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  Aires de Bocacalle  
  Nona Delichas  
Release Date:
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I want Commander Crais dead!

You see, a while back i was meeting some fellow Minions for an evening of sushi in Buckhead, which is convenient for me seeing as i work there, but awful for them because of the traffic. I had an hour to kill between the end of work and meeting my collegues, and i knew that the new Autechre EP, Granz Graf was out, so i thought i would go to Tower Records and pick it up.

However, Tower was PACKED with sci-fi geeks. Normally i would relish the opportunity to bond with my people, but their gathering constituted a "Save Farscape" ralley. I watched that show a few years back, but do not really consider myself a fan.

There were several cast members there -- the gray-skinned girl (who was even cuter without her makeup), the guy with the metal thing over his face, and Commander Crais. Crais was the bad guy for the first couple of seasons, although now he's a good guy. I think -- my stinking Cable Monopoly in Cobb Co. doesn't carry the Sci-fi Channel, so i dunno what's going on with the show. At any rate, they were located at the back of the spacious store, lined up at tables and signing autographs and chatting with fans.

Crais was located just in front of the "Dance Singles", where, ironically, the latest Autechre would be filed. (I say ironically, because anyone who tried to dance to Autechre would end up with broken limbs and general physical misery....) I walked past the crowd to get to the singles and geeks began accosting me for trying to cut in line. Several of them were very adamant, and somewhat larger than i, and, at the time, fueled on testosterone at the prospect of meeting the gray-skinned girl from the show.

So my choices were:

  1. Explain my plight to these people. Which would entail explaining who Autechre were, which might take more than the now 40 minutes i had left to spare, especially seeing as they really couldn't care about me because i am not a gray-skinned cute New Zealander girl.
  2. Wait in line, which might take more than 40 minutes.
  3. Wander around the store seeking a way to sneak back there unawares.

I, of course, chose option 3. So i wandered around looking for a short cut past the crowd, and then i got distracted by looking at the other CD's.

The whole point of this long and boring tale is that this is how i discovered Nona Delichas. I consider the moment of discovery to be a significant event in my life, so i felt it necessary to document. (Plus, i like torturing Brendan with really long review submissions!)

So why is Nona Delichas significant? Firstly, the comparison on the card that drew my attention was "Cocteau Twins". Yes, this is a band with powerful female vocals and interesting melodies. But they are also Mexican. That is unusual, really, in that although Atlanta has a large Mexican population, i know nothing about Mexican music. Well, i see a lot of Mexcan guys in heavy metal t-shirts (Pantera being popular with Mexicans, apparently), and i also see a lot of Mexicans drving in cars blaring salsa-tinged dance music.

But this. It's, well, it's different -- Nona Delichas do not fit into either stereotype. Of course, i knew that Mexican music had to be more diverse than simply salsa and metal. For example, i know that Cocteau Twins bassist Simon Raymonde toured Mexico with The Autumns as his backing band in 1997 or thereabouts. They supposedly played to large and appreciative crowds. I have also heard tell that goth bands who play to medium-sized crowds in America can sell out soccer/bull-slaughtering stadiums in Mexico. So, apparently, there are some pretty hip folks south of the border.

It's also wierd because, although i know lots about Canadian music, i know almost nothing about the music from the other culture we share the continent with. Why? Is this simply a case of language bigotry? I'm not too sure, because French canadian music is big with the Indie scene (Godspeed You Black Emperor, Jetone), and German music is very trendy these days (Christian Kleine, Mouse On Mars, Notwist), and there is even a Spanish band getting good press (Mus). So perhaps it's something else.

And it's a damned shame really, because Nona Delichas are a very cool band that makes very interesting music.

Their most obvious strength is vocalist Claudia Morfín, who has a rich, deep voice and sings in a way that tells me she has lots of training. She displays amazing control, and her husky pronunciation is lovely. Additionally, Sebastián Ballesteros and Guillermo Morfín back her up with interesting dual guitar melodies, while Marco Pedrozo adds vaguely latino percussion. And then, to top it all off, C G V Rama adds in samples of various types, and apparently remixes some of their music.

Many of the elements in the music sound familiar: after all, this is a pretty standard contemporary rock band lineup. The output though is slightly different and sounds very fresh to me. I think it is because of the cultural differences: just as German or Norwegian rock is somewhat different because of the culture of the musicians, the Mexican heritage of Nona Delichas is added to their pop stylings to make something new and interesting.

Aires do Bocacalle is apparently their second album, and wasn't released in the US until mid-2002. I don't really know much else about the band, because the English language page at their website isn't working. No matter -- i can enjoy without knowing about the artists.

There are so many good songs on here, but first let me mention my overall thematic impressions. The album is full of excellent, delicate guitarwork, much of it acoustic. The bass, where present, is slow and thudding, often buried in the background. The drumming is light, a nice rhythmic accompaniment to the guitar interplay that drives the songs. And overtop of this music is Claudia Morfín's voice. Normally i would dispute this sort of recording arrangement (i pretty much dissed The Cold After for a similar recording arrangement), but Ms. Morfín's voice is powerful enough to carry it off. No, really: if you are going to have the voice dominate the music, make sure you have someone singing who really knows their stuff, and that is definitely the case here. Now, i speak no Spanish, so the lyrics might be terrible. If they are, don't tell me.

My favorite track on the album is Uno no es, which is an rock ballad of epic proportions. The lead guitar is wah-wahed, and Ms. Morfín really belts it out. Plus, in the background is a nice set of Mexican brass horns, a sound which i just love and which adds a great exotic feel to the tune. The melody, carried at times by the guitar, voice, and horns, is really lovely. This is a great track.

The other songs i like here seem to have a new wave feel to them. Equinoccio has drumming that was intentionally recorded "flat" -- it sounds tinny and distant, but also it was obviously meant to sound that way. This adds a primitive feel to the blend of horns that here sound synthesized and the tinny post-punk effects used on the guitars. Antes de que nos olviden is in some ways the opposite, the drumming starts out insistent and almost martial, and the guitar is tremoloed subtly but nicely. Then echo slowly builds on the drums, and a nice dubby bass riff joins in. This combined with the rhythms of Ms. Morfín's voice give the track a real Jamaican dub feel.

But really: there are no weak tracks on the album. Those are my favorites, but all of the songs are nice, light and exotic pop. Aires de Bocacale features 9 regular songs, and then 4 remixes of some of the songs, and one remix of a song not on the album, perhaps from their previous release.

The remixes are interesting, but as is often the case they sometimes don't really improve on the base song. However, the Terrestre mix of Muni really improves on the album's opener. This mix is Nona Delichas's pop music given the IDM glitch treatment. There is a layer of fuzz crackling over Ms. Morfín's voice, and the drumming is shoved forward in the mix, so that it is an almost primal accompanyment to her voice. At times this mix sounds almost loungey, but then the glitch will overwhelm it and it will become a fractured robotic dream of happiness and sunny fields. Very nicely done.

Also of note is the Panoptica mix of Aires de Bocacalle, which is done as smooth flowing electro like you hear in commercials for trendy over-priced European cars. In fact, this song almost sounds like it could have come from the latest Underworld album. Strange, really, but it works in the overall context of the album.

So: i want Commander Crais dead for getting between me and Autechre, but before i shove him out the hatch of Moya to asphyxiate in deep space, i will thank for inadvertantly introducing me to Nona Delichas.

If you are a fan of dreamy pop music, i highly recommend this album. Also, if you are curious to hear some interesting Mexican music, then i urge you to try Aires de Bocacalle.

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