Discos Río Bueno, Chile
by Carlos Reyes
Crowds of deer running towards the golden sun, armadillos used as cannon ammunition, legged snakes with flashes on their heads, and watermelon tree branches growing out of the human body are only a handful of the fantasy cards that comprise something Astro has come to describe as “La Super Felicidad.” The self-titled, first full-length album by Chilean pop excursionists Astro is a liquefied, never-restraining plate of polyrhythmics. Designers of one of the most universally beloved indie hits to come out of South America in years (“Maestro Distorsión”), Astro is also the protagonist of one of the most divisive young careers in our Iberoamerican pop landscape.
Having the melodically belligerent Le Disc De Astrou under their pair of full-spread wings, the lurching of Astro is just what’s needed for fans and retractors to sort things out. Colossally imaginative on every track and contentiously militant with its resources, Astro is beyond what’s suggested; it’s earnest. It might not be the mind missile-booster that is Bam Bam’s Futura Via, but it’s very similar to the experience of consuming peyote in the way it manages to extend its psychoactive charms straight from the fertile soil and up high to your subconscious. First long-winded single “Ciervos” simulates the spacing, elevation, and movement of a post-industrial world where the variables of a natural environment and a human-built environment are still struggling to find order. And just like that, frontman Andres Nusser and his Astro clan make it really clear that they’ll use every technique they know (even if they turn out excessive) to force you to puke all logical narratives and all your city demons. Only through this kind of cathartic command is the band able to provoke its listeners to make room for new forms of subsistence, and that’s already more stimulating than anything schemed in your outdoor weekend.
Despite the chronic use of repetition and the daring expenditure of the vernacular, Astro is not an easy band to follow. Sure, it’s easy to develop an abrupt fondness to something as the Ruben Blades-would-totally-approve “Colombo,” but in the process of memorizing the lyrics, the ride can turn awkward very easily. This is where Astro’s subjective flaws are most evident, in their unmeasured tendencies to validate pop exuberance with even broader lyrical framework. Thankfully, they got enough tokens in this album to override the uncomfortable margins (and those interludes really help). Where Astro really shines is in the fold of introspection. The way “Manglares” is conceived and carried out is visceral, almost poetic. This track invigorates junks of synth drops and turns them into stirringly unique bites that together make for an inevitable, yet seductive decomposition.
Amongst the many chirpy passages in Astro, one track stands above the rest. The chaotic, cherry-overdosed “Pepa” does something really weird; it presents its synths in angst instead of washing them out. Because of its intensity and its placement nearly at the end of the album, this piece plays like Astro’s last shot to provide themselves with some well-deserved hubris. Many things are set clear in Astro, starting with the acknowledgement of the album as the band’s very first chance at achieving melodic medley (because although it’s hard to single out any song from the lo-fi, passive half of the album, those moments are certainly there, and they are awesome). Astro is multifarious in its arsenal, defeatist at times, but above all, it strikes for grandiosity, and we don’t get a lot of that around these parts.