"No tengas miedo al Amor," El Medio
Independiente, Puerto Rico
by Enrique Coyotzi
“Don’t be afraid of love” is the forthright premise of El Medio’s second effort this year (without counting that recent lovely split with Sr. Amable). Following the abundantly bleeping, synth-led, at occasions Wendy Carlos-esque EP Crónicas del hombre orquesta vol. 1, the Boricua affecting composer Leonardo Balasques adapts a more customary, acoustic instrumentation (fiddle and wind instruments), along with post-rock winks, twee breaths and his ever tender harmonies in the heartbreaking “No tengas miedo al Amor”. The quotation marks in the title are to be highlighted, just like in David Bowie’s “Heroes”. A popular phrase among daydreamers, it’s not to be interpreted here as something imperative, but rather inviting to something passionate, profound and surely tumultuous: the great chance of falling in love, assuming all of its consequences, whether good or bad.
There’s a devastating story to be found in here. A dramatic arch nuanced from the first to the last track. Wind blowing exhibits a desolate state of being in first seconds of opener “Hasta Caer”, where, brightly, solemn drumming and shining guitar strumming announce the new-found infatuation of our perceptive protagonist. The singer raises his hopes high, picturing absolute surrender (“Tomar su mano/Dejarlo todo”), yet realizing the sacrifices this decision will imply, foreseeing future –and for a fact inevitable- changes and losses. After warming violin presence, courtesy of Balún’s Angélica Negrón, boisterous electric guitar soundscapes à la Slint, injected of raucous distortion stain this blooming whirlwind of emotions, resembling internal turmoil. Continuing songs, in a heartwarming fashion, retake the possibilities of a beautiful pair up, at the same time leaving behind a bittersweet taste. “La máquina lo hace todo mejor” is pretty, melodious and certainly acutely sincere (“Hoy la noche no acaba/Siempre que hayan momentos como éste”), while “En primavera” captures the love-is-in-the-air essence of this season accompanied by a sunny, joyful beginning infused by synths and güiro, culminating in a colorful explosion of electronic gravity.
Afterwards, the record goes in decrescendo acquiring a much more melancholic tone. Short emotive piece “' '” is a striking exploration of heartbeating affection expressed through body discovery via touching. “'Alguien'/El tierno retorno” is the central backbone of “No tengas miedo al Amor”. After an enchanting introduction based on Paloma San Basilio's “Alguien”, El Medio displays his soul in a naked, personal declaration of letting in someone new into your life, to the point where happiness may be too much to handle. “Alguien nuevo llega a tu vida/ Y quieres que se vaya ya,” he declares in the final line as the marimba-like outro partially sweetens. Wind blowing once again is present in “Distancias pares”, only this time around the circumstances have changed. Over a minimalist simple-chord structure, the artist laments what could have turned out into an enduring friendship, but now is blackened. In “Todas las cosas”, which strongly evokes Sigur Rós' ( ) era, he furthermore deepens into his now dissolved, intense relationship, asking his ex-lover to value the things learnt. “Es bueno seguir vivo/Ver qué queda por vivir,” he claims looking forward to the future in a probably hopeful, but ultimately self-convincing manner -self-defense all the way. Fortunately, the album ends in a blissful note with favorite “Publio Ovidio Nasón”, making a magnificent return as a sort of savior following such a depressing final ride.
“No tengas miedo al Amor” is a deep work fueled by vast honesty and many of El Medio’s best songs to date. It’s best enjoyed during lonely, cold nights where a bottle of cheap wine or a pair of caguamas are the only and best friends. With this album, Leonardo Balasques reaffirms his status as one of our favorite songwriters. And while it may not be a very drastic improvement to his previous releases or incorporate few new ideas to his music, its universal discourse, transparent frankness and powerful development are the main qualities why this revealing piece is not to be missed. Clearly one of the year's most despondent achievements and another essential in Balasques' transcendental career.