Un Dia looks likely to win her new fans
Jon Lusk 2008-10-07
Argentinean singer/songwriter Juana Molina has long been dubiously pigeonholed as a 'world music' artist, and this fifth album provides even more proof of how inadequate that label is for her work. It's true that on previous albums she has dabbled in Argentinean folk styles such as the zamba, but there’s nothing among these eight hypnotically drifting pieces that could really be said to have its roots in local folklore. Un Dia is a pulsating, warm-sounding piece of relatively lo-fi indie electronica.
Although the title track finds her setting up a counterpoint to her own keening lead vocal in clear Spanish, for much of the rest of the album, she uses her voice more as an non-verbal instrument, constructing slight melodies from loops of her cooing, humming, chanting and scatting. Comparison could easily be drawn with French vocal gymnast Camille, especially on Lo Dejamos, with its ruminating keyboards and layered vocal textures, as well as on El Vistado, which soon descends into abstract murmurings buried under a swamp of sound. Since Molina has never had more than a modest half-spoken/half-whispered vocal manner, this new approach might very well be considered an improvement. Another thing that distinguishes Un Dia from previous efforts is the emphasis on hypnotic rhythms, which give the whole album a momentum previously lacking. It's good music to do the dishes to!
By Los Hongos de Marosa ('Marosa's mushrooms') Molina gets seriously wiggy, playfully embroidering the sound with layers of guitar (by Gareth Dickson) digital rhythms and otherworldly synths sounds. Quien takes the vocals to their most abstract, with electronic treatments stretching them into strange new shapes, much as a child might play with toffee or chewing gum.
Even though after several listens I can’t really call myself a rabid fan, it's always encouraging to hear an artist taking a new and more interesting direction – after all, this is the first Juana Molina album I've given a second thought to. Dreary, muffled, repetitive witterings or a minor art-music masterpiece? You decide. Un Dia looks likely to win her new fans without leaving her original audience behind.