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Antiguo Autómata Mexicano

Chez Nobody

(Static Disco; US: 19 May 2009; UK: 13 Apr 2009)

“Chez Nobody is the place of no one and everybody, of this and of that, a place where languages fuse and where the need for experiences emerge. A place where all the possible experiences in the world are immediate and forever.”


Without saying anything terrifically substantive or making a clarion-clear point, Antiguo Autómata Mexicano (AAM) main man Ángel Sánchez Bórges nailed the appeal of his strange and attractive EP in two sentences better than I could in 20. Mexico has lately become a haven for electronic producers, but only AAM would be qualified to play the Chez Nobody, if film director Julien Temple’s fictional creation were an actual place. As his compatriots stick more or less to the tenets of minimal techno, exemplified by Discos Konfort’s Minimas Texturas series, AAM smears kosmische musik, lounge pop, funk and free jazz like paints onto a crumbling brick wall. It’s a little of this and a little of that, arranged on a wobbly template in unexpected ways, and the outcome is nearly as brilliant as Sánchez Bórges’ phenomenal (and disastrously underrated) turn as Seekers Who Are Lovers in 2006.


Not a heterogeneous junk pile of disconnected genres, nor a seamless fusion of them, Chez Nobody is instead a loosely hybridized indie electronic creature that careens forward in pitches and rolls almost despite itself. There’s more rock in this record than AAM’s first wide release, Kraut Slut, but it’s sweltering and disorienting and not very rockish—less deserving of the post-rock tag than the more iridescent “future rock.” A lot of this has to do with Sánchez Bórges’ newest addition to the AAM lineup, Carlos Icaza, who doubles on bass and an acoustic drum kit. If the deep bass streamlines the tracks and lends them order, the drums are its opposite, moving on and off the meter as if they’re trying to throw the other instruments for a loop. Along with Sánchez Bórges’ protean guitar and keyboard treatments, Icaza keeps the groove inconsistent and perpetually off-balance. It’s compelling stuff, even as it fails—nay, refuses—to hook the listener on the first, second, tenth spins.


What on earth, for example, is happening in “Jukebox Essentiele”? After listening to it about 75 times (this one actually hooked me right away), only one thing is certain: it’s sexy, and I’m not talking about Jan Jelinek’s clicky bedroom eyes, but heaving, sweaty, full-bodied lust. Everything else is sort of a mystery. Is it fast or slow? (The acoustic and programmed drums seem to be playing at two different tempos.) There’s a sense of progression, but how is it really progressing, and where to? The song appears to thrive on just this kind of obliqueness, on the fact that we’ll never get to the bottom of it; it’s like lifting a trapdoor to reveal another trapdoor below it. One time I took it on a run and played it on repeat, and the experience was both utterly dazzling and incredibly confusing. I suppose that since my requirements for running music are simplicity and propulsion, this just wasn’t going to compute. I’m still not quite sure how to listen to “Jukebox Essentiele” and the rest of Chez Nobody, and I mean that as a very high compliment indeed.

Rating:

Mike has been a staff writer at PopMatters since 2009. He began writing music reviews for his college paper in 2005, where he cut his teeth as an arts editor and weekly columnist. He graduated from Vassar in 2008 and is pursuing a doctoral degree in clinical psychology. He is currently writing his dissertation on the role of rejection sensitivity in online infidelity, and lives with his incredible girlfriend in a wonderful shoebox apartment in Washington, DC.


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