Afternoon, universe travelers. If you’re just catching us, this is the part where we zoom out of our homes and zoom in on someplace we’ve never been. Or somewhere we have been, but have never really listened to. This week’s sononautic expedition draws us down to another kind of winter—less snowy, still cold.
This week’s tunes are grown from 500-year-old soil. Maybe I’m especially drawn to the old places; I grew up in a colonial town, after all. I like it when most of the buildings in a given place are older than any of the residents. I like when there’s a wisdom to a city that’s bigger than anyone who built it.
The roots down in Mexico are deep, bloody, and beautiful in spots. The silt of centuries comes up everywhere—in the old buildings built without steel or glass, in the sidewalks, in the garage rock of Guadalajara. It’s like a necklace of syllables, that name, but the music isn’t all quite so pretty. These week we’ve got some grit in store.
Alabama by Los Savants (Guadalajara, Mexico)
Like surfing on hard liquor, the instrumental post-punk of Los Savants roils with equal parts aggression and fun. Some of their more adventurous arrangements recall a lo-fi Battles; they even directly honor a very familiar drum part at one point on Alabama. There are no lyrics on these songs, just the occasional post-human growl, but you get the sense that there are some misanthropic barbs wrapped up inside these synth lines and fuzz bass. The titles call out “Jonás” for being a son-of-a-bitch, and “Williams”, apparently, is crazy.
Still, like your best buddies who relentlessly give each other shit, Los Savants leave open the possibility that all this hostility is just in good fun. Surfy riffs on “Cromo” certainly imply that it’s not all so bad. And even the ear-scraping leads on “2182A” tend to frolic more than they seem to attack.
Leviatán by Kampf Katze (Guadalajara, Mexico)
Garage-gaze duo Kampf Katze (“battle cat” in German!) switch the typical distortion assignments, letting sparkling clean guitar leads hammock dirty, dirty vox. The alternating male/female, shouted/sung vocals propel tracks like “Witches” to unsteady but exciting ground.
But it’s the self-titled track off the band’s most recent 7″ that really splits open and lets its insides shine. “Leviatán” growls in slanted melody, climbing a steady beat up to a chomping climax. Andrea and Alonso chant primally as an unearthly guitar solo takes the finish–shrieking much like a cat in battle might.
Vibrating in Exile EP by Has a Shadow (Guadalajara, Mexico)
Like their excerpted name suggests, Has a Shadow dips shoegaze in horror punk for bizarre lo-fi hybrid. Imagine the Misfits (or early Horrors) played at half speed in a vacant cathedral and you’ve got an idea of what’s in store on the band’s three-song Vibrating in Exile EP. Unlike the Misfits, Has a Shadow seems to stab at real fear, not just the joking outline of it. “You may never see me again,” brood the lyrics on the opening track. They sound serious, less like an adolescent tantrum and more like a soldier departing to a likely death.
“Drive” plows down a big, throaty riff, bassline revolving like the wheels of an old car. The track churns raw grit and gasoline, shirking the horror trimmings for a moment to deal solely in adrenaline. But the dusty organs return on track three, blaring against chunky rockabilly guitar in a near-straight bluesy number. This is what roots rock sounds like curtained in a few decades and a couple thousand miles. This is one filter you don’t hear much. @Sashageffen