Sello Cazador, Chile
Rating: 92 ★★★★1/2
By Carlos Reyes
It’s been a remarkable year for Iberoamerican indie music; we’ve encountered albums we feel will stay with us for decades, and there are others we simply can’t help but celebrate as we are living them. Dënver's Música, Gramática, Gimnasia is the cherry on top, actually that description doesn’t do it justice, it belongs in the cream of the crop as one of the most stimulating, vibrant, and transcendental records of the year. Five years ago when Mariana Montenegro and Milton Mahan initiated the Dënver adventure they weren’t expecting that a few years later they would have an international mob watching every one of their moves. They should get used to it, Dënver is no longer Chile’s best-kept secret; it’s unofficially, this year’s breakthrough band, the band the cool guys are listening to, the one band we love to cheer in full blasting celebration.
The album’s title resolves its premise; get two visionary kids to play with some instruments, teach them a bit of music theory, and now the important part, show how to make gymnastics with it. Since the first track “Mi Primer Oro”, the band's pulsating sensibilities play like the culmination of an extraordinary parade. Gymnastics is not just about stretching; it’s the outcome of coordinating the elements in practice, with a code of conduct that will retain the romanticism of the performance with the competitiveness of the sport. Dënver has found such orchestrated balance (need a shortcut? go straight to “En Medio de una Fiesta”).
Música, Gramática, Gimnasia is the frame of a post-adolescence that’s still hungry for disobedience, is still hopeful to find first love, and is not afraid of punching the enemy for means of survival. Just notice the epicness of “Lo Que Quieras”, it’s the sweetest love song and the bloodiest too. I can’t listen to the song without thinking it’s the ultimate response to Mary from It’s a Wonderful Life… “I’ll give you the moon, Mary -- I’ll take it. Then what?” (“si te gustan los planetas, yo te los llevo a tu puerta”). From there, they go to Bonnie & Clyde, and then to Martha Beck & Raymond Fernandez. In about four minutes, the duo synchronizes the sound of The Miracles with the composition of Abba, arriving at nothing less than a sacred ground of sonic & religious freedom.
Dënver recruited amazing producer Cristian Heyne to polish their eclectic album. Heyne does it again, making yet another homerun on the vein of his production work in Mena and Audiovisión. The instrumental and theme coherence in “Olas Gigantes” is jaw dropping; the galloping sequences of chords encountering thunder are the images of attraction, the explosive violent waves are the metaphors of love itself. It’s a shame “Diane Keaton” will probably never know a band from Chile named a beautiful song after her. The compassionate piece is confrontation from a friend to a friend, it’s hard to be so straightforward, but sometimes we do need to put on the trainer/coach costume and face up to our friends’ dumb decisions, especially in love (if you feel blinded by it, tell Diane Keaton for orientation, she’ll know by now).
“Los Adolescentes” is an anthem on teenage wars, the diffidence of our own decisions and the dilemmas over a haircut, “un dia me dices corto, al otro dejalo crecer.” The song's structure actually follows that uncertainty portrayed in the lyrics by putting in practice every possibility that's put into the table in this fun & fatalistic version of The Breakfast Club. Dënver's eclecticism proves to be the backbone of their circulatory songs as travelogues. “Los Bikers” is a song on midair tones, elliptical to its own tragic story. It carries the aesthetics of Gus Van Sant’s Paranoid Park, along with every emotional-pulling flip involved. Música, Gramática, Gimnasia is like a young adult masterpiece, a trial on error success of a duo in full command and affection to their art. You know when you ran a marathon and you see the final line on the horizon, and you start visualizing what’s at the other end, well, Dënver's album is the embodiment of that desired, assuring and cheering response awaiting at the other end. Gold medals for this one.