Thursday, May 18, 2006

CLUB JUANA

Posted on Thu, May 18, 2006 at 4:00 AM

Son
Label: Domino
Rated: NONE
Media: CD
Format: Album
WorkNameSort: Son

One of the more salient aspects of Juana Molina's Son is the lingering difficulty of making the distinction between her whimsical vocalizing and the dabs of analog synths that worm in and out of her songs. Whether it's because she's practically whispering at times, or because the base of Son is mostly acoustic guitar, the Argentinean folk singer offers nothing less than strange, almost uncomfortable intimacy on her third U.S.-released LP. Molina recorded Son within the confines of her home, and even the album's plucked melody lines and swooshing backups fall short of communicating a roomier canvas than that of a den or basement studio.

Juana Molina's Son can hardly qualify as a world or an acoustic folk album; the restless side effects of self-recording and at-home production surface in a smattering of Disney birds singing, playful Moog, even spooky graveyard bleakness. But these rampant atmospheric kinks only enhance the arresting songcraft on the album, and as often as Molina floats a dewy morning melody past her home studio mic, there's another element piping into this balanced but odd mix.

'Yo No� bears some resemblance to a Simon and Garfunkel number, but things here aren't happening in a relaxed and folky manner. Such contrariness garnered Molina an ample amount of acclaim on her previous works Segundo and Tres Cosas, and her ability to string lovely melodies through these experimental moments is just as evident on her latest work. The nearly bouncy verses of 'Yo No� grow crowded with mouth exercises and her own human percussion ' alongside the pitch-shifting keys, the rhythm section is as natural as the birdsong in the subsequent 'La Verdá.� The title track, adversely, finds Molina's carefree delivery struggling to cut through a grim spread of crickets, midnight church bells and a somber, understated keyboard melody. This play between vocals and home-cooked atmospherics might be distracting to some, particularly when the singer's eventual faux-meowing mingles with the synth sounds on 'Un Beso Llega.� But Son's intimacy is a rare, welcome wonder, even if it's weird as hell.

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