Every March the global music community arrives at the South by Southwest® Music Festival (SXSW®) in Austin, Texas for seven days and nights of music discovery, networking and the opportunity to share ideas. The artists representing Chile at this year’s SXSW are varied in their sound, but something they all have in common is an acute understanding of how the human experience translates to sound.
Among the many failures I brushed aside in young adulthood was a request for a grant to study regional music in Chile. I had some friends in different parts of the country willing to assist with lodging and venue hunting, and a hunger for adventure. A reference request from a swarthy Spanish professor went ignored and my friend Clare ended up getting one of the grants. She went to India to hang out with diseased children.
I preface this piece with that failure so you may understand my love affair with the Chilean music scene. Indie artists with poetry in their hearts and instruments in their hands layer beats and lyrics that make my entire auditory system shiver. Incorporating traditional rhythms and instrumentation in new ways makes for a fresh sound that is uniquely South American. The country itself is like a string, mid-vibration, stretching from a Peruvian bridge to a Tierra del Fuego nut. Could it be that it is these longitudinal extremes make Chile such a musically approachable place? Or perhaps the secret lies in the whispers rising from the streets of the condensed wine-drenched metro-entrenched city of Santiago. In March, Chile is coming to US in the form of four groups: each distinct in their sound and message.
José Biggs recently released his self-titled EP, comprised of three songs. The singer has won some fame for his work with producer Cristián Heyne and his inclusion in a couple of movies by Alberto Fuguet. José has vocals that are easy to listen to, but the instrumentals on the tracks, particularly “Ovnis,” feel like putting on a shirt that shrunk in the wash: they remind the listener of the power within. José’s sound is one that bridges the gap between the living and the inanimate, creating a force that can permeate gravity in a way that leaves one floating whilst feet are firmly planted on earth.
A guy who is good with words and can do some crunchy things on his guitar, solidly in alt pop, but reaching into rock, funk, and indie territory, Nea Agostini is also on the roster for SXSW18. The singer-songwriter released his latest EP with his brother Ale. Te Disuelves was produced by Sebastian Krys. The title track is a funky and uplifting tune with some nice guitar work and keys worth listening to again and again. “Por un Momento (Cambiará el Tiempo)” has the airy, breathy vocals and thoughtfulness in the lyrics that drew me to Prehistöricos. The Agostinis are a duo to watch; I hope to catch them in the Lone Star State this Spring.
At first listen, I was ready to write off pop rockers Novella Inc. Their debut album Anuario, released in 2013, struck me as the sort of cloying emo that is crafted especially for the current generation of misunderstood young people. But then I listened to their latest single, “Cometas.” And I listened again. And again. “Cometas” features some nice guitar that is thick without being too thick, like the perfect sweater dress. Felipe Guerra’s vocals pop, simmer, and slide through the beat. This is music for the young and the forever young. Novella Inc. is a band to watch, as their sound is sure to continue to evolve.
The Gótica in Playa Gótica’s name makes me think of vampires. Needless to say, their indie pop sound is one I can devour and dance to. Their latest album is called Amigurumi and it came out last June. The smooth syllabic vocals of Fanny allow for attention to the lyrical ingenuity. In “Bailando,” she sings of a bodacious independence that in order to be respected, must be enjoyed. The __ lines delivered in a delectable head voice over a sultry bassline in “La Pasajera” are the kind that are particularly fun to sing while hurtling through the suburbs without a computer interrupting your favorite song to tell you to continue on the road you’re on. Yo me pierdo / Entre cordillera y silva / Confundo playa y mar, Fanny sings, turning her insides out to reveal the beauty within. The rhythm of “Isla Negra” tells of a Beatles influence on Playa Gótica. But don’t be fooled; there are moments for headbanging, like toward the end of “Bikini,” juxtaposed against unabashedly funky bass like that in “Fuego,” all accompanied by killer vocals and accessible lyrics. The swinging across genres in Amigurumi titillates and gives the active listener a full body workout.
If you are headed to SXSW add these artists to your schedule. If you will be listening from home, be sure to add them to your music library.