res Casas is a difficult album to get through. Like Juana Molina’s last album, Segundo, it’s meant to be an easy listen, but it isn’t. The electronic blips and waves that Molina melds so effortlessly with her gentle acoustic strums barely raise above a Spanish whisper, yet they are hypnotically, and contradictorily dense, difficult pieces of music.
It wouldn’t be so bad if the tracks didn’t mostly range near the four minute mark; some clocking in as long as six minutes. Combine thirteen of those and therein lies Tres Casas’ fault—nearly an hour of almost yoga-like textures accompanied by a not entirely beautiful, breathy Spanish coo. It’s difficult to take in one sitting. The same was true for Molina’s last record, and second overall, Segundo. It was similarly long, with melodies only surfacing after repeated listens, it’s main difference to Tres Casas being its more prominent use of electronics. Molina has definitely progressed as a producer (as well as a composer, recorder and mixer) through the discernible improvement in her juxtaposition of electronic, ambient and natural elements. The band members of Múm could possibly learn a thing or two about balance from Molina.
Last year’s Segundo was a sprawling work that lacked a fundamental feel of cohesion, something that Tres Casas has in spades. But while Tres Casas succeeds in its thematics, that same cohesion hampers the album. Never does the record lift its metaphoric and literal voice above a warm droning. “Sálvese Quién Pueda” is a stand out, merely due its hummable (singable, if you speak Spanish) melody, which is complemented by the backup vocals of Alejandro Franov. The title track, “Tres Cosas” is another song that pushes through the largely monotonous void thanks to some subdued, yet forward electronic waves. Beyond those, only “Sólo Su Voz” (has a violin) and “Filter Taps” (sounds like a Sigur Ros outtake with looped, indistinguishable vocals swirling around a wave-like guitar melody) leave impressions.
While Tres Casas is a large step forward for Molina, and a better album than Segundo, paradoxically, it’s a less enjoyable one. Molina’s vision is undoubtably one that makes her one of the more unique manipulators of organic and electronic sound today, but her vision still needs to be reigned in and smoothened.
Reviewed by: Gentry Boeckel
Reviewed on: 2004-06-04