Going Underground: New Indie Music from Chile

By 29 October, 2010

There is something irresistible about the way that many Chilean groups tackle indie music. There’s the expressiveness of bands like the Flaming Lips or Polyphonic Spree, the character of Daniel Johnston or Arthur Russell and the warm hush of Beach House or Azure Ray, while at the same time having a personality all its own, which must be that Chilean effect, the influence of greats such as Violeta Parra and Los Blops, as well as the burden of history, the wars, dictatorship and plight of their indigenous people. Take into account also the shape of the country, which puts one end of Chile facing the Antarctic and the other with the heat of the Atacama desert. No wonder there is such an expansive sound to many of these indie groups, hailing from Santiago and Valparaiso, and who largely eschew the urban sounds of punk, garage or hip-hop and instead aim for indie-pop greatness and sparse electro and folk songs. It is no exaggeration to say that I am very much in love with all of these bands!


Protistas have been very prolific since forming only a couple of years ago. They’ve already released two EPs and an album, and have featured on Season 2 of the great Soda Pop TV station. Their songs straddle the balance perfectly between abrasive and sweet, and between strong and fragile, something that is not easy to pull off. Once you throw in the fact that these songs deal with the problems of Northern Chile, echoes of previous wars, Chile’s ritualistic festivities and the problems of love and life that permeate all young people’s lives, this is vital music indeed.


Matias Cena

Singer/songwriter in the vein of classic songwriters such as Bob Dylan or Neil Young. This is evident in the video for “5 Norte 5 Sur” below which has definite echoes of Dylan, both in the chord structure and the harmonica. In modern terms I guess we would then have to make a comparison to Josh Rouse or Whiskeytown. Another way of putting it then, is to say that this is great folk music, taking inspiration from some of the greats, producing something personal that relates to his his home of Santiago, Chile.



This band are very much like Woody Alien, one of my favourite new bands from Argentina. The description I gave at the start of this article, talking about an expansive sound with fragility, texture and character could not better describe Prehistoricos. This is a duo capable of some very serene moments. I highly recommend the video to “Distintos” below, which has been lovingly recorded in delightful saturation like much of Vincent Moon’s work. Their new album Orquesta Ocúlta, released on 1st October, can be downloaded HERE.



Música, Gramática, Gimnasia is Denver‘s second album, released on 27th October 2010, it highlights their rich, luscious sound, akin to Sigur Ros, especially in the way their songs gradually lift, building up to an emotion that can become too much to bear. See “Lo Que Quieras” below for an example of this. You can download in full their new album HERE.


Mario Parra

This is one of those strange ones where I just can’t seem to find the information I want. This is Mario Parra. I really like his music. It’s indie/folk music with some really interesting twists, there is a slightly experimental nature to some of the songs. “Herencia,” for example, contains a delightful horn section which gives these delightful nostalgic overtones of Burt Bacharach’s “This Guy’s In Love With You.” My plan is to get some more information on this particular artist. In the meantime please check out his Myspace as it’s obvious this is a guy with a bucketload of talent.


Nueva Orléans

This is great indie pop from San Felipe in Valparaíso, with a certain 80s aesthetic, somewhere between New Wave and Italo-Disco. Frankly, “Música y Discos,” below, is everything you could ever want from a great pop song. An EP of theirs can be downloaded from their Myspace page. It is just as infectious as this video, even when replacing synth swathes with acoustic guitars. This is one of those rare bands who have worked out their sound right from the off, they know how they want to sound, and from now on, they will just keep improving as they refine it.


Umbría en Kalafate

Normally these Going Underground articles are just for six bands. I only discovered Umbría en Kalafate after I’d written the other six entries. I then toyed with the idea of leaving one of the others out or not including Umbría. Ultimately wisdom prevailed and Umbría have been included. They are possibly the oldest band here. Their first record, UMBRNKLFT, was released in 2003. Since then they have recorded Psicofolclor in 2006 and Efecto Catapilco in 2009, all of which are gorgeous slices of post-rock greatness. What I really love about this band are their ability to pull unsual sounds from their instruments, making them sonic architects in the vein of Mogwai and My Bloody Valentine, very good company to be keeping indeed.


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