Rating: 80 ★★★★
By Carlos Reyes
We can officially add Chilean band Protistas to the incredibly short list of memorable Latin rock debuts this year (shortlist: Philipina Bitch, Elaine, Los Romanticos de Zacatecas). The band has been generating buzz around our circuit of sources for over a year, ever since “Videocamara” became a relative underground hit that up-fronted the emerge of a superb rock band. Their (official) debut album Nortinas War is finally here, and it’s arrestingly beautiful. With one foot on a shadowed hallway of Nirvana’s Bleach, and the other on a bright empty house in Santiago, Protistas’ sound is both, fundamental and cacophonic (on its most positive definition), humid and overwhelmingly mellow.
Although straightforward and painfully human, Nortinas War is hardly meant for mass-consumption. Like many of today’s -revived- old-fashion aesthetics, they are a band that yearns for flannel shirts as a way to step back into bare essentials. Title track “Nortinas War” ventures on an indie-folk arena, keeping vocals out of the landscape for most the entire song, building echoes and bricks of redemptive chasm, so when the vocals do arrive, they’re tender dreamy whispers and the broken pieces of an inner-war mayhem. The melodic textures throughout the album are the perfect mediation of this well attempted (and well scored) biological infliction on the kingdom Protista (three months of upper-division Bio finally found a purpose).
The most introspective quality is the album’s anxious and muscle-flexed militant attributes. These traits are noticeable right away, and they don’t need a raw production design or lo-fi scope to visualize a war zone; like Danis Tanovic or Arcade Fire, the band delivers glossy pieces on courage and abandonment, without falling for sentimental sharp edges. “Incendio En Mi Corazon” tells the story of a man’s burning heartland, it reads a letter from a scarred soldier to his brother: he is in war, he's left with a single eye and no legs, devouring himself as time passes, and complaining the whores at such place aren’t very good either. The rawness in the story-telling is well contained most often than not, allowing for easy access to even its most obscure pieces.
Brick by brick and confronting, Protistas’ harmonious scope might sound a bit overproduced for its frequencies, but still refreshing considering we’re living on an age where ‘Latin Rock’ is disconnected to any kind of skeleton and is in serious need of a reset button. The album’s best track “Princesa del Tarapaca” starts with a stripped-down psychedelic passage, goes through a dazzling loop of self-discovery and picks up the album’s overall mystified motif on ‘flames’ chasing a princess. The song also blends some Chilean folk into the mix, yet it sounds trouble-free, until it reveals its pain in a very Grizzly Bear sonic augmentation “fuerzas que estan muy dentro de mi y no quieren salir… mi corazon.” A great official start for a band that finds beauty in the most painful scenarios, tears, blood and a hell of consuming flames celebrating simplicity.