Previously, Argentinian singer-songwriter Juana Molina has been described as a musical visionary. Comparisons have been drawn to legendary Beach Boy Brian Wilson. These comparisons aren’t hype. No. Far from it. Juana Molina is an alternative to bland, anodyne music. This is cerebral, intelligent music of substance. Best described as melodic, minimalist and mesmeric, Juana Molina’s songs are compelling sonic explorations and experiments. Delivered with emotion, Juana’s song veer between melancholy, joyous, evocative and thoughtful. Whether it’s impassioned pleas or pensive, poignant songs full of pathos, Juana Molina brings her lyrics to life, breathing life, meaning and emotion into her songs. She’s been doing that since 1996, when she released her debut album Rara. Now seventeen years later, Juana Molina is about to release her sixth album, Wed 21, which will be released on 28th October 2013 on the Crammed Discs label. Before I tell you about Wed 21, I’ll tell you about the life and career of Juana Molina.

Juana Molina was born into a musical family in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1962. Her father was Horacio Molina, a legendary tango singer and songwriter, while her mother Chunchuna Villafane was one of Argentina’s most famous actress. She also was a music lover, who as Juana Molina grew up, introduced her daughter to music. The owner of a large record collection, Chunchuna shared her passion for music with her daughter. Aged six, Juana’s father started teaching her to play guitar. Little did she realize, that this would be the first steps in a musical career.

In 1976, the Molina family’s life, like many Argentinian families, was changed forever. On 24th March 1976, there was a right wing coup d’etat that overthrew President Isabel Peron. Replacing her, was a military junta. Fortunately, Juana Molina were able to escape Argentina. They headed to Paris, where they spent six years in exile. 

During the six years in Paris, Juana Molina’s musical tastes expanded. Listening to radio stations from around the world, she he heard a much more eclectic range of music. Juana absorbed all these different musical genres and influences. They’d later influence her musical career, which started when she returned to Argentina.

When Juana Molina returned to Argentina, she knew she wanted to make a career out of music. This would allow her to gain her independence. However, it wasn’t music that allowed her to become independent. Instead, it was comedy. Juana auditioned for a television program and straight away, she was hired by the producers. Three years later, Juana had her own comedy sketch show. A talented mimic, she invented a series of comedic characters. Quickly, the show was syndicated throughout Latin America and Juana was Argentina’s top comedian. Despite this success, deep down, Juana yearned to make music her career.

During her maternity leave, Juana Molina had time to think about her life. For the last seven years, she’d been on Argentinian television. Hers had been a meteoric rise to fame. She knew how fortunate she was. Despite that, she still loved music. In an ideal world, she wanted to make a living out of music. Comedy paid the bills, but music was her passion. Having thought the situation through, and not wanting to live with regrets that she never followed her dreams, Juana cancelled her television show. Turning her back on television, which many Argentinian people resented her for, Juana Molina wrote and recorded her debut album.

Released in 1996, Rara was Juana Molina’s debut album. An album of folk music, it’s sung in her native Rioplatense Spanish. This is the dialect of the Rio de Plata basin of Argentina and Uruguay. Fans of Juana Molina’s television show didn’t “get” Rara. Some thought that when she was performing live, she was performing as another of her comedic characters. They thought the show was an elaborate ruse. It wasn’t. Far from it. However, Juana Molina would have the last laugh.

Having made the decision to commit her future to music, Juana decided to follow her dreams. Deciding to stick with music paid off. Her sophomore album Segundo, was released on Domino Records in 2000. Critics loved Segundo. After that, her popularity started to grow. Word was spreading about Juana Molina, this talented and versatile singer-songwriter. Her decision to turn her back on comedy had been vindicated.

Four years later, in 2004, Juana released Tres Cosas, (Three Things). Following the critically acclaimed Tres Cosas, Juana was lauded as one of the best artists on the contemporary folk, electronica and indie circuit. David Byrne and Will Oldham praised Juana Molina’s unique and inimitable style. They were championing her music, which was popular throughout the world. Tres Cosas was named in the New York Times’ list of the Top Ten Records of 2004. Juana having followed her dreams was enjoying proving the doubters wrong. She could enjoy the same, if not more, success as a singer than a comedian.

When she wasn’t recording, Juana Molina headed of on gruelling tours. She headed of on tours of America, Japan, Europe and Latin America with her fusion of folk, ambient, electronica and indie music. Somehow, she found time to record her fourth album, 2006s Son. It built on Juana’s three previous albums. Praise and plaudits came Juana’s way. That was the case with her fifth album Un Dia (One Day). Released in 2008, Un Dia, just like her previous four albums, it was written and produced by Juana Molina. Multitalented, versatile and innovative, Juana Molina was very much flavor of the month. So why has it taken Juana five years to release the followup to Un Dia?

Back in 2010, Juana got involved with the Congotronics vs. Rockers project. This was an exciting and innovative collaboration between the Congolese bands Konono No. 1 and Kasai Allstars. They become the Congotronics and collaborated with a number of indie, folk, country and electronic artists. They released an album entitled Tradi-Mods vs. Rockers: Alternative Takes On Congotronics. It was released as a double-album on Crammed Discs, who will release Juana’s forthcoming album Wed 21. Following the release of this groundbreaking collaboration, which critics loved, they embarked on a five-week career. For Juana Molina, this project was an exciting opportunity to absorb new ideas, which she could put into practice on her forthcoming album Wed 21.

Wed 21 features eleven songs which Juana Molina wrote. She produced Wed 21, which sees a change in approach from Juana Molina. Although it’s as near as a pop oriented album that Juana will release, it features a bigger band. In place of the sparse acoustic songs of previous albums, Wed 21 sees Juana’s band plug-in and go electric. As genres melt into one, Juana Molina pushes musical boundaries on this ambitious and absorbing album of cerebral songs Wed 21, which I’ll tell you about.

Opening Wed 21 is Eras, the lead single from the album. Best described as a genre-melting track, everything from folk, funk, Latin, electronica and rock are combined. A pulsating, funky bass joins Latin percussion, searing, chiming, choppy guitars and booming drums. In the midst of this delicious musical melting pop, is Juana Molina’s vocal. Veering between fragile and ethereal, to sensual and sultry, it’s bewitching and beautiful. It’s the perfect foil for the genre-melting arrangement.

Against a choppy robotic backdrop, Juana Molina delivers a tender, jazzy scat on the title-track Wed 21. They’re like ying and yang. Despite that, the futuristic, sci-fi backdrop provides the perfect counterpoint to Juana’s vocal. Add to that pounding drums and a myriad of electronic effects and the result is a tender, soulful, jazzy track for a new millennia.

Ferocisimo is a track with quirky, but cerebral, perceptive lyrics. It tells the story of a narrator who despises noise pollution. Drums pound, guitars chime and the bass is slapped. Juana’s vocal is earnest and impassioned, as she delivers it against an indie inspired backdrop. Swirls of electronic, cooing harmonies, filters and crystalline guitars are added to the equation. Together, they play their part in a hook-laden, anthemic and cerebral track.

It’s against a backdrop of buzzing synths that Lo Decidi Yo unfolds. It loosely translates to what I decided? A pensive, thoughtful vocal from Juana is full of melancholia. As the buzzing synths dissipate, cooing harmonies usher in Juana’s vocal. She’s joined by crystalline guitars and a pulsating bass. Plink plonk synths and pounding drums are then joined by the buzzing synths. As they create a dramatic backdrop, Juana unleashes soul-searching, soul-baring vocal as she struggles to make a decision. Truly this is a potent, moving and emotive track.

As Sin Guia No decides to reveal its secrets, meandering guitars chime, synths drone in the background and ethereal harmonies soar celestially. They provide the perfect accompaniment to what’s one of Juana’s most tender and heartfelt vocals. Her subtle, wistful vocal is accompanied by harmonies. They’re ever-present. As for the arrangement, it gradually unfolds. A bass and guitar join hissing hi-hats and galloping drums. They’ve an experimental, almost avant garde sound. That’s certainly the case when a myriad of beeps and squeaks are unleashed. Musical influences and genres combine. Everything from indie, electronica, Krautrock, soul and Acid House beeps are combined to create this innovative, genre-sprawling track.

Ay No Se Ofenda meanders into being. Its understated, sci-fi sound gives way to a broody, moody synth. Against this backdrop, Juana’s vocal sounds fragile and ethereal. A breathy, pensive scat, it grows in power and confidence. Behind her, the breathy, pensive scat continues. Ghostlike, it’s ethereal sound adds an element of mystery. Then there’s steel drums and a sprinkling of percussion. Instruments appear then disappear. As the arrangement grows in power and drama, Juana’s ethereal scat ghosts elegantly across this melodic, postindustrial backdrop, which reaches a dramatic crescendo.

Bicho Auto is one of the highlights of Wed 21. A fusion of bluesy guitar, electronica and percussion, it’s part chant, part elongated groove. Soon, Juana’s vocal is a tender, ethereal presence. It ghosts above the arrangement. Best described as a fusion of electronica, Latin, ambient, post-indie and jazz, it’s ambitious, avant garde,  futuristic, dramatic and ethereal, whose influences include Sigur Ros, Bjork, Brian Eno and David Byrne.

Straight away, Juana grabs your attention with El Oso De La Guarda. Briefly, the track takes on a cartoon quality. It’s as if she’s sped up the vocal and it’s gone all Itchy and Scratchy. You listen intently and then, you’re hooked. Combining avant garde, postindustrial, electronica, indie and folk it’s a glorious and  mesmeric combination. Veering between dark, dramatic to discordant, melodic, uplifting and joyous, the track heads in the direction of futuristic, experimental to ethereal. Sometimes, it’s akin to an excerpt from the soundtrack to a sci-fi soundtrack. However, one thing remains the same. That’s the inherent ethereal beauty of Juana Molina’s vocal, which reminds me of the legendary Cocteau Twin Liz Fraser.

Las Edades has a pensive, melancholy sound. Just a bass and stabs of keyboards accompany Juana. They provide an eerie, ghostly backdrop, as Juana scats emotively. Then all of a sudden, bursts of shrill horns blaze in. They’re addition is welcome burst of drama. After that, there’s even more of a purpose to the band’s playing. The deliberate, ponderous bass and synths replicate a bleak, eerie, desolate backdrop. It’s perfect for Juana to scat across. Evocative and cinematic describes what’s unquestionably, one of the best tracks on Wed 21.

The meandering bass sets the scene for La Rata. Soon, searing guitars and tight, soulful harmonies accompany Juana’s heartfelt, impassioned vocal. The interplay between Juana and the harmonies is crucial to the song’s success. Behind her, the bass drives the arrangement along. It’s in the driving seat, ensuring everyone’s heading in the right direction. They are. Fusing a choppy fusion of indie, pop and rock, the track takes on an early eighties sound. It sounds as if it’s been inspired by any number of eighties groups, and this is Juana’s homage to the eighties, when she began to dream of becoming a musician.

Final Feliz closes Wed 21. It also tells the story of a disturbing dream Juana had. As her band create a meandering, galloping arrangement the rhythm section lock horns with chiming guitars. Juana’s vocal is akin to a confessional. She’s sharing her inner secrets. Throughout the track, it’s as if someone scoff, as if ridiculing her cathartic attempts to cleanse herself of her nightmares. As she does this, the arrangement fuses country, folk, indie and thanks to the synths, electronica. Juana’s vocal takes on a celestial quality, as if confession isn’t just good for the soul, but is cathartic and cleansing. 

Five years have passed since Juana Molina released her fifth album Un Dia. They’ve been five years well spent. Juana Molina decided to reinvent herself on Wed 21 which will be released on  Crammed Discs on 28th October 2013. Previously, her music was a fusion of acoustic folk, ambient, electronica, Latin and indie. To that compelling combination of influences, everything from avant garde, postindustrial, post-indie, pop and rock. There’s even a nod to psychedelia, Krautrock and Acid House, thanks to the myriad of beeps and squeaks that come courtesy of the Roland Corporation. Backed by a band of tight, talented and versatile musicians, who come armed with a supply of effects and loops, Juana Molina has recorded what’s her most ambitious, innovative and groundbreaking album. 

To do that, Juana Molina took the rulebook, tore in up, then rewrote it. This became her template. It was not just a case of rule nothing in, but rule nothing out. Boundaries were there to be pushed, rules to be broken and ground to be broken. Relying on twenty years of experience, Juana Molina penned eleven new tracks. Best described as genre-sprawling, Wed 21 sees musical influences and genres melt into one. Listen carefully, and you’ll hear not just an eclectic selection of genres, but the musicians that have influenced Juana. This includes any number of eighties artists. Then there’s Siouxsie and The Banshees, Sigur Ros, Bjork, Brian Eno, Can and David Byrne. That’s not forgetting the ethereal beauty of Liz Fraser of the Cocteau Twins and Scotland’s very own Astrid Williamson. Indeed, the ethereal, fragile beauty of Juana Molina’s vocal is crucial to the beauty and success of Wed 21, which should surpass the success of her five previous albums. Wed 21 should also introduce a new generation to Juana Molina’s music.

Why? Well, the eleven tracks on Juana Molina’s sixth album Wed 21 are the alternative to bland, anodyne music. This is cerebral, intelligent music of substance.  Wed 21 features eleven compelling sonic explorations and experiments. Delivered with emotion, Juana’s song veer between melancholy, joyous, evocative and thoughtful. Whether it’s impassioned pleas or pensive, poignant songs full of pathos, Juana Molina brings her lyrics to life, breathing life, meaning and emotion into her songs. Wed 21 vindicates Juana Molina’s decision to turn her back on comedy. Comedy’s loss was music’s gain. One listen to Juana Molina’s Wed 21, and you’ll discover an absorbing, ambitious and cerebral genre-sprawling album where musical boundaries are pushed to their limits and beyond. Standout Tracks: Eras, Ferocisimo, Bicho Auto and Las Edades. 


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