Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Juana Molina ‎– Halo (2017)

Style: Abstract, Art Rock, Indie Rock
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Crammed Discs

01.   Paraguaya
02.   Sin Dones
03.   Lentísimo Halo
04.   In The Lassa
05.   Cosoco
06.   Cálculos y Oráculos
07.   Los Pies Helados
08.   A00 B01
09.   Cara de Espejo
10.   Andó
11.   Estalacticas
12.   Al Oeste

Drums – Diego Lopez De Arcaute
Written-By, Arranged By, Vocals, Guitar, Bass, Sampler, Keyboards, Synth, Programmed By, Recorded By, Mixed By – Juana Molina

Juana Molina is a quietly unsettling singer-songwriter from Argentina who specialises in experimental folktronica, mixing acoustic styles and electronica in songs that constantly switch between charming and quirky to downright spooky. On the album cover, her face appears to have morphed into a bone, like a witch from some ancient ceremony, while on the slow and doomy Lentísimo Halo there are references to an evil light which appears in Argentine folk tales. The daughter of a tango musician, Molina may sing in a trance-like whisper, but she understands the importance of rhythm; many of the songs are underpinned by a sturdy bass line, over which she adds guitar, bass or keyboards, playing all the instruments herself on several tracks. There are sturdy melodies on the quietly charming Cosoco or Cálculos Y Oráculos, but even an apparently conventional song is soon transformed by her edgy and intriguing off-kilter soundscapes.
Robin Denslow / The Guardian

The first songs Juana Molina wrote on her guitar as a young girl in Argentina were simple things, repetitive melodies comprised of a few notes and chords. She would play them over and over for weeks on end, lulling herself into a trance. Without the confidence to explore her droning ambient tendencies, she dressed them up with a chorus, verse, and bridge, a spoonful of sugar meant to disguise her kookier tendencies. 
Her 1996 debut LP Rara did much of the same, a folky pop record that only offered glimpses of the rhythmic experimentation she would later explore more fully. Her early career was marked by a slow shedding of her protective pop armor. And when she discovered the Boss RC-20 loop station for 2004’s Tres Cosas, she finally had the tool to take those trance-inducing loops she’d been drawn to since childhood and craft lush, layered compositions. With each record, as she’s shed layer after layer of constricting pop and folk structures, she seems to reveal more and more of herself. 
Halo is Molina’s seventh and strongest LP. She wields a sonic palette refined by two decades of experimentation to create a narrative defined not by words, but by mood. Loosely based on the folk legend of the “luz mala”—a halo of “evil light” that floats above the ground where bones are buried—the record evokes the occult in its music as much as in its Spanish lyrics. The fickle protagonist of “Paraguaya” feeds potions to a lover in order to manipulate his desires, but beyond the words, there’s clearly some brujería at work. The ominous strings and purring percussion make that clear, if the 1,000-yard stare peering at you from the femur on the album’s cover didn’t already. 
On 2008’s “Un Día,” Molina sung of a desire to deliver songs with no lyrics; in 2017, she’s perfected the form. Three tracks on Halo—“In the Lassa,” “A00 B01,” and “Andó”—feature her voice but no words. Her rhythmic vocals are looped and layered, blending in as another instrumental layer in the ambient compositions. Above each song hangs a looming specter, its characters in search of paranormal assistance in the physical realm to soothe their confusion and regret. Occasionally she even seems to speak with her synthesizer; its brooding warble on “Cálculos y Oráculos” is as expressive as any vocal. 
Much is made of Molina’s past as a comedic television performer in Argentina. Her decision to walk away from her show “Juana y Sus Hermanas” at the peak of its popularity is an alluring part of her mystique, but it also underscores her intention. Her acting career was a means to an end, a way to support her music, the art she cared about. Her early folk tendencies and pop structures served a similar purpose, a means to explore the off-kilter rhythms and ambient melodies that lulled her into a trance as a child, pulling us in along with her. 
Halo suggests a self-realization that is often breathtaking. On “Cara de espejo,” Molina sings of a woman looking in the mirror, shocked by the truth she finds in her own reflection. “Cuando uno sabe qué va a verse en un espejo/Pone la cara que espera ver en el reflejo,” she sings. Or, in English, “When you know you'll look at yourself in the mirror/You pull the face you hope to see in the reflection.” It seems Molina finally sees her true self staring back at her.
Matthew Ismael Ruiz / Pitchfork

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