Juana Molina, Un Dia

J. Edward Keyes

By J. Edward Keyes

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Un Dia

Juana Molina

Juana Molina has gone bananas. Her previous records were intriguing but mostly unobtrusive, foregrounding Molina's angelic voice and feather-light guitar playing. They were springtime songs, light and breezy but also oddly transient — here and gone like the afternoon sun.

A breathless and bracing plunge off the deep end

Un Dia on the other hand, opens with a holler, Molina yammering and yelping over a frantic cluster of notes that just repeats and repeats and repeats. Welcome to the aural equivalent of Goya's Black Paintings, the precise moment when a dedicated formalist drops off the deep end of experimentation. More Tom Ze than Chan Marshall, Un Dia is a breathless and bracing collection of sounds, a record that dices Molina's voice into tiny syllables and scatters it like seedlings across weird, rocky terrain. Her vocals aren't just the melody, either: in "Vive Solo," they're the percussion, half-second snippets of sound that blip like radar beneath a wandering bass line. In "Los Hongos De Marosas," Molina's voice acts as a keyboard, plinking out a string of "Da da da"s over a dizzying loop of acoustic guitar. Repetition is the watchword: most of the songs on Un Dia consist of single phrases looped and layered which make for a kind of fascinating monotony; the songs don't grow outward so much as upward, stack and stacks of sound that build steadily while remaining stock still. In "No Llama," easily the closest thing to the balladry of Molina's yesteryear, her voice is stretched and detuned so it sounds absolutely otherworldly, a strange mist coiling and twisting over rippling guitar. Percussion enters and it all goes even darker, sharps and flats colliding fiercely, angrily. Nevermind its title: Un Dia is as black as night.