Conquista de lo Inútil, Coiffeur
by Carlos Reyes
Intrigued by the global interest sparked by Rodrigo y Gabriela’s roaring chords, NME once consulted Club Fonograma about other Latin American acts that placed the acoustic guitar as the backbone of their pedigree. We listed a few names—far less "exotic" ones of course, which is probably why they never referenced our shortlist. Among them was Coiffeur (moniker of Guillermo Alonso), a man who seemed to be subscribed to the school of "Mi guitarra y vos," but whose swooning composition had elevated him from the rest. Last year’s release of his EP, Nada, witnessed the composer “turning his rumbling chords into disco deep cuts.” It’s a transmutation of sorts and, although confusing at first, we must say Coiffeur has never sounded this good.
Conquista de lo Inútil is Coiffeur’s first full-length record on this new, avant landscape. There was undeniable warmth in the echoes of his acoustic guitar, but that doesn’t mean he’s abandoning sensitivity. He’s just using a different vehicle to move forward. Coiffeur’s approach to disco and dance music is one where he still wears his heart on his sleeve. Conquista de lo Inútil starts with bare vocal harmonies announcing concepts about space, time, movement, and density. Shortlisting the themes in the first breath of the album is a crude way to negotiate with form, but Coiffeur somehow gets away with it. As he extends his harmonies, the concepts begin to personalize and, in a miraculous, almost sexual way, we hear synthesizers welcoming the emotional discourse. That acceptance from the canvas to his illustrator is a beautiful thing to witness. Virtuosity and palpable artistic choices take care of the rest.
It’s a surprising and perhaps arguable statement, but Coiffeur’s music has acquired seriousness (in the same way Reflektor has brought magnitude to the Arcade Fire discourse), something truly startling considering Coiffeur’s start in folk music. “Una idea nos atraviesa y una accion nos dispersa,” sighs a singer who is conscious of the privileged canvas he’s working on. First single “Damero” is a splendorous example of how Coiffeur personalizes the concepts and topics of metaphysics in an uncluttered, introspective way. The desolated, almost tragic treatment of organic tools in tracks like “Ovo” and “Christine” speak of a composer/stylist who’s still a little more preoccupied with the tailoring of his keyboards than with the artificial glow technology might offer. The amount of organic and synthetic fabric here is carefully calculated, something that prevents the album from sounding innovative but that also moves it away from becoming a pastiche.
Recent years have positioned Argentina as a fertile land for left-field dance music (Isla de los Estados, Matilda, Michael Mike) and, although glamorous on its own, it has struggled to internationalize in the same way Chilean pop has. Under the always dependable and prestigious Chilean label Quemasucabeza (Gepe, Pedropiedra, Caravana), the distribution of Coiffeur’s reconditioned venture (assisted by synth pop-provocateur producer Juan Stewart) seems all that more promising. Potential singles “Oxigeno” and “Nudo” are sure to help the artist find an intercontinental audience. One line in the album stands above any synthetic design: “la moral no va a servirte de mucho.” Coiffeur is still verbalizing universal feelings regardless of the vessel he is surveying. At its most accessible numbers, the album deconstructs the no-strings-attached (to verbal and lyrical context) notions that inhabit dance music. Coiffeur wants emotional strings attached, the whole ball of yarn in fact. And it’s ultimately this conscious (if outright romanticized) choice that makes Conquista de lo Inútil truly essential and transfixing.