Chilling, compelling world music from multi-talented Argentinian

I’ll be honest, the first thing I thought was “nice album, but the cover freaks me out.” So we’ll skip talking about the bizarre art (which mirrors the music perfectly), and concentrate on the bizarre music. Juana Molina, not a person to be pinned down to one thing at the best of times, has created a gorgeous album of world music, that doesn’t really fit into nice cosy little music industry categories. Don’t let the fact that it’s exclusively Spanish language put you off, it’s the haunting half-whispered breathy vocals that are the focal point of the music.

Opener Un Dia leaves you completely confused. It’s sparse, repetitive, and not one you ‘get’ on a first listen. But trust me, it’ll grow on you. It sets the chilled, soft tone for the whole album, which is almost a shame because it never grows from there to a satisfactory climax, it just shifts sideways continuously. Easily the most bizarre tracks are Los Hongos De Marosa and ¿Quién? (Suite) combine Molina’s soft vocals with weird off-key electronic noise and more traditional instruments.

It’s very easy to find this album repetitive as it doesn’t vary much from its original themes. It also seems to go on for longer than it does, for the same reason. But there’s something strangely compelling about the softness of the themes and the darker edge. It’s like a musical version of Pan’s Labyrinth, freakily dark, but you can’t stop watching. If you like the world music elements of bands like the Strange Sensation, this is similar but without the rock element.

It starts off a chilled and relaxed album to listen to, but it’s far from easy listening. It’s not one to sit down and listen to deliberately, but its relaxed ebb and flow is perfect for just chilling out to in the background, especially El Vistado, which does away with the strange electronic clashing and returns to whispered multi-track vocals, guitar, and handclaps. It’s certainly one of the more unusual and original albums of the year, thoughtful and carefully put together, using only the necessary notes and no more. There’s no one real ‘standout’ track, but the whole album drifts by in its own strange, beautiful way.