MERMAID SASHIMI, JUAN SON
Universal Music, México *****
By Carlos Reyes
Mexico’s new most prolific vocalist is back, the Porter breakup hurt too many of us that counted them as the one act follow perversely. Whether it will leave a mark as defined as the one Zurdok holds is up to time, one thing is for sure, the one individual that made Porter so special is here to stay for while. Thing is, he is heading up to become Mexico’s most valuable solo musician as his popularity rises into mainstream but his art in his first solo production is the most contemplative yet. Mermaid Sashimi is Juan Son’s most beautiful creation; he finally reaches a point of musical freedom where pop is his biggest alia and he not only dress up the music but sharps the needle to create his costumes. While Donde Los Ponys Pastan (2005) was a baroque depiction of Mexico’s land, and Atemahawke (2007) felt like a subliminal inner trip to a horse’s dreams, Mermaid Sashimi is all about water and its encounter with a mermaid. It’s quite a challenge to break it apart; Juan Son has the sensibility of a story-teller but the thirst of a scientist. This is my personal approach to this piece of art, which to me is a linear tale but can be so many different things.
In somebody else’s hands this would most likely fall into a sea of pretentiousness, but Juan Son imposes his self-fulfillment before anything else, and that’s the most honest gift an aware audience would hope for. First track “The Remains” does a great job setting up the atmosphere, offering enough sounds and vocal scats to introduce us to the next piece. “Nada” is a smart catchy first single and a tale of the author’s encounter with its precious mermaid; it’s fearful as the unknown should be and blends a love story along. And luckily, this doesn’t turn into a sailor’s tale; the lyricism here humanizes creatures and keeps the relationships very intimate. Once “Mermaid Sashimi” arrives, the bonding allows for some humor with a friendly octopus, which doesn’t last too long as our guy assumes the creature has no feelings, his vocals start to explode to the highest places, but it’s all premeditated and once he points out the flaws of his new friend, he forgets his own health is at risk as he shouts “I need oxygen!”
When “Goldfish” arrives, a new confliction reveals itself, an identity contradiction surfaces as the music itself is more stable. He argues that “as a human I thirst” and asks why “nobody is wondering why a goldfish’s upside down.” Our character starts to understand and adapt to this new environment while discovering politics and economics as well, again, humanizing its circumstances to find the necessary relativity. The atmosphere gets even more compacted with “Captain Whirpool” (I swear I hear Bjork singing), the middle song which is a story of its own and prepares the second half, which is raw, cruel and brutal. It’s a big twist, but the title of the album had already suggested this transition. And so it goes from the love story of the mermaid to a sashimi, “a Japanese delicacy consisting of very fresh raw seafood sliced into thin pieces…” (Wikipedia). Talk about heartbroken.
“El Resplandor” is my favorite song; it’s the point where the sunlight starts to hurt his eyes, the transformation influenced by Kafka finally fulfills our guy’s deepest wishes and salivates his pain. But the tale doesn’t end, and it opens a whole new window, perhaps his last gift to prevent the listeners from drowning like the character most probably did in the instrumental piece before “Toma esta menta.” He opts for Jazz to depict a new beginning, constructs a time machine to leave it all behind, or travel back to his birth, it goes as far as suggesting he will stop his mother’s pregnancy by giving her “a mint”… when it’s actually the next-day pill. “Ana Paula” and its accordion is in charge to conclude a big illustrative heart-punching album like very few recently, and gotta love the last minutes of it as the unborn kid comments on the guy who came from the future to prevent his existence.
Mermaid Sashimi receives the highest score we’ve given here at Club Fonograma since Calle 13’s Residente o Visitante. Sadly, as of today, the album remains unreleased outside Mexico.