Various Artists: Invenciones: La Otra Vanguardia Música en Latinoamérica 1976–1988

Spanish label Munster unearths a wealth of unjustly neglected avant-garde and experimental music from Latin America.
Various Artists
Invenciones: La Otra Vanguardia Música en Latinoamérica 1976 - 1988

By implicit definition, all experimental music, one way or another, is subversive. It provokes questions about musical structure and content through rebellion, reaction, and inquiry. In a way its origins don’t necessarily matter; the music can stem from a political stance, oppositions to prevailing musical trends, or even just haphazard curiosities. The primary motivating factor of experimental music is the inherent desire to say something new and develop a purposefully contemporary experience.

With Invenciones: La Otra Vanguardia Música en Latinoamérica 1976–1988 Spanish label Munster has curated a collection of experimental music originating in Latin America that sounds akin to what musicians were doing in Europe and America. Specializing in deep digs into the worlds of old school punk and garage rock, Munster is no stranger to scouring the endless rabbit hole of vintage vinyl to unearth unjustly neglected recordings. With Invenciones they bring to light experimental and avant-garde tracks from an undeniably formative time in Latin American culture.

The meeting of folk instruments and modern technology plays a large part of the album’s aesthetic. Traditional instruments and folk dances merge with synthesizers and tape manipulations in a literal realization of the old world converging with the new. The haunting and beautiful “Aquel País del Horizonte Sin Límitas” by Banda Dispersa de la Madre Selva fuses a romantic accordion song alongside reverb-washed aquatic gurgles and psychedelic barking dogs. It warbles like avant-garde composer Edgar Varése while it swoons like a heartsick balladeer. “Variaciones de Amatua”, the lovingly lo-fi contribution from Ecuadorian outfit Amatua, bookends a Zappa-inspired breakdown with a charming flute-led folk tune.

Invenciones reveals how these Latin American avant-garde and experimental musicians worked with the same John Cage-inspired sounds of aleatoric music (a style dependent upon unpredictable events happening by chance) as the rest of the modernist world. The only difference here, it seems, is the extent of instrumental involvement. Organs and electric guitars mingle with Latin American percussion — bongos, congas, etc. — connecting this avant-garde world with the practices of their traditional musical culture. Composer Manongo Mujica’s “Caña Brava” adapts such instruments to rich modernist compositions on par with works by Cage colleagues Christian Wolff and Morton Feldman.

Miguel Flores’ “Pachacuti” is a nearly 13-minute monument that transition between synthesized swells and hypnotic guitar grooves that takes as much from controversial composer Karlheinz Stockhausen as it does jazz guitarist Gábor Szabó. The free jazz freakout of Grupo Um’s “Mobile/Stabile” and the space-age meditation of Decibel’s “Orgón Patafísico” are more concerned with abstract expressionism than a direct declaration of intent. Munster has assembled a documentation of experimental works seen as reactions to the divisive political and cultural sensibility of the times, one wrought with dictatorships, military coups, and a radicalization of public sensibility not too distantly removed from our world today.

Along with trends in experimental music, the compositions here were influenced by the artistic sensibilities of the mid-1970s to the late ’80s. Specifically, we can hear the influences of the musical freedom expressed by the post-1960s alongside the DIY rebellion of early punk. There is a fearlessness in these recordings aided by the increasingly available means of inexpensive and independent recording and distribution (for an excellent example, check out “Concierto de la Puerta” by Autoperro). This music sounds of rebellion and progress, a breakout movement fusing honored traditions with modern innovations all underneath a distinctive Latin American sensibility.

Invenciones is a necessity for those craving the fringes of long-neglected experimental tracks. Fans of the Mars Volta’s more abstract moments will undoubtedly savor the unearthed treasures on Munster’s latest compilation.

RATING 8 / 10