Sunday, January 18, 2009

Juana Molina – Un Día

Do you like Björk, but wish she were less icy and synthetic? If so, I'd recommend checking out Juana Molina. On her newest album, Un Día, she makes extensive use of looping and layering multiple vocal tracks, interweaving them with traditional Argentine drums and guitars. Electronic and synthetic elements creep in now and again, but are used as minor flourishes and accents, leaving her music thoroughly warm and organic sounding. Individual tracks are made up of mostly acoustic guitars, drumming, vocals, humming, whistling, and are then layered, looped, and intertwined.

The music on Un Día ranges from upbeat and lush ("Un Día") to relatively more spare and elegant ("No Llama"), but maintains a sense of unity throughout. Many times single songs ebb and flow between sparse guitar/singing and a denser/lusher multilayered style ("Vive Solo"). Generally the songs are a little long for pop songs (only one clocks in under 5 minutes, with most lasting between 5:30 and 7:30), but this gives Molina plenty of breathing room to let the songs wander in and out of different variations of her distinct style.

And a distinct style it is. I had compared her music to Björk's, and that seems fairly apt, but Molina is making music that is definitely unique and definitely her own (unless there is a whole genre of Argentine atmospheric acoustic quasi-electronica out there that I don't know about, which could certainly be the case). The way in which she combines the more experimental elements of someone like Björk with the warmer sensibilities of the singer-songwriter yields music that is both unique enough to be exciting, but familiar enough to not be off-putting or inaccessible.

Un Día is a beautiful, fun, and inviting album. It is only Molina's fifth album in 13 years. She is, apparently, primarily known in her native Argentina as comedic television actress. Her music, quite surprisingly, is more of an occasional sideline gig. And while I have yet to hear any of her earlier work (and I will certainly go back and check out more of it), Un Día will hopefully serve to be an introduction to some great music.

Here is a video of the title track, "Un Día "

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