Juana Molina | WIG227 | Released: 05/10/08
Un Día is Juana Molina’s fifth album, in a career dedicated to following a most inspired and inspirational muse. It’s twelve years on from her debut, Rara and, if that album perhaps struggled at first to find an audience, then that audience has grown surely and strongly with the albums that have followed. But it’s not that Molina has made concessions to the marketplace, or chased a more accessible sound; as is often the case with visionary artists, instead the world has caught up with her, the pop landscape shifting to create a new context, where the joyous ‘pop’ elements of her music make immediate sense.
It makes perfect sense, for example, that Molina is currently on tour with Feist, one of a growing wave of artists whose music is recorded in ‘unconventional’ ways, who take maverick liberties with the received wisdoms of song writing and song structure, and yet still compose music that is compelling, accessible, addictive and irresistibly, strangely ‘pop’. And while the global influences upon her work, drawing from a well much wider than the simple western pop tradition, might once have exiled Molina incorrectly in the ‘World Music’ section of your local record shop, a spectrum of artists from MIA to Bjork to Konono No.1 have torn a fissure between ‘World’ and ‘Pop’, and encouraged us to open our ears wide enough that Juana’s hypnotic music can’t help but beguile.
And Un Día is a hypnotic record, restless, alive with melodies that surface imperceptibly before burrowing into your brain, never to leave. It’s a record informed by an ever shifting and polymorphous sense of groove, rhythms writhing over and inside each other, played out on wood and cymbal and bombo legüero, and woven from electronic glitches. “I noticed rhythm on my previous records was tacit, there but concealed,” explains Molina. “For this record, I aimed to make what was obvious to me obvious to others, to bring it to the front, like a hidden layer in Photoshop.”
This approach informs more than just Un Día’s rhythms. These songs are bright and playful; for all their seeming complexity, the melodies and harmonies of tracks like ‘¿Quien? (Suite)’ lock into place instantly, the gentle and trancelike conversation between coos and sighs and handclaps and murmurs building to nagging, chiming hooks and refrains. And while she has experimented with Ambient and Electronic music – and while those experiments still indelibly colour her approach – Un Dia is a warmly human record, Molina’s voice played to the foreground, gliding dreamily through the tangle tentative rhythm on the blissful eddy of ‘No Llama’, sighing urgently along with the spectral guitars and keyboards of ‘Los Hongos De Marosa’.
This is adventurous, magical music, taking bold steps into some unknown, but forever beckoning us, encouraging us to follow. “The songs are more abstract, with fewer lyrics, less literal imagery,” Molina offers. Her intonation on the album’s eponymous opening track speaks volume, however:
“Un día voy a cantar las canciones sin letra y cada uno podrá imaginar si hablo de amor, de desilusión, banalidades o sobre platón.”
(Or, in English) “One day I will sing the songs with no lyrics and everyone can imagine for themselves if it’s about love, disappointment, banalities or about Plato.”
Juana Molina’s music contains multitudes. Come be seduced.