While it’s great that Allá don’t feel compelled to sing in English, not quite...
Jon Lusk 2008
Like most U.S cities, Chicago is a magnet for immigrants, and this trio of Mexican-Americans have named themselves Allá (Over There), as a way of referring to their background. But apart from the fact that their vocalist Lupe Martinez sings in Spanish, there's little about their psychedelic Latin pop that might indicate their roots.
The band's debut album Es Tiempo (It’s Time) is apparently the culmination of four years work in various venues, including John McEntire's Soma Electronic Studios. Perhaps unsurprisingly then, parts of this album suggest the influence of his post-rock ensemble Tortoise, most obviously El Movimiento, and the stumbling percussion and saturated sounds of Tú y yO, which closes with an intriguing blitz of electronic effects. With its surging string and brass arrangements, Un Pedazo reflects the space jazz experiments of Chris Bowden, with an additional nod to Milton Nascimento. The hypnotic title track underlines the band's declared love of Krautrock, while Golpes del Sol sounds like a subtle tribute to Brian Wilson.
At her best on the pretty Sigue Tu Corazon, Martinez has a pleasantly breathy but fairly unremarkable voice that's been compared to Saint Etienne's Sarah Cracknell. Unfortunately her vocal has a tendency to blend in with the elaborate, multi-layered arrangements of brothers Jorge (guitars, keyboards, production and composition) and Angel Ledesma (drums and percussion).
The vibe is generally light while Martinez is singing, but there's a rather interesting instrumental interlude on consecutive tracks Sazanami and La Montana Sagrada which show a more adventurous, psychedelic post-rock side, and at times even a beautiful ambient vibe.
After several spins, though, there's not a lot that sticks in the memory, and a certain emotional detachment seems to pervade the album as a whole. While it’s great that Allá don’t feel compelled to sing in English, not quite enough substance remains once the undeniable sonic charm of their music wears off. It’s mildly diverting rather than essential.