Tuesday 17 March 2020

Aridonia - Aridonia (2020)

Country: Argentina
Style: Psychedelic Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 20 Feb 2020
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I love how flexible genres can be nowadays. Case in point: how can we place a band like Aridonia into just one pigeonhole? Quick answer: we can't. Just listening to the first track on this, their debut album, I hear it drifting through half a dozen different genres, though the flow is entirely natural.

It's Abismos and it starts out as a soothing, hypnotic and psychedelic rock song. When the fuzzy guitars join in and the vocals get more raucous, we're firmly in stoner rock territory. Then we get all prog with intricate changes and even an ethnic section. The bass of Tomas Longombardo gets some welcome runs during the middle of the song. And the end slows down considerably and heavies up, with a nod towards doom or sludge metal.

I don't know if there's a particular lyrical vision behind the song because Aridonia are from Argentina and sing in Spanish. Google Translate isn't much of a help on this, perhaps because the lyrics are abstract or colloquial. It looks like they're talking about a journey through time and past lives, but I visualised it as a trip down into the depths of the ocean, Abismos meaning Abysses, with the colour of the song representing the weird and wonderful at serious depths and the heaviness representing the weight of the water.

Fantasmagoria is an odd follow-up because the otherworldly images I conjured up from the opener continue but it kicks off with a riff that's reminiscent of Metallica's Frantic, of all things. While Robert Trujillo would leap into bass runs like Longombardo gets here, the rest of that band have become part of the mainstream and we can only attempt to imagine them doing something as interesting as this.

I won't be much of a surprise for a band who delve into both psych and prog, but Fantasmagoria is the shortest song here and it's still over five minutes in length. Abismos is the longest at over nine and it doesn't feel remotely too long. These songs are as long as they need to be and no longer, even at seven or eight minutes.

With the band tight and constantly interesting, the weak spot for me is the vocals which aren't bad but are rough and would fit better on a dirty blues album. The singer is Fernando Echenique, who is also one of two guitarists, so I'd bet money that he thinks of himself as a guitarist who also sings not a singer who also plays. Oddly, when the band get closest to dirty blues, as they do at points on La serpiente y la manzana, he doesn't sing much, though he fits perfectly when he does.

Echenique's voice brings a down to earth garage rock sound to the band which would otherwise seem trippier and more detached from reality. This is music to accompany you during astral travel or on some sort of heroic psychedelic trip. It's often dark but it's always warm, so it's an interesting companion rather than a dangerous one. Its presence is comforting but it does too many imaginative things for us to relax, so we can't and don't want to ignore it. It's almost like a conversation, though I have no idea what I'm contributing to that.

I don't think anything here approaches the majesty of Abismos, but this is a rather immersive album, enough so that I listened three or four times before putting virtual pen to paper. It's easy to get lost in the second half, with Magia negra particularly magnetic but that feeling continuing on through Oda a la memoria and Leviatán for a twenty minute chunk of solid trip.

I should add that I only have a little Spanish, but I could figure out all these song titles without online help (except for one, "manzana", which is "apple", so meaning that La serpiente y la manzana is presumably Biblical). The only bit I'm stuck on is what Aridonia means, because I'm not seeing a reference or a translation, so maybe they just made it up.

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