Maria Usbeck - “Moai Y Yo”

Photo credit: Holland Brown
Maria Usbeck, former lead singer of the band Selebrities, dropped “Moai Y Yo” via The FADER last night, which then immediately had us wondering: Who Is She. Born in Ecuador and currently based in New York, the singer/producer is now promoting an upcoming solo record which promises serene pop born out of an existential crises from losing touch with her mother tongue. Usbeck later took it on herself to reconnect with her language and culture, all of which has aided her in building a more meaningful musical identity. One that is waiting to be unveiled in her album Amparo.

“Moai Y Yo” rises at sun salutation only to be carried off by gentle harmonies. The arrangements are simple but extremely rich. The singer pulls in harps and other ornate sounds that often recall Ramona Lisa (Chairlift's Caroline Polachek, who is actually listed as co-producer), an influence that becomes more pronounced through the Rapa Nui chants chained to the vocal patterns. Usbeck stretches the tonal canvas to its absolute limit. Reaching its conclusion it is hard not to feel elated both from the music and the impression of the discovery (“Te busqué, te encontré”). Maria Usbeck, welcome to the club.

Amparo is out May 27 via Cascine / Labrador

AJ Dávila - "Post Tenebras Lux"

"Clearer light, darker darkness... It is impossible to properly appreciate the light without knowing darkness" (Jean-Paul Sartre).

The transition from darkness to light happens often in one’s life. Whether it originates from a dirty fight, a sense of betrayal or devastating break up, the black void of distress and misery always seems to engulf everything. And then, one day, we make a step forward, leaving the void behind. Darkness gives way to light. The thick fog and blackout period becomes the stepping stone to the positive. The transition can be so powerful sometimes that it is not just a transition from darkness to light, but rather a total transformation of the darkness itself. Distress and misery are not forgotten but negativity and darkness are themselves transformed into light.

“Post Tenebras Lux,” first single off AJ Dávila’s yet-to-be-titled-but-long-awaited solo album takes us on an enthralling cathartic quest for light. Juxtaposed drum smacking, pressing organ progressions and babycito's notorious howls make up the intro of this rowdy upheaval. The buzz of a saxophone (courtesy of Los Fabulosos Cadillacs' Sergio Rotman) are then mingled to distorted guitar roars. Less lo-fi than previous recordings, “Post Tenebras Lux” still retains AJ’s garage rock killer melodies. The sonic chiaroscuro ends in a whirlwind of kaleidoscopic sax inflections, from which nobody emerges quite the same.

Las Olas - Canciones Para Mis Amigxs

Canciones Para Mis Amigxs (EP), Las Olas
Piloto Records, Chile
Rating: 75
by Giovanni Guillén

Las Olas is a four-piece noise-pop band based in Santiago de Chile. They actually stylize the “noispop” part into the name, in case there were any doubts. Over the last few months the group has become the new darlings within Santiago’s indie scene. These youngsters represent a fresh face in Chilean alternative, leading a wave of similar punk and noise-inclined bands that remain decidedly friendly and supportive and fun.

Canciones para mis amigxs puts together a cohesive product from previously existing songs that just needed to be collected in the studio. The six tracks that make up this cassette EP are just as charming as the pink cover art and doodles might suggest. Here is a reminder of how guitars can still transmit the essence of teen and young adult extremes, and how life’s difficulties can be sustained or made lighter through them. “Un Gato” materializes under the sappiness of twee. The band rolls out angular notes drowned in cymbals while the singer comes in punch-drunk by it all. Cami’s voice even borders on the nya-nya of this cat she alludes to. But the most memorable bit comes from her ferocity at the end, in which she bellows to hold her own. They might be Chile’s darlings, but Las Olas have not yet been declawed.

“Para no irme lejos” is infused in Saddle Creek Records folk. Thankfully, the one-minute runtime doesn’t allow the listener to absorb or wallow in too much nostalgia. “Brilla lo que tenemos” and “Desobedecer” mark the EP’s existential core. The words first come at us in a sinister tone from a male voice: “Puedo desobedecer sin intentarlo tanto...” The teenage fantasies of rebellion are betrayed by the restraint from the slow-burning and tense guitars. “Desobedecer,” already a single and video, acts on those feelings and launches forward, underlining the best that Las Olas have to have offer: unbridled force and energy.

The end credits, scored by the bonus track “Me dices que es fácil,” is an epic conclusion of Dënver - “Lo que quieras” dimensions. Perhaps Las Olas were attempting to already outsize their humble beginnings. Or better yet, they just wanted to reach the same emotional heights without compromising their scraggly diminutive punk. Whatever the case, the song is proof that Las Olas know exactly what they’re doing.

El Guincho - HiperAsia

HiperAsia, El Guincho
Canada/Nacional Records, Spain
Rating: 80
by Zé Garcia

If you’re not seeing the entertainment purpose of HiperAsia you might just legit be lacking the proper gear. Dollar store headphones wont give it to you. Smartphone speakers are never in etiquette for a proper musical experience. Not one for product placement, but the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had with HiperAsia have been on my Harman Kardons. Bass is key on HiperAsia, as is the capacity to fully capture El Guincho's polychromatic, schizophrenic pallet. Schizophrenic is ascribed here not in a clinical sense but in the album's fantastic fragmentation. HiperAsia is a hybrid: contradictory & visceral, conflictual & mechanic sonics constantly interrupting developing ideas & melodies. For immediate reference see the gratifying “Stena Drillmax” (breakdancers required for its 90s breakbeat leaning second half). It is followed by the banging (yet brief) “Abdi” (where El Guincho talks about feeling dead inside a bank listening to hardcore) and its continuation: the irresistible ("hey!") “Muchos Boys” which flirts with dancehall before its sonic boom apex. In fact, much of HiperAsia's bass laden eccentricities seem indebted to 21st Century dancehall.

HiperAsia is full of methylphenidate bangers with some minor miscalculations in its built-in hardware. The title track seems like the album’s least essential track, but rewards repeated listens. All of HiperAsia demands (& rewards) repeated listens, if you're into such thrills. And "Pelo Rapado” waxes where “HiperAsia” wanes. On “Pelo Rapado,” El Guincho also postures as a trans-human R&B icon: you can almost picture him lifting his Black leather jacket (onstage) to reveal his abs to a screaming pack of aroused die hards. “Mis Hits” is just as romantic and seductive. Picture Ciara doing her “Ride” routine. Superficially, much of HiperAsia seems cold and disjointed but, "Parte Virtual" is somehow balmy as is the vaporwave breeze of "Pizza." While "Pizza" concerns itself with the modern food staple, the winning "Parte Virtual" provides some particularly downcast (& personally relevant) revelations: "Son muy pocos los que no me fallan / esperaré a ver qué hacen cuando la tormenta pase."

"De Bugas" proves El Guincho is still harnessing the energy of the sun, even if it is 20,016 and he is channeling its power with solar panels. In recent memory Club Fonograma has systematized classifications of the current reggaetón landscape: future and ice age. "De Bugas" is rooted somewhere between bazaar dancehall and future reggaetón, with Shibuya-kei (as the connoisseur Giovanni Guillén points out) overtones. Easily the catchiest track on HiperAsia, "Cómix" is made complete with an appearance by the ever congenial Mala Rodríguez ("si no hay na' pa' cenar me da igual, te tengo a ti y a mi verdad / aunque sea sin pastillas yo quiero ir a bailar") and El Guincho's cheeky yet alluring self assurance: "Siempre me largo con la guapa de la fiesta [...] sé que te molesta ver como no me cuesta."

Sizable portions of HiperAsia seem spontaneous: El Guincho operating on automatic, crafting efficient (if incongruous) electronica indebted to yet another musical form of the African diaspora: R&B (however disfigured). Early releases like the sensuous "Mis Hits" and the autotune heavy "Rotu Seco" proved unmoving to most of Club Fonograma at first. Autotune can often be described as excessive but "Roto Seco" employs it as an integral aspect of its DNA. Remember when El Guincho drew comparisons to Animal Collective? Closing number “Zona Wifi” (subwoofer mandatory) recalls AnCo's energy. But whereas the glory of Animal Collective continues to fade, El Guincho continues to reinvent his brand towards favorable results.

Lido Pimienta - LA ENTREVISTA: Part 2

Photo by Ruthie Titus @ruthtitus

Part 2 of our conversion with Lido Pimienta. Click HERE to revisit the first part and stream her newest single, "Agua." 


Souad Martin-Saoudi: How’s the Toronto community and your creative crew? Could you tell us about your Bridges series?

Lido Pimienta: I have a big crew. From musicians, to visual artists, to fashion designers, to galleries, to festival organizers, to critical thinkers, to DJs. Toronto is an amazing place to be, and despite the inevitable hetero-patriarchy and racism one faces here on the daily, I mean, I am just another POC on colonized land… despite that stuff, Toronto is fertile, and wonderful people like David Dacks from The Music Gallery, Sergio Elmir aka DosMundosRadio, LAL aka UNIT 2, Xpace, and many other organizers have shown me incredible support, not just by liking my photo on facebook, but by actually putting money behind and providing a space for my ideas to flourish. Ideas like my arts/music festival Bridges, whose mandate is to bring artists from South American diaspora working in a similar ways as an artist in Canada. We’ve had Isa Gt, Conector (Aterciopelados), Zuzuka Poderosa, Tanya Tagaq, Boogat and many other performers grace our stage - I get support for the many workshops and curatorial projects I produce. I should also shout-out the Toronto Arts Council, Factor, Canada Council and the Ontario Arts Council for the support. It would be impossible to attempt half the things I have been able to do without the times they have supported my initiatives.

SMS: You also have been referencing to Gangster pop as one of your genres. I would like to know more about that label, and what it represents to you.

LP: I am interested in taking words with a negative connotation, and shift their meaning and apply to them my vernacular. The words slut, bitch and whore have hurt me so much in the past. Now I embrace and encourage all my bitches to slut it up and be all the hoe-self their heart desires, and this is a movement that Black Feminists lead, like anything good in the world of course. So, because I know people expect me to be this “cute,” or “child-like” singer, I like the idea of labeling myself as something I see fits more like, “satanic pop” or “gangster pop.” There is nothing that gives me and has given me more disgust than when I get labeled as “world music,” it is such a simplistic, racist and lazy label. No thank you. I am “Satánica” !

SMS: When you write, who do you write for? For yourself, or do you write with your audience in mind?

LP: I'm still trying to figure out who my audience is. I don’t write for anyone else but myself. My heart is wounded, so I know the feeling is familiar to the world. So my experience will resonate, no matter what I say, no matter what I do. I keep WOMXN in mind, I keep single mothers in mind, I keep youth in mind and womxn in South America who have no access to safe abortions, I keep Indigenous and Black womxn in all of the Diasporas who are fighting to stay alive. Color was about that too, but the person singing those chants was more hopeful. La Papessa is hurt. She is LOVE, but she is also PAIN. She is light, but she also is comfortable in darkness.

SMS: And when you collaborate with others?

LP: When I collaborate with others, Lido leaves the room. I enter the world of my collaborators completely. For instance, “Jardines” was a hymn inspired in the world of Chancha Via Circuito. I ask, “what is the vibe, what is the title, what mindstate were you in when you wrote the music?” and I go from there. “Un jardin, comienza con una semilla...” it is very hippie, very kind, very generous, like Chancha is. “Reza Por Mí” is a love song. I cannot write love songs for Lido Pimienta...I write songs about pain, about heartbreak, but in that song for Atropolis, the beat was so light, and beachy... I had to, I just had to.

The same for Capullo in “A Quién Amas En Realidad Es A Mí.” I understand Capullos' aesthetic, I knew their style could be complemented by something raw, but funny and witty, with Pop Culture AND colloquial lengua “todo lo que tenía puesto era de segunda, pero mi ropa interior si era nueva.” I mean... I feel I have written more songs for other people than I have in my own catalogue, but I step out and get inside the brain of whoever wants to collaborate. Sometimes it doesn't stick. On Javiera Mena' “Luz de Piedra de Luna,” I wrote a part: “navegando galaxias, por un camino estelar, con luz de piedra de luna, tu tienes el poder,” but she decided to just keep the harmonies, and that's totally fine. When you write something for someone else, you are just another instrument, I am lucky that 99% of the time, people let me be free.

Lido with Gepe & Javiera Mena
Fun fact about “Agua” tho: I wrote the song after my first Mexico trip. Juan Manuel Torreblanca, the angel who brought me down there for the first time and introduced me to really awesome people, made it possible for me to meet and get contacted by Ximena Sarinana, we originally spoke about doing something together, so I did an acapella…”Los cabellos, de tu madre, acarician tu cara…” and I sent her the acapella thinking we would figure out the music as we went, but, i guess she wanted a full song, or who knows, those people are too famous! Perhaps her management were like “why are you clowning around with that Lido person, she is not famous,” but “Agua” kept growing and now it is the opening act to this tragi-comedia that is La Papessa.

SMS: In an interview you gave to Now in late January, you said that you felt like everything you could possibly do in Toronto, you had done, and that you were tired of having these conversations – conversations about what it’s like to make music as a racialized performer in a “multicultural Canada” where you are granted support and exposure at the expense of a token status – and seeing that things don’t change; you added that your next step was going back to South America, the States and Europe. I would like to hear more on that! I’m interested to know how you apprehend the international reception of your work. How do you tackle tokenism and deconstruct stereotypes?

LP: I would like to think that people book me and want me because I am damn good. But I also know that some bookers and promoters, get me in their bills because they got a government grant, and they can check one of many boxes when they book me. Woman: check. Minority: check, and so on. It is difficult as well, because it is in Canada and USA that I find the most support now, when it used to be in South America. Rarely I get emails from South America or Mexico anymore. But I also know that this is my fault, I have not dropped a new album, or song in a long time. I feel as though people have me in their collective/nostalgic memory. Also, music industry is one of the most competitive, depressing, problematic, desperate industries. The people who used to be “my friends” don't have a use for me anymore. I can't give them personal emails and phone numbers or facilitate contact avoiding management or music shows anymore. I am not culturally valuable anymore, and I am fine with that. It is all part of my plan, to disassociate myself with any scenes, I want to be my own movement. I do miss having talks with some of the people from my 15 minutes of fame, but, the real relationships I was left with afterwards are there for me and I am here for them. It has been a crazy roller-coaster, but now I am ready to go back to music, wiser, stronger and with a better sound. A sound that is mine and unique, not to be fucked around with.

Photo by Ruthie Titus @ruthtitus
SMS: Could you give me your thoughts on the failure of multiculturalism? How does it hurt racialized artists? Is decolonization a viable alternative? What does decolonization mean to you?

LP: The failure is evident when we look around and observe how media is still whitewashed. As Canadians, we live in a “multi-cultural” society, but we know this is wrong. The “better” term should be “pluri-cultural”, we do not mix. The latinx crew, hang with their own, although we are starting to be more aware and intersectional, the Korean with their crew, and so on. The white people, you know, they have their vanilla with white chocolate chip fest, and they come to our “world music” events with their sun cream and sandals with socks combos. To me, the one truly diverse groups or spaces are those who are led and organized by QTPOC folk. You go into those spaces or party with them, and you truly see, a sneak peak of what a multi-cultural society ought to look like.

It is utterly disturbing to me, when I look at the state of “pop” music in South America. The emulation of “white culture” makes me want to vomit. I mean, youth culture is global, I get it, but also, the magnificent element that we as Afro-Indigenx-Spanish carry, is that exactly, our mix, our multilayer influences and narratives. I love it when someone like Gepe goes ahead and gets Wendy Sulca to play, its so wild and whimsical! That is what music is all about.

There is this wrong impression that white people created “rock and roll”, Rock and Roll was pioneered by a Queer Black woman, her name was Sister Rosetta Tharpe. We look at rock-pop now, and most people in that genre idolize The Beatles or The Rolling Stones, who by the way, just stopped by Colombia, they probably filled an arena. I mean… It is really a pathetic affair when a dinosaur pays you a visit after they've been dead and irrelevant for centuries. All of this to say, that we are ignorant to HERstory, and it is this simple fact that makes me want to leave Canada and go back to my roots, be in Colombia and play with my sheroes, the real rocks stars, Petrona Martinez, Martina Camargo, Sexteto Tabala... I mean... the day that they fill an arena in Colombia… is the day I will have no sorrow in my heart.

SMS: I’m curious about your self-care rituals. Would you care sharing them with us? You’ve been posting some pictures of your tejido apprenticeship and work on Instagram. Is it part of your self-care ritual?

LP: Tejidos are in my blood. My family is Indigena Wayuu. Weaving is in our DNA, and I weave because it is relaxing, helps me think. I just broke up with a friend of 8 years, her leaving my life was painful, traumatic but necessary. Weaving helps me bury the bad memories and begin a new story.

Self Care by Lido Pimienta:

1. Hair: wash every two days, brush every night and put in a high bun to help it grow
2. Face: wash with warm water and dry with face cloth, not body towel
3. Skin: coconut/shea butter
4. Butt/thighs: mix coconut oil with coffee grind (avoids cellulite and energizes)
5. Sex with your partner or yourself regularly, orgasm always. DO NOT FAKE IT.

SMS: About your promo single “Agua,” water has always been full of symbolism: birth and death, women, mother, purity… many rites are attached to it. What is your relation to water?

LP: My obsession with water began in Colombia, I could swim before I could walk. I was always swimming back home. River water, ocean, lake, pool... Water. There is crisis in La Guajira. This song is about rescuing water, giving her a song - canto - al - agua - to protect her, so that she can protect us. I am starting my own campaign, by the way. Here is the promo:

Be sure to look for #LIDOTV on her Instagram, Twitter and other social networks. Lido Pimienta will be live streaming her Papessa set from the Great Hall at LONGWINTER TORONTO Festival - stream begins from 10pm (ET).

Lido Pimienta - LA ENTREVISTA: Part 1 + "Agua"

Photo by Ruthie Titus @ruthtitus

Lido Pimienta is back! Almost six years have passed since Color was first released and a lot has happened to our Colombian darling. Club Fonograma has been blessed with the best come back offering ever: an exclusive, in depth interview, along with “Agua”, the first single off highly anticipated second LP La Papessa.


Souad Martin-Saoudi: Color dates back to 2010 and the release of La Papessa has been rumored for some time… Here at CF, we’ve been anticipating it since 2012! Could your give us an insight into your life, and walk us through the evolving shape of La Papessa?

Lido Pimienta: Since the Color era, Ive been keeping to myself and my family. Color was a wonderful introduction to life outside of my naive/Utopian head. It all seems like a blur now. It is almost as if it never even happened. This question could be answered in many ways, and take several turns, but to keep a 6 year old story short (or at least try): I took a break from the music industry after realizing I was not fit for it, I was not prepared for the amount of ugly business that happens behind the scenes. I was the target of many social climbers, one label runner in particular used me to get his artists a European tour by using my name to do so (and almost succeeded at it), he claimed he was my booker, manager and lied to me and bookers down there...This episode in particular made me take several steps back and stop pursuing a career in music. Sometimes I wonder if perhaps some of the negative experiences I lived back then were some if not the same reasons why Rita Indiana decided to stop performing music live.

The first major change in my life after Color, was that my husband and I separated. Also known as Golden Death Music, my ex was not only my family, father of my kid, but also the genius co-creator, musician and producer behind the Color LP. The songs were made in our tiny home while breastfeeding, being young, dumb and excited creatives amongst a vibrant artistic and musical community in London, Ontario. Canada was also a new country to both of us. "Luces" was our goodbye song, the last one we worked on together. Still one of my favorites.

After our separation, I moved to Toronto, Ontario and decided to pursue a degree in Art Criticism and Curatorial Practice. I moved to the big city with my kid and dedicated my time to my studies while figuring out life as a single mother.

The first year was really rough and I was having panic and anxiety attacks regularly, I kept thinking there was no way I could do it on my own, without him. In one of those many insecurity stricken moments, music pal Ulises Hadjis read my Tarot (via Skype) and revealed to me the power of The High Priestess: La Papessa - A female figure, sitting on her throne with a book on her lap. The symbolism behind it opened my eyes to my own inner strength, as a womxn, mother, as a thinker, planner - I wrote the first song for it, "Ruleta", the song would help me go through the pain and fear I felt at the time. Sometimes being alone is the best, and accepting that reality proves impossible to accept at times, actually...much too often.

I started working on songs after my child would go to sleep. Back then I shared my bedroom with him. Toronto is really expensive so I shared my room to save up some cash. I built him a bed out of milk-crates and wood under my loft bed and I bought a refurbished desktop, speakers, a little mixer, and several “how to ableton” YouTube tutorials later I had me a little demo ready. No band, no friends (in music), no family, but a cute 4 song EP nonetheless.

One lucky night a curious white boy heard my solo set at some gallery show. He contacted me and asked if we could play together. I said something like, “yes, but only if you would do so dressed in a cute dress”, but obviously more than a “requirement”, my intent with such question was mainly to make sure this cis-white dude was not going to end up being some homo/trans-phobic asshole. I showed him my songs and we started working them in a tiny studio he had behind a gallery called Creatures. His name was Kvesche Bijons-Ebacher, he became my son instantly. We started playing shows and I started getting lots of attention, well, enough attention in the art/indie Toronto scene, enough to justify doing the crazy music thing again.

Another curious white boy approached me, he was friends and an old collaborator of Kvesche’s. His name was Blake Blakely, an intellectual and visionary who (of course) showed up at my door with a Moog under his arm: “Hi, I decided I don't want to do a remix for you anymore, I want to play with you instead”, and just like that, we started building the songs more, in my bedroom, we brought all of our gear together and started the machine.

I started getting booked for more shows, and we played with different brass people each time. Always different, trying new things, the stage was my playground. I would write these wild parts for woodwind and brass, but no one from that jazz, classical world would stick around to play with us, though. Those people in this city are way too busy! That was until Robert Drisdelle, composer and multi-instrumentalist, heard about me and how I liked to collaborate with different live musicians and approached me. He then showed up to my house...with a damn electric guitar. I was so confused...I told him “guitar is not going to cut it, I am against guitar, there’s too much of it in the world, I don’t want it in my album, what else you got?” He threw his guitar out the window and brought me his beautiful bass clarinet. And that was it, the band was formed.

We kept playing more shows, perfected them, wrote new tunes, experimented with visuals… One particular show caught the attention of long-time supporter of Lido Pimienta, who is also A Tribe Called Red’s manager, Guillaume Decouflet. He offered us the opportunity to tour with Tribe. We were so excited, we felt a new reviving energy, It was all forming, it was all working out. We went on tour with them, and we killed it. Guillaume and Tribe gave us a fantastic opportunity to perform my songs in front of thousands of people, perfect the live show, learn about contracts, royalties, booking events, essentially, an Industry of Music education, all the stuff I was too inexperienced and vulnerable to deal with first time around for Color Era. Touring with Tribe, gave me a healthy and safe place to educate and empower myself. Words cannot describe how much I love those men.

In September 2013, my younger brother, father of one, took his own life. A young beautiful life, gone. It was and still is the most shocking, painful and difficult thing my family and I have had to experience. Ever. It took me a long time to recover. I mean, I still have not recovered from it, and I might not ever recover from it. A part of you dies when your sibling dies. There are no words to explain. I had to put La Papessa and everything related to it on hold. This chunk of my life is also a blur for me, I keep waiting to wake up and have everything just turn out to be nothing more but a terrible nightmare.

School got really hard for me after this, there was no space for concentrating, I was putting on a front, a facade, pretended that everything was OK. I hurt myself by doing this. I also started working in arts organization more, I was worried about making money and providing emotional support for my mother, my sister, my brother’s girlfriend and their son. It took a while, a long while before I felt I was ready to play/record again. But eventually you know, art/music is what I do, so it became my safe heaven...singing...under the moon…

Slowly but surely it happened, seasons changed, time passed, and my heart was sewn up with the delicate yet strong silk thread of friends, chosen family, my sisterhood and collaborators in the city. I thank them deeply for their love. We played some shows and decided to go for it again, we made plans to go to the studio, we played a couple new shows, we were ready to lay the tracks down, we were on fire.

But then, life had yet another dark joke awaiting. My amazing friend and genius collaborator, Blake Blakely (who’s behind “Agua” beat/production) got seriously ill. My world came apart. The new-found stability was shaking, was fragile, got torn apart. We knew the road would be difficult, but we decided to continue working together. We figured out ways to make it work, around hospital visits - plotting world domination. I took a month off, I went to back to Colombia, to visit my brother’s grave for the first time since his passing, I stayed with my family, in the north coast of Colombia, my family is Indigena Wayuu, I needed to be home. The desert air, the ocean, the sun, fresh fruit and my aunties’ embrace filled my soul.

Photo Credit: Nic Pouliot /
Upon returning to Canada, and after seeing with my own eyes all the damage done to the indigenous population there, by the racist experiment the Colombian government, on purpose and in collaboration with Canadian, US and European mining corporation, I knew it was time to go back to it. I knew that the pain and struggle experienced by that little girl who once posted a song to her Myspace and Julieta Venegas really liked, had to get her shit together and use her voice for something good. So I am back with “Agua”. In retrospect, this album, La Papessa, is the narrative of a girl who was living in a dream world, but then life made sure she got shaken, woken - and I am now at last, more than ever: Woke.

Stay tuned. Part 2 of our interview with Lido Pimienta will be published tomorrow. 

Empress Of - "Woman Is a Word"

Empress Of has shared "Woman Is a Word" as a b-side to last year’s excellent Me. Here producer Lorely Rodríguez hits all the thematic checkpoints from her debut, blending personal lyrics with tantalizing self-actualized pop. Listening it is hard to understand how the song didn’t make it to the album’s final tracklist.

"I’m only a woman if woman is a word," sings Rodríguez as a clattering rhythm announces her arrival. The track wants to outsize labels that can be limiting or even damaging. Writer Julianne Escobedo Shepherd put it best when she pointed to the song's “internal struggle of proving you’re not a cookie cut-out of some stereotype, nor that you are hindered by your gender.” Empress Of calms her frustration painting with synths. Broad strokes fill the canvas with florid washes. They sustain her to the end, until there is a near ceremonious swing to the beats. As ornate as a Baroque dance, but completely liberated.

Julieta Venegas - LA ENTREVISTA: Part 3

A few days ago, Club Fonograma had the privilege of interviewing Julieta Venegas for the second time. Once again, we dispatched “the World’s First Julieta Venegas Scholar” to the historic Aztec Theater in downtown San Antonio for an interview about motherhood, the rise of the Mexicana singer-songwriter, and her legacy. For a refresher on our first Julieta Venegas interview from 2010, see here (Part 1) and here (Part 2). Also, don't skip out on her latest video, "Tu Calor," below.
by Andrew Casillas

Andrew Casillas: How has motherhood changed your work?

Julieta Venegas: In a lot of ways. [My daughter] has pretty much made me change my logistics and I’ve become more disciplined in some sense. Now I have a certain schedule that I like to respect, and it’s 9-5. I know it sounds silly, but it really works for me because I know that I have those hours and she knows that I have those hours, so in that sense I have become more disciplined. With touring, I think I pause a little bit more. I don’t do long trips and I don’t really feel like doing them because I want to really be around. It used to be that music was the center of everything and I’d work around making music. And now music has been put to the side and there is a five year-old girl sitting in the center now, and she’s the most important thing for me.

AC: What happens then when it’s 11 at night and you have an inspiration but she’s crying or making noise?

JV: Well, I skip the idea. I’ve also become really good at just grabbing the phone and going, “Lalalala” whatever, and just getting to the crying girl. And I do get ideas even when I’m with her. When I start writing, it seems like my brain starts working in that direction so sometimes a lot of ideas will start coming up when I’m with her. And I’m not shy with her, I’ll just grab the phone and record the idea and then later I’ll work on it, during my office hours.

AC: Has motherhood affected your songwriting or approach to storytelling, now that you have another perspective to draw from you? Or are the things that you write about still entirely personal?

JV: I think my vision has changed and [motherhood] makes it bigger. It’s definitely influenced my writing. Because when I’m with her we’ll just improvise a song and we do a lot of improvising. I sing more than ever when I am with her. Never before was I at my house and then start improvising a song out of nothing, you know? I’ll be making a salad and I’ll go, “Oh, let’s put the lechuga” and [everything] and she will sing along or she will make up her own verse and we play with it a lot. I didn’t used to do that. It’s just that music is also another element in our daily lives and that definitely influences the way that I work. In many ways, I’m just really natural about what I write. I’ve always sort of been natural but now it seems effortless, in a way.

AC: I’ve been slightly obsessed with the circumstances around your song “Explosión.” It definitely has a political bent to it that most of your songs do not. And in a sense, you’re kind of speaking directly to a segment of your audience, but not in a positive way. Did you think about that when you were putting that song together? Did you wonder if that chunk of your audience would understand the message? I mean, because you knew they were going to hear it…

JV: It was hard for me to write it because I don’t usually do songs that are politically inclined, because I wouldn’t call it political, but explicit about something so present [in Mexico] right now. I’m just writing about something that is really painful for me, and I think for a lot of people, definitely. You see your country changing so much and you could just write about other stuff, you know, write about love and other, easier things. But for me, I thought maybe I should just try doing this song that is bugging me, because I had this feeling that I didn’t know how to explain, and it wouldn’t go away while I was writing about other things. The song is just asking a question. Because if you don’t start by asking questions and you keep acting like nothing’s going on, then nothing ever changes, you know? It’s not that I became an idealist now and I think that one song is going to change the world or anything, but the song communicates what I was feeling at that point. I think that song came from the same place where love songs come from. It’s all connected to my emotions and I have a profound sadness and frustration for what I see going on in Mexico.

AC: You’ve been in the music game for about 20 years now. And, we’re at the point where people like Natalia Lafourcade are winning Grammys; not just the genre awards, but Big Time awards. There is a generation of artists, who are now part of the establishment, that obviously feel that they are in your debt—they admit that you’re a large influence. Do you feel like an elder stateswoman? Do you feel some sort of connection to this new wave of serious pop stars?

JV: Yeah, I feel really proud of them and I feel like that, not just because I was around before Natalia or Carla [Morrison] or anybody. Do I feel like I should get more credit? Not at all. I think that it’s part of a process and maybe I helped in the industry to kind of normalize the fact that a woman can be a songwriter and have her own ideas and have her own aesthetic and just not follow. She maybe doesn’t want to tell somebody else’s stories, you know? And maybe, that kind of pushed it. I think it’s pretty healthy also, for music to have a different vision, maybe a feminine vision; not necessarily a songwriter who does songs for a woman to sing them, or whatever. I think it’s just healthy for someone to tell their own stories, and to be around, and I think the more female songwriters there are, the less we talk about it, and it’s more like a natural thing.

AC: So, I want to talk a little bit about your legacy, then; because the U.S. has a history of independent female singer-songwriters. But in Latin America, let’s be honest, it’s only a recent phenomenon for female musicians to feel comfortable playing to strict gender roles. Do you feel like that’s part of a legacy that you and others like Ely Guerra have led to, or do you not think that’s something you could take credit for? Like that would have happened even if you had not come out with a nose ring while wearing plain clothes and makeup 20 years ago?

JV: {laughs} Yeah, I think that I don’t take credit for that. I mean, I definitely feel it’s a process, and it’s natural, that things will always change and they evolve, and I was just part of it. That doesn’t mean that I caused it. It was going to happen anyway. It always happens like that. A new generation always brings something different, and that’s the way it is. You can’t keep looking back and wondering how you’re supposed to do things. You just do it the way you feel like it, and especially in music, you know. You have to do whatever you feel, and that means, dress however you want, and it will be recognized as something normal . . . eventually.

AC: So we’ve been talking about your legacy . . .

JV: YOU call it my legacy {laughs}, I don’t call it that.

AC: I’m not saying it because you’re retiring or anything!

JV: No, no, no, I just mean it sounds really big, like [gestures], you know what I mean?

AC: Well, it kind of is, right? You’re what we’d call venerable… And that means that your music has thoroughly evolved into something distinctive. You have a sound essentially, by this point, right? Do you feel that you have a sound, or do you think that you’re still finding new things that are completely different with each record?

JV: No, the thing is that I think I just work intuitively; so I don’t have a conceptual sense of what I do. I don’t write a song, thinking I have to break everything that I’ve done before to do something completely different. I’m just so involved with the craft of writing, that I really enjoy it. Whatever my intuition leads me to do, whatever direction I might want to go, I’ll just take that direction. I think the writing part is still, and it’s always been, where I feel that I keep finding new directions. But maybe it’s subtle? It’s not like I completely transformed, because I do definitely like to work on songs. I consider myself more as a songwriter, and I enjoy that, and to me, the story, the lyrics, that whole thing, is why I work at it so much, because I really think that’s the center of everything.

AC: Is there any particular person or band’s career arc that you say, “I’d be happy if my career was like this person’s 20 years from now?”

JV: I think Caetano Veloso’s career, definitely. He’s been amazing for such a long time. And while she’s [more of a contemporary], Marisa Monte is someone else I admire. I think she’s amazing, the way she works, everything. She’s totally inspiring for me. Every time I see the way she does things, in every sense; her making records, and touring, and everything. I’m just a really big fan of hers. I mean, I think I really admire longevity. I just feel like you get to a point where, I just feel like it’s still new. I don’t feel like I’ve been doing it a long time. I mean, I’m not really counting the years that I’ve been around, or anything. I feel like I still have a lot to learn, and I hope I have enough time.

AC: So you don’t feel like the Rolling Stones, where you’re just playing the same 15 songs every single time you go out there? You’re still able to do the new stuff.

JV: I kind of need to do the new stuff, you know? I need to change the songs around. I’m not going to say that I don’t love playing old songs, because I love playing and seeing the audience singing along. When I go see a show, I like to sing the songs that I know. I love that part. But I also love winning them over again with my new songs. And it’s not an ego thing; like, “Ooooh, we have to listen to this new one. It’s all going to be about the new one.” No! It’s going to be like a party.

AC: So, speaking of old songs, do you see yourself, at any point, going back into the Aquí or Bueninvento well? JV: Here we go! {laughs}

AC: I know we’ve talked about this! I know the last time we talked, you said, “That’s a different person, and it’s hard for me to go back to that, because it’s like singing and pretending to be someone else.” Is that still true, or do you think that there might be a point where that person might want to come back and you want to share that feeling with other people?

JV: Well, do you mean doing a record like that?

AC: Either doing a record or even just playing those songs in concert. I know that you said that it was hard to get behind a piano and play “Casa Abandonada” because the person who wrote that song isn’t really inside of you anymore.

JV: Yeah, I don’t know. Maybe I will find a moment when I go back and try to like como asercarme a esas canciones otra vez. For now, I don’t think I’m even playing any of those songs for myself. 

AC: Really?

JV: Yeah, I’m not. I don’t know, maybe I will at one point. I don’t really think about it that much, because there’s something about the structuring, and the lyrics, and everything that sounds so far away from what I think or the way that I feel right now. But, maybe I will. You never know.

Lucila Al Mar & Chico6Trece – "Mujer Del Agua"

Lucila Al Mar is a Los Angeles-born singer-songwriter and guitarist (and visual artist, and yogi) of Salvadorian roots who’s plying her trade between LA and Ottawa. Chico6Trece is a beatmaker of Salvadorian roots born and raised in Ottawa who’s been experimenting with sounds and genre for quite some time now. He also happens to be Lucila’s brother. The siblings have been making music together since before they could talk, but this is the first time they share their collaborative work with the world.

“Mujer Del Agua” is about self-empowerment. It’s a hooky, dance-floor-ready, reminder that, even in the darkest of times when all seems to fall apart, forever does not exist. Your feelings of loss, fear and hopelessness will end. Everything is ephemeral. “Ella se mueve como el agua, corre y corre pero nadie la parra” Lucila sings with a laid back style on a cold and imposing synth progression intro. The song then breaks into a somewhat minimalist, industrial, hip-hop beat. It’ll make you shake your booty while radiating with a newfound self-confidence.

Video: Gaax - "Manual"

Last year's lo-fi revelation Campo dos Sonhos from Brazilian composer and one-man-band Felipe Oliveira (Gaax) continues to attract repeated listens. Oliveira filled his record with a number of short songs, testing all kinds of moods or just indulging in noise. Most fell between 1-2 minutes, making them disposable in the long run. Still, others held up better. Consider "Manual," which submits in its brief runtime a somber bellow and a statement about feeling everything. With it now is a worthy clip coated in twilight and animations and also has me thinking about Chris Marker. These types of micro-shorts are fascinating for all sorts of inexplicable reasons. We felt the same upon watching Baby Nelson & The Philistines' "Ansiosos / Ociosos" and even Gepe's "Lluvia, diente, lluvia." Gaax doesn't revolutionize the format, but this entry is still quite unique and repeatable.

Pelada - No Hay EP

Photo by Rebecca Storm
Well, I'm only two months late. It took me some time to get over the fact that this once-Montreal-based outfit, comprised of Chris Vargas on vocals and Tobias Rochman on analog synths, drum machines, samplers and FX, came to my attention just a little too late. After having spent the last two years igniting the after-hours warehouse venues of my hometown with their own breed of pervasive techno/punk, Pelada has now grown into a transnational sonic project, with one half (Vargas) now living in Berlin. Fortunately, the delay in writing has not diminished my excitement for the duo who released their debut maxi-single EP way back in January on Rochman’s label New.

With its dark and pulsating bass synth line, “No Hay” is nothing short than exhilarating. Vargas shouts that there is frankly no solution to our post-modern world problems in a recently reclaimed castellano. Growing up in a Colombian household with parents who insisted on teaching her English as her first language, Vargas uses language as more than a mere way to deliver her angry message; it serves as an instrument for the construction of her own identity. On “Ten Cuidado,” the single’s b-side, Vargas vocal punches are juxtaposed to the acid techno beat, constructing tension and anxiety as it progresses. Pelada is raw, rude and immediate, making it practically impossible not to fall for their hard-hitting and intoxicating first effort. Also, don't miss out on that club-ready remix of "Ten Cuidado" by JOCK CLUB (Temple, AZ).

Coral Casino - Summer Romance

We introduced Coral Casino last year with descriptives that avoided a clear image of their sound. The solemn beauty of “Kendall Jenner” was fascinating, but where was this headed? The Argentine duo followed up by trying on even more hats. “On Point” gave us straightforward R&B submerged in purposeful atmospherics. “Gvns N Roses” was an auto-tuned ballad in which PXXR GVNG associate Kaydy Cain had to slow down his woo next to the equally passionate Lara Artesi. The results sounded more or less like an R-rated version of El Guincho’s “Pizza,” meaning it was excellent.

Coral Casino’s latest EP is another example of their constant evolution. Summer Romance tips Lara Artesi and Roque Ferrarri into an accessible tropical moment. This is the same territory used to market beer and extreme sodas, but Coral Casino’s guise has us thinking about more creative settings. Remember Rihanna’s Lui Magazine photoshoot? Summer as an editorial. Poolside photoshoots where no one gets wet and reggaetón is the native language. “Amor De Chocolate” is an early fav, though that could just be a bias that favors any of El Mini’s contributions. Stream all three tracks from Summer Romance below, which features production from Orodembow.

Elysia Crampton - "Confessions of a Post Carceral Feminist"

Elysia Crampton attaches terms such as potomological to her work with such ease as the tacky artwork that follows her sonic arrangements. An iTunes logo (September 2006 edition) for “Something Else”, the space thriller movie poster for 2015’s overlooked American Drift, a smoking black pickup truck for her edit of Justin Bieber’s “As Long As You Love Me." Crampton is a genius and she doesn’t need the Yale University speaking engagements to prove it. But she would only be half as powerful if the calculated intensity of her music did not match the theory. Dropping knowledge like “decolonization is a quotidian work” stands alone as a powerful statement but la fuerza del destino would have it that Elysia Crampton is an artist who delivers sonically as well.

The insurgent potential of “Confessions of a Post Carceral Feminist” feels club-ready, despite Elysia Crampton’s complicated relationship to the club. “As a trans woman, the club hasn't worked for me as a space for growth, shelter, or, on the most basic level, a space where I could simply feel at ease” she told Resident Advisor last year.

“Confessions of a Post Carceral Feminist” is Elysia Crampton’s most accessible song to date: reimagining Kelela’s “Keep It Cool” (from Kelela’s excellent Cut 4 Me) for the chimerical dance floor that the Indigenous Peruvian “transevangelist” has conceptualized as a realm of her own personal expansion (& safety). “Confessions” also wears its politics on its sleeve: the artwork that accompanies the track adds crucial details to the listener’s experience of the work. We can only assume that the “postcarceral feminist” of “Confessions” is totally chill with dismantling America's carceral $ociety & burning American flags.