Uno/Otro, Violeta Castillo
Rating: 80 ★★★★
by Enrique Coyotzi
Last year was a tremendous one for Mexican female singers. Artists like Carla Morrison, Ceci Bastida, and Julieta Venegas, shone inside and out of our indiesphere, each with a fantastic album under their arms. In 2011, Argentina is the cradle for exciting young women songwriters who are embracing the DIY ideology at its best, obtaining astounding results with sparkling straight-forward, yet idiosyncratically complex pop songs. Together with labelmate Luciana Tagliapietra, the wonderfully gifted Violeta Castillo is one of the most interesting exponents of this new wave. Having dissolved her band, Castillo Violeta, the 22-year-old artist went solo and, in a period of less than a month, recorded a glorious, miniature wonderland. Like for Tagliapietra's Diagrama de Ben, Tucumán served as the perfect setting for a truly personal record. A refined debut album which she peculiarly decided to split into two EPs, Uno and Otro.
At first listen, the 10 songs that shape Uno and Otro (five in each one) may not be particularly grabbing. This happens due to the length of the pieces (the majority of them last less than three minutes). It may be difficult for the listener to find something instantly memorable to grab onto in such a short time (although “Mi Cárcel” is an evident exception), especially considering that, while these are pop tunes, the structure they are built under is somewhat atypical. But Violeta's sharp craftsmanship is truly hunting. Presenting top-notch production by Tucumán’s psych-poppers, Monoambiente (Castillo’s favorite band), this is a provoking release that draws spectacular sophistication in the instruments it utilizes. There’s a placid flow throughout both EPs, ornamented by sharp electronic bleeps, texturized glossy synthesizers, and noteworthy rhythm bases that accentuate Violeta Castillo’s delicious guitar playing skills, as well as her sensitive fiber-moving singing.
One of the most commented aspects about this record has been the rather unusual way Castillo selected to distribute it. It’s true that she could have put these tracks in a single album instead of disconcertingly separating them into two parts. This division could be envisioned as the A and B sides of a cassette or vinyl, a brother and sister work, a necessary pause that the songstress found essential in order to show us two opposed sides of her poetic vision that, in the end, presents us clearly the innate talent the songwriter possesses for crafting timeless, yet fleeting pop marvels. Great examples of these sublime wonders are each of the EPs openers, Uno’s “La Batalla del Movimiento,” which, while over in a breath, displays a strong, capturing melody and Otro’s “Mi Cárcel” (featuring Tagliapietra's choruses), an addictive tune that has the potential to become a crossover radio hit. Other standouts include the mellowly reflexive “Bolsillo Secreto” and the more traditionally assembled slow number “Felpa."
With a mesmerizing assortment of high quality imaginative songs, Violeta Castillo’s Uno and Otro is among the year’s most beautiful works executed by female solo artists. Think of the EP duo and Tagliapietra's Diagrama de Ben as sister albums (without the drama). And it isn’t a coincidence both recordings come from Argentina (its indie pop renaissance is for real). Both sides of the EP also serve as a thrilling introduction to an individual whose artistic talents are crystal clear, just like her natural sensibilities for creating beautiful pieces that feel effortless ("y me quedo yo con las palabras"). Time will show us how Castillo’s artistry evolution will bloom; in the meantime, her jaw-dropping debut demonstrates she’s got a promising road to walk.