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Juana Molina – “Wed 21” Review

Juana Molina's looping drums, guitars are vocals are simply loopy! Welcome to originality...
Juana Molina
Juana Molina

Juana Molina has been busy working on her latest album and “Wed 21” is more of an evolution instead of a revolution. Molina’s unique style of building various loops to make song textures is as fascinating as it has always been and this latest iteration is probably the most cohesive album to date.

“Eras” begins the album showcasing an unusual instrument called the Bitchapong which is fun and twisted glassy synth that sounds alien, metallic and like the water-phone which you hear sometimes in disillusioned horror or psychological films. Soon the loops of guitars and Molina’s smooth molasses vocal layering start taking over and there is constant percussion throughout. This is the most percussive album to date. It is also the quickest to move between various loop builds. “Wed 21” then sounds like a deranged cartoon chase track with strange glitch noises and quirky noiz drumbeats. The fact everything is slightly detuned makes the whole track off kilter and crazed… it’s amazing. “Ferocisimo” is warmer with lush guitar riffs and fluid vocals that hint at melodic tunes without always going towards them. It also pushes towards a more traditional song structure with actual verse and chorus elements – something uncommon for Juana. There’s some crazy synth work too that dominates some sections but it’s a good place to start someone on this album to make them a new fan.

“Lo Decidi Yo” continues the Argentine’s descent into the quirky world as the track pulsates over a synth that is buzzing and grizzly like a wasp hell-bent on revenge. Soon the track starts pushing rolling tom drums and vocal woops as it breaks into a warped euphoria. It’s not quite a freak out as it’s relatively low on the BPM scale and that’s what makes it feel so very… Molina. “Sin Guia, No” does go for the pace and beat that harks back to Un Dia in many ways. The vocal layering is superb and it feels like your ears are being bent on a time warp. “Ay, No Se Ofendan” is a slow industrial build that features thick bass lines and some clever use of muted metallic percussion, something that’s present throughout. It then veers off into a virus inspired solo and plenty of psychedelic vocal free-styling.

“Bicho Auto” showcases the bichapong in a track that is similar to Eras in its initial phases before branching off into a jamming session. What this album does best is be able to introduce lots of mini themes in a track and then combine them all in the end and this track is a fine example of it. The jungle inspired “El Oso De La Guarda” has lots of tuned percussion and twisting guiro like synths. Juana and the instruments take turns in the spotlight as it weaves a milky and spacious tapestry of sound. It’s muted, hushed yet with a driving force behind it – like a march of ants and its fascinating to listen to. “Las Edades” plays with the idea of fading detuned alien noises in and out of a sombre and ready to pounce folk track. There are moments there are wails out into the sky but it’s hard to tell if its vocal or synth – it may be a combination of the two. This blurring of the two happens a few times during the album and it’s fun to play with my ears wondering what’s actually real or not.

“La Rata” is the rockiest track on the album. Distorted guitars that shuffle strum their way over a fun beat and tons of vocals give way to something that’s like a demented Sugarcubes track at times. “Final Feliz” is ultra cute! It’s a quick step very South American influenced folktronica track that is difficult not to get lost in the beat to. The guitar becomes the beat along with the shakers and it’s easily the most normal track on the album. After giving us a small taste of carnival Juana we close out with “De Algun Instinto Animal” as a trippy finally of slow synth work and ever creaking vocal choruses that flow and spill over each other.

There is still no one quite like Juana Molina. This album is in the same vein of everything that came before it and I have no problem with that whatsoever. When you do something unique and do it so well, why change? What’s great is that there are some notable steps around her usual territory and so the future looks very bright for this Argentine ex stand up comedienne.

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