For her fourth, and most immediate album so far, Juana Molina of Buenos Aires, Argentina, has set about capturing her famous blue melodies in a style close to her hypnotic live experience, but with all the immaculate production values we’ve come to expect from the creator of the critically acclaimed Tres Cosas and Segundo longplayers.
Juana Molina can, perhaps rather cheekily, been seen as kickstarting the new generation of performers who begin with their core group of instruments and a delay pedal, and take the relatively experimental approach of live sound-looping and manipulation to the pop-concert medium. Think Kama Aina, think Animal Collective, think KT Tunstall even…! She’s definitely somewhere between these first two disparate musical landscapes, and I wouldn’t be surprised if her powerful solo renditions of songs from last year, using exactly Ms Tunstall’s sampling approach, have had an effect…
Juana Molina never makes of this a trick, but more an effective and affecting use of time-delay for a sense of disorientation and twisting beauty, to heighten her songs’ moods and structures. In fact it is an integral part of her composition process, this layering upon layering of polyrhythms, dissonant synth melodies, and effected voices. Her music is in love with texture and timbre, and despite its leftfield leanings it is a wondrous and accessible Song she sings. More and more people will fall under the spell with the joys of Son.
Much of Son is propelled by compulsive percussive vocal tracks, not dissimilar to the avant beatboxing of Bodenstandig and then Bjork before her. This turns to something close to scat-singing at times, and shows us a more explicitly soulful side to Juana than we’ve seen before. We also hear samples of sounds unfamiliar from previous albums, particularly on ‘malherido’, where twangs of banjo-like acoustic guitar bend and blend awkwardly into the sub-housey rhythms of the song, and a childlike sense of play seeps into the bizarre, momentarily aural landscape. Yes those voices do sound like pigs ‘oinking’. Juana seems to be sharing with modern contemporaries such as the Animal Collective, the musical adventurism of the Beach Boys’ Smile and its forays into farmyard fun, as well as a vocal lushness that is pleasing to any ear.
As Juana herself says of the music, “When I started to write the songs for this record Son, a new element that may have been hidden for a long time appeared; the randomness of the combination of sounds in nature. Each bird has a particular singing; nevertheless this singing is always different. It is not a pattern; it’s a drawing, a sound and a mode, only a few elements that each bird combines in a new way each time. In the same way, sometimes I chose to sing a melodic drawing I develop for the song. Verses are alike, but never the same (Rio Seco, No Seas AntipÃ¡tica) other times I chose to sing a repetitive melody.
What changes here and moves randomly is, for example, a keyboard. It is like overlapping two different loops, with no synchronicity at all. One very rhythmic and the other one more lose. When you play both, at the same time, the loose loop will provoke a changing harmony, because their beats will never be in the same place. This causes a moving harmony. During the tours, I also applied my new ideas to the old songs, that’s why, when I got back home, I recorded the first thing that came to mind using these new ideas. In October, when I sat down to put all I had for the record together I had the huge and pleasant surprise that I almost had the record done. Son is a step forward on the same path I started with Segundo and followed with Tres Cosas.”
Son is the sound of a unique and significant modern songwriter at the peak of her game, enjoying herself, and dipping deep into her well of Song to create a musical cycle of sound so seductive and yet mysterious, that it stands up to repeated listening and exploration.
Release date: 29 May 2006
Cat. No .: WIG176 (CD/Lp)