Free and legal MP3: Juana Molina (spritely, rhythmic parade of sound)

Leave it to the mistress of mysteriously appealing electro-acoustic experimentation to find such a lovely, hypnotic groove in 7/4 time.

Juana Molina

“Cosoco” – Juana Molina

The world would be a plainer, paler place without odd time signatures. Leave it to the mistress of mysteriously appealing electro-acoustic experimentation to find such a lovely, hypnotic groove in 7/4 time. Propelled by some of the most softly satisfying percussive sounds I have ever heard, “Cosoco” is a sprightly off-kilter dance that blossoms, at 1:40, into an even tighter, richer, more intriguing parade of sound and rhythm, led by Molina’s charming, multi-tracked vocals. The effect is of something at once complex and free-spirited, intricately woven and yet easy to follow. On the one hand, we get a “solo” from the sort of loopy electronic sound that is her ongoing signature (2:20) (even as each song seems to present us with a different variation). But then, straight away, arrives a short, plump bass solo (2:42), pretty much its ambient opposite. The bass stays front and center through the next section of the song before steering us into one more iteration of our main musical setting.

Then, at around 3:48, a magical mystical coda begins, with the entrance of a swirly, wind-like effect that emerges in tandem with the drumming that now sounds more and more organic. “Cosoco”‘s closing minute is as engaging as it is amorphous: there are no particular melodies, or even any chord progressions, just the ever-energetic pulse of the 7/4 rhythmic riff that has provided us with the song’s foundational characteristic from beginning to end, accompanied by the curious synthetic squiggles that Molina manages to rope into pop coherence.

Once upon a time a sitcom star in Argentina, Molina, long ensconced on the Fingertips “Most Often Featured” list, has been written about here three previous times: in June 2003, May 2006, and September 2008.

“Cosoco” can be found on Halo, Molina’s seventh album, released in May on Crammed Discs. You can listen to the whole thing and buy it via Bandcamp. Thanks again to KEXP for the MP3.

Free and legal MP3: Warpaint

Hypnotic fever dream


“Undertow” – Warpaint

Hypnotic and blurry, “Undertow” feels like something of a fever dream, the dual vocals of Emily Kokal and Theresa Wayman floating over a pulse-like beat in a way that feels unmoored and amorphous but is actually tightly controlled. Words glide, circle back, repeat, but without the firm sensation of verses and a chorus. Occasionally the jazz-like guitar sound that served as the intro re-emerges but instrumentally it’s mostly bass and percussion, registering more in your gut than your brain, which accentuates the oceanic flow of the lyrics—once the singing starts it doesn’t really stop. This is a strange song, and I recommend listening to it a number of times because there’s a larger effect going on than its initial four minutes suggests.

I find that the song, for me, turns on the guitar that enters at 2:32—a bright, trebly, Talking Heads-like line, previously unheard, that, it turns out, was set up by the drummer, who kicked into a different groove back at 2:13, only maybe we hadn’t noticed. There’s something in how this new sound is brought into the existing landscape, and how the landscape is subtly but firmly changed, that feels deep and affecting. And then, at around 2:30, we get what we hadn’t gotten until right now, and maybe hadn’t realized was missing: the band playing together, putting its collective sound in front of our ears, the blurry-fevered narrative set aside for the better part of 20 seconds. While some of that returns at 2:50, now I can sense the band waiting, I can sense the weight of something larger looming, and when it comes back (3:27), the song roars to a truly satisfying if still mysterious conclusion.

Warpaint is a quartet from Los Angeles. They self-released an EP last year and caused enough of a stir that the band, on the verge of the release of their debut full-length, is a bit wary of getting churned through the blogosphere. As drummer Stella Mozgawa recently told Spinner: “We’re just dorks. I’d like to be a dork for as long as possible instead of being cool for like, a day.”

The Fool comes out later this month on Rough Trade Records. MP3 via Magnet Magazine.

Free and legal MP3: Lali Puna(lustrous electro pop)

“Remember” – Lali Puna

Lustrous electro-pop from the veteran German quartet Lali Puna, but the first new song heard from them since 2004. Centered on a recurring sound that has the aspect of a wordless question, the introductory beat is oddly poignant-sounding, and nicely launches this smartly orchestrated mix of rubbery aluminum synth lines and understated percussion. Everything’s electronic but not too blippy or scratchy; there’s instead something palpably formed about the sound, something that gives this the feel of musicians actually playing instruments rather than twiddling knobs. There are even sounds mixed in–am I making this up? I don’t think so–that resemble the sound of fingers changing chords on guitar strings.

Meanwhile, Valerie Trebeljahr’s wistful vocals find their whispery place in the hypnotic mix, neither too forward nor too restrained; and listen too to the shadow of male harmony accompaniment all the way through, most clearly heard on the recurrent refrain, “Will you remember me?” Oh and don’t miss what happens at 1:29 when for seven seconds or so the smooth electro stylings are stripped away and we’re left with a most idiosyncratic aural skeleton, as if beneath the limpid facade is a deviant alien core.

“Remember” will be found on Our Inventions, Lali Puna’s fourth album, scheduled for an April release on Berlin-based Morr Music. MP3 via Morr Music.

Free and legal MP3: Vandaveer (old-timey acoustic shuffle)

“Turpentine” – Vandaveer

An almost hypnotic, quiet-but-intense number that seems perfect for a late afternoon on a late summer day. Featuring pretty much all acoustic instruments and shuffling along on the frame of a gentle, forward-moving keyboard riff, “Turpentine” has an old-timey flair but a sharp present-day vibe. (And it fades in; you don’t hear many songs fade in.)

The singing performances bring this one to particular life, both the craggy, soulful lead effort by Mark Charles Heidinger and the beautifully attuned, vibrato-laced harmonies offered by Heidinger’s sister, Rose Guerin. Heidinger sounds as if he’s singing on your old vinyl turntable, Guerin as if she never opens her eyes while making unconsciously portentous arm gestures. Towards the beginning of the song, she picks and chooses where to inject her fierce accompaniment; when she at long last stays on stage with him for one last verse in this chorus-free song, redemption feels close at hand.

“Turpentine” can be found on Divide and Conquer, Vandaveer’s second album, released last week on Supply & Demand Records. Vandaveer is the name the Washington, D.C.-based Heidinger uses for performance; it’s a family name that he found on the back of a watch passed down to him on his father’s side.