Bill Yonson - El Príncipe del Mar

El Príncipe del Mar, Bill Yonson
CUU desde el Espacio, Mexico
Rating: 78
by Carlos Reyes

It got my brother through long study sessions for his MCAT exam, and accompanied fellow Fonograma critic, Pierre Lestruhaut throughout his summer trip through Europe. “Chola” was, and is, one of the true summer jams of the summer (and perhaps the most steamy indie tune since MKRNI’s “Humedad”). Sequenced and chopped in a bowl of bedroom pop and dembow, “Chola” (described as “hip pop”) is the type of song that’s easy to put on loop. Despite the base synths that encircle its melody, this track triumphs because of Bill Yonson’s decision to put his heart on his sleeve and burst the song on a single breathe –proving that pop music doesn’t need a repeat of the chorus to be catchy.

At less than three minutes long, “Chola” initially seemed like a teaser of what we would find on Yonson’s latest album, El Príncipe del Mar. Truth is, you won’t find a better or catchier song on the album. Yet the songs that surround it, make the single acquire an ever bigger lush and purpose. Paying an out-loud homage to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air on its aesthetics, this is a work that surveys popular culture without fully conceptualizing it. Yonson’s approach is not vague either. Whether singing/poetizing about Whatsapp (a good companion to the surprisingly entertainment hit, “Los Mensajes del Whatsapp” by El Cartel de Santa), or giving a shout out to Tex-Mex diva Selena in “Triangulo,” Yonson comes off as a leisure-loving chronicler more than just a pastiche/opportunist. Comedic hubris goes a long way in times of memes and vines.

Opening its canvas with eerie ambulance sirens in the intro track “Salir en Secreto”, El Príncipe del Mar is smartly paced in its negotiation of beats, vocal hooks, and tropical hues. The initial reactions to the album were truly polarizing –some people even called it controversial. Perhaps those antagonizing it are the same people that still refuse to the idea that urban music can intersect with the so-called introspective genres (like it or not, Mexico is still far behind on its appreciation of urban music). But the suspension of disbelief is not fully unwarranted. For one, the abuse of autotune and decodings here can prove to be taxing (especially in its three collaborative tracks featuring Marinero, Capullo, and Letter D). It’s not an easy swallow, and doubting its cultural appropriations seems appropriate. Perhaps Bill Yonson’s biggest accomplishment here is referring to his music as pop music –serving and contributing to the all-encompassing opportunities offered by the word itself.

Florian Droids - "Vos"

You're probably reading this and have no idea who Florian Droids are. The costarican neopsychodelic band achieved a peculiar saintly glow surrounding after their self-titled debut album and the instant hit "Larvas Salvajes" back in 2011. Their fan base somehow developed a certain affection for the band's genre, and are often seen as the most awesome band from Costa Rica not named Las Robertas. As a genre, neo-psychedelia is certainly vague, but it’s also very prevalent. Generally, it refers to bands appearing in the late 70s onward, heavily influenced by the expansive, pioneering sounds of 60s psychedelia. Many contemporary bands find inspiration in early prog (Pink Floyd, King Crimson) and an obsession with jangly pop bands like The Beatles and The Byrds. Whatever the term “psychedelic” means, a benchmark may exist, and Florian Droids’ minimal chants, pleading, and beguiling in a fuzzed-out haze, clearly put this music well within the psych realm.

It seems that the band's guiding principle in making new music entails a commitment to openness, but more than that, it’s a call for simplicity. Upon first listens of "Vos," their new single from their forthcoming album Osos de Agua, falls into the pop vein, perhaps more toward the Monkees end of the spectrum than the Beatles end. For the most part, 'Vos' is an incredibly low-key, lovelorn ballad about the wonder years melding a Pepe Deluxé-style pipe organ with a early-60s pop shuffle and Beach Boys-like vocals. "Vos" works as their most optimistic and soft-edged release to date. The video was directed by well known producer Neto Villalobos who created a character that grounds a universe of equal parts mirth and growth, humor and honesty, filtered through lenses that we may never fully comprehend. The rest is hard evidence of a distinct creative character taking flight.

Onda Temporal, Episodio Nueve: San Pedro El Cortez

While Carlos Matsuo (the man behind the curation, lensing, and development of Onda Temporal) is known for several contributions to cultural production, he’s best known for helming BASURA, a documentary about San Pedro El Cortez (as the subject to survey an up-and-coming reform in Mexican music). In a way, we can see Onda Temporal as an extension of BASURA, and opening its themes and geographic agency through twelve different subjects. This episode reunites Matsuo with the Tijuana garage band, who perform an acoustic –or as they call it, “la version chiilleta”- of “Poder Crudo.” Shot at night with glimpses of a not-so-well lighted city behind them, the camera registers the band in an elliptic movement. The confronting and close proximity of the camera speaks of the relationship between the band (that is or acts intoxicated) and the man with the camera (whose camera also starts to get dizzy towards the end).

Onda Temporal, Episodio Ocho: White Ninja

The newest episode of Onda Temporal presents an untitled new track by White Ninja. The previous seven episodes of the series served from an outside setting that in cases defined their purpose –they sure where easier to dissect than this one. Shot in a rehearsal room (recording room?) filled with both analog and digital machines, this might be the less memorable episoide yet on the surface, but as part of the Onda Temporal narrative, it’s truly significant. Leaving the topics of pedestrian and suburban life, White Ninja and director Carlos Matsuo choose to stay within walls as a way to shelter a song that’s still a work in progress. As the camera circles around, surveying the space and its subjects, it’s especially fascinating to see the blinding light coming out of the window. Whatever lives outside that room must be magnificient, for it manifests its prescence through splendorous white noise.