Music is a balm to the spirits, and we’re all currently very much in need of some kind of balm. As we while away the hours indoors during quarantine, the Argentine independent music scene continues to be as wild and vibrant as it’s always been. It just won’t stop. And since we’ve made it our mission to bring you the freshest new tracks we come across every month, neither will we. So strap in, because we have everything from experimental drum and bass to hushed acoustic ballads to stoner rock that reaches for the outer realms of reality.
Remember: we do this every month, so click here if you want to check out our selections from past months. You really should, because they’re really good. And hey, not only that, but we also very recently published our list of our favorite albums of 2020 so far — do yourself a favor and go give that a peek. There’s so much good stuff out there.
Para No Morir – “Constitución”
Constitución is a sketchy place, that’s a fact. Depending on your ideological compass, you might see it as a portal to the underworld or simply a working class neighborhood where commuters from all over the city make a short layover before getting to their homes. Whatever your opinions on the matter, we can all agree that you don’t want to be walking alone through its streets in the wee hours of the morning. And yet, in the Argentine rock imaginary, the grassroots barrio is much more than that: from the dozens of mentions in rock nacional songs to the genesis of legendary underground venue Cemento, Constitución is a bastion of Buenos Aires’ underground culture, inspiring generation after generation of up-and-coming artists. This evocative imagery is very present on Para No Morir’s “Constitución,” a hazy indie rock number about reinvention and self-acceptance that draws from shoegaze and Americana in equal measure. Whether it’s the mention of “dark and frozen floors” or the mantra-like “it’s best if you don’t look at me” that repeats at the end of the song, PNM succeed in painting a bleak yet fascinating landscape for all those lost souls who, much in line with the neighborhood’s spirit, find comfort in total and utter chaos.
Yaatra – “Cuenca Aitken”
There’s lysergic and then there’s this. Post-rock outfit Yaatra appear to have made it their mission to map out the experience of huffing paint to those of us not brave enough to risk looking like this guy in our quest for psychoactive nirvana. Their new track “Cuenca Aitken,” the follow-up to their second full-length album Arkhan, is a ferociously psychedelic nine-minute opus that moves seamlessly through distinct sections of stop-stutter time signatures, serpentine guitar lines, and an ominous atmosphere of menace and dread that builds to moments of cathartic release. Yes, this is a trip and a half, traversing various states of being and coming out the other side as a changed person. Reach for the sludge. There’s beauty in the muddy morass. The owl of Minerva spreads its wings with the falling of the dusk.
Club de Haters – “Tu Mente Te Miente”
It’s fine. Was it fine? You’re fine: the repetitive, self-questioning, meager reassurance that makes up the mantra of us over-thinkers. Club de Haters, our latest uncovered gem from the south (Trelew Chubut) has taken these existential anxieties and sweetened the swallow. As the opening track on their debut EP La Catastrofe Es Existencial (The Catastrophe is Existential) “Tu Mente te Miente” sets a tone of meandering guitars and solid indie melodies. Their sound reminds us of a young Las Ligas Menores, with nothing overly complex, or overtly experimental. But there’s a polish and a simplicity that allow us to focus on the relatable lyrics of everyday lived experiences. An anthem we repeat to ourselves: “it’s [our] mind that lies to [us]. Don’t overthink. It’s your mind that lies to you. Don’t get upset,” (es tu mente que te miente, no pienses más, es tu mente que te miente, no te pongas mal). An absorbable mantra, in these wild times, that won’t stop ringing true.
Chechi de Marcos – “Que Te Hizo Ir”
Chechi de Marcos’s “Que Te Hizo Ir” is a gorgeous little slice of unassuming bedroom pop that, through the course of its placid 3 minutes and 41 seconds, manages to carry a surprising amount of emotional weight, the kind you’d expect from a song with a much grander and ambitious sonic palette. Here we have a simple little ditty punctuated by an unobtrusive backing band, sounding like the soundtrack for a leisurely stroll around the park (remember those?), yet feeling profoundly affecting in its plaintive listlessness. Hailing from Entre Rios, Chechi de Marcos recently made waves by becoming the winner of the #StayAtHome edition of the Camino a Abbey Road competition, wowing the judges with another deceptively understated track, “Casi Nunca Entiendo Nada“. De Marcos will have a long and impressive career, and we’re happy that she entered our periphery.
Isla de los Estados – “Una Vuelta”
So that’s that. At the time of writing, we’re on the brink of returning to Fase 1 for seventeen more days of strict isolation during the coldest, bleakest part of the year. Luckily for us, we can look to the icy resilience of “Una Vuelta” by Isla de los Estados to set the tone for the next 2.5 weeks. The electronic duo have formerly dabbled in dance music in recent releases (see 2019’s Frenesí) but this latest single is decidedly more sober. “Tengo varias cosas tontas para decir / Tengo hambre para matar / Podemos hacer de todo / Y no recordar nada mañana” intones Loló Gasparini, who takes her time with every line, singing with a restraint that somehow feels simultaneously sultry and disconnected. Propelled steadily forward by a crunchy bass synth and an unapologetically 90s trip-hop beat, the song is in no hurry to get where it’s going — after all, solo hay una vuelta para dar.
Emilia Molina – “La Extraña”
Emilia Molina has blown us away with her debut EP Canciones Sobre Vivientes, a collection of vividly evocative songs that are rooted in what we instinctively know to describe as “folk” music, but with a scope and ambition that surpasses the trappings of a genre that too often feels too in love with its own whimsicalness. Opening track “La Extraña” is a story-song about roaming the world in order to find oneself, and the fluidity of the concept of home. It is cinematic in its sound, not only because it literally contains audio samples from the movies Chocolat and Sunset Boulevard but because of the way it builds and moves through its various sections, creating an emotional arc that resembles the three-act structure of a film, its lush instrumental arrangement also underlining its dramatic nature. The entire four-song EP, co-produced by Molina and María Pien, is absolutely fantastic; we invite you to let yourself be swept away by its smart songwriting and ethereal soundscapes .
Vompfrat – “ravin+e-213.64”
With loads of self-released albums, remixes and EPs, multi-genre artists Vompfrat dropped a surprise drum and bass album this past month titled F-INA ILY ♥. A standout track from said record is the oddly named “ravin+e-213.64”. If you thought that your chances of raving during lockdown were long gone then Vompfrat proves you wrong. A stuttering, angular percussion loop greets you while a slightly distorted synth loop joins in. Just as you wonder where these weird-sounding samples are going to take you next, the drums kick in, turning what was a confusing arrangement into an infectious and danceable beat. Vompfrat builds upon this concept by adding small nuances to the pre-existing loop, which rewards multiple listens. Getting into some obscure or niche musical genres can sometimes be a chore; this song, however, manages to walk the tightrope between accessible and avant-garde with a quirky elegance.
Penny Peligro – “Los Enamorados”
Penny Peligro is back with the second acoustic EP since the release of her debut full-length album Selfies Desde el Patrullero. Canciones para la Nueva Era features four lo-fi tracks that set the stage for what’s to come, coaxing you out of the past with a sort of subtle anticipation that vibrates at a frequency just slightly higher than your yesterday. There are references to esotericism throughout the EP, (including the cover, illustrated by the artist herself, who is currently designing a deck of tarot cards as a side project). The fourth track, “Los Enamorados,” a reference to the tarot card of the same name, is no exception. Allow Penny’s unique strumming pattern to syncopate with your heartbeat as her voice, just as sweet as ever, carries you through a tiny maze of lyrics to get you in touch with getting out of touch (if you know what I mean).
Gainza – “Allegro”
A happy-go-lucky acoustic guitar strum with the rhythmic pace of train cars flying along steel tracks throws this song into its naive vocal cadence, beckoning to the days when 90s college rock was king, and everything seemed better, and everyone seemed happier. It’s a heartwarming feeling with Gainza being the vehicle for this mood to be shared in a compact 2 minutes and 11 seconds of unspoiled joy. “Allegro” is the newest release from Martín Pelitti’s Gainza. The project began as a solo venture in 2017, after the separation of his 10-year-old band, El Limacoco. However Gainza came together as a band, spreading folk rock stylings, with this track exuding an optimism that seems increasingly hard to hold onto in this time. This latest track really plays to a sense of familiarity with pop structures providing a nice foundation to its catchy, irresistible phrasing.