I have in front of me the liner notes that Bill Flanagan penned for Jeff Buckley’s posthumous release, “(Sketches For) My Sweetheart The Drunk”. There, at the end of the first paragraph (the one that invariably holds the deepest poignancy as it has to introduce the subject, and at the same time summarize its blazing successes without overemphasizing the tragedy that truncated his life) I find the one remark that lets me describe this independent Uruguayan band after having lived with its music for the last two weeks.
When explaining Buckley’s reluctance to issue the disc he had recorded with the mythical Tom Verlaine some time before his untimely passing, Flanagan justifies the decision by describing Jeff’s approach to his music (and to his own life) as a process where the actual journey was emphasized over the act of arriving.
That is exactly the impression I have after listening to the music put forth by this band from Canelones. I don’t necessarily think that the songs they have recorded for their first album (named “De La Locura”; it is produced and sold by the band) can be termed a point of arrival in any sense. The music (thankfully) sounds more like a start to me, and that is always commendable when it boils to the first material that any band is releasing. If anything, El Cardenal Sebastián’s music is like a deliberately leveled journey towards an horizon that doesn’t seem that far out of reach. Yet, the horizon that is aimed for is actually an undulating one which makes it hard to discern where it is that the ground ends and the sky commences. The purpose of the actual journey turns into a much trickier one. What lies on one side and what lies on the other? That is the basic question that the band poses. Both the music and the lyrics transmit that sense of a procession towards something which is fated to be in two places at the same time, for the simple reason that, well, such is life. And whatever shortcomings their music might have, you can’t veto it on grounds of failing to express vitality.
In “Detras De Su Piel” [Behind His Skin], singer Carolina Falcón announces “Voy cruzando la ciudad que se enciende” [I go through the city as it lights up], and later in the same song the search for “las semillas de lo incierto” [the seeds of uncertainty] is presented as the one and only valid pursuit. Yet, the song poses the insoluble dilemma of having to root yourself in order to let life germinate and spread from what was once you. That dilemma (the conflict between what one is and one wants to become, that duality again) is precisely what lies at the heart of the song, and of the repertory that the band has unleashed so far.
Another song (De La Locura) includes the lines “Una vez hice el intento de escribirle al sol/quizá bajo los efectos de una pasajera ilusión” [I once tried to write to the sun/maybe under the influence of a fleeting illusion]. And this explicit study of a link between the real world and an illusory state is further developed later on, in the lyrics “Yo viajé por un momento en otra realidad/fue como sentir tus dedos/besando mi tranquilidad” [I traveled for a little while through another reality/it was like feeling your fingers/kissing my tranquility]. Continue reading