Espíritu Invisible, María y José
Grabaciones Amor, Mexico
Rating: 90 (****1/2)
By Carlos Reyes
Religion and the heart, their juncture and fork should provide endless material for popcraft, yet there’s so little eloquent art taking notice. María y José is the project of Antonio Jimenez, a humble kid born in Leon Guanajuato but whose legal documents trace him back to Los Lagos, Jalisco. But let’s not get confused, he is a son of Tijuana, and although it always comes up as a cliché, that’s something special. Jimenez who had previously released material under Unsexy Nerd Ponies takes on a much more interesting project, one that truly displays his passion and character. He employs the vernacular like few people in pop, transposing it to narrative and visual flare. Not so bad for an adolescent mind-set using Audacity and Fruit Loops in his search for holy beats and tribal soundscape.
In terms of musical ferocity; Espiritu Invisible stands at its core. His songs could be described as unparallel chthonic cuts that march between the transcendent and the forgotten (and the ghosts). María y José is simply, a chillwave and nostalgic installment of pop music. The kind of assorted dream that is warped and wrapped through personal approach; Jimenez’s vision is wonderfully conflictive, breezy, and affectionate. An album that feeds from informality rather than practicing form. It sets up its dynamics to assimilate structure; notice the “este album no fue masterizado” hint on the album’s credits. If you practice music form it will be as hard to enjoy as Neon Indian’s Psychic Chasms, but if you instead, feel the form, get ready for an extraordinary album. From the refreshing militant sound to its aesthetics, this is a tremendous achievement.
I can’t remember how many times I’ve used and read the description “for the soul and the mind”, but this is one time I can’t stop myself from using it. For the most part, Espiritu Invisible utilizes love for religious inquisition, negating as much as embracing the faith of the common Catholic believer. Think of it this way, Antonio used to manage 'Yo Te Amo', a music playlist that included just about any genre in the book, from Andres Landero and Major Lazer, to Chalino Sanchez, Hechizeros Band and Panda Bear. And let’s not forget that Yo Te Amo is named after Yuri’s infamous “Yo Te Amo Te Amo”, I told you this had an ‘assorted’ quality to it. This background parcel is only important to fully appreciate the confrontational imagery by which this album pours its soul out, but of course, dancing to it does the job as effectively.
Espiritu Invisible is also the first release to hail under the ruidoson tag, for those not aware of what ruidoson is, I would describe it as a noisy and borderless pool of music, mainly inspired by Mexican folklore and popular/regional songs. The album lacks parameters, the opener “Corazon Corazon” is distinctive and immediately grabbing, it’s the closest piece to El Guincho who is at top on María y José’s list of musical references. The title track is a song about redemption and it brings a variation in noise, it’s highly sequenced and simply bombastic. It’s “Espiritu Invisible” on its literal sense and a self letter to lift up the spirit; “mejor empieza ya tus sueños de juventud.” In the same way, “Ola de Calor” is a celebration of the single status, which even commemorates the event with a national/military-like outro.
“La Tierra Sagrada” is a hilarious tale of a man from a small town who has yet to experience a hangover; he thinks it’s the end of his life and starts making adjustments for his death, which includes the visit of a priest to take care of his sins. It’s funny and very touching, “y si al cielo yo me voy, nunca olvides que desde arriba estaré cuidándolos… la tierra sagrada nunca nos dejara.” We’ve seen Jimenez’s process since his project started, we can say every demo was elevated except for “Oye Santanas!” which is nonetheless great but the overlapped vocals are so in-your-face they almost sound karaoke. But it also offers the song a different reading, in a very innocent manner, but asking the devil to step aside while shouting “Yo quiero ir al cielo! Yo quiero ir al cielo!” is in fact, creepy. “Mi Chulita” could be a hit, it’s hyper grupero flavor at its finest, watch out Bronco and Mi Banda El Mexicano!
The album gets darker in “Semana Santa”, mostly for its peregrine nature which involves ritual (lighting candels) and our daily crucify “atado estoy a esta cruz que llevare conmigo hasta que muera.” María y José was named after Antonio’s mom and dad, the most popular names in Mexico and “Maria Purisima” (sin pecado concedida?) is a heart-trenching letter to his mom. It happens that my mom’s name is also Maria (you know what they say, todas se llaman Maria) so yeah, it brought me to tears: “aunque no parezca, tu eres lo más importante para mí.” The next track “San Antonio” sounds like metalized Café Tacvba dancing through a horror show. It’s among the album’s best tracks; it’s the moment where the album gets chaotic on its concept, it’s that last breath. It’s a plead for death to come, not forgetting the loved ones and as ‘el padre nuestro’ dictates, to forgive those that hurt us. Beware, it ends with a shotgun. The culminating piece “Piedad” finds the album its redemption and its salvation; it gives it a sense and a merciful closure, “Hoy te reunes conmigo otra vez, Soy Feliz, Soy Feliz, Soy Feliz.”