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Juana Molina - Un Dia

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Artist: Juana Molina

Album: Un Dia

Label: Domino

Review date: Oct. 31, 2008

Juana Molina’s fifth full-length, Un Dia, is a study in contrast. Brash innovation is backed by her trademark acoustic guitar. Surprises abound, but so do her hypnotically beautiful melodies, intricate rhythms and tasteful electronics.

The first 10 minutes model what’s on offer, perhaps unnervingly so. On the title track, Molina’s formerly hoarse whisper is replaced by a full-throated yell. The accompanying rhythmic syncopations are thicker, coagulated in a bass-heavy and complex uhr-groove. Cymbals skew time as textures gain density unlike anything she’s done before.

Yet, “Un Dia” proves to be the boldest departure for Molina, and she spends the rest of the album exploring these experiments on a smaller scale. The transition into the more introverted and hypnotic “Vive Solo” drives the point home; a keyboard vamp follows a gradual decrescendo and bleeds seamlessly into the sparse acoustic guitar fans will recognize from the Argentine singers’ previous work. Her voice drops a few decibels for the chorus – not quite to the levity of Segundo, but sweet all the same.

The rest of the album follows suit, and Molina’s style benefits from the more prevalent technology. The vocal overdubs on “Dar (Que Dificil)” juxtapose hushes, hums and blue-noted croons, often in layers of overdubbed harmonic complexity. The disc is rife with switches in timbre and effect, sometimes occurring from moment to moment. The seams rarely show.

As has been her style, Molina maintains striking transparency throughout. Despite the new complexities, there is never a sense of clutter. Each listen uncovers something new – a background melody, a hazy accompaniment, a pitched rhythm at the edge of audibility – that contributes to the Un Dia’s architecture. This is stunning production on sonic grounds alone, and the fact that the material is also first-rate makes for a fantastic addition to Molina’s impressive catalog.

By Marc Medwin

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