Juana Molina
Son
2006
B



if Juana Molina’s coffeehouse, I need to get me in a Starbucks again soon. Over the course of three subtle quiet-proof offerings, Molina has shed her Argentinian starlet roots to become one of Domino’s more quietly dynamic artists. Her first widely available record, Segundo, always candlelit a new nook for you, some strangled noise you’d overlooked that made a song you’d already begun to sing wordlessly novel, exotic again, a remix with all parts the same. A shimmy of mild electronics, acoustics, and Molina’s cactusdew voice, the album’s sixty-nine minutes were easily excused, like a siesta in which you move towards the midday sting and somehow find it cooler, an emptied hourglass.

Her follow-up, Tres Cosas, was an unfortunate retreat, perhaps to what those who’ve never heard her sing assume she sounds like. In stepping back from the electronics and towards a more florid acoustic backdrop, she lost her quaint birthmarking; the album felt like the artifact of just another gorgeous, alien songsmith. The perplexity to the berth of those songs evaporated, and with only her hushed acoustics left to toy with her voice, the results were often melodic packing wrap, good for labor and loud drowning dinners and little else.

With Son, Molina’s come full circle. Back are the mainframe intoxicants of Segundo. Crickets, dented keystrokes, bearded mongrels humming, shaved sheets of electronic noise and blur. “Rio Seco”’s tonsil-pulp synths bring one of Molina’s more urgent guitar compositions to the fore, while “Yo No” may well be the sound of dogs chasing the sun home for the eve, with its punchy vibes and lockstep tribal drum patterns, its huffing and puffing and a female chorus to blow the candles out. Where “Un Beso Llega”’s seven-plus minutes include a by-now standard Molina acoustic guitar intro, the pointillist howl and whining electronics in its coda may well spell the voice for the blank pages of Carlos Fuentes’ Terra Nostra. Or they translate the whole thing into the sound of stereo and royalties are owed in each direction.

At times, as with Segundo, it’s tempting to just let Molina pull you under. Many an absinthe dream must have started thus. “Las Culpas” might be The Knife if they’d ever seen the desert (or, erm, spoke Spanish), if they could claim a home in sand and burn, and “Malherido”’s mesmeric vibes and chalky heartbeat prove just how lethal Molina could be in a set leaning against, ooooh, Nathan Fake. But then the crickets and ringing bells of the title track sound the alarum for Sunday afternoon, and it’s up to wash and a stiff suit for church; the plush swelling of a Saturday night amongst friends thins out. A concussive trance, and one of Molina’s best songs yet; dusky static and tubular smells mock the senses. As the wind picks up the sound of fools whistling in the alley, maybe I was wrong. Let Molina tug you down, wherever she’s headed, that seaweed Atlantis where she gases the torch, into that chloroform crush.


Reviewed by: Derek Miller
Reviewed on: 2006-06-09
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