Nov 21, 2017

RhoDeo 1747 Roots

Hello, as our time in Argentina's music scene finishes, we end on a high with one of the country's most interesting artists, Juana Molina would have been a household name if not for the fact the musicindustry and press rarely look beyond their immediate sphere, an artist like Bjork managed to break through that ceiling but than Iceland lies between the US and Europe, Argentina however is far away.....

Today's artist is a singer/songwriter from Argentina whose atmospheric blend of folk, electronica, and experimental pop have brought her, despite coming from 'out there' international acclaim. She's a deeply original and visionary artist who, pulls off the most out-there material with melodies nearly as accessible as conventional pop. She has variously been described as pure genius, beguiling, and is said to be one of the most extraordinary singers around, who is creating a slippery soundtrack for the subconscious ......N'Joy

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Juana Molina was born to a family of artists in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on October 1, 1961. She is the eldest daughter of Horacio Molina, a popular tango singer, and Chunchuna Villafañe, a celebrated actress and model. She has a younger sister who has also worked as an actress and musician. The family lived in the central Buenos Aires barrio of Caballito. Her mother was a record collector, exposing her to various types of music. She began to learn to play the guitar at age 5. In 1967, Juana recorded her first song with his father, "Te regalo esta canción" ("I gift you this song"), as a gift to her mother for Mother's Day. Horacio Molina released the song as a single —without her young daughter knowing—which sold 45 thousand copies. She also performed the song live with her father on national television.

In 1976, the family left for Paris, France, due to the military dictatorship that overthrew president Isabel Martínez de Perón. While in Paris, she listened to what is now known as "world music" on French radio stations. In various interviews, Molina has recalled a visit to a Spanish hippie family friend who introduced her to Indian classical music, whose drones have had an enduring influence on her music. In 1981, Molina returned to Buenos Aires. To finance her architecture studies, she had various small jobs, including an unsuccessful experience as a backing vocalist in small bands.

As she could not make a living through music, Molina decided to find a job that paid well and did not consume much time. She decided on a career in television as the means to this end, and spent some months looking for a show that could use her services. She recorded a homemade audition tape for the studio and was offered a contract the same day. Molina began her television career in 1988 with the ATC show La noticia rebelde ("Rebel News", a word playon La novicia rebelde), where she would record one day a week and but get paid for five. Her popular sketches parodied Buenos Aires' women of various social classes. In October of the same year, Molina joined the cast of El mundo de Antonio Gasalla ("Antonio Gasalla's World"), led by comedy actor Antonio Gasalla. The show, which ran until 1990, further cemented her popularity as a sketch comedy actress and writer. The show was also performed live at the Teatro Gran Rex and in Mar del Plata.

The pinnacle of her success came with her own show, Juana y sus hermanas ("Juana and Her Sisters", a wordplay on Hannah and Her Sisters), which premiered in 1991. Molina arguably became Argentina's most popular comedian, having her show syndicated to other Latin American countries. Molina was dubbed "the new Niní Marshall" by the press, and won two Martín Fierro Awards. A compilation album of songs by Molina featured in the show was released. In 1993 Molina became pregnant with her only child, Francisca, and had to suspend her show. She found herself reflecting on her rapid rise to stardom and decided that her success on TV was holding her back from pursuing her music. She decided to cancel the show, even though it was at the height of its popularity; something that many critics would hold against her for years. She recalls: "There was a moment when I imagined myself watching MTV as a decrepit old woman (like MTV would last a lifetime), thinking 'I could have done that.' I pictured myself feeling an infinite grudge, hatred, envy."

Produced by Gustavo Santaolalla and recorded in 1995, Molina's debut album, Rara, was released in 1996. The album was poorly marketed; Micaela Ortelli of Página 12 wrote: "Never did an Argentine radio play a song from that album, – too pop to be folk and too folk, perhaps, to be radio material." Live shows were also problematic, as audiences expected her to act like on television. The album was better received in Los Angeles, United States, where Molina settled in 1998. Having learned how to record her music, she began to self-produce new material at the request of DreamWorks Records. Although the company ultimately did not sign her, these recordings would become Segundo, her second studio album. By 2000, she had finished recording the album and, back in Buenos Aires, she met Daniel Melero, who mixed the record. The music of Segundo was the result of Molina's new insights in timbre and her meeting with Alejandro Franov, who taught her "the endless sound possibilities that keyboards allow."

Electronic effects permeated Segundo (2003) to the point that they (the effects) became the protagonists of the stories, and the ethereal ambience became the ultimate meaning of those stories. Molina's whispered vocals are just one of the instruments, a sort of flute that meanders in a labirynth of audio tricks. African polyrhythms bestow a swampy, "forth world", disoriented feeling on Martin Fierro, with Molina's voice working almost like Jon Hassell's trumpet. The spacey vocals and the raga-jazzy arrangement of El Desconfiado evoke the hippy chants of the 1960s. The folkish lullaby El Pastor Mentiroso is like a deformed mirror image of Enya's music. Molina does not seem to hold on to a center of mass as she drifts from the mellow lounge muzak of Quien? to the bouncy pop of Que Llueva!, from the sinister voodoo dance of Misterio Uruguayo to the odd instrumental fanfare of Medlong. The longer pieces have time to unravel more than just a cute arrangement: the trippy downtempo shuffle of El Perro, the electronic bubbling and tribal dancing of Mantra Del Bicho Feo (virtually an instrumental), and the fast blues rigmarole and electronic jazz-blue jam of Sonamos. Molina's music found some success in Japan, and, to a lesser extent, in Europe. American musician David Byrne bought Segundo — intrigued by its artwork — and quickly became and admirer of the record. He contacted Molina, and she became the opening act of his American tour.

Molina sounded something like a colder Bjork on the more elegant Tres Cosas (2004). The anemic instruments did not do much to strengthen the fragile vocals in the tenderly waltzing No Es Tan Cierto and the ethereal nursery rhymes El Cristal and Salvese Quien Pueda, sunnier and more accomplished melodies than in the past. The renewed melodic emphasis is confirmed by Tres Cosas, despite the out of tune keyboards, and by the folkish lullaby El Progreso, while the wordless shuffle iUh! injects some rhythm into a fundamentally apathic act. Yo Se Que is instead typical of Molina's humbler and shier mode, in which both the vocal and the instrumental parts are hinted and not fully fleshed out, and even hijacked by alien effects. Her voice is protagonist of the hymn Isabel and of the lament Curame, songs that are as rarified as possible. The voice often manages to straddle the border between neoclassical and childish, notably in the piano-based aria Insensible that closes the album. On the other hand, Filter Taps is pure surreal ambience.

Son was a more organic and "adult" album, almost a return to the format of the pop song. She had rarely sounded as conventional as she sounds in Rio Seco and La Verdad, the songs that emphasize the melodic skills of the previous album. Molina attains a bizarre kind of enlightenment in the more atmospheric pieces, like the wordless Yo No that towards the end coalesces into an upbeat melodic ditty, or the feathery Son, drenched in dilated sounds, or the ecstatic wordless jam Un Beso Llega, that ends in sidereal vacuum.

Un Dia was at the same time more intimate, more abstract and more hypnotic, with the voice increasingly turning into an instrument and the rhythms increasingly turning into a voice. It starts with the minimalist repetition and the traditional chanting of Un Dia. It continues with the evanescent vibrations of Lo Dejamos (7:31) that segue into the hypnotic fibrillation of Los Hongos De Marosa and the gentle pulsating harmonies of Quien. These three lengthy pieces constitute the emotional core of the work.

Wed 21 (13) boasts a trio of lively effervescent songs: the boogie Eras, the samba Ferocisimo, and the android ballet Wed 21. But most of the rest, such as the Enya-esque Lo Decidi Yo, sounds inconclusive and messy. The longer El Oso De La Guarda has vocal and percussive elements that may be intriguing, but the song fails to merge them.

By several accounts, Molina is a a musical tinkerer whose sound is more the result of random results in the studio than of ordered composition. According to the Washington Post, the artist's goal was not to create more of the ubiquitous "hypnotic electronica," but rather something "distinctly sultry, insinuating and dreamlike," in which studio experimentation played a big part. "When I have a little idea, even before playing it once, I put on the tape recorder. I know there's going to be mistakes, because I don't really where to go and I'm not really sure how to get back, and I'm sure there's going to be something in all this that I'm going to like," Molina explained in record company promotional material. "And then I try to make it so all that has lyrics that go with that melody and meshes harmonically with this, that and the other. But I prefer to stick to that first footprint, which in the end is what sticks out in the piece."

Despite the initial negative reaction to her music in her home country, music critics have consistently championed Molina's body of work, praising her music and experimentation. In 2013, El País wrote, "she established herself as the star of the avant-garde sound of her country in the world." Writing for The Guardian, Robin Denselow called her the "one-time Queen of Latin chill" and wrote: "[she] has built up a global cult following as one of the most experimental musicians in Argentina.

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Juana Molina is an unlikely indie music star, having risen to prominence in South America as an actress on TV sitcoms, but between 2000 and 2006 she released three albums of increasingly ambitious, distinctive, and beautifully constructed electronic folk-pop. The third of these releases is arguably the best: SON is as reverence-inducing as a country church (albeit a postmodern country church from the future!).

Molina's music is hushed and introspective, taking its dynamic cues from the likes of Nick Drake, yet it is boldly experimental. Electronic textures pulse around acoustic guitars, vocal lines are layered in lush and startling ways, and pitches bend gently like tired brain waves. Molina sings in Spanish, but a language barrier makes little difference in music as sensual, evocative, and thoroughly creative as this.

Juana Molina - Son   (flac  290mb)

01 Río Seco 3:32
02 Yo No 4:57
03 La Verdad 6:40
04 Un Beso Llega 7:18
05 No Seas Antipatica 4:22
06 Micael 3:04
07 Son 3:24
08 Las Culpas 2:42
09 Malherido 4:23
10 Desordenado 2:21
11 Elena 4:32
12 Hay Que Ver Si Voy 8:30

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Juana Molina's sound is so precious and rare that tampering with the formula is akin to tearing down a singular example of great architecture, or witnessing the extinction of a rare and beautiful animal. Fortunately, Un Dia is immediately recognizable as a Juana Molina album. Yes, there are slight differences between this and her previous work, but fortunately, she's still retained most of what made her special in the past. In place are the gentle but propulsive vocal-based rhythms, the airy feel to the proceedings, and the occasional chirping polyharmonies. Also present (and appreciated) is the fine balance between organic instruments (wood, metal) and post-production processing (delays, distortion) that makes her records sound as experimental as Björk's but much more inviting. Differences appear, however, in the hypnotic rhythm that powers several songs with a driving energy. If her breakout albums, 2000's Segundo and 2002's Tres Cosas, were so diaphanous that they threatened to dematerialize altogether, Un Dia makes rhythm a central proposition, sometimes so machine-like that she approaches techno (albeit, techno from the standpoint of an Argentinean obsessed with native instruments).

Juana Molina - Un Dia (flac  248mb)

01 Un Día 5:35
02 Vive Solo 5:58
03 Lo Dejamos 7:31
04 Los Hongos De Marosa 7:27
05 ¿Quién? (Suite) 7:22
06 El Vestido 4:31
07 No Llama 5:20
08 Dar (Qué Difícil) 6:41

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In the five years since Argentine singer/songwriter Juana Molina released Un Dia, her sound has undergone a subtle but distinct shift. On Wed 21 (named for the date she finished the title track, Wednesday, November 21), the intricate layering of electronics, from rhythms to delays and adornments, remains intact, as does her organic reliance on lyric melody. What is immediately apparent is the wider instrumental palette at work. In addition to acoustic guitars and drum machines, Molina employs myriad electric guitars, basses, a drum kit, organ samples, a horn, and more detailed electronics. Her voice still dominates, though. This is true in primary and chorus vocals. Check the lilting, breezy, multivalent harmonies in "Lo Decidi Yo," where they engage a faux Brazilian melody as a mutant forro meets the stretched bossa of tropicalia. Despite rumbling tom-toms, a wandering analog synth, and interspersed electric guitars engaged in a separate dialogue, her voice dictates the song's direction and flow. On the opening track/single, a rhythmic vamp similar to "Pump Up the Volume" is framed by controlled feedback and an insistent polyrhythmic pulse. As the electric guitars kick in, her vocal establishes a breezy, labyrinthine melody that dances across rhythms that embrace samba and cumbia. "El Oso de la Guarda" is quirky in the extreme, with bubbling polyrhythmic twists and turns, wobbly guitars, and voices; only the bassline holds its structure together -- though Molina's guitar, charango, and harpsichord bridge is so intoxicatingly ethereal, one almost wishes it took over entirely. Set-closer "Final Feliz" commences as merely a series of guitar chords that begin to build in tempo and intensity, until they dictate a dominant series of layered rhythms on the six-string, bass drum, hand percussion, and even a saxophone. All that's left is for her to sing above it all in waves and layers, stretching her harmonics; she pays attention to the galloping pace, yet refuses its density; she cruises seemingly effortlessly above it all. As usual, humor is part and parcel of Molina's musical architecture on Wed 21. You can hear it in the whimsy of her delivery and in her numerous, almost incalculable juxtapositions of rhythms and melodies. Wed 21 progresses from her previous recordings, but it's an extension of them, not a departure.

Juana Molina - Wed 21   (flac  275mb)

01 Eras 4:25
02 Wed 21 3:17
03 Feroc 3:23
04 Lo Decidí Yo 4:06
05 Sin Guía, No 4:52
06 Ay, No Se Ofendan 5:30
07 Bicho Auto 4:34
08 El Oso De La Guarda 6:39
09 Las Edades 4:17
10 La Rata 4:18
11 Final Feliz 3:47

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From the album cover of Juana Molina's seventh album, Halo, a bone bearing two human eyes stares shrewdly out at the viewer. It's an image as comical as it is unnerving, though not entirely unexpected from the inventive Argentinian singer/songwriter, who for two decades has danced nimbly around the boundaries of experimental pop, art, and design. Since abandoning her successful career as a comedic television actress in the mid-'90s, Molina has served up a constantly evolving pastiche of maverick sound that usually includes erratic beats, glowing electronics, fractured guitar loops, and all manner of treated vocals. What has kept her outsider music consistently appealing is the whimsy and melodic warmth that imbue her catalog with an underlying sense of humanity. Halo, Molina's first release since 2013's Wed 21, feels like a logical snapshot of her ongoing journey, presenting 12 new tracks that are as eccentric as they are inviting. From the woozy strings poured gently atop the dark digital grooves of "Paraguaya" to the fractured Latin guitar riff that carries lead single "Cosoco," the instrumentation is subtly layered and the production pleasantly disorienting in what has become her signature style. On the wonderful "Sin Dones," a neat bass groove develops slowly under Molina's effected vocals for three minutes before finally breaking into a seductive drum pattern that utterly transforms the song. Many of the tracks are built this way, taking their time to unfold, sometimes reaching their destination and sometimes just out for a stroll. On "Cálculos y Oráculos," one of Halo's most understated tracks, hazy muted synths warble around a sweet two-chord refrain that seems to be constructed out of the windy tone made from blowing on a bottle top. It's an enchanting mix that falls at the center of the album's sequence like an interlude. Training an audience to expect the unexpected is a tough trick, but after two decades, Molina's reputation as a bold sonic explorer is well established.

Juana Molina - Halo (flac  283mb)

01 Paraguaya 3:44
02 Sin Dones 5:41
03 Lentísimo Halo 5:24
04 In The Lassa 4:39
05 Cosoco 4:58
06 Cálculos Y Oráculos 4:47
07 Los Pies Helados 5:23
08 A00 B01 4:30
09 Cara De Espejo 5:03
10 Andó 3:50
11 Estalacticas 4:53
12 Al Oeste 3:38

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Anonymous said...

Juana Molina sounds like an interesting artist. Going to give 'Un Dia' and 'Halo' a listen. Many thanks.


Chris said...

Please Rho re-up! Thanks a lot!