Migala

Arde (Sub Pop Records)

By the sound of it, Migala considers music as much a visual experience as an aural one. Thank goodness, because the results are spectacular. The band's third full-length sets the scene for a lush, cinematic dream world to be seen with the ears, which makes for inspiring listening. The music of Arde("it burns") is suggestive of bright colors in the single-note strumming, minor keys, and steady beats, yet these are balanced by multilayered and fluid camera work made warm and earthy by using string arrangements, an accordion, melodicas, and a Rhodes piano. Simultaneously Migala grounds the experience in a cinematic modernity with effects, clips of Spanish dialogue, and a plethora of other noises that often map a tenor of urgency. The songs slow-burn in nocturnal light, revealing stories hung with characters on the verge of something. In tone and timbre, they generously invite listener participation in their dark, imaginative scope. "To make classic songs with an uncanny atmosphere" is the band's motto. On Arde it succeeds.

"Primera Parada" sets the film rolling with a melodious, dusty refrain that picks up new instruments (including violins and bongos) with every few bars strolled, becoming awash in cymbal flourishes and layers of shoegazer-grainy white noise crescendoing and finally succumbing to exhaustion. This technique remains consistent throughout the 14-track score. The second instrumental, "El Caballo del Malo," has all the drama of a treasured spaghetti Western shown in a miserably unkempt suburban art-house theater at midnight, the sound effects and tinkling vibes lending the tune extra charm. By "Fortune's Show of Our Last," the Ennio Morricone-meets-Tindersticks sound is in full bloom. Abel Hernandez sings his lines ("Was the night so/Violently cold/ We thought the wind was howling for us") with a deep-down, unhurried, Spanish-accented speak-singing reminiscent of Leonard Cohen, and voilà! -- we have our narrator. Later, in "The Guilt" (which could have provided the disc's title) he sings, "I guess it would/It would be possible to crash/With one of the strangers that/I cross in the street/ And have a premonition of happiness." And we hope he does. Haunted with remorse and desire, the poetic songs of Arde are reflective of sustained mystery and romanticism that will find listeners hooked to their trembling hearts on the beautifully escapist filmettes they evoke.

 
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