Domingo En Llamas - Harto Tropical

Harto Tropical, Domingo En Llamas
Independiente, Venezuela
Rating: 60
by Jean-Stephane Beriot

A world without packaging, wrapping, and commercial intuition would be dreary and disappointing to the senses. There’s not a single song in my iTunes library without some kind of embedded artwork; an album without an album cover is as muddy as a blind date or, even worse, as ineffectual as an eHarmony profile without a face photo. Where exactly am I going with all this? Oh yes, to Domingo En Llamas. A few weeks ago when I asked our editor for the album cover of Domingo En Llamas’ latest record, Harto Tropical, he informed me of a sacrilege: “Jose Ignacio Benitez doesn’t believe in album covers.” Well, this is an intriguing surprise (especially for someone who points to Dr. John's Gris-Gris (1968) as his favorite album of all time). A few ideas come to mind when trying to figure out Benitez’s reasons for visual-less records, but none strong enough to convince me. Sure, having a cover gives the listener a predisposition of an album’s content, but Domingo En Llamas' form of "untold data" excitement is purely transitory.

As you can see, I made myself an UNOFFICIAL album cover for Domingo En Llamas’ eighth album Harto Tropical. Having that ugly grey music note on my iPod felt like giving up to the standard, and I wouldn’t allow myself such an option. Perhaps this was Benitez’s plan all along, to let his listeners draw conclusions like we used to do with self-made mixtapes. While the entrance to the Harto Tropical is a bit jumbled and might require a few first steps for some of us, the hassle is worthy for a one-man act that has crafted one of the most interesting profiles in Venezuelan music today. We’ve previously described him as an auteur, a troubadour, and a music historian. After two glowing reviews for the wonderfully theatrical Fledermaus (2008) and the erotic Truccatore (2010), his latest album, Harto Tropical, is supposed to be ghostly, but it’s mostly bland. My lexicon is very limited, so allow me to go back to our latest Shakira album review (Sale El Sol) and steal its description: milquetoast.

Harto Tropical is an evocative folk record that strikes to sound like a time-defying rock and roll album. While that approach would seem promising to both experimentalists and purists, the line of attack is so disputed that it almost drowns in sentimentalism. Some of Benitez’s questionable practices include the stamping of normative composition (“Las Afinaciones Narradas”), jazzy simulations (“Despropositos”), and middling one-man orchestras (“Laudano con Vainilla”). Harto Tropical isn’t an awful album, though, it’s just Domingo En Llamas’ first less-than-extraordinary album and that’s why I might be sounding a bit harsh. Fortunately, there are enough good ideas in here to give it a passing grade. Especially in the idea of making a zarzuela opera house out of songs like “Fariseos y Anonimos” and “Montecasino," where Bentinez’s virtuoso eye for words, royal festivities, and baroque linguistics prevail. Fun fact: Domingo En Llamas’ “Depredadores” was the wrapping theme around our very first volume of Fonogramaticos. I don’t mind making album covers for future Domingo En Llamas albums as long as we get back to the more adventurous and less ethereal artist we fell in love with a couple of years ago.


5 comments :

Jean-Stephane Beriot said...

It was not my intention to publish this on Sunday. #Clariying

Humbert Hayes said...

Fledermaus was amazing. Truccatore was kind of good but a bit depressing, and Harto Tropical is just not very good. I also want that guy who was my soundtrack to my freshmen year in college with "Leonora" and "Cuando vuelvan los que ayer corrian."

This is more like, tainted rock.

José Ignacio Benítez said...

Jean-Stephane:

Primero que todo muchas gracias por tomarte un tiempo y prestarle atención a mi última grabación, siempre es emocionante que publiquen alguna nota sobre cualquiera de nosotros acá en Latinoamérica.

No escribiré sobre la valoración artística, tan libre y subjetiva como las manifestaciones derivadas del lenguaje musical, si bien es cierto que me parece que se ha prescindido totalmente del sentido del humor a la hora de "juzgar" la grabación, pero bien, y con mucho respeto Jean-Stephane; pero en el tono y en el ritmo del artículo consigo mas el carácter de un mail personal que el de una reseña musical. En primera instancia "Harto Tropical" sí tiene una portada (publicada incluso en reseñas acá en Venezuela tal como la revista Ladosis o el diario El Nacional) y la hice a priori sabiendo que debo adaptarme a las exigencias del elemento iPod mas no en la idea de tapa de un disco, ya que para fines prácticos lo que he publicado son paquetes digitales que pululan en la web, pero no existen, y ese formato etéreo no juega en mi melómano formato de disco, con tapa, olor, grosor, etc.

Sobre el adjetivo "milquetoast" tengo una opinión bastante fuerte, venática, hepáticamente de disgusto. Desluce, frivoliza y desencanta los análisis y valoraciones, además, sinceramente, no lo creo merecido, porque con o sin portada, con buenas o malas canciones, con infames o brillantes textos, mi música siempre es digna.

Agradezco enormemente esta tribuna porque a través de ustedes he podido llegar a muchas computadoras, iPods y oídos, pero hay veces en el que el derecho a réplica es un deber en pro de nuestros respectivos oficios.

Abrazos,

Nacho

El Gus said...

Creo que suena como a un disco de porcelana. Lo cual es interesante, pero acaba en fatiga. Es una caravana medio perdida.

Paulo said...

Pues a mi me gusta mucho mas este disco que los anteriores. Antes Domingo en Llamas me recordaba un poco a Beirut, un poco a Arcade Fire....pues como metido en los sonidos de moda por alla en el 2008....

Con Harto Tropical, creo que tiene un sonido mucho mas clasico, cercano a un T Rex y con una propuesta personal mucho mas fuerte. Escuchen el ultimo de la Eleanor Friedberger por ejemplo....El hecho de que musicos experimentales saquen material mas centrado, minimalista, viene bien....basta de violines y ukuleles.

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