Crisálida Sónica – Exploring Peru’s Avant-garde

By 04 January, 2011

Crisálida Sónica is a record that came out of a nascent Peruvian avant-garde scene in 1997. It highlighted a new breed of Peruvian music, influenced by the woozy shoegaze of The Telescopes and Slowdive, the seminal krautrock of Can and Kluster and the exploits of bands such as Spacemen 3, My Bloody Valentine and other records released by labels such as 4AD and Creation Records. Noticeably, all of these bands combined a knowledge of pop music along with a policy of not adherring to it, preferring to create their own sonic collages. The notion of a verse/chorus/verse structure was obliterated, replaced by extended structures that prioritised texture and feel. It was from this template that Crisálida Sónica took its roots, and became the name for the movement its record showcased.

Wilder Gonzalez Agreda is a musician at the core of this scene, having featured in bands such as Avalonia and Fractal. The latter of these bands, along with Catervas, Espira and Hipnoascensión, would make the material that would be released as Crisálida Sónica. I spoke to Wilder to try and find out more about how this movement came to be. He started; “The first of us were Hipnoascensión who began in 1990 under the name of Katarsis, they were playing concerts in those early years. I remember looking at a flyer announcing a concert with other cool psychedelic bands like Atmósfera and 1+ in 1993.”

As with the start of many scenes, it began to take shape with the meeting of a number of like-minded individuals. Wilder was a student at the University of Lima in 1994; “Miguel Angel ‘Chino’ Burga (from Espira), Wilmer Ruiz (from Catervas) and me got to meet [at the University.] Then I introduced Hipnoascensión who lived near my home in North Lima. Some other friends from my school, like Christian Galarreta (from Diosmehaviolado and Evamuss), Aldo Castillejos (from Espira) and Carlos Mariño (from Girálea) were also introduced to the scene and gradually other musicians arrived to us from different parts of the city of Lima.”

Avalonia – Suave Almanecer (Live, 1997)

At the beginning of 1997 the label of Crisálida Sónica (translating as Sonic Cocoon) was beginning to attach itself to the scene and would be immortalised in March when the record, which in many respects was a demo immortalising the movement, was released. Wilder explains the idea behind it; “around 1996 we wanted to put together a compilation to show the public this small local scene, so we did the compilation in order to show our music to the rest of the alternative scene, which was focused in styles that for us was anachronistic, kind of old and threshed. The tape was released in March of 1997 and received some interest by the music press here.”

It’s a glorious record showcasing the restlessness and ambitions of these young musicians. Espira are the more melodic of the bands featured with a layered, rhythmic approach not too far from My Bloody Valentine or from the shoegaze scene. Catervas, while sharing many similarities with Espira, were blunter, far more direct in their sound, which could often feel quite dark or ominous. Fractal took that a step further and were prominently more in line with some of the krautrock experiments by bands such as Kluster. Theirs is the strongest example of replacing rhythm with texture and this is often why their songs feel so exploratory. Hipnoascensión were the ones who really showed the Spacemen 3 influence, evoking the exploits of Jason Pierce and Sonic Boom as they head off into their never-tiring space-rock.

Espira – Espiral Mi Alma (1996)

Two compositions by each of the four bands take over the first half of the record. Following that we get a number of joint compositions with an even more exploratory feel, highlighting just some of the possibilities that these bands could converge upon. While reflecting the movement, due to its sheer scope the record soon became out-dated due to the fact that shortly after its release bands such as Resplandor, Girálea and Diosmehaviolado would soon become an integral part of the movement, especially in concert where they would play largely in the bars of Lima. “We mostly played in bars as we didn’t have the support of art spaces or other institutions here. I remember I played with Fractal at Universidad de Lima on March 1997. Most bands were playing ‘nueva troca’ and people liked that then we appeared on stage with our attack of guitar noise a la Flying Saucer Attack and a percussion very much Suicide and most of the public left. It was a sign we were doing things right” adds Wilder.

Fractal – Ilumíname (1998)

Many of the musicians came from an art background and this is reflected in their philosophy as well as their collaborations. “Since the begininng Christian Galarreta has interacted with poets of the Universidad de San Marcos and has been invited to present his sound performances to the celebrations of books by Víctor Coral or Miguel Ildefonso, two well-known poets here” continues Wilder. “Some visual artists close to us are Prin Rodríguez (photography), María Fernanda Maldonado (designer) and sisters Natalia and Carmen Rojas Gamarra (visual artists and video makers). Christian Galarreta has a book of poems ready to be published in Mexico called Poemares and also the people of La Casa Ida (an association of artists in Lima) are very close to us and are constituted by several visual artists, architects and people related to digital arts including Alvaro Pastor (architect and musician playing under the name of Ida) and Gustavo Gamio (visual artist.)”

The movement has continued to progress, though a sequel to Crisalida Sonica has never emerged. Perhaps this is due to the nature of the artists involved. By constantly searching for new ideas and new sounds are they not then pushing themselves away from the sound that they helped create in the first place? It is certainly true that the artists involved have continued to diverge in their sounds, and while this has made another compilation hard to produce, it has resulted in plenty of interesting music.

Out of the bands that featured on the record Hipnoascensión and Catervas are both still making interesting records, with Catervas venturing towards a more indie-rock sound. Wilder is currently recording music under his own name, as well as with Peruvian Red Rockets. ‘Chino’ Burga has now disbanded Espira and is currently getting international success as La Ira de Dios, his new band who have already toured Europe several times and have been very well-received in Germany.

Diosmehaviolado – Entre Tus Piernas (1997)

Some of the other artists, who have been crucial to the development of the movement, have also spread their wings. Fernando Ponce (of Avalonia) who had a song released on a US compilation in 1998 and now records as Labioxina. Resplandor have toured the US three times and had their last LP produced by Robin Guthrie of the Cocteau Twins. Serpentina Satélite, the band of Aldo Castillejos (of Espira and Diosmehaviolado) have released their latest album in England, where Christian Galarreta has also toured.

You can download Crisálida Sónica HERE.

If you would like to hear how Crisálida Sónica has evolved you can listen to our new mixtape, compiled by Wilder Gonzalez Agreda. Just click HERE.

More videos:

Resplandor – Sol Océano (this is an early video featuring Wilmer Ruiz (of Fractal and Catervas) on keyboards)

Evamuss – Iq (1998)

Hipnoascensión – Flota (rehearsal)

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