Four years ago I had the surprise and the privilege to receive in the mail 2 albums from a Chilean band that I never heard off. Being very fond of the South American flavoured progressive rock, I was excited to find out that La Desooorden was another great exponent of the genre. Both "La Isla de los Muertos" and "Ciudad de Papel" showed a great potential of the band and, as the time passed, the expectations for the follow up have started to mount. For a couple of years, the band was busy touring and even released a DVD of a concert with the music from "La Isla de los Muertos" before they finally put together some material for a new release.
For what seems to be the last album of the band (we are told that musicians have since each gone their separate ways), La Desooorden has ditched the social and political activism of "La Isla de los Muertos" and "Ciudad de Papel", but retained the conceptual model used on both of their previous albums. "El Andarín" (The Runner) tells the story of a person wandering aimlessly throughout South America. There is no destination, no defined course, no start or finish line. Just a discovery voyage in which the pilgrim is guided only by the spirits of the places and landscapes that he visits. Musically, the album too is a trip among the various styles of South American music, from Argentinean tango, to Amazonian tribal rhythms, to Brazilian Samba, to Andean high-plateau folk. The 16 tracks are all parts of a one big song, like 16 ideas of a principle, fluently segueing one into the other.
The band is unchanged from the previous album, the main sextet of Alfonso Banda Mayor (electric guitar), Rodrigo González Mera (drums), Peter Pfeiffer Jakob (saxes), Francisco Martín Subercaseaux (bass), Karsten Contreras Kusch and Fernando Altamirano Barria (vocals) is augmented by several collaborators, most notable being Henry Vélix Matus responsible for composing and arranging all the parts for trumpet that ended up being played by Cristopher Hernández and Benjamín Ruz (violin) whose contributions can be heard on many songs.
The constant involvement of saxes and trumpets as well the garnishing of unorthodox instruments, such as the didgeridoo, berimbau, samba whistles and other flutes played by Kush confers the music that original character that I first noticed on the previous albums. Made popular by their Mexican brethrens from Cabezas de Cera, the heavy inclusion of saxes and other brass instruments is a testimony of the Latin origin and inspiration of their music. After all, I see a slew of contemporary Italian progressive bands that take a similar approach. But there is more to the music, with its intricate rhythms and aggressive guitar riffs: a level of anxiety that traverses all the songs, born without a doubt from all the centuries of social unrest and angst that unfortunately South America had to witness. In a way, it’s a full circle back to the great theme of social and political activism.
The CD is enhanced with a Flash multimedia segment offering the songs’ lyrics (in Catalan and English), an interactive game, some pictures from the studio and two live video clips, one being the band performing "Puerto Allende la Pampa" (that amazing tango). It is rather peculiar that La Desooorden albums have always been self-released. With such musical calibre, one would have expected that Mylodon/Musea or Viajero Inmovil labels would have picked them up to offer (rightfully so) a wider distribution for their great music.
Close to 5 years in the making, "El Andarín" has the marks of a masterpiece. La Desooorden’s swansong turned out to be quite a veritable tour de force!
|La Isla de los Muertos (2004) + Ciudad de Papel (2007)
South America is, without any doubt, one of the most prolific hotbeds for progressive rock music. Argentina, Brazil, Peru and Chile never cease to amaze me with their multitude of new bands that are releasing outstanding albums. La Desooorden from Chile is just the latest discovery that comes to reinforce my belief that Latin America is moving in the right direction, at least musically.
Formed in 1994, La Desooorden spent the first 5 years touring intensively across the country and polishing their material. 12 compositions, a reflection of this period, will form their first album, independently released in 2001 and entitled "El Mounstruo de 7 Cabezas" (The Monster with 7 Heads). After releasing their first album, the band decides to take a break from touring and focuses on writing new material. In August 2002, La Desooorden releases "Ensayo", their second independently produced album containing 14 new, original songs. They take it to road again, presenting their work in different cities all over Chile, sharing the stage with important bands such as Los Jaivas and Congreso.
In 2004 they finalize their third album entitled "La Isla de los Muertos" (The Island of the Dead). Recognizing their potential, Fondart, a cultural project funded by the Chilean Government helps the band publish and promote the album. This may have been facilitated by the source from which La Desooorden drew the inspiration: some historic events from 1906 in which 200 workers and members of their families have died from what is believed to have been a pandemic of some sort, although the real cause of dead is still shrouded in mystery. All workers were employees of the same company and as a result, after a few years, the company went bankrupt. To this day, there are still vestiges of those events in the cemetery of "La Isla de los Muertos". You already guessed, this is a concept album, a rara avis in the 21 Century.
La Desooorden is a sextet formed by: Alfonso Banda – guitars, Rodrigo Gonzalez – drums and percussion, Peter Pfeifer – saxophones, Francisco Martin – Bass and piano, Fernando Tagore – voices, Karsten Contreras – voices. The album starts with a haunting dialog violin – piano over what appears to be fragments of dialog from an old Spanish movie. This eerie atmosphere is quickly broken the force of the second song, despite a mellow passage on sax. I can hear a Latin folk dance influence in the third song while the fourth one brings back the mellow, soulful atmosphere from the first track. This one flows nicely into the next tune, where, almost following a pattern, the band bursts again into a display of force and energy. We will not leave the angst tone until we get to track seven. The same violin sets the mood, this time accompanied by a rhythmic section made of native percussion instruments. I must mention the remarkable voices of both Tagore and Contreras. They bring a lot to the table, when it comes to set up the dramatic feeling of the whole album. An interesting fact is that no one is mentioned as playing the violin despite it being the main soloing instrument.
Having gone down the concept-album path, the band will follow up in 2007 with their fourth release entitled "Ciudad de Papel" (City of paper). The social upheaval and environmental impact caused by the opening of a Cellulose plant in Valdivia (the band's home town) gave the musicians enough inspiration to fuel their creativity and release one of the best albums of 2007. As a sign of cohesion, La Desooorden kept the same line-up. The album is introduced by "Fumarolas del Alma", a very strong song oozing the same angst felt on some tracks from "La Isla de los Muertos". We don’t go into any mellow mood just yet because next is the title track, sporting some heavy guitar riffs but also a chorus that I couldn’t get out of my head for days. General observation, Banda’s guitar has become heavier, more prominent on this album, often times elevated from just background accompanying instrument. Next two tracks are instrumental: first one, a percussion-led native dance and second one ("El Gran Acuerdo" - The Great Agreement), a much more elaborate composition spiced up by whispered dialogs between corrupt officials arranging the opening of the plant. For the first time, Banda has a rather long solo on guitar, supporting the idea that he has developed into a fine player. He solos again in the next track, and when he is not soloing, he drives the song with his heavy riffs. This goes for the rest of the musicians. You can really tell that everyone has evolved and the compositions are much more sophisticated. The arrangements are much more complex, every song has solid musical ideas, the overall feeling being one of maturity in expression. The arsenal of instruments used has increased and this contributes to the richness of the sound. The listener of this album will be greatly rewarded. If there were a real top 10 of 2007 progressive rock releases, this album would be in that top.
La Desooorden is a socially, politically and
environmentally engaged band that must be followed by
everyone seriously connected with the contemporary
progressive rock scene. I place them in line with
other greats from Chile, such as Tryo, Sarax and
Exsimio and perhaps ahead of Mar de Robles and Koiak.
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