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Juana Molina
Wed 21 Neil Kulkarni , November 15th, 2013 07:17

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My album of the year, but any album Juana Molina drops is going to be my album of the year. She makes you feel as if everything else is just making do, marking time, a pretence of engagement you've kept up while waiting for her latest transmission. Molina has released two of the very very best records of the past decade in 2006's Son and 2008's Una Dia and they were records that insisted, if you let them in, that you'd develop an almost cult-ish obsession with her, dissatisfaction with near-enough everything else. Wed 21 continues the intrigue, amplifies the obsession, and is 2013's most addictive and compelling album made by anyone anywhere. I have no end-of-year list. Just Wed 21. Top of the pops. King of the hits. A primary work of colour.

Molina grew up in 60s Argentina, learned guitar from her tango-singing papa. After the military coup in 1976 her family fled to Paris for six years. Returning to South America in the 1980s, Molina (through a mix of her own sharp writing and wicked characterisation – an eye for human detail you can still hear) became an outright prime-time TV-comedy star through the shows La Noticia Rebelde and Juana Y Sus Hermanas before fate in the form of her first pregnancy stepped in and twisted Molina's life around. She told me in 2009 - “I became pregnant, a pregnancy that was problematic and confined me physically to my room and bed for two months. I found myself forced, in a way, to pursue music. Music was what I wanted to do – all my life I've listened to music and disappeared into it, but I'd kind of let it fall to the side whilst the television thing took over. I thank my daughter for forcing me into finding it again.”

From such rootedness, from such flight, from such interior obsessiveness, control-freakery and outward nitty-grittiness what Molina does is build music from shards, from her sublime guitar playing, from computers and bass and beats, from her voice making the melodies that occur to her before notes can spell out the score. She then cuts it all together into astonishing, skin-puckeringly beautiful songs that make all those nuts and bolts evaporate in pure vivid feel and fluidity. If 'Son' was pure heart and soul, and 'Una Dia' more about pure body and pulse, then 'Wed 21' is some kind of divine conflation and surpassing of them both, an album that pulls all together in ecstatic, erotic triumph.

'Eras' is the perfect intro, getting us used to the album's sharper, funkier sound-palette but doing that beautiful, revelatory thing all Molina music can do – suddenly opening up on the chorus to sheer lambent gorgeousness, the guitar textures somehow closer and more tactile than she's ever allowed before, every little filament of the sound pulled to the pulse. My wife said "Slits" and "23 Skidoo" within 20 seconds and she's not wrong, there's a true exploration of liquid rhythm, of female rhythm that allies Molina with post-punk in a big way, in a real and ravishing way, a solidarity of spirit. That kind of rhythmic complexity combined with the real Eno-level beauty of her manipulations are what makes Wed 21 so startlingly beautiful throughout.

The title track demonstrates the new tuffness of Wed 21, bass paramount, a lo-end wobbliness and ruffness that sinks fangs and fucks your floorboards up. 'Ferocisimo', like many Molina songs, hinges on a moment where all opens up and levitates, this time a perilous 30 seconds before it ends, a moment so giddy it's like a blast of raw oxygen laced with moonshine, a moment where it seems the internal skeleton of the music clambers out from the body and grows to titanic size. Just amazing. On 'Lo Decidi Yo' the bass is this diseased fuzz that threatens to take over, only the waterfall purity of Molina's voice holding back the pull under until she really reveals her nous for a hook, her genius for bringing earworm moments up into your consciousness and allowing them to take over, in this case a sublime little percussive lick that nags at and finally entrances you completely. I haven't heard sound treated with such delicacy and nuance and clear pop principles since Insides Euphoria or that last Justin Timberlake album.

'Sin Guia, No' sees vocals smeared and held together with silk and honey before Solex-like beats turn things truly hypnotic, the whole thing becalming itself in the multi-tracks of Molina's vocal imagination, rupturing itself again into a maelstrom for the fade.

By the time 'Ay No Se Ofendan' and the heart-stopping psychedelics of 'El Oso De La Guarda' come rippling across you, any habitual curiosity about HOW this stuff is made simply gets obliterated in the pure pleasure, the clear pictures that can only come from the soul of someone who was in a different place and time when they made this, as close to an altered state as art can take you. 'Las Edades' demarcates a space unlike any other in contemporary music, a feel that's fragile yet can suddenly blaze with planetary strength, the closing coda of 'La Rata' and 'Final Feliz' taking you to the rapturous zeniths and fundamental humanity of Molina's music in a two-step glide of grace and wonder. Pop as art, as teleportation, as an irresistible dance for heart, mind and body.

For those that know Molina, this review will be irrelevant; you'll already have this pressed close. For those that don't, drink deep, then go back to Una Dia and Son and hold tight for the next emanation. Closest thing to genius I've heard since her last one. Get some warmth back in your bones.

Andrew
Nov 15, 2013 2:35pm

I'm almost embarrassed to share in your rapture, but I agree. There's just something about this record, and about all her records. It's just all I want to listen to, some days.

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Gman
Nov 15, 2013 7:47pm

Enjoyed reading Neil's review nearly as much as listening to Juana's album. Don't think I've ever seen Inside's Euphoria and Justin Timberlake mentioned in the same sentence before though.

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Cesar
Nov 17, 2013 11:13pm

Pity you can't also enjoy all the lyrics in Spanish as we, Argentines, do (not only because of the language, but also because of the context of our local reality). It's something that adds up a lot to the pleasure of listening to Juana's music. I've always liked her musical works, as opposed to her acting career, which never hooked me up, but I'd say I prefer her previous records (Rara, Segundo, Tres Cosas) rather than Son and Un Día (Please note it's ''Un'' Día, not ''Una'' Día). Anyway, great to see (and hear) she's still creating music in such a different and personal way, which is always refreshing. Big thumbs up for her! :)

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