Music

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
Amazon
iTunes

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.

7

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

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