El Fin del Sueño del Helicóptero Personal, El Medio
Simplemente Records, Puerto Rico
Rating: 80 ★★★★
by Pierre Lestruhaut
Leonardo Velázquez’s approach to songwriting is as personal as you can get. His subjects of interest are his own life, memories and experiences; his favorite medium to express them is a room-constructed arrangement of string instruments and ambient synth washes; and finally it is shaped in the form of a lo-fi home-recorded product uploaded for free on bandcamp. As much personal as it is DIY, yet it’s through his own DIYness that his songs excel as universal entities. Take his outstanding single “Que bueno que nadie piensa en mí” from last year. While its whole construction responds to all these different levels through which Leo developed his very own personal vision of loneliness, its appeal eventually resided in how it managed to transcend the small sphere of the songwriter and actually become a universal manifesto for the lonely kids of the digital era. The ones who would rather spend a Friday night listening to the stuff they downloaded through the week and waiting for a (1) to appear on their twitter account.
Leonardo’s latest release as El Medio, a six-song EP titled El fin del sueño del helicóptero personal doesn’t see him moving away from his personified and individualistic way of writing and performing, now relying on the use of thematic unity to reach to earn the tag of the conceptual album. Though he maintains his first person narrative writing style of “Que bueno”, he doesn’t seem interested in singing about his present intimate-yet-universal concerns, but rather about observing the past as a mean to escape from the present. The desire for escapism is expressed through the craving of the imaginative life of fetal serenity, warmth and protection in “El primer azul borroso”, as well as the use of images reminiscent of childish curiosity and innocence in “En el patio”. I can guess that lines like “esas jeringuillas ya son las cuchillas que usa un policía como su arma principal” are not only personal recallings of Leo’s childhood but in fact of pretty much everyone else’s, and of how every child uses whatever means are available to them as a withdrawal from reality.
Yet even if this personal-universal duality constantly found in Leo’s lyricism is quite compelling, he actually reaches the full expression of his individual artistry in how he manages to distinguish himself as a great songcrafter, one that’s extremely apprehensive of the importance of choosing the right musical medium for sharing his singular worldview. From the acoustic vocals/strings intimacy of folk rock, to the naivety and innocence of twee pop themes and melodies, as well as the escapism of ambient sonic landscaping, not only does he manage to effectively employ these mediums, he also has his own attempts at breaking their traditional patterns and structures. They might not be as unique and accomplished as the non-linear arrangements of Phil Elvrum, or the fragmented compositions of Emilio José, but they do seem to be shyly pointing in those directions.
The two-songs-in-one concept works effectively in “En el patio - El fin del sueño del helicóptero personal” as it subtly abandons its initial twee balladry towards more dense and textured synth developments. But it’s probably with “O Futur O” where it gets the most surprising, using the constant shifting of its particular chord progressions as a mechanism to confront the intimacy of these acoustic progressions with the chaos created by deviating electronic sounds and the calmness of his laid-back vocals. Elements that would separately seem to belong in distant fields are brought together in unison. While later on, the final three tracks of the EP allow Leo to create a very personal take on lo-fi folk, as he cohesively builds his memories around the combination of ambient synth washes and constant strumming of detached melodies. A stunning example of a singular lyricist expanding his influences to create something truly personal, even if it might not be the most thematically consistent of concept albums or the most innovative demonstration of songwriting, it’s still a very rewarding experience.