One day in Buneos Aires
FIRST PUBLISHED AT THE LINE OF BEST FIT
Juana Molina is a former Argentine television actress with an unlikely passion for making a kind of cut and paste folk-tinged electronica (look, I managed to do that without saying ‘folktronica’). Molina’s latest album for Domino comprises eight lengthy, carefully assembled pieces in which the focus is on layered grooves: tightly coiled constructions of looped acoustic guitar, vocal cooing and harmonies, chimes, drones and occasionally the kitchen sink. After the rollicking, revelrous opening title track, ‘Un Dia‘ is sometimes sunny, sometimes sultry and occasionally bleakly nocturnal. Molina’s lo-fi collages are not always immediately arresting, building and subsiding with an unhurried lightness of touch. The likes of ‘Quien? (Suite)’ wake up as gently as a spring morning, dreamy vocal splices interlocking and dovetailing over a persistent almost-house bassline. By contrast ‘Lo Dejamos’ and ‘Los Hongos De Marosa’ are oblique, all murmers and shadowy bass squelches.
There are shades of Herbert’s organic house but ‘Un Dia’ is not peppy enough for dancefloors, often drifting out of focus when seemingly primed for a big 4/4 booty shaker to kick in. Well, leave that to the remixers, ‘Un Dia’ is more an album to put on in the background (and I don’t mean this unkindly) and gradually work its way into your consciousness (and normally back out again). The theme is definitely stetched thin over the course of the album, and Juan Molina straddles a fine line between an orthodoxy of approach and being a one-trick pony. At its best the hypnotic layering of sounds – particularly the joyous opener – gets blissfully dissonant, almost psychedelic; while at its worst it limps and meanders off-course. For instance ‘Vive Solo’, starts like some bonged out reworking of the Sesame Street theme-tune, relocated to Buenos Aires, but persistently peters out.
The pro-tooled assembly of individual parts can also be stiflingly unspontaneous. Despite the tribal, Dionysian undertones of the likes of ‘Dar, it never quite freaks out as seductively suggested. One can’t help wanting an Animal Collective-esque headfuck on the scale of their tribal harmonies on, say, Leaf House. I also found myself wishing Molina could reign in some of the expansiveness and deliver the kind of abstract dance pop of Feist’s ‘Sealion Woman’ which parts of ‘Un Dia’ resemble. There are few jaw-droppingly off-kilter moments, although there are some extremely lovely ones: the fragments of guitar notes sprinkled onto the heady ‘No Llama’ tickled some not normally stimulated part of my ears. Fans of Herbert and his muse Dani Siciliano’s solo work should fine plenty to enjoy here, as well as fans of folk-tinged cut and pastery (see, I still haven’t said ‘folktronica’) as diverse as The Books and Four Tet.