Oveja Negra, Chile
Rating: 94 ★★★★1/2
by Carlos Reyes
A one man’s odyssey is only as adventurous and transforming as his surrounding. If such backdrop is conditioned with the possibilities of a blossoming soundscape, an individual can march for his own cause and inspire its own revolutions (as imaginary or extraordinary they may seeem). Odisea is the work of an auteur at the peak of musical venture. Odisea is a personal record in-provision of Alex Anwandter’s pop virtuosity, and his relationship with Santiago de Chile’s self-analytical character. The ex-Teleradio Donoso vocalist is no longer apprehensive with the psychology and logistics of a generation’s dance floor flooded in tears (Bailar y Llorar). The man with the hypnotizing vocal highs and extravagant opus styling evokes Michael Jackson on his rebellion to confront Chile’s unforgiving vigilant mechanical eye and vigilantes.
Odisea is a confrontational record in its structural form and themes. It celebrates and critiques what the opening piece (and transcending motif) calls “Nuestra Casa de Violencia.” Just from the title alone, you can dismiss the idea of a travel writer approach; this is a hypnotic and rhythmic confrontation to his homeland. The setting of the album is immediately grabbing: disco sequencing ornamented with ambulance effects and gospel choirs. Anwandter claims to wake up to the sound of loud speakers and alarms, he keeps his weapon on top of his pillow, and says that every time he wakes up, he becomes more alert of what he sees underneath, a city, “our house of violence.” He is not spitting on the place, he becomes aware of it. He feels the pain and sees the beauty of the place that’s transforming him.
Just like P.D. James’ Children of Men, “Casa Latina” imagines a dystopian era where dehumanization is almost inevitable. It has the aesthetics of Javiera Mena’s “Luz de Piedra de Luna” but turned into a horror scene: “Bebe, has sido un amigo fiel, no me fragmentes yendote.” The end of the world is a pessimistic thought with endless possibilities to reflect on, Anwandter comes out as a digitalized (but very human) Brian De Palma in his narrative methods of questioning life’s artificial nature through text, and practicing an unrestrained-resolving mode of the medium. “Una Nueva Vida” (Vida Maquinal) is technically, the most accomplished track in the album; it strikes for an epic closure of the album’s three first tracks disco-literally-stringed sequence, “no queda tiempo y una vida maquinal se transforma en violencia.”
Anwandter serves well from a series of motifs to convey his ambitious themes, it’s through these slices of emotional tissue that we can consider Odisea as a conceptual piece. The incredibly catchy single “Cabros” is the most commercially viable song in the album, and the most distant within the album’s context; as Alex confessed himself, it’s a measured transitory song between Teleradio Donoso and Odisea. The title track is the most graphic explanation of the odyssey: it’s an endless dream with things falling from the sky, fathers and sons looking up as technology explodes the South of the globe, “la poca tradicion se transofrmara en condena.” If we follow the album’s narrative arc, it’s hard to not be overwhelmed with “Los Gatitos Hermanos Se Reconoceran Despues de Años?” a very Babasonicos-like track about two brother kitties also living on the dystopian city, and who don’t recognize each other despite their neon sights. “No, no, no, no se reconocen, hasta se olvidaron de ese abrazo en la plaza… ya no somos hermanos.” The idea of an event preventing us from recognizing our own flesh is both, frightening and fantastical.
Odisea doesn’t offer any heroes to save the day other than beauty behind it all: “Nuestra casa de violencia, cosa mas hermosa.” What it does offer us is the heroic, 9-minute epic track “Batalla de Santiago.” The disquieting music not only imagines the setting, it orchestrates the sounds of the city, with whimsical trumpets, agonizing sequencing and even mambo. Anwandter goes from Neon Indian to Perez Prado sweating every second of it as the ultimate face off between an individual and ‘the bigger picture.’ Odisea isn’t completely flawless; within its own extravagance it needs some editorial refining since most tracks are too long, but other than that, this is one of the year’s best albums (in sound, composition & aesthetics), one that should put Alex Anwandter on that exciting new Chilean pop prime, you know, up there with Gepe and Javiera Mena.