Review Las Malas Amistades – Maleza


With no traditional musical training, and approaching their instruments with the freedom of those who make music as an extension of other creative endeavours, Las Malas Amistades have acquired a unique sound that has made them a cult group not only in Colombia but also in the UK (where the prestigious label Honest Jon’s Records has released their work). Mixing acoustic instruments with vintage synths – and blending lyrics of love, loss and life with deep and thoughtful instrumental tracks – Maleza, their new album, is one of their best records to date.

Formed in 1994 in the popular neighbourhood of 7 de Agosto in Bogotá, Colombia, Las Malas Amistades have been playing around with music (in the most lucid and joyful sense) for the past 18 years. Presently formed by visual artists Humberto Junca, Manuel Kalmanovitz and Ximena Laverde, Maleza hints at being the highest point in their persistent search for a musical voice of their own, one that has led them to release four albums – recorded with a disctintive lo-fi sound – and to play in their concerts a vast collection of unreleased songs.

Far away from home, isolated in a hotel room in a foreign country, I had the chance to listen to Maleza, a generous album with 28 tracks, while looking through the window at at an unexplored town. Opening with the beautiful “Apocaliptica”, a bittersweet view of the end of the world, it was a song in the middle of the album that absolutely captivated me: “La Última Turista”, the beautiful story of a tourist walking around a deserted city that once belonged to a communist country. Through songs like “Insomnio” or “Más Allá”, the real charm of the album unveiled: the honesty of the arrangements and lyrics portrayed a very creative and unique approach to song-writing, one that defies every conventionalism and reaches not only a delicate balance between serious self-expression and humour but also between risky experimentation and a more traditional way of writing music. The easy, everyday-like tone in much of the songs seems to suggest something that academic musicians often forget: that writing deep, moving music does not necessarily stem from taking yourself too seriously.

The sincerity in each of those words and sounds made the vision of that distant city I was in more bearable. Through the beautiful simplicity of Maleza, being away from home was easier to understand.

Maleza is available from Honest Jon’s Records

“Apocalíptica”, the opening track on the album features on our Colombia compilation, part of a book/CD project about Colombian music and culture. You can find more details of this project here.

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