PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Various Artists: Venezuela 70: Cosmic Visions of a Latin American Earth

Angel Rada

Venezuela thrived culturally and economically in the '70s, and this compilation reveals the fresh and exciting experimental rock scene at a time when rock music in that country was finding its own sound.

Various Artists

Venezuela 70: Cosmic Visions of a Latin American Earth

US Release: 2016-06-24
Label: Soul Jazz
UK Release: 2016-06-24
Label Website

At this point in time, listening to Venezuela 70, considering the country's current economic problems, could be bittersweet. On the other hand, it could provide a sense of hope and cultural pride. This compilation, subtitled Cosmic Vision of a Latin American Earth, is an energetic and fascinating set of songs. Its focus is on a time when Venezuela thrived as an economic and cultural giant in Latin America. The resulting music this album represents, however, was hardly some middle of the road pop music meant to placate a country on the rise. These songs are subversive, experimental, and sometimes just plain eccentric.

But Venezuela 70's eccentricities also feel like a newly discovered self-identity. In the '60s, Venezuela's music was largely influenced by British and American rock music. And while the music in this compilation still owes its beginnings to several outside influences, these musicians are melding those influences into their own sounds. The artists on this compilation sound refreshing, even now, and unique. One of the great strengths of this set is its search for variety. There's not a cohesive, national sound on Venezuela 70, but rather an overriding ethos, to build a singular yet shape-shifting scene that stands on its own.

If these songs are truly representative, then the experimental rock scene in Venezuela did just that in the '70s. This collection hones in on some key players of time and shows the various musical tangents they went off on. The set opens with Vytas Brenner, a well-travelled German-born composer who crafted songs and movie scores that melded progressive rock elements with Latin rhythms. Opener "Aragueney" shows his style well, building a bed of jangling acoustic guitars on which glides a succession of keyboard vamps. Group vocals add a distant layer, and the song's careful, patient spiral stretches out slowly, expansively, impressively. "Bang-Going-Gone", his other track here, both streamlines and mucks up that song's pattern. The song is more propulsive, built on a catchy hook and bright percussion, but there are also these oddball keys that sound like underwater lasers shooting over the track.

The album is full of these kinds of odd touches, as if the resources of a thriving Venezuela gave these musicians more studio tools than they knew what to do with. Mostly, though, the odd turns are playful and rarely forced. One of the best experimenters on the compilation is Angel Rada. Rada is an innovator and figurehead in Venezuelan electronic music. In his songs, you hear new experiments built on, among other influences, the Krautrock scene. "Basheeba" is a dreamy number, rising and falling on sweet keyboard arpeggios and treated vocals. It acts as a sort of light to the shadow of his other track here, "Panico a Las 5AM". This track is one of the most arresting here, but also one of the most sinister sounding. Horror flick keyboards groan and splash across the song, conjuring some slow-motion, backwards screening of Dawn of the Dead. Along with Rada, Miguel Angel Fuster shows some impressive flex on Venezuela 70. "Dame De Comer", his first entry, is a play on Spanish guitar, a lean number full if impressive guitar play sped along by chase-scene percussion. The cinematic feel is fitting, as Fuster was part of the burgeoning film (and thus soundtrack) scene at the time. His other entry, album closer "La Quema De Judas", is just as cinematic, but with a more Morricone-like scope. Big string sections sweep along, brushing aside some eccentric clatter at the start of the track, before yielding to the most towering guitar solo in this set.

Somewhere in between the electronic experiments of Rada and the cinematic scope of Fuster is the band Un Dos Tres y Fuera. Perhaps the catchiest group on Venezuela 70, the band melded local dance rhythms and subbed out traditional percussion instruments with more modern, electronic elements. "Machu Picchu", their first track here, is as funky as it is experimental, letting its bright horns yield to a shadowy breakdown in the middle of the track, only to come back again in the end with even more zeal. Their other song here, "San Juan, Tambor y Fuera", turns the focus more fully to the rhythm, with low chugging guitar and rumbling percussion. The flute and keyboards seems to float miles above the rhythm section, but the distance works, especially when the singing comes in and fills up all that potential space.

Even at over an hour, Venezuela 70 feels like it's just getting started. It would be great to hear more tracks from some of the one-time appearances on this set, like Pablo Schneider and Group C.I.M. Overall, though, this is an impressive and unique compilation, one that champions variety and experimentation and gives a solid glimpse into the rock scene in Venezuela just as it was coming into its own.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.