Music

Superaquello: Bien Gorgeous

Matt Cibula

I just want to be the first to say it: this record is a psychedelic masterpiece.


Superaquello

Bien Gorgeous

Label: Brilliante
US Release Date: 2005-03-29
UK Release Date: Available as import
iTunes affiliate
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

I just want to be the first to say it: this record is a psychedelic masterpiece.

Well, at least on headphones it is. Out loud, it might be hard to appreciate, or even hear, how much is going on in this second album from Puerto Rican pop band Superaquello. It's a lo-fi kind of brilliance they have, but I think it needs to be like that; put Dave Fridmann or Nigel Godrich in the studio and the makeshift charm of Bien Gorgeous would be lost. It's better than okay that the keyboard sounds are sometimes cheap-sounding and that the panning seems planned instead of organic -- in fact, it's better this way.

Because if you're able to be alone with this record, with headphones on or with a really great stereo system, these little touches come to life. At first listen, it sounds like there's a bunch of extra sound on "Nave (Erase Una Vez un Almirante)". But it turns out that the weird Gnostic mumbling is really Patricia Dávila saying clear phrases back and forth between the right and left channels while the rest of the simple spacious song keeps rocking on. The isolation of the two flamenco-sounding guitar lines at the beginning of "La Interrupcion" opens the door for the actual interruption itself: an annoying cellphone ring right in the middle of the track. And this sets the stage for the weird ambient break-ins later in the song . . .

Oh, wait, I'm getting ahead of myself. What does Superaquello sound like? Well, you can refer to my review of their first record, Mu Psiqui Ta, by clicking here. I guess all I can add to that is that the band's founding members, Eduardo Alegría and Francis Perez, seem to have been influenced by Stereolab and the B-52s and Café Tacuba and Sly and the Family Stone and the Elephant 6 collective and the Who and James Brown and the Violent Femmes and Blondie and Pink Floyd. Also, I can hear some references to salsa and merengue in some of their songs, but no one else I know can hear that, so don't quote me. They do simple pop songs, and then change them to make them not-so-simple, and then flip them inside-out so that they don't sound like pop songs anymore, and then pull a double-helix Mobius strip maneuver so that they end up sounding like pop songs again.

Or maybe they don't, I don't know. Maybe it's very normal for "Farfiso (Su B Version)" to be a folk song for children with lyrics about intelligent ducks and butterfly snakes, with random arpeggios and synth breaks and a stomped-out sad coda. Maybe I shouldn't be overly impressed with "Como Campana" and the way it uses its computer percussion and Junior Senior-like guitar lines to form something melancholy and lovely and touching. And maybe the gentle tapping and funky guitars and scratch breaks and stop-start strums and "whooo!"s and robotic precision and human glitches of "Stiki" aren't such a big deal, except that they bring a huge smile to my face every time I hear them.

I know all these tricks have been done before. I just don't remember them having them been done so beautifully. This is the way Mu Psiqui Ta worked, but Bien Gorgeous is more focused and more intense than that. Also, I'm pretty impressed with them for having a dance track here; "Diva" could actually work in a club, if it was a low-key cool club instead of a frantic attention-starved one. It sounds like a minor-key jam from Venezuela's hilarious Los Amigos Invisibles or Argentina's raucous Bersuit Vergabarat.

I just compared Superaquello to two of the best bands in the world. I'm not backing down from that, either. But unlike those groups, Superaquello aren't trying to blow everyone away with jokes or monster riffs. They're trying to ask the questions instead of making the huge statement; their home runs are all inside the park jobs instead of 485-foot smashes to dead center. And what is wrong with that? I like haiku better than epics, I like whispers more than shouts. The best letter anyone ever wrote was a note, passed to me in class. This album is like that note.

And the only reason I didn't give this a 10 is because their third album, La Emergencia, is out now in Puerto Rico, and it's supposed to be even better. I got it in the mail yesterday. Guess what I and a couple of beers are doing this afternoon?

9

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less
10

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image