cocktail party lavishing in disco rhythms, Milton singing through the sublime theatrics, sounding subdued, his vocals permuted beyond recognition. The entire affair is eerie, escapist, beautiful. The chorus features a few good friends in harmony, sounding universal, powerful. The final moments of Sangre Cita- Pedropiedra on guitar- function as a response to our own Giovanni Guillen's question in reference: who needs guitars anyway? And then those closing heartbeats, the vibrations of an album resplendent enough to elevate, heal, mesmerize. 

    In many ways, Dënver needed Sangre Cita, a colossal maneuver designed to revamp Dënver as genuine Pop Stars capable of infecting and delighting masses, in their trademark beguiling sense of course. Dënver has accomplished and is destined for great things, among them bigger arenas. Milton joked in Chicago (I had the opportunity to hang & interview with Dënver in Chicago this year, a feat that didn't seem possible until it was) about their aspirations to hire full orchestras for every live show, like when Juan Gabriel sells out El Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City. Sangre Cita has already superseded Música, Gramática, Gimnasia, but in due time it might even come to rival their previous masterpiece Fuera de Campo. Love it or hate it- you can’t be blasé about this- Sangre Cita leaves an indelible mark on our archives on a year with such few albums for the ages.

    Monella - "Telenovela"

    Like most of us when we were kids, Karen Freire grew up in a house where soap operas were televised all the time. The María's trilogy starring Thalía, Rebelde, Muñeca Brava, you name it. She was born and lived her childhood in Guayaquil, Ecuador until she was 14 when her mother remarried and moved to Minnesota. "I grew up watching soap operas with my nanny every day, that's why my lyrical style has always been melodramatic. Then I thought it would be a good idea for a song" says Karen, explaining where the inspiration for this track comes. She's no newbie in this field, and explains, "I had a project my first year of college with a friend but nothing ever happened, I mean, we wrote like five songs and played three shows but then I stopped playing with him because his personality was very intense."  She adds, "He thought I would be his great project of pop music and he was going to make me famous [laughs] but then I realized he just wanted something romantic from me so I stopped making music with him." Which brings us to Buffalo Moon, its largest project. They released three albums, one was Machista, the third one just dropped last year. It was one of the best albums of 2014 and one of the most underrated too. A real gem that went unnoticed against many media and audience.

    After the release of Machista, Karen moved onto other things. But at the end of the day she was self-conscious about her talent. "So my hairdresser is Italian and he always calls me Monella," she says. Armed with a nickname and a couple of unfinished songs, she decided to goes solo. Introducing her first single "Telenovela" Karen Freire aka Monella lead us into this finesse and natural beauty, almost cruel. Her powerful and melodic voice diluted between synthesizers, beating at the rhythm of a lyric inspired in the drama of soap operas and pop glamour. A complete delight that draws us to the memory of great heroines of the past pop like Amanda Miguel and modern pop such as Javiera Mena. With this hit, Monella is introduced at best, giving way to generate a buzz. We want to hear more of this woman, who not only conveys a powerful female presence, but makes us love the woman behind the alter ego and shows that this talent goes beyond its beauty or sexuality. "Tú y yo una telenovela, que no tiene final" One for all of those melodramatic fools (like us).

    La Ola Que Quería Ser Chau - "Aunque me Tires del Pelo"

    José Miguel Del Pópolo, of La Ola Que Quería Ser Chau, spent most of 2014 releasing material from his other project (Los Migues). Though we didn’t get to review No está Muerto quien Menéa, it was still a solid collection of alternative rock diminutives. Energetic and unapologetically lo-fi, like a wind-up car version of a gas guzzler. Something La Ola is no longer here to reproduce. Not after 2012’s La fuerza del cariño set a precedent for a more polished sound. This is still the case with “Aunque me Tires del Pelo”, the first single off their upcoming album (tentatively titled La Peste Rosa). Though the song’s had a prior life on the internet, this version makes full use of its melody shifts and bold delivery. We’re talking jangly guitars that end up at stadium rock (plus vocals from María Fernanda Aldana). Remember when indie movie soundtracks were a thing? This is better.

    Video: Hello Seahorse! - "Me He Convertido"

    At this point you're either still down with Hello Seahorse! or you've outgrown them. After 2012’s disjointed and disappointing Arunima, it appeared we were heading for the the latter category. This year’s new wave-charged (and decent) single, “Animal”, has reset our expectations, just in time to prepare for their upcoming album, Entretanto.

    Latest video "Me He Convertido" continues their four-part short series, rolling out in descending order. Denise Gutiérrez's voice enters through a dark, sparse production which leads to a sweeping conclusion illuminated by electronic and thumping grooves. Translating this drama is a young female dancer who is later accompanied by a painted man not unlike Carla Morrison’s latest clip (although not as sloppy). The video has some moments, particularly the shaky rotating shots when the two leads spar with movement. It is also clear from this song that Hello Seahorse! have not abandoned the moody theatrics that has been both their trademark and what makes their music frustrating. "Me He Convertido", however, works as a rousing listen. Which we will certainly help us approach Entretanto with open ears.

    Elandh - "Fiesta House"

    Elandh is a Chilean trio that's been steadily teasing their debut LP, Ficción, for some time now. Promo cuts “Estrellándonos” and “Como nunca” eluded us in their original run, but have gained some heavy rotation thanks to the official release just days ago. Early impressions generally concede that Ficción is a sleek pop record with some notable features (Fakuta on "El frío entre los dos") and house cuts. "Fiesta House", the album's opener, is so straightforward as a dance track that one could almost miss it. Then again, you could just be overthinking it. Pre-chorus we hear the words: "Seré mi propia estrella..." and there its function is made clear. This is a warm-up track, when the dance floor is looking empty and social inhibitions are still lingering. Fear not. By the time you hear the reprise of those vocal samples, you'll know exactly what to do.

    Piyama Party - "Vampiros y plantas tropicales"

    Piyama Party’s fourth full-length, Álbum De Oro, is finally set to arrive tomorrow (10/5) through a Panamérika premiere. First single “Vampiros y plantas tropicales” showcases a florid and hypnotic side to Luis Angel Martínez’s project, injecting dusty atmospherics and some genuine mystique. Here the titular “tropical plants” exist more as poetic mirages, adjacent to guitars and noise samples that howl through a western landscape. It’s intense, but never too harsh. Like magic hour in the desert. If the rest of Álbum De Oro supplies anything half as engrossing, we will surely have another essential record on what is shaping up to be a great year.

    Dënver - "Mai Lov"

    There’s an Instagram video somewhere of Mariana Montenegro dancing in a hotel room to Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s “” (“Mi”). The song is from a 2013 album titled Nanda Collection and might be the most extreme example of Kyary’s weirdness. It’s J-pop frenzy gone too far. The kind of “girly” track bordering on parody and made for white dudes to gawk at through a YouTube screen. At the end of the day, Kyary’s discography deserves better analysis than just kawaii desu. They are expertly produced pop songs with entertaining often profound lyrics on innocence, adolescent longing, even rejection. Always adding something extra that could easily be missed on first glance.

    Dënver can relate to the above statement. After three studio albums they’ve excelled at a formula that sneaks immiscible ideas (disco, camp, women) into indie-rock. Now that success has followed them through it all they finally can stop holding back on whatever was left. On “Mai Lov”, the newest tease from Sangre cita, the duo are through playing games. Mariana sings as if she’s cloned herself and formed her own girl group. The beats are mindlessly simple, promoting instant gratification to an almost unsettling degree. If listeners were shocked by the Europop indulgence of “Los Vampiros”, then “Mai Lov” will surely send them running. We can sit here and throw out names of everything from PC Music to Perfume but it’s still a Dënver production. A song to get lost in with images of high speed adrenaline (“Vamos acelera / Va- vamos acelera / Mai lov...”) while tempting fate (“Que la muerte nos espera”). Who Needs Guitars Anyway?

    Planeta No - Odio

    Odio, Planeta No
    Sello Azul, Chile
    Rating: 84
    by Pablo Acuña

    "Odio sentirme bien, odio sentarme acá, odio mirarte a ti, odio tener que hablar". There are no words. You just have to hear it. I’m talking about the initial seconds of "Odio", the opener on Planeta No‘s debut album. Describing something so personal would reduce its significance, rendering it a preamble or "entertainment". Some experiences need to be sat with, to be felt upon reflection when finding yourself back in the day-to-day humdrum rather than the excitable moment of confrontation. Naturally, though, we have no choice but to sit with it, and it’s in these moments where the true power of the display is felt. It’s a question that often rears its head whenever a piece of music moves us so supremely – perhaps the consistent intrigue comes from the fact that there isn’t ever a solid answer. Perhaps it’s too much of a personal question to ever really be concluded.

    Led by Gonzalo Garcia (vocals/ synth/ guitar), Camilo Molina (bass) and Juan Pablo Garin (drums), Planeta No has been working around the clock for many months. Though having to cope with changing climates and limited resources to every day survival, they've always been surrounded by empeñosos companions that provide purpose to their work. An example of this was Matucana, an EP that proved that the band could be exported to Latin American countries along with other exporters of Chilean music.

    On the band's debut LP, Planeta No gravitates towards a young teenager moment in which you do not take in the weight of that word and spontaneity dictates the course of it, because it simply makes you feel good. Opening track ‘Odio’ is brave in many senses, as we absorb the array of emotions and succumb to the empathy, regardless of whether you are a teenager or in you're in the late twenties or thirties. A more joyful ‘Sol a Sol’ comes next, summoning the spirit of love and happiness, but only to see it turn to vapors and leave us empty, bitter and regretful: “Para alejarte, no debo verte/ No quiero estar de pie, no quiero estar mejor”. "El Campo", "Ser y Deshacer" and "Ami el Niño de las Estrellas" reveal that in their upbeat nature there hides a nervous self-awareness that things are not how they should be. This theme continues into stand-out track "64", a neurotic, paranoid reflection on a failing relationship, in which desperation and the need to make meaning of it all ultimately precipitates the end.

    On a personal note, I’ve always worried that music means too much to me that I get too lost in the worlds created by song to bother exploring the less successful traits of my own psyche. This happens with the rest of the songs in Odio. There are flashes of teenage memories that blurs from appreciating the quality of the album as a whole and that when explored, some of these songs end up screwing the magic that the album started to build, and so, instead, we categorise them as simply that: small pieces of magic that just are.

    In some sense it is like these songs existed before us and here’s that proof, quietly embedding itself in to our memories like thoughts half-forgotten or dreams that quietly remain. However, most of he memories are about anger, that anger to see how you unwittingly transform in this adult, ridiculous, aggressive, idiot system.

    Depresión - "Inexistencia"

    Depresión unites two beloved punk acts (Los Blenders and O Tortuga) along with third member Héctor Escajadillo for a sound influenced by alternative rock and all things dark. The six-minute, aggressively brooding single “Inexistencia” contemplates existence with eyes closed. Guitars come in at all points, building a wall of sound to save the singer from himself. It’s a breakup song that combats heavy feelings with heavier music. Sound comparisons from other sources have been varied: Joy Division, Smashing Pumpkins, Nothing, (Title Fight should get a mention as well), and still there’s really no telling where it could go. Suffice it to say that since Chavos Bien and O Tortuga accompanied us during the warm months, we can assume that Depresión will be there to get us through the cold.

    Algodón Egipcio - "Multiestabilidad"

    September 2015 has been a good month for comebacks from the 2011 soundtrack to our lives. The eerily calm beauty of Mueran Humanos' “Miseress”, Adrianigual's holographic house hit "Nunca Vienes A Mi Casa", Algodón Egipcio’s “Multiestabilidad”. We also learned Alex Anwandter's follow up to Rebeldes is now finished and will be called Amiga.

    "Multiestabilidad" is instantly tantalizing, jolting even. This is music you can see: sharp yet malleable pixels. And almost feel: metallic structures being manipulated to their percussive breaking point. Algodón Egipcio sounds like a digital seraphim: "cada puerta abierta es una dimensión", occasionally allowing his pitch shifted vocals to express those other dimensions without words. The results are a tinny yet pleasant landscape that at the 1:41 minute mark begins to test the limits of its own formula, eventually expanding into a segment that could almost be understood as footwork.

    Presidente - "La Sociedad (de la tierra plana)"

    Presidente is the solo project of Heberto Añez Novoa, a Venezuelan artist whose new single and pastel campaign has grabbed our full attention. "La Sociedad (de la tierra plana)" is at once minimal and challenging. Añez works with the most palatable of elements: slinky synths and 80’s radio guitar with a pleading vocal delivery to concoct something completely unique and beguiling to the end. The track is taken from the upcoming Ilustre Ventanal de Estrategias, an eight-track release due next month. Noting this, it’s worth mentioning how the short format release has become a mark of confidence in music (especially in our ibero-sphere). One that acknowledges a clear vision in an easily distracted age. With "La Sociedad”, Presidente has placed us en route to his own vision, and we can’t wait to see it.