Mexico City’s Shoegaze / Dream Pop band come of age with the dreamy soundscapes, ideas and hooks of Salamanca
I usually write my reviews in my cosy little living room in my cottage in the middle of a forest in merry old England. I have my light on and am surrounded by all the things I love, well my vinyl and my books anyway… Today, owing to the otherworldly ambience and occasionally dark atmosphere of Mexican Shoegaze / Dream pop band Sexores’ album, with it’s inspiration of witches and darkness, I’m going to write my review in the dark, with only the light from my I-device to guide me.
Opener Aqueronte is basically a 46 second synthy-sustain-effect track. It creates mystery for the listener- there is no discernible band yet, and one might wonder what this album has in store. When used effectively, such as on this album, a short intro track can serve to bolster the following track. It may be slightly different to the rest of the album, similar to the first track ‘Horn Track’ on the Modest Mouse album, ‘Good News for people who love bad news’. This is exactly what ‘Aqueronte’ does, akin to the start of a live performance, where when seeing a band, there might be a musical introduction played to through the PA. For instance, once when seeing New Model Army, a short looping version of their tune, ‘Vagabonds’ was played to get the audience going. I can imagine Sexores hitting their audience with a blast of Aqueronte before kicking into their tunes.
Volantia has a short synth and guitar intro and the drums kicking in fires us into the verse. The listener is hit with smooth, ethereal vocals, gracefully haunting the mix. There’s synth hooks too throughout, creating a memorable start, before there’s a second change musically and melody-wise in the verse, filtering into a catchy, infectious, chorus. The chorus has, although poppy, an otherworldly feel about it. The song starts to feel as if it shares the same DNA as tunes by Stereolab and The Cocteau Twins. The chorus gives way to a short, fuzz guitar vs synth interlude, then we’re back to the verse again. It’s a beautifully relentless thing, the bass and drum elements fast-paced giving this tune plenty of bounce and energy. The chorus is repeated again, but extended, giving the opportunity for the vocals to alter and dip in and out, giving the instrumentation some space to play with the riff. The tune breaks down, ending with a fading sustain.
Follow on Decretism starts with a relaxed ambience. There are airy hummed vocals, little keyboard stabs, distant synths and what appears to be outdoor natural world sound effects, giving way to drums and a shimmering, delaying lead guitar. It’s very short and sweet, leading into again, some very atmospheric, but delicate vocals, which complement the guitar. Or rather, they complement each other. The drums, in a way, become an important hook themselves. The track falls out, giving space for natural world/water effects, with sustaining ‘piano wire’ guitar effects (think the start of ‘The End’ by The Doors) and soft spoken words finish this track.
Elsewhere Hannya starts with a strong, pulsating synth and drums, leading to an immediate riff/hook that is hypnotic and captivating. The band create soundscapes to showcase the strengths of the vocalist, echoey and distant as one might expect in a Dreampop tune, but also soaring and sustaining. There is an instrumental interlude, where the synths are so distinctive, that they have a soundtrack quality to them, and fuzzed up sustaining guitar in the mix. Then there is a change, with synths, bass and drum elements firing up a notch, a gently distorted guitar filling out the soundscape – Blade Runner-sequel, Then the riff kicks back in – strong, slightly moody but so memorable, followed by a wavering synth solo, fuzzily crashing back into the vocal driven part, before fading and decaying.
Although Posism + Tiraclaurism, is a short synth-driven tune, it’s full of depth and forbodding. The instruments stop, leaving an electronic hum which suddenly creaks, cracks and spoils into a second or so of what sounds like a Mariachi tune, before decaying out and away. It leads into this bass heavy synths of Nos Lo Dijo La Serpiente almost Underworld-like, and develops and hits the listener with a lot creative ideas, like a lot of the bands tunes. This tune definitely has a more danceable element, with some lovely effects-driven vocal parts giving a delicious, alien quality to the music.
Crapaud starts with a slithering electronic wall of sound, which reminds me of a scuttling, robotic scorpion. It’s a well crafted, organic sounding and fully realised soundscape with menacing, the sound effects(which sound like in places, evil toads!) and sustaining synth which are vaguely reminiscent of the first two Pink Floyd Albums. ‘Crapaud’ is similar to the end of ‘Bike’ by the Floyd- psychedelic and foreboding. It’s also a reminder to the listener that Sexores are not just about the tunes, they’re about artistic expression too.
Pick of the tracks on the record is The Depressing Sounds of The Witch. Frantic fast paced drums and bass, ethereal vocals, dark sounding fried sounding synths and distortion guitar supporting, lower in the mix. This tune weaves from one vocal part to the next. It has such a atmospheric quality to it. A brooding feeling of dread is throughout, but it’s cathartic too- in the same way a very early Black Sabbath track feels. The tune ends on some wonderfully noisy electronic effects and fuzzy guitar feedback.
After that comes Death by Burning keeping the listener on their toes with the sample ‘Burn the Witch!’ It’s a short, terrifying cacophony of electronic experimentation, disembodied wailing, electronically treated voices and another great example of how Sexores are very much artistically driven. They don’t over-egg with the shorter, experimental tracks. By keeping this track short, creativity and imagination shine through. As the albums turns toward the end Mistress of Marble Hill starts with an edgy ambience, faintly like Portishead, even John Barry in its nod towards trip-hop. It has a wonderful, dream-like quality to it, full of jazz-inspired bass and drum stabs, wonderful distant piano effects and crunchy, sustaining guitar effects. The vocal delivery on this would give Shirley Manson of Garbage a run for her money.
Lampades hits you with a wall of sustaining sound, like a sonic train flying past, with wailing vocals as if falling into an echoey pit, while in contrast Madre begins with a very delicate electric piano and vocal line. There are subtle effects present also, pulsating in the background, while the tune grows, fleshing out of the soundscape with dreamy synth and subtle guitar. This track doesn’t have percussion and glides like a dream with possibly the most beautiful vocal delivery on the whole album, leaving the listener to lose themselves in the track, entombed with spacious soundscapeS that are hypnotic, even mermerizing.
Album closer Salamanka is peppered with spoken and often whispered vocals with a discordant chant in the background. It almost sounds like a spell or ritual. The sound effects in the background create a scaringly-psychedelic atmosphere and a frighteningly effective way to end an album.
As I sit, lit only by that screen light in front of me, I can look back over an outstanding album, full of tunes, ideas, light and shade, massive vocal and instrumental hooks, dreamy soundscapes and a band that seems to be reaching their creative height. Sexores are not only accomplished as musicians, but also as artists.