Bahía Santiago, Technicolor Fabrics
by Souad Martin-Saoudi
I will sound like a pop psych/self-help preacher, but I believe we all have, within us, a child (I can feel the mass eye-roll as I’m writing this). Yet, more often than not, the adults that we are abandon or silence that child (I’m referring to you, eye-rollers). This repression inevitably crushes our spontaneity, creativity, authenticity, even our ability to express ourselves, have self-esteem and be natural. Under this context, to recognize and unleash our inner child, as a carrier of transformation, is to recognize and unleash our inner essence, our creative potential and spontaneity; it is to identify all the fragmented parts of our psyche and ultimately find our true self. This is a lengthy process; but it is one that pushes us to become complete. Bahía Santiago, title chosen by Technicolor Fabric for their latest album, is the imaginary cove where this inward odyssey begins; it’s where we (re)connect with the one we were before becoming apathetic, “normal” adults.
Over the course of two years, Technicolor Fabrics tactfully crafted nine songs like nine viewpoints overlooking the various facet of their concerted voyage within. This collection of songs is actually the band’s third album, but where Run… The sun is burning all your hopes (2008) and Ideas (2011) seemed like indecisive attempts at anchoring their particular brand of indie pop rock, Bahía Santiago is all about refinement and definiteness, whether it is in Juan Pablo Corcuera’s startlingly melancholic tone and rock accent, in Abraham López’s dextrous percussive punches, Daniel Salazar’ immaculate yet ardent synth progressions, Joaquín Negrete’s sleek and elastic bass lines or in "Yogui" Raúl Cabrera’s smooth and earnest guitar riffs. Bahía Santiago is their most ambitious and probably their most complete and accomplished album.
The first drum stroke and guitarrazo of opener “Aviéntame” immediately signals a course-alteration for the quintet who recently moved from Guadalajara to D.F. The vigorous distortion-fuelled track sounds nothing like the others on the album (and is the only one produced by Milo Froideval). Yet, it acts like the essential phase to undertake a fundamental re-think of the past and present – the journey to Bahía Santiago. “Mi templo es frágil yo me pierdo. Me fundo y viajo por el mar abierto, muy lento” sings Corcuera with the hint of a smile. You know the band just dived straight into a vault of anxiety and despair induced by the contemporary urban condition only to emerge at the other end, a little lighter. “Volver a Comenzar” naturally follows, accompanied by a fluid synth line and layered "oh, oh, ohs." It’s the embodiment of an existential reality: unconditional acceptance of the loved one is an illusion; it’s sad, disturbing, yet reassuring. The dominant bass, organ-shuffle and solid backbeat on “Ceniza” presages we are finally reaching the shores of Bahía Santiago. Here, Corcuera shows some creative wisdom recognizing that we are at the end of the day, all insignificant, like ashes at sea (“La verdad siempre cambia de lugar, si no sabes dónde va, se va, se va. Dime si tú también lo ves así, soy ceniza nada más”). “Fuma” is a synth-triggered marimba gem. The song, which features the new wave-esque inflections of Siddhartha (I hear some Cerati!), reveals how hooky Technicolor Fabrics can be with their minimalist approach. The spirit of the singer-songwriter, who produced all but two songs on the album, can be glimpsed all through this journey dedicated to nostalgia, innocence and beauty.
Layered percussion, clean organ patterns, and precise guitar lines bounce around and off of one another on obvious standout track “Globos.” While the title inevitably leads me back to the compelling images of Albert Lamorisse’s oscar winning medium-length film, the lyrics emits the desire to recover one’s ability to risk without fear and renew with the innocence of simplicity. On wordless “Venezuela,” the earthy summer breeze of Bahía Santiago wafts our faculty for awe, wonder and naïveté but also holds our accumulated traumas, fears and hurts. The Tapatío boys have sonically evolved in a sort of horizontal organization where every member is visible, and the 2 minutes instrumental piece demonstrates their fully grown ability for decentralized arrangements. “Desde el Mar,” with its wailing guitars and ethereal synth lines, give out rock poem vibes. The sonic collage continue to expand on “Solo,” as the band seem to have channelled Sebastien Tellier’s erotic pop feel just seconds into it. “Hoy,” one of the most accomplished tracks on the album, sounds both borrowed and fresh. The album closer “Química,” which features the members of Baltazar (Corcuera’s other band), releases something somewhat fascinating. With its singular sound aesthetics (a combination of pop traditions, mysticism and modernism), the rock hymn makes for an interesting finale.
From a first listen, the panorama presented by the style-hopping pop band might just seem like a flaunting of their musical pedigree. Yet, the feel quickly dissipate as it becomes clear the various genre incursions are all put to the service of the songs. More striking, however, is the consistency of the journey; the sequence of the pieces on Bahía Santiago is smooth and everything flows perfectly. Still it’s an album of beginnings of songs, not of apotheoses or grand finales. The best tracks reveal themselves in their first minute, which alone is enough to conquer.
Bahía Santiago, Technicolor Fabrics
Playa Gótica may only have one (official) track to their name, but the group has stayed on as our top Chilean obsession for months. Ever since Dënver's Milton Mahan Drake-ed "Reptil no gentil" into our lives, nothing has been the same. The song arrived in April at a critical moment, recalling how this was yet another summer short on hits.
"Aquí estoy, pidiendo entrar, detrás de la puerta." Right from the first line we have a I-hate-to-turn-up-out-of-the-blue-uninvited-but-I / couldn't-stay-away moment, joining the tradition of great songs about desperate love ("Y aquí estoy" by Ana Gabriel also comes to mind). For its video, directed by the man Milton himself, the edit knowingly recycles music video tropes laden with irreverent imagery. Singer Fanny Leona goes through the motions to act out that teenage attitude: the bong, the pizza, tearing up Pope John Paul's pic. It all stands in to compliment a composition that works to suppress its own feelings. Bass grooves and handclaps. Something to dance to not cry to. Pero, ¿por qué no los dos?
There are moments in life where denying ourselves a good thing would only be foolish. Like when a collection of some the most exciting iberoamerican synthpop, electro and indie rock acts reinterpret one of our favorite singles of last year and its B-side, “Épocas” and “Ciclos” from the regiomontano pair, CLUBZ. Yes, the multiplication of remixes of one (or two) songs can dilute its potential. It can also blow up the possibilities, which is the case here.
Initially released in June of this year via the Barcelona based label Canadá Editorial, the maxi single included a remix of the two tracks by labelmates Extraperlo and El Último Vecino. Épocas EP re-released on Monday, is an extended version, which introduces renditions by producers Teen Flirt, Wet Baes and Raido and art-rock band Porter. Pulling in many directions, the EP could have easily been inconsistent, yet it remains a surprisingly effective creation. In fact, all remixes eventually merge through an atmosphere where the wistfulness of the sounds and the warmth of the rhythmic occurrences meet.
Épocas EP stands between two states, just like dawn or dusk, sweeping over melancholy and voluptuousness with velvety and hypnotic textures. The bold reincarnation of “Ciclos” by Porter, with its low-toned rhythmic melody and earthly flute arrangements, is an immediate highlight, yet upon repeated plays, Wet Baes’ hazy vaporwave re-score of “Épocas” also deserves a special mention.
Changuemonium, Jessy Bulbo
Masare Records, Mexico
by Zé Garcia
The impish brilliance of the funk-cumbia-salsa of “Alma Traviesa" cannot be overstated. Back break horn sections fit for a Blaxploitation film, Bulbo’s idiosyncratic voice sounding like a submerged mermaid, cover art that has Jessy looking chola health goth, the religious fever of that keyboard organ. Where is Jessy Bulbo's head at these days? "Alma Traviesa" wasn’t the first single off Changuemonium, however. Somehow we missed the first cut, the bombshell merengue of "Cuando Rie”. The banda breakdown into that short-lived EDM buildup will literally make your eyes roll into the back of your head and keep going 360. I caught up with Jessy for some Behind The Music during her time in Chicago and let me tell you, "Cuando Rie" is the tragedy of DIY / indie cultural production. "Cuando Rie" was submitted for radio airplay consideration to great enthusiasm. Our corporate radio curators (read: overlords) wanted to play it on both Mexican & U.S. markets, they wanted Jessy to bleep out the word cabrón, and asked for a few thousand dollars to keep it on rotation for a single month. #Payola. #2015. The music industrial complex strikes again and “Cuando Rie” did not become 2015’s indie to radio crossover, to the detriment of every binational Que Buena listener out there. Radio listeners needed something of this caliber, something beyond the safety of today's monotony or the nostalgia of yesterday's hits. Radio needed "Cuando Rie".
The sad-melody driven “Anabel” has Jessy sounding more like Chava Flores than ever before. Jessy paints a portrait of a tropical morena who eats “cocos & bananas tiernas” and wants a "casita en la playa”. Jesse wants to be the chango that hides in the palm tree in Anabel's patio. Did we mention the song is written about Anabel from the Caribbean folk pop duo, Las Acevedo? “Asegun” is one of a few whimsical banda numbers on Changuemonium that are thematically reminiscent of the psychomagical imagery of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s “Santa Sangre”. "Asegun" is a dark revelation of the constantly crumbling and rebuilding human psyche: "Y el vacío existencial ¿Con qué se me llenará? ¿Y esta fea sensación de no ser lo que yo soy?” The music suddenly fades to black. Album highlight "Hasta Siempre” (formerly titled "Amor Sin Dueño") sounds like Banda in Toyland, the flair of the horns so Juan Gabriel. Tequilazos are in order. "Ay Ay Ay" makes use of guitars, frames male sexual aggression ("no me trates de visita conyugal") and in a colloquial naca kind of way declares, "Hombre, si yo soy re agradable".
“No Es Pa Tanto” is colossal and playful with a cumbia synth breakdown that sounds like The Classics. "Mándalo a la tienda por unas chelas..." the track begins, ascending towards a brainworm only Jessy could have created. "No Es Pa Tanto" isn't just anti-monogamy, it breaks down why monogamy is harmful to our being: our relationships should be romances, neither tribunals or cages with flowers. It reminds us that human nature is programmable, the vibrant dynamics of our potential selves can be siphoned into one dimensional, insipid beings. In this case, our joyless / unchill / soul-crushing culture is being manufactured by the (anti-woman, racist, classist) narratives of obedience circulated by telenovelas. A gracious chorus that sounds legendary, Jessy flirts with us on the bachata into cumbia hybrid of the crazysexycool “Romance”, originally titled "Romance Bonobo". The way Jessy enunciates words like "toma mi cintura / un encanto", the tropical vignette she paints; "Viernes por la noche / en la selva", the track is anthropomorphic story telling at its most seductive: "fuimos muy juntitos a bañarnos al rio / nos mareaba el néctar de un coco con ron", complete with the sounds of ocean side seagulls. Banda meets 4x4 pop stabs on "Sabes Que” and Jessy totally loses it. Again. She's issuing death threats, she's "rapping" with the "cúcara, mácara, títere, fue" (the Mexican version of eenie meanie miney mo)- she digresses- demands the use of fireworks, "échen cuetes! échen los cuetes!". The saccharine brilliance of album closer "Vuélvete" finds itself somewhere between Televisa pop & Angelo Badalamenti's work on Twin Peaks. Jessy sounds like el diablo con cara de angel: Thalia, the dramatic strings like they could accompany the voice of another demon, RBD's Anahi, but the track is good so it comes off as Paulina Rubio's best output in the 90s. The song is about falling in love but it is also a riddle about the occult message of the heart and Jessy's "latido salvaje".
It is Jessy’s shape shifting vitality that carries the hedonistic spirit of Changuemonium. Jessy infuses the bizarre pop spirit of the record with banda, cumbia, bachata, salsa, & funk and delivers one of the catchiest albums of the year, oscillating between the gaudy and the brilliant. There is not a single “punk” song on the album but this should surprise no one after 2010's Telememe. To continue selling Jessy Bulbo as Mexico's "punk riot grrrrl" is lethargic music journalism that does not encapsulate the fullness of her exhaustive sonic gymnastics. Jessy is simply too interested in seemingly everything else to ever be typecast into a single niche. In an era when the strange can be synonymous with sinister discomfort, Jessy Bulbo does "weird" by being earnest & ludic.
The Sevillano MC/Producer who never ceases to multiply the sonic and visual exertions – and who happens to be at the top of my list as one of the best acts of 2015 – recently dropped a couple of fresh tracks while we wait for the sequel to Hologram EP to see the light. Amongst the releases, "Pásatelo ke no me sale Na (Ela Quer SaSá)" stands out as one of LaDroga most exciting diversions. The half-freestyled half-written cut about the opposite sex and the ubiquitous green leaf is propelled by striking trap funkeiro and baile bass rhythms produced by Jaime Garcia, a beat builder going under the moniker Kryone and the founder of Morelia-based label, Pira.md Records. The video, a cooperative effort of artist Bore and LaDroga, consists of a collage of beach imagery, ADSL Settings, aliens, Street Fighter II’s Blanka, Soundcloud’s fonts and tags, and some lean. The complexly layered and edited soundscape –reminiscent of Sango’s Da Rocinha projects – leads the way for LaDroga to utter his Baudelairian spleen as he swiftly goes over his smoking habits and female encounters – ones that arouse doubt, hope, and finally nothing. The MC’s angst is once again a miraculous source of intense and rigorous creation.