A friend recently shared this video medley with me:
Juana Molina’s former comedy show, Juana y Sus Hermanas (!) The clips are funnier to me than, say, most SNL skits in recent memory, and I only speak un poco. Ms. Molina’s comic genius speaks a language of universal incoherence.
Molina is better known in the U.S. for her music than for television, which she left in 1996 to release her first album; it was a metamorphosis executed with astonishing aplomb, although the medium-swap was less radical to her than her (T.V.) fans. She grew up in a musical home, and her tango-player father has said in an interview (regarding the backlash of her switch from television to music) that “People are too conservative in what they think of as music, and I wanted her to hear everything and to feel free.”
Throughout her music career, Molina has elliptically re-envisioned the singer-songwriter paradigm, traversing to its farthest borders on her latest album, Un Día. But on her first album, Rara (currently unavailable), we find equally compelling albeit more traditional tweaks of the same theme. “En los días de humedad” (scroll up after clicking this link to download) has been on repeat for months now with me: the haunting, tremulous uncertainty at 0:38 and throughout, her voice at 1:03 and 2:06 capturing a delicate anguish with inertia. Her voice navigates unexpected intervals, the more oblique entanglements of song structure in general, and the vagaries of existence itself.
I saw Juana Molina at her last show in Minneapolis, at the Whole Music Club, and it was easily among the best shows I’ve ever seen, perhaps the best. It’s difficult to explain why some live music is so much more essential than others, but for her Whole appearance, the groove—in all its moving, shifting, tapestry dimensions—was flawless, and belied the unique conceptual underpinnings of her harmonic understanding. She explains:
“When I started to write the songs for [the] record ‘Son’, a new element that may have been hidden for a long time appeared; the randomness of the combination of sounds in nature. Each bird has a particular singing; nevertheless this singing is always different. It is not a pattern; it’s a drawing, a sound and a mode, only a few elements that each bird combines in a new way each time.
In the same way, sometimes I chose to sing a melodic drawing I develop for the song. Verses are alike, but never the same (rios seco, no seas antipática) other times I chose to sing a repetitive melody. What changes here and moves randomly is, for example, a keyboard. It is like overlapping two different loops, with no synchronicity at all. One very rhythmic and the other one more loose. When you play both, at the same time, the loose loop will provoke a changing harmony, because their beats will never be in the same place. This causes a moving harmony.”
This video illustrates her moving harmony concept:
Juana Molina’s concert at the Walker this Saturday night is a nice tie-in to fellow Argentinian and visual artist Guillermo Kuitca’s opening at the Walker this Friday night. The two even interviewed each other for the Star Tribune.
Tickets for Juana Molina are still available. Click here.