New releases capture Chilean rock from the present and the past | Bleader

New releases capture Chilean rock from the present and the past


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On Monday night a young quartet from Santiago, Chile, called Follakzoid make their Chicago debut at the Empty Bottle, opening for New York labelmates Psychic Ills. Over the last couple of decades we've heard plenty of noise about bands from all over South America—rock en Español—and Chile produced its fair share of participants, from the blandly popular La Ley to the supercatchy and stylish Los Tres (Mexican stars Café Tacuba feted the band by covering four of their songs on the great 2002 EP Vale Callampa). But a new wave of groups immersed in various shades of psychedelia has been emerging in recent years, most of them associated with the Blow Your Mind label—including Follakzoid, who've perfected their own spin on motorik pioneers Neu!

Recently the New York label Sacred Bones released new albums by Follakzoid (you can hear a track below) and another BYM group called the Holydrug Couple. The latter's Noctuary carves out a much different space, more jammy and swirling, and moving along with a loose jangle rather than Follakzoid's tightly coiled twitch. All of the songs were written by multi-instrumentalist Ives Sepulveda, and performed by him and drummer Manuel Parra, who brings a nicely slack swing feel to most of the lazily meandering songs. Sepulveda sings on most of the tracks; his Spanish-language vocals, bathed in reverb and echo, drift within a trippy mix of effects-rich guitar arpeggios, organ drones, and lavalike solo guitar lines. In lesser hands it would all sound like mush, but there's a consistent melodic flair to the songs that bring in a layer of sunshine that's addictive and warming. Below, following the Follakzoid track "Rio," you can check out one from Noctuary.

Chile has a long history of interesting rock bands, the best of which made creative use of the country's indigenous folk traditions in their sound—Los Blops, Los Jaivas, and Aguaturbia—but some recent reissues capture an earlier time, when Santiago bands were unabashedly emulating only sounds from the U.S. and the UK. Los Vidrios Quebrados (the Broken Glass) formed in 1965 and were offered a record contract following their first gig. The quartet's solo album Fictions was released by RCA in 1967; it's just been reissued on CD by the great Geneva, Illinois, label Lion Productions. The band wrote all 12 songs on the album and though the titles are in Spanish, the lyrics are all in English. According the back cover of the CD, "They considered that rock 'n' roll could only be sung in English and refused to sing in their native language, arguing that a cueca (the Chilean national dance) could not be sung in English."

The group's influences were pretty clear—namely the brisk Merseybeat of the early Beatles and the sweet vocal harmonies of the early Byrds—and while there's nothing on the album that you'd call original, the songs are pretty lovely and hooky across the board—certainly Nuggets-grade at the very least. Although it doesn't seem to have affected the actual sound of the band, Los Vidrios Quebrados did build some of their own instruments, including a tambourine that used bottle caps as rattles and homemade guitars, one of which used a record player needle as jerry-rigged pickup. The reissue includes a great photo-packed, bilingual 32-page booklet. Below you can check out "La Primavera De Miss L.O'B.," which highlights the band's strong vocal harmonies.

Los Escombros (the Rubble) came along a couple of years later, forming in 1968 and recording their eponymous album in 1970. You can easily see rock's progression in the stylistic differences between this quintet and Los Vidrios Quebrados. Much of the group's identity comes from its singer, Austrian expat Walter Sitzmann, who brought a rather melodramatic croon to the band, from the most fragile balladry—including a cover of the Nino Rota theme from Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet—to the most hard-rocking material; he also wrote all of the band's original material.

Honestly, his singing kind of drives me nuts, imbuing everything with an overripe, quasi-soulful bombast that at times sounds like Marty Balin trying to scat like Ella Fitzgerald. Or maybe it just sounds like he should be on Broadway—in any case, it lacks the attitude or funk of real rock singing. The band, however, was much better than its singer. Again, there's nothing original here—you can easily sniff out the influence of Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix (the recent Shadoks reissue opens with a cover of "Stone Free"), and Grand Funk Railroad—but there's some nice grooves and the guitar playing of Lito Benito has a definite charm. The reissue includes two tracks from a subsequent single, including a clunky cover of Sugarloaf's "Green-Eyed Lady," with Sitzmann intoning, "C'mon, lads!" during the beginning in a laughable English accent. Below you can check out "Circumstances," a song he cowrote with Benito.

Today's playlist:

Alexander von Schlippenbach and Manfred Schoof, Blue Hawk (Jazzwerkstatt)
David Laganella, The Calls of Gravity (New Focus)
Os Canibais, Os Canibais (Mocambo/Mr. Bongo)
Oudaden, Empreinte (Buda)
Pablo Held, Glow (Pirouet)


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