Los Amores Imaginarios, Vol. 1 – Federico (Uruguayan Independent Artist)

A middle-aged couple hired a young girl to look after their kids while they attended a party. The girl arrived early in the evening, and she stayed with the children as the couple went their way.
And everything was going fine, until the husband’s mobile rang. It was the girl, she wanted to know if she could cover the clown’s statue in the kid’s room because the children were scared by it, and they couldn’t get to sleep. The man said we don’t have a statue of a clown in our house, quick get the kids out and call the police.
It turned out the clown was a convict who had broken into the house.

And if you don’t copy and paste this text in the wall of five of your Facebook friends, tonight at 3 AM the clown will be at your bed, with a chainsaw in his hands.



OK, I’m sorry. I’m sorry. That was too good a chance to miss. I’m sorry. I won’t ever do that again, I swear by God almighty and by my High School Musical DVD.

Today, it’s time to cover a new Uruguayan artist on this blog. And I’ve found one that has got quite an interesting background. His name is Federico, and in addition to being a recording artist of his own he runs an independent label named Nikikinki Records. This label gathers together a distinctive number of Uruguayan performers, but some international acts have been joining its ranks recently.
So, if you visit Nikikinki’s website you’ll be able to download music from local performers such as Ari Vinitzki, Lila Tirando a Violeta, Fabián Echandía and Turra Total, along with Eric Bejaranbo (from Mexico) and Johnny Slidell (from the US) to name just a few.
In all cases, the music you can find on the site is available at zero cost. You just have to submit your e-mail address, and that’ll be the start of a thousand lives with the music of this league of extraordinary gentlemen.

Federico himself has released two volumes of love songs named “Los Amores Imaginarios” [Imaginary Loves], and he also fronts a band which goes by the name of “Julen y la Gente Sola” [Julen and the Lonely People]. I became familiarized with his work while I was online one day, goofing around on Facebook. I came across a live performance of his, he had posted a song named “Asuntos Ajenos” [Other People’s Businesses], and I gave it a whirl. Usually, I click on such videos and then keep on scrolling down my news feed. And that’s precisely what I did when I first crossed paths with “Asuntos Ajenos”.
But I didn’t get very far. A couple of seconds into the performance, I stopped scrolling down. I was listening.
And when Federico started singing, I had to scroll up again to see him play. There was a sort of magnetism both in his voice and his overall demeanor. You couldn’t call it technical prowess, you couldn’t call it interpretative proficiency or smoothness. But it was some sort of coruscating quality all the same.

And you know, that’s good news. Really good news. That’s what I always want to see on young performers.

Frankly, I was amazed. I mean, not amazed in the same way Taylor Swift is amazed at awards shows, and she puts her patented OMG face on, like this:

(If you look carefully, you’ll also notice that when this happens Taylor Lautner is always, always on the very first row. He’s staring all dove-eyed at T Swizzle, until he realizes the cameras are on him! And when that happens, he turns his head with haste, as if thinking “Oops, I’m not supposed to harbor feelings for her any longer!”
I hate you! Vile monster! How could you break our sweetheart of the rodeo’s heart?! Hope they cast you in a suckass saga with endless sequels! Hope you’re condemned to do the same mediocre role for ever!
Oh, wait…)

But I was surprised by how much Federico could elicit, by how much he could transmit in a way that seemed so effortless. And I decided to take a closer look at his work.

So, I downloaded the first volume of his “Amores Imaginarios”. And that’s the album I want to tell you about today.

According to the liner notes, Federico recorded the 12 songs that are included between 2009-2011 on his bedroom, using an acoustic guitar and his computer. This is a lo-fi album by definition, so that if you’re enamored with Okkervil River’s marauding guitars on songs such as “We Need A Myth” then I’m afraid you’ll have to browse. This album is not about sounding good, it’s about conveying ideas in a way that’s unembellished and completely spontaneous.
We could debate incessantly how valuable such a thing is from an artistic point of view; writers like Victor Hugo used to claim that there’s nothing more detrimental to art than the rush of inspiration, that ideas have to be diligently refined, and that the greatest works come from a process in which corrections and reformulations are always in order. Conversely, authors like Byron (who were uttermost expressionists) felt that saying what one had to say in the way that it would naturally come out was the fairest thing to do.

How much you’ll get from an album like this one (and from most of Nikikinki’s oeuvre, actually) depends on where you stand on this debate. If you collapsed to the floor and cried aloud “Deflower me! Deflower me, Dave!!” when the Foo Fighters won their last Grammy Award and Grohl mentioned that they had recorded the album at their very own garage, then look no further than this. Continue reading

Vincent Vega – Uruguayan Independent Artist

Vincent Vega's Debut Album

The matrix is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth. Because the truth is inexplicable, puzzling, mystifying. Well, it must be for this fellow who keeps on emailing me, asking why there’s never any guest posts on MusicKO, why it’s always me and the belly of the beast running the show.

OK, look. I did try hiring some folks to write stuff for this blog. I asked those who were interested to submit some capsule reviews, to see what they could do. And someone named Elbo Ludo sent three in. Two were a cut and paste affair, straight from the All Music Guide. The third and final one, now, was a short piece on a Uruguayan artist I’d never heard of in my life. That artist was named Vincent Vega. And that’s what this gentleman came up with:

Vincent Vega (pronunciation:[bjœːɳ ɵlˈveːɵs]): Named after actor Vincent D’Onofrio and Vega (the Spanish cage fighter from the “Street Fighter” franchise) Vincent Vega is a Uruguayan duo that had a chance to rise to prominence when they were commissioned by director Rob Marshall to write a song for the film “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”. The resulting track (“Huevo Maraca”) could be heard as the end credits were rolling. But since the vast majority of the people in the theaters always left by then, the duo’s pyrotechnical contribution to the film went largely unheeded by audiences, unaware of the credibility of what they would have heard had they stayed around.

So much for having guests authors on MusicKO, then.

But the silver lining (because there’s always one) was that I became really curious on this duo that went by the name of Vincent Vega. Hey, I’m always up for anything that could send people tripping as much as to write a review like the one I just shared with you. And you know what? After having been to a couple of their gigs and getting to know the guys personally, I must say their compositions are not only tasteful but truly resonant.

At its core, Vincent Vega is a duo made up of Matías González and Mauricio Sepúlveda (Dr. Gonzo & Mr. Vega to friends and foes). They’ve been around since 2008, and in November 2009 they released an eponymous album, which you can download for free.

Vincent Vega (Mauricio Sepúlveda & Matías González) At A Recent Gig

Their influences include artists as celebrated as The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Big Star and Wilco. And their main Uruguayan touchstone seems to be Eduardo Mateo, one of the seminal artists in the development of popular music in this country. Continue reading

A New Video By Casablancas: “Please Don’t Be Like Me”

The Current Line-up Of Casablancas

A new video from these great indie folks that make up Casablancas has just become available. The song is named “Please Don’t Be Like Me”. The first thing I thought when I watched the clip was of Donovan playing his very own equivalent to The Smiths’ “This Charming Man”. I could visualize such a thing frame by frame, in full Technicolor. All in the eye of my mind.

Yes, I know.

I should have directed “Pineapple Express” myself. Hollywood, so much to answer for…

Casablancas – Please don’t be like me from indiefolks on Vimeo.

Cool song, “Please Don’t Be Like Me”. A very playful melody, meretricious camera angles, wailing sirens in the background, terrific hairdos. Is there anything else you need? Sign on the dotted line now.

I wrote about Casablancas recently, in one of the zaniest posts MusicKO has ever known. And by all reckonings, that’s saying a lot. Catch up with the original review here. Don’t forget your parachute with the flag of the Rebel Alliance.

NADIEQUIERE Discos, A New Uruguayan Record Label Launches

A new Uruguayan record label has launched. It is named NADIEQUIERE Discos (official page here, Facebook fan page here), and it has some bands I already covered on MusicKO (such as Casablancas), and other bands like The Bear Season that I’ve always meant to review but that are still on the pipeline because I’m as peripatetic as Ryan Adams. You know, I actually look a lot like Ryan – the only differences are that he has tons of hair, that he can sing and that he can play guitar. Oh, and that he has dated Winona Ryder.

The label also has a good handful of artists that are completely new to me, which isn’t surprising because (as those fabtastic Swedes sang) “I’m living in a box but I come out when opportunity nox”. I hope to get to know them better soon…

In the meantime, give NADIEQUIERE Discos a look (official page, Facebook fan page – whatever excites you more). Of course, you need to understand Spanish to read these pages. But if you don’t, that shouldn’t be that much of a problem. I mean, how many people who are regular opera-goers know Italian? Eh? And how many people could make sense out of the wreck that Tommy was narrative-wise when it was first issued? Poor Pete Townshend, I read he did almost 1,000 interviews to cover those narrative deficiencies. Lessons learned, kids? Do things right the first time around.

Casablancas (Uruguayan Independent Artist)

Casablancas are Martin Rela (vocals & rhythm guitar), Syd J. Gerones (lead guitar & backing vocals), Nacho Lorenzelli (bass guitar), Freddy Suarez (keyboards) and Seba Moro (drums & percussion).

Casablancas are Martin Rela (vocals & rhythm guitar), Syd J. Gerones (lead guitar & backing vocals), Nacho Lorenzelli (bass guitar), Freddy Suarez (keyboards) and Seba Moro (drums & percussion).

It’s a little known fact, but it’s absolutely true. H.G Wells (one of the founding fathers of science fiction) did spend some time in Uruguay. He was in the country during the summer of 1879 – 1880, in the seaside town of La Pedrera. Accounts of his stay there are unanimous, if only because the population of La Pedrera back then consisted only of 8 people, 3 dogs and 1 dalek.

We reportedly know that Wells used to wake at 7 in the morning every single day, walk through the beach until dusk and then come back to his little cabin. He did that the whole summer.

Then, on the final day of his stay there he clenched his fist, pointed it to the balmy sky and screamed at the top of his lungs, “SHIT, ISN’T EVER ANYTHING TO DO IN THIS COUNTRY???”.

He then had a kind of mystic experience. It is said he saw something blazing in the sky. If he had been Caetano Veloso he would have written the lyric that goes “and my eyes/go looking for flying saucers in the sky”. Instead, he dreamed up the story of the Martians landing on Earth that you can read on his seminal work “The War Of The Worlds” (1898). He turned the joyous dunes of La Pedrera into Horsell Common, and he came with a killer virus that sent the poor old Martians to kingdom come simply because he caught some scorching disease while he was in Uruguay, and he had to go to the toilet six times per day for three years afterwards.

A Tripod From "The War Of The Worlds" Raising Havoc

A Tripod From "The War Of The Worlds" Raising Havoc

This history is little-known because there has always been a kind of multinational conspiracy to keep Uruguay off fictionalized works. Powers too evil and too daunting collude to keep the effervescent South American country from raising its head in the world of literature.

And in a certain sense, some things have remained the same in Uruguay ever since Wells paid us that veiled visit. There’s still people who scream at the sky out of sheer boredom, and lament their lack of prospects. They vent their frustration in different ways. Some play soccer and marry Argentinean models, some have music blogs where they write about anything that comes into their minds, and some others pick up their guitars and play good old rock and roll, paying a direct homage to the best British and American music that ever existed. Continue reading

La Corporación (Erika Chuwoki) – Uruguayan Independent Artist

OK, I know I’m giving myself away big time here and tarnishing what little reputability I had to begin with, but… can you guess which album I have heavily rotated every day at my office for the past two months or so? Badly Drawn Boy’s turgid “Born In The UK”.

Don’t get me wrong – I admire the guy so much that if there were a Badly Drawn Boy plush toy it would be right there in my pillow every night. And if it came with interchangeable wool hats, then I would be the happier for it (jeez… talk about tarnishing one’s reputation! How far will this go?). But that particular CD is one of the biggest misconceptions ever since someone gave Scarlett Johansson the go-ahead for “covering” Tom Waits.

And now that I have brought the wool-hatted composer from the British Isles to mind, what I want you to imagine is what would happen if he went clubbing one night, met Syd Barrett at some mad one, and tripping out of his arse he crashed the night at Lou Reed’s. And recorded an EP before passing out. If you could indeed imagine the whole scenario, then: A) You need immediate assistance, and B) You will know what to expect from the debut EP that has been issued by this new Uruguayan artist going by the ceremonious name of Erika Chuwoki.

Erika Chuwoki

Erika Chuwoki

“La Corporación” [The Corporation] is a five-song EP. Moving within the stylistic parameters insinuated above (which the band aptly terms “pop psicobélico”), the album finely interweaves personal and collective appreciations on life, love and every single thing that goes “bump!” in the night. Yes, my little grasshoppers, that includes sex – the crash of romantic crushes is studied enthusiastically on “Amar El Mal” [To Love Evil], one of the noisiest, more memorable cuts of the whole disc.

Plus, the EP has a song named “Aguante La Puta Que Nos Parió” (an obscenity I can’t translate because merely looking for an English equivalent makes me blush and cry in my tea) – the kind of title that only Harlan Ellison’s psychopath music twin could dare use on an album cover. The phrase, incidentally, is not mentioned on the song once. As if the band were inviting a snicker in the finest rock & roll tradition, and then defying the snickerers by saying, “You morons, you judged something by the cover and not by its actual content”. Placenta, pleasure, placebo indeed… Continue reading

Free Uruguayan Music For Download – “OVNI” By Matías Singer

“Ovni” Is The New Album By Uruguayan Independent Artist Matías Singer.

“Ovni” Is The New Album By Uruguayan Independent Artist Matías Singer.

Beaming down from the stars in their silver atmospheres, we have the new album by Matías Singer (go sulk in the corner, Joe Strummer!).

The disc (named “OVNI” – the Spanish word for UFO) is mostly an acoustic affair, with some lap guitars, accordions and light percussion to keep things jingly-jangly.

It has 13 songs, the vast majority of which are in English, although a few are in Spanish and I personally like them better than the ones in English. These include the title track and “Extraterrestre” [Starling], the one true “band” recording that is offered.

And as far as the English contingent goes, I have a lot of time for “You Are A Demon”, “Until The End Of The Night” and “I Never Dance”. These are the cuts that have the brightest set of melodies. On the other hand, there is a thing called “No Evil” that almost made erase the whole thing from my HD and optimize it afterwards to ensure the monster was gone. Continue reading

Despertando Del Silencio (El Umbral) – Uruguayan Independent Artist

The First Lineup Of El Umbral: Juan Loskin, Alejandro Nuñez & Javier Pedrazzi.

The First Lineup Of El Umbral: Juan Loskin, Alejandro Nuñez & Javier Pedrazzi.

Elvis Costello was right.

From the other end of the telescope, things can be seen.

Every Uruguayan echo boomer grew up watching bands on his flat top that he was resigned never to feel in the flesh. REM, U2, Nirvana, Guns ‘n’ Roses… he always knew such bands were hardly going to set foot in his home soil. If he had the money and the wayfaring spirit (not to mention parents that were either the pinnacle of coolness, or that just didn’t give a shit) he knew he could cross the River Plate and go to Buenos Aires to catch up with any of those bands as they toured South America. And no, nobody could have imagined back then that one day an overweight Axl Rose with a small army of guitarists in tow to replace Slash would play the Estadio Centenario. Neither could anybody have imagined that they would play the theme from the Pink Panther during an intermission as the ultimate sign of respect to the enraptured audience that attended the show.

Well, that was the way things were back then. And if it sounds like a bummer, it is because it was a bummer. Yet, the silver lining was there. And it was a particularly shimmery one.

In the same way that the best orators are always the best listeners, those who spend their lives contemplating are the ones who can take action more purposefully. And if there was something we were known to do back then, it was to wear one album after the other of all those bands that for us existed only in MTV. Assimilating the notes and inhaling the sounds as only those who know they will never watch their heroes live could ever hope to do.

Many of the Uruguayan bands that in a good and in a bad sense defined the musical identity of the country came together back then, and they are still around. Both La Vela Puerca and No Te Va Gustar, for example, became active performing units as the ‘90s were gathering pace.

And as always, the story of those bands that could never achieve mainstream success is every bit as interesting as the story of those who did manage to take all the commercial barriers down.

The story of El Umbral [The Threshold] certainly is. And the fact the band is still around (and about to issue its fourth album) just gives everything that vital throb of significance that always wins people over.

"Despertando Del Silencio" Was El Umbral's Debut Album

"Despertando Del Silencio" Was El Umbral's Debut Album

El Umbral officially came together in 1999, but the true inception of the band went way back to 1996, when three friends named Juan Loskin (bass), Pablo Riera (drums) and Alejandro Nuñez (guitar) would get together and play songs by Nirvana and Uruguayan linchpins such as Los Estómagos [The Stomachs]. That lineup didn’t last long, and the drummer was soon replaced by Javier Pedrazzi. At around that time, it was decided that Alejandro was also going to assume vocal duties, and the trio settled on the name El Umbral. The year was 1999. And two years later, the band finally managed to issue its debut album. It was titled “Despertando Del Silencio” [Awakening From The Silence]. Somehow, that name said all there was to be said. And what the name did not say, the music itself made clear. Continue reading

MusicKO: Uruguayan Unsigned & Independent Artists Of 2010

I think the day I decided to begin covering Uruguayan unsigned and independent artists on MusicKO was the happiest of the whole year. It gave me a lot of direction, and a true sense of purposefulness. I have managed to become acquainted with some extraordinary musicians – individuals who are truly devoted to what they do, and who believe in the power of music to bond people for life.

These are all the unsigned and independent Uruguayan performers I featured on MusicKO in 2010.

I hope to review twice as many in 2011. If you are one (or if you know one), just drop me a line. The address is emiliomusicko@gmail.com.

Laiojan Sebastian
Mal Yo
Lucía Ferreira
El Cardenal Sebastián
Lucas Meyer

TuneCrank – Letting Independent & Unsigned Artists Spread Their Music

Name: TuneCrank
URL: http://www.tunecrank.com

The meet-and-greet tradition upon which the music industry operates is a necessary evil… or is it? Websites like TuneCrank are here to bring that hegemony down.

In general terms, this site lets just anybody upload his tunes and have them streamed to whomever is willing to give them a good listen. The process is wholly free, and what TuneCrank aims to do is give just everybody a chance to be discovered, in a framework in which there are no favoritisms of any kind. On TuneCrank, all that matters is the quality of what you are uploading, not whose back you are scratching. Continue reading