Review: Meridian Brothers – El Advenimiento Del Castillo Mujer

v600_crep32_meridian_v_cover_2000When I hear El Advenimiento Del Castillo Mujer, I think of an oddball Victorian depiction of future automobile technology, as loud and mechanically inefficient as it is crookedly beautiful. It’s covered in paraphernalia that rattles and jangles as it moves, puffing out clouds of smog as it lurches forward, miraculous and hilarious for the intermittent, unstable success its internal mechanics. The music seems to strain against the logic that holds it all together, and perhaps that’s because these songs – which have been very vaguely termed as “abstract folk music” – run on a democracy that assigns every instrument with both a rhythmic and melodic role. Drums are on hand to provide a vague percussive scaffold (often doing more to undermine the rhythm than strengthen it), although ultimately it’s up to the bleating clarinets and accordions, spindles of plucked strings and clunky mallet percussion to prop the whole thing upright, while Eblis Alvarez rests his voice precariously on top, drunk on the carcinogenic fumes of his gorgeous, stupid machine. Instruments spill off the back and harmonies slump out of shape, but the album never falls apart. I’m spellbound.

There’s so much to hear. I could spend each listen focusing on the strange quirks of a single aspect: the rolling, half-asleep romance of guitar and kalimba on “La Industria Del Deporte”, the sloshing tape loop at the heart of “El Cantinero Experimental”, cartoonish vocal hoots that jeer at the edges of “Canción De Invierno”. I love the little descending duet of clarinet and organ during the latter, which alternates with bouts of chaotic carnival march. Every track has dozens of little nuances worthy of dedicated attention, yet the raison d’être of each of these sounds is the perpetuation of the albums restive, rickety movement – they must keep chirping for the sake of the whole. I sense that Alvarez’s creations would topple if just one instrument were to abandon its post. His ensemble stays faithful, and every sound can be heard to stumble and wheeze as the pressure of democratic duty forces against bodily limits. Behold! The future of transport is here!