When Patagonian vocal trio Fémina puts out a new album, two things are certain. Firstly, it’s going to be a little playful. Secondly, Fémina do not come to play around.
What this means in practice is that the women of Fémina always take an intelligent approach to their blend of mellow pop and upbeat hip-hop. Perlas & Conchas, the title of the group’s latest album, refers on one level to how a pearl is created from sand, beauty from grit. On the other hand, talk about a feminine concha in South America, and you’ll be invoking a particular anatomical slang term. Intentionally or not, Fémina’s inclusion of the word underscores their positionality in the musical world as unapologetic women who are ready to resist.
In fact, “Resist” is the name of the fourth track on Perlas & Conchas. Featuring noted Fémina fan Iggy Pop’s weathered voice at its most serene; it praises the power of the mind. Appropriate, since Fémina has three keen ones at its disposal at all times, spinning lyrics that take an incisive yet poetic approach to, in a broad sense, thriving. On “Arriba”, the group talks of spirits and voices, rising to fulfill one’s own greatest potential. Again, an appropriate theme for such a transcendent group.
The harmonies Clara Miglioli, Sofia “Toti” Trucco, and Clara “Wewi” Trucco create as a unit are positively heavenly, the kind that could lend themselves as easily to classical choral music as to slow jazz crooning. Instead, though, the women of Fémina put those dulcet tones to work in their own sublime ways, elevating it aesthetically beyond the vast majority of contemporary pop music. On Perlas & Conchas, Colombia-based producer Quantic frames them with his signature crisp percussion and clean electronics. It makes for a perfect combination; Quantic is a master of bringing the artists he works with to the forefront, and that is where the Fémina deserves to be, whether singing or laying down laid-back raps. On the whole, it makes Perlas & Conchas feel relaxed, with subtle embellishments like the jazzy horns that close the album making it even more interesting.
Opening the album, though, is much more important to get right when trying to intrigue a first-time listener, and the women of Fémina begin this work a cappella for a few bars before electronics enter the picture. Exquisite, they sing, they vocalize, they float. They are never harsh, but they are always sharp, articulating each syllable and sound with an organic finesse.
Fémina is a difficult group to label in the best way. Entirely modern in sensibilities, their voices nonetheless come together in a way that is remarkably timeless as they draw on Andean folk and 1990s R&B alike. The boosts from Iggy Pop and Quantic fit perfectly, but it’s clear that the crux of Fémina’s appeal is Fémina. Every song on Perlas & Conchas is, as the title implies, a true gem.
It’s impossible to say exactly what direction they will – or should – take next, but it’s exciting to think of the avenues stretching ahead of this trio. For Fémina, creative possibilities may be endless. At the very least, they are brilliant.