by Pierre Lestruhaut
Sometimes it just seems that everyone on the Internet likes Astro. Seriously. It's understandable when tracks like “Maestro Distorsión” or “Ciervos” have all the pop exuberance and irresistible hooks that you’d expect from an immediately striking and spin-all-you-can hit single that easily spreads among young listeners. And, last year, Astro just couldn’t stop dropping those kind of tracks, the ones that have all the melodic urgency of a one-hit wonder or an underground pop gem like Phedre’s recent “In Decay,” while also displaying enough extroversion for arena rawk grandeur and showing off lots of muscle to fill in their sophomore effort with great deep cuts and compelling hooks everywhere.
Which is why it’s hard to situate this thing—frontman Andrés Nusser’s new solo project intriguingly named after an Asian river and a mountain—alongside Astro’s two previous releases, just as it was hard and frustrating enough for music writers to find any rightful and satisfying link between “Maestro Distorsión” and “Ciervos.” Mekong is, like Astro, unabashedly catchy, exulting, and lyrically naive, but just as it gleefully surrenders to pop music’s leaning toward providing instant pleasure, it also eludes its very own classifications such as “chorus” and “bridge.” Like Furland’s “Faladó Falá,” it happens to do an admirable work at blending electronic and folk while making it all sound so natural and effortless, with Nusser dropping layer upon layer of sound and somehow finding room to fit intimate acoustic guitar progressions alongside Kevin Barnes’ style pitch-shifting vocals and all of the technological psych swirl of an Animal Collective track.
Karakoram-Mekong is certainly not likely to disappoint any Astro fans (or at least any Astro fans), since it’s here giving us four considerably well crafted songs that would have been a very interesting starting point for an eventually well accomplished Astro follow-up. Even though musicians alternating between solo projects and regular band releases is very common practice these days, some people might initially be scratching their heads at the idea of this solo project and its less-than-fussy release. Yet, we would guess Andrés Nusser just seems to be the kind of person that’s not able to fulfill all of his creative ambitions by simply playing in one band. I would even go as far as saying that Mekong is the most inventive work Nusser has been involved in so far. Perhaps it’s not long enough to be as accomplished as Astro, but it certainly does a good job of summarizing everything his band has done well so far, and hopefully points the way for his band's future.