Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Scenes of a City, Vol. 11: Montevideo, Uruguay

Once again I found myself curious about the music by way of literature. I've been enjoying the short stories of Felisberto Hernández, who was not only a writer but an accomplished and self-taught pianist. Some of his songs can be heard online, and this experimental sort of literature prefigured many notable authors including the illustrious Italo Calvino, who I've mentioned several times before.

As for Montevideo as a city, it seems the sort of place I'd like to live. There's no secret that Detroit kinda sucks, even its most ardent boosters know it does even if they won't say it. Montevideo is most beautiful, has a higher level of development and cultural activity. It's way nicer, but whenever I bring it up here, people don't even know where it is. To see Montevideo in person in a wish of mine, but until I make better wages it's gonna be a dream I can only grasp in the form of ephemeral songs, the written words of dead authors and photographs taken by others. But there's no shortage of those, in fact there's so much music I found coming out of this city I'll have to spill some of it over into Grab Bags and consider an second part of this post at some point.

Also, I'd like to note that I have been compiling together releases for Scenes of a City posts and EP Grab Bags for years, done dozens and dozen of them, but this batch has the fucking best designed album art over all. Way to go Uruguayan graphic designers.

To be had here:
Oso Polar - Arktur (2015)

This is the first of the albums I listened to from Montevideo to strike a chord with me. Must have listened to it a dozen times the day I found it. A relatively minimal album for the most part, being folk-pop containing slow guitar and lovely Spanish singing. However, in the middle Arktur gets bolder, adding some indie pop flare with keyboards and vocal effects. While it bears [unintentional pun] a more subdued tone, I would liken it to my favorite Brazilian musician, Bonifrate. This is meant as high praise, pilgrims.

Franny Glass - Planes (2014)

Not straying too far from the folk-pop of the last album, here we have another indie pop release, though one that is decidedly more highly produced pop music. Another singer-songwriter I found absolutely delightful and quite cheerful in addition. Planes is packed full of earworms you'll find yourself humming along to without even needing to understand a word of it. Catchy tunes are catchy tunes across culture and language boundaries as well all know, and this dude really knows how to craft them. I sincerely recommend "En Libertad y Obligado" as a simple introduction.

The Blueberries - The West (2012)

I knew if I poked around I would find garage rock in Montevideo. I didn't know what sort of garage rock I might find though. The Blueberries are a very well put together, polished sounding outfit. Now, I know I really go off about distorted, loose sounding lo-fi garage rock, but I also have a great fondness for a finely produced guitar-driven rock band. And while most of the tracks are sung in English, I truly believe the few in Spanish really demonstrate the abilities of this band excellently, thinking of "Newby" in particular here.

Los Prolijos - Pasto Azul (2014)

This album is something I was amazed to find. It is a series of covers of popular Uruguayan songs reimagined as bluegrass and country music. A brilliant plan, right? Yes. The songs are light and upbeat, very good summertime jaunts. The musicians sound impeccable, showing off twangy guitar and banjo-picking skills Moreover, the album art on this is so incredibly cool I have already suggested it as a possible new tattoo from my friend, so don't crib his style.

Ataque Chino - Archivo 1 (2014)

An experimental ambient album in which poetry is recited. He doesn't sing his poems, definitely recites it, but much decent poetry will seem lyrical even with a language barrier. Beautiful to my ears, though I haven't the foggiest notion what he's on about. The music itself is astoundingly interesting, making use of a great multitude of instruments, effects and ambient sounds in a way I found to be quite novel. In someways it reminds of Felisberto Hernández's music, but I might be imagining that in a desire to connect some dots in my mind.

Pez Electrico - Gaza (2015)

An album that roughly could be called experimental psychedelia, yet that doesn't explain at the scope it undertakes. The tone and tempo of the songs range widely throughout, being slow and somber at moments and then launching into swirling guitar parts with abundant percussion. The album is chaotic but beautiful. I can see why they'd chose to associate it with the Palestinian city of Gaza, where chaos, resilience and beauty often intermingle.

1 comment:

  1. Pez Electrico! Listen Holocausto Vegetal, a few members of that band are members of pez electrico