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On my own I'm free to abscond


JUANA MOLINA 

 “A veces, en la madraguda, llovia dulcemente, y parecia que un enjambre 
caia del cuelo, que los muertos volvian a la vida, que todo estaba bien.”
- Marosa Di Giorgio 'Flor De Lis'


Hey there brokeback. You don't want the lowdown. You want the high-up. This is a work of fiction. I’m not me, you’re not you, they ain’t they. Can't tell you what the quote above means. You find out.  Didn't get the story. Spoke to the sorceress responsible. Had a laugh. Put the phone down none the wiser. Thank god. Has done nothing to demystify the disc – and discs cast of such rare suggestion and wonder are to be protected from the lazily spat papier mache of critique, this attempt to sling words until a center can be imagined between the misfires. The balloon's popped people and we've pigspittle all over our hands - us numbnuts have to be at war to reconnoiter our nerve-endings again and in such circumstances Una Dia is something to pack for the frontline like a lovers locket or a chocolate bible. 


Chest open wide enough, spirit prone it gets freaky: takes your hand on the beach, filled with atomic counterweight, pulls you under the surf, vestigial gills kicking in, swims in the   random maths and magic of nature, celestially precise, languorous to the point of unicellular thickness. Entirely unsettling of the internal-geometry you expect, Una Dia, as experience, as ocean you let in the front door, surges past conclusion, inconclusion, sweeps a shingle of sonic delight into your shins and keeps climbing your thigh, rolls inland to penetrate the dark heart, comes blazing rays out the eyes and ears. A foot-tapper, a heart-racer throughout - a nigh-on heroic embrace slash refusal of reality that stands tall as the treetops, timbers-down, escapes the blinkered cramp of the here-and-just-then to flit around the everywhere-and-now, triple-salkos down the moebus whirlpool of life, thick with plumage and leaves. Me unkeen to nail it. If meaning is that thing that happens before you figure anything out, Una Dia is the most meaningful album of the year. It offers blissful transportation without negotiation. 


Let's talk about beats.
   “Well, the beats were always there as far as I'm concerned” says Molina. “On this album I decided to bring them up a little, make physical what was previously only suggested.”
   Why?
“Because, you know what? When you're in a club, and the DJ has the entire crowd in the palm of his hand – that's what I want. That power. It's a powertrip thing. People do dance at my gigs, but they tend to be in the minority. A lot of people sitting, thinking, just watching! I don't mind that but it would be my dream to be physically in control of a huge room of people, be able to change everything about the way they feel.. I want to agitate people with my music, perhaps because my music agitates me”


How do the sounds come? No nuts and bolts please.

“I never get a song beamed in from nowhere. It all emerges from playing the guitar. It’s when I start using electronics as well that I find my control of things slipping and those are the moments I love. When you feel that the machine is suggesting shapes to you. I work alone because I don’t want to feel watched or earthbound when I’m making music. I want to be free to wander around inside the imagination."


She pauses, thinks, continues: "Making it becomes an out-of-body experience. You’re part of it and then above it, watching it enfold, and it’s leading you on. I like to be surprised by the music – it’s then I know that when someone else hears it they’ll experience the sound before they’ll figure out how I made it. That’s crucial for me. I want people, after hearing ‘Una Dia’, to think ‘how was that made?’ I don’t want to make the means of production plain whilst it’s being heard. A lot of people who use the mix of technologies I use, acoustic guitar , keyboards, loop machines, they seem almost proud & showy of the way those  things clash. For me I want them to be an entirely fluid whole. I want things to sound natural.”


By which you mean a coherent universe to step into, an expanding emanation rather than a bolting down . . .
“By which I mean something as chaotic yet rhythmic as nature. I love that unpredictability.”
Your music doesn’t do what I want it to do. And thus ends up being all I want to listen to.
“Well nature doesn’t behave does it? It will give you something you want to hear again, and then just disappear. You lose heart! You think, come back! I’m not keen on making music that simply ‘delivers’ what you expect when you expect it. And that's difficult because you have to overcome your own habits sometimes, keep things moving on. Believe me, I’ve made A LOT of bad music in my past. I know EXACTLY how terrible my music can be. I keep it as a memory and a warning.”


Molina grew up in 60s Argentina , learned guitar from her tango-singing papa -  after the military coup in 76 her family fled to Paris for six years. Returning to South America in the 80s, Molina (through a mix of her own sharp writing and wicked characterization – an eye for human detail you can still hear) became an outright prime-time TV-comedy star through the shows La Noticia Rebelde and Juana Y Sus Hermanas (“it was strange, that success – the whole show was the kind of jokes me and my family tell to each other, the way we chat nonsense”) before fate stepped in and twisted Molina’s life around.
“I became pregnant, a pregnancy that was problematic and confined me physically to my room and bed for two months. I found myself forced, in a way, to pursue music. Music was what I wanted to do  – all my life I’ve listened to music and disappeared into it,  but I’d kind of let it fall to the side whilst the television thing took over. I thank my daughter for forcing me into finding it again!”


   So we have rootedness and flight, the commitment of an obsessive perfectionist coupled with the real nitty gritty of everyday love: we have the traces of a heritage but the irreverence and unplaceability of response to that heritage you only get from someone who feels a little alien, who remembers exile. Ask Molina some falteringly underinformed questions about Argentinian or Uraguayan music and she’s wonderfully unafraid to puncture that idea of paying her dues. I ask about Candambe and nearly get my head bitten off.
“I HATE Candambe! Too fussy, overly-macho, sounds terrible! When I'm asked about where I come from I think without a doubt I have to be from here, I have to sing in Rioplatinese Spanish, but surely none of us are JUST this bag of references, this walking set of indoctrinated rules – we all kick against as well as take-on our environment and upbringing.  I'm not into plenty of South American music at all. There’s this idea a lot of people have in places like Europe and America, that if you come from a different culture you must be desperate to cling to it and worship it and love it in a kind of submissive fashion, not in the changing, reinterpretative way that those cultures have actually thrived on. Perhaps because that kind of solemn unquestioning reverence is the relationship they have with their own histories.”
For you it was never thus?
“For anyone. My musical sense is informed by everything I’ve ever loved but when I’m making my music I’m not really thinking about any of that. I’m attempting to create a real world you can step into. Because that’s what I know all my heroes have done, in music, in literature, in film, in art – they’ve taken you places no-one else can."


Do you feel isolated in what you do? 
“Yes, and I wouldn't have it any other way! When I play with other people it reminds me of my insecurities and nervousness, it keeps me here. On my own I'm free to abscond from the process a little, I can feel as weightless and free as the music.”
  When do you think 'right, screw the kids today, it's time to make music'.
“All the time! But you find time, and that sense of clearing space makes it special. Thinking 'time to make an album' is different. I have to know that I am clear for take-off! I have to know I can become wrapped up in the music or how do I expect the listener to?” 



 I fear translation and prefer guesswork which is why I don't know exactly what Juana Molina's lyrics are. I know what they do. They're not interested in cutting the world into shape. They're interested in cutting the air into shape, the space into shape. And through that, they gain meaning. Since 2006's Son (the record that first clued me – and a just-as-sublime yet quieter foray into the territory Una Dia explodes itself into) Molina has found a way to treat voices that is entirely transformative but never inhuman, taking what's picked up through the steel mesh and turning it into tactile colour, scattering breath and voice across the canvass. 



When do the words come?
“At the very end. They can  be very matter of fact. They can be entirely surreal. They can be something I've heard at home, or  Life is like that.I know when a song is done when I start wanting words for it.”

And what are those words about (please don't tell me don't tell me please. . .)?
   “Don't be so lazy. You find out!”
Hallelujah. Is 'Los Hongos De La Marosa' about Marosa Di Giorgio?
“Yes! How the hell did you find that out? Get 'Flor De Lis'. If I had to read one more book for the rest of my life it would be that one.”
   And if I had to listen to one album for the rest of the year it would be 'Una Dia'. Hope when you most need it. A vanishing trick for your heart, head and soul. An escape route, dammit. Go on. Wander. Recall wonder, love again.




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