Juana Molina - Tres Cosas

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What does Molina sing about? I've no idea and it is one of the pleasures of listening to albums in a foreign tongue that you can make the lyrics up.

 

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If I ask you to name the woman who was famous for a TV comedy show and who went on to put out a successful album, what would the answer be? The Brits amongst you would probably say Tracey Ulman. Who can forget Neil Kinnock throwing caution, and dignity, to the wind as he capered about in one of her pop videos? Tracey's album was a duff old set of fifties and sixties standards and she quickly departed for the US and was responsible for the greatest American TV program of all time – not her show, of course, but The Simpsons, which started off on it. The point – I think there is one to all of this – is that Juana Molina was, for many years, a successful comic in Argentina and she too had her own comedy sketch show. She too decided to put out an album of her own and it is here that the rather glaring distinction between these two parallel pathways must be made – Molina's album isn't complete crap. It's actually rather wonderful.

 

I'll say what's wrong with it first, as there isn't much to complain about. Firstly the album is too long. It clocks in at just under an hour and anyone worth his or her salt knows that no album should be over 45 minutes long. The optimum length, I reckon, is about 37 minutes, give or take. My second criticism is in some ways connected to the first: it is that the album is slightly one paced. The songs are all quite similar in terms of style and whilst this wouldn't matter over thirty odd minutes it does become noticeable by the end of the album. These, though, are minor quibbles. Juana Molina's album is a beautiful collection of gentle, downbeat folksongs that sound almost as if they could be lullabies. Acoustic guitar and electronic chatter back Molina's soft and child-like voice; occasional interventions from pianos and violins augment the sound.

 

The album opens as it means to go on. "No Es Tan Cierto" comprises clock-ticking guitar, Molina's soft, seductive voice and subdued, swirling keyboards. Rather sweetly someone let the clangers into the studio whilst this track was being recorded. As with much of the music that's being made today so much is going on in the background – many of these tracks are based around simple acoustic strums but "El Cristal", for instance, seems to feature someone hitting a mallet against the hull of a ship and the title track features the sound of wilting bagpipes. "Lamba Corta" has some Philip Glass type vocal harmonies and on "Filter Tags" the voices disintegrate altogether, ending up sounding like fluttering insects. What does Molina sing about? I've no idea and it is one of the pleasures of listening to albums in a foreign tongue that you can make the lyrics up. As for stand out tracks, "Salvese Quien Puedo" is simply beautiful, "Yo Se Que" features disturbing bells that sound like they've fallen off a David Lynch soundtrack and El Progresso appears to have been recorded on a farm. The album closes with "Insensible" – Molina sings over a Satie-esque piano melody and the album gently and unfussily fades away.

 Words: Chris Dawson