[24 July 2011]
I tend not to pay attention to lyrics much. An artist usually has to get my attention sonically first before I will take notice with what’s coming out of their mouth. So, the language barrier between the English speaking listener and Venezuelan songwriter Ezequiel “Cheky” Bertho’s Algodón Egipcio project shouldn’t be much of a factor, but Bertho’s voice is not a very studied tonal instrument. Its sonic properties are rather dull and unaffected. This makes La Luche Constante (rough translation: “Constant Fighting”) a good candidate for a Spanish-language Chillwave album. Chillwave is so web-based that there’s no reason its shores shouldn’t extend beyond Orlando and New Jersey into the tropics of South America, but as per much of the genre, Bertho sounds way too chilled and drowned in hazy clouds of reverb to even register as conscious on many of these songs.
On album opener “El Día Previo”, there’s no telling what’s coming when the 808 hand toms backed in endless echo come in. Effervescent surf guitar provides the clue and the cue, but soon the entire melodic interface is consumed by noise. Followup cut “El Ingenio Humano” likewise has a mysterious electronic ticking at its start, suggesting even a minor-chord minimal wave joint before exploding into its euphoric chorus. It’s these surprises that makes La Luche Constante a worthwhile listen despite its shortcomings. Bertho’s not the most adept player, which is okay, this is a DIY album and he doesn’t seem to be aiming to be a digital Stan Getz—despite the Café Del Mar qualities on some tracks. However, when Algodón Egipcio brings the unhinged and non-quantized aspects of his playing to a loop on “Los Párpados Caídos” (something also seen on El Guincho’s Alegranza! album), he turns his more tenderfoot qualities into assets.
Chillwave is always best at the experimental/post-noise fringe, and the warbling descent of “El Sonido Ensordecedor” or the wall of crashing noise leading off “Los Asuntos Pendientes (La Prueba B)” capture this acutely. Bertho has the capacity within him to get up from the poolside and accent his weirder side, while still gazing into a brighter tomorrow. Hopefully, that’s exactly what we’ll see on the next album.