Welcome to ENTRE RÍOS, the most touching (for being daring, sophisticated, charming and… touching) name in the Argentinian pop scene of the latest decade. Let me introduce you to its members: their names are Isol, Sebastián Carreras and Gabriel Lucena; maybe some of you already know them due to the album "Idioma Suave" (Elefant, 2002), but it’s important to point out that you’re about to discover the refined 2.0 version of the band, packaged in a truly unique album entitled "Sal".
I must confess I have a slight relationship with Isol and Gabriel Lucena, strictly developed in the uncertain critic-musician field; that’s why my knowledge on their activities outside ENTRE RÍOS is a bit limited and blurb-like. Isol is a delightful illustrator (don’t miss this another facet of hers) and a soprano formed in contemporary classic music; she’s also part of a medieval music outfit. Whereas Gabriel was an essential name in Argentinian nineties indie thanks to his band RAYOS CATRIEL; he’s also a notorious sound engineer, something clearly noticeable in everything he does for ENTRE RÍOS.
I know a bit more about Sebastián Carreras. The first time I heard about him was on these terms: a guy who opted for investing the savings of a year’s work (he’s crazy!) in recording an album, instead of going on holidays to Europe. That’s what I was told. That album was called "Grabaciones íntimas / Canciones pop"; the title promised something, and the track list was largely up to that promise. I didn’t know then, but that was reference 001 of "Indice Vírgen" label, founded by Sebastián out of the money earned by working in Iberia, Fnac and the Museum of Ham; a room for risk and nobility in Argentinian music, still active after five years, twenty-two albums, one devaluation of the peso and seven Nation Presidents.
The moment I first met Sebastián I knew, beyond the musical admiration I can find for him and the other members of ENTRE RIOS, that I could really count on him when dreaming of a prettier world; a poppier, sadder if necessary, more ethical, and less stupid world. Since then, we’ve shared an endless admiration for LE MANS, countless cups of five o’ clock tea, some unforgettable nights and some other not that memorable, some few projects, some assorted arguments and some well-deserved joys too.
Going back to the subject of the band, it’s fair to say that maybe ENTRE RÍOS could have had its own life without the fact their members knew they were the parts of a band someday would be called ENTRE RÍOS. Some evidences can sustain this statement: some three years ago, Sebastián wrote a song on his guitar, recorded Isol’s vocals on top of it; handed a tape to Gabriel, who got rid of the guitar to build a precious sound architecture around the vocal track. The song made out of such an unfrequent writing method was called "Dame" and was released in a compilation entitled "Cancion-es-Pop" under the name of TUS HERMOSOS, the band Gabriel and Sebastian had at the time, previously known as TUS HERMOSOS PERDEDORES.
Is the plot too thick? Get it? Anyway, the main thing is that "Dame" was the first step to ENTRE RÍOS.
Since then, that slapstick comedy serves to prove ideas were beyond names from the earliest days. Since then, there’s a band that brings together rock, pop and electronica as a background for good tunes; a band that has no time for clichés, trited gestures and easy trendiness. Sebastián explains better by saying a song is not just chords and lyrics; a song is much more than that. Guitar, lyrics and tune are just a part of it. Don’t know if it’s ok or not, if this way of working things out will remain. But it’s a search, and that is enough to make it valid. In general, bands start by finding shelter in a name or similar tastes, and then write the music. We work the other way round: as we loved what we did together, we kept on working that way. Gabriel adds: Sebastián and me realised each other could delegate what we could not do or just didn’t know how to do. We both delegated vocals, he delegated the sound construction and I renounced to the song-writing.
The craftmanship and lack of vanity that was born with ENTRE RÍOS kept on being the main references for every new step given by the band, including their stage appearance, the progression of their discographic releases, the possibility of putting thinking in the front in detriment of action, without renouncing to transmit emotions; even the sleeve designs, (at least the ones made for Argentina; in Spain the task is taken by Javier Aramburu and I find that extremely admirable) which can look like simple barecodes but in a close sight they are a graphic translation of their songs: labyrinths made out of infinite straight lines.
Their previous work, which takes a definitive, almost perfect shape in "Sal", tries to enlarge their pop miniatures, avoiding clichés and conventions or, in any case, trying to create new ones, always trying to be as meticulous as less self-obliging. Moreover, "Sal" gets enriched by the process of reduction the songs went through, never falling into excessive ornamentation. Songs shiny in the outside; frank, endearing in the inside.
This is noticeable from the broken esperanto intro in "Séptimo cielo" (unreleased track in Argentina, with shiny vocals that evolve and get stronger to end up it’s better to act than to practise) till the song "Hoy no", in which a tune features a huge amount of samples (40, 50 or even more), obtaining a disturbing and amazingly organic track. "Sal" boasts many more flavours: the chaste microrhythms in "Si hoy", "Salven las sirenas" and its music box, that sort-of metallic bolero called "Nunca", a prayer made of clicks ( "Enormes" ) ...
Indietronic(sorry for this trendy label, sure to get older much master than the band’s music) three-some ENTRE RÍOS is an essential name for the late Argentinian pop music; a name that is fortunately getting more and more popular, surpassing certain short-sighted, mean attitudes. And their official first album (as "Idioma Suave" was a compilation of several EP’s) couldn’t be better. It’s opened by a delicate, festive declaration of Essentials called "Salven las sirenas" ("Save the sirens"). There’s too many people in rock music of today trying to save the whales; but saving the sirens is a completely different, almost political, affair: it’s to adopt a way of singing and saying that is partly seductive, moving and subtle; but that can’t help being terribly urgent as well.
Marcelo Panozzo (Journalist and rock critic. Editor of El Amante magazine and the Arts Section of T X T weekly. Coordinator of Buenos Aires’ Independent Film)
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