Going Underground: New Music from Uruguay

By | 23 December, 2010

The time has come to investigate the new music coming from Uruguay. Here we have a list of bands, some of which are new, some of which are old, but who are all making great music; music that is progressive, music that is trying to offer something different that’s not currently out there at the moment. Uruguay is a small country but this has never diminished their creativity, as evinced by some of the great indie, rock and folk acts we have been fortunate enough to have found, and who we can now repay the favour by saying a few words.

Señor Faraón

This is great blues/folk in the mold of Akron/Family or Devendra Banhart, which is to say it’s a little bit quirky, while also harking back to great performers such as John Martyn, Richard and Linda Thompson and Mississippi John Hurt. Being Uruguayan you also get that feeling that Eduardo Mateo has had some influence too. It would definitely explain the other-wordly edge that accompanies many of the songs, which are by the way, sung in English or Spanish (his last Las Ultimas en Ingles was in English).

Here’s Señor Faraón showing his chops in the excellently atmospheric video for “Canas.” If he was from the US you can’t help but think he would part of the American Primitive style of guitar-playing, playing alongside contemporaries like Mike Fekete, Matt Valentine and Ben Chasny.

You can download the latest, Las Ultimas en Ingles, at Un En Un Oh Records.

www.myspace.com/pharaonblues

Carmen Sandiego

Montevideo’s Carmen Sandiego released Joven Edad in 2010. It’s an album that flutters between ragged, swaggering rock in the style of Jonathan Richman or Mink DeVille and plucked delights such as “Mi Novio Gremlin” and “Superado”. At times, as on “Asco al Seco” it all gets very Elliott Smith. Crucially, however they decide to coat their songs, it works. You could look at Velvet Underground & Nico having a big influence, as the way in which they shift between gnarly rock songs, deathly ballads and faltering acoustic numbers, are all replicated here.

It’s no surprise then that the band have been around for a few years. Joven Edad is, I believe, their fourth album. It is probably one of the best albums of indie-pop released in South America, if not in the world, in 2010. It’s just a shame that it’s been largely overlooked by most people (including ourselves – we only found out about this album after writing our Best of 2010!) although Club Fonograma included it at #40 in their Best Albums of 2010.

You can download all of Carmen Sandiego’s albums on their website.

www.myspace.com/dondeenelmundo

Vincent Vega

A folk duo from Montevideo capable of interlinking great melodies a la Turin Brakes, they have released one album – entitled Vincent Vega – in 2009 and have also featured in an Indiefolks session, which is thanfully easier to access. The session highlights Vincent Vega’s brand of folk, which often sticks to simple progressions but which does have its moment. They seem to revel in following the traditions of great singer/songwriters such as Cat Stevens and Neil Young, getting to the heart of each song, without hiding its message through over-played guitar lines.

Here’s an amazing slice of their blissful folk for you, from the Indiefolks session. [Indiefolks are incidentally one of our favourite websites and I would implore you to check them out.]

www.myspace.com/huevomaraca

Franny Glass

Franny Glass is the solo project of the singer Gonzalo Deniz, lead singer of the band Mersey. While that band hearken back to the days of Echo & The Bunnymen with their slow-burning anthemic rock, Franny Glass sticks to just the guitar and vocals, with sublime results.

Gonzalo’s songs exist are those kinds of songs that sound nice on first listen, but each time you hear it become lodged that little further into your head, with the lyrics slowly revealing themselves, until eventually you are head over heels in love with them. Just take “Hoy No Quiero Verte Nunca Más” (the video below) as evidence of this.

This song by Franny Glass is one of the first with a full band, recorded in Sao Paulo by the people at Silaba o Silbido:


www.myspace.com/32canciones

La Hermana Menor

The name of this article doesn’t really fit with La Hermana Menor. They began life in 1991 and over the past almost-20 years they have experienced three line-up changes and released three albums; the third of which, called Canarios was released this year. Despite their years in the business they are still producing great indie music and still have a huge influence on the current indie scene in Uruguay.

What gives La Hermana Menor an edge over some of the other indie bands in Uruguay is there that there is more of a connection with Uruguay, especially the works of artists like Rumbo, who both lyrically and musically tried to pull Uruguayan music out of the stale environment it had found itself through the 70s and into the early 80s. Hence there are elements of rock and canto popular from the past but also a step into the present day with some great indie influences, though it’s in the lyrics that La Hermana Menor really excel. Here’s the band performing “La Casa de Margarita” live:

www.myspace.com/hermenor

Amelia

Careening indie-rock with definite nods to Stone Roses/Charlatans. This is a band who have taken a shine to the more-British vein of indie-rock. They released their third disc this year, “Otro Final,” a 5-song EP which sums up their sound extremely well. They have the dynamism of the Stone Roses, unearthly wail of My Bloody Valentine and threat of Jesus and Mary Chain; all of which make for a very exciting, visceral mix.

You can download their three releases at the Amelia website here. Here’s the video for “Escena Postal” off their second album Segundo Nombre:

www.myspace.com/neverpainted

Ufesas

After a great selection of indie-folk and indie-rock we thought we should redress the balance a little with something a little heavier. Ufesas, from Canelones, sound uncannily like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club at times (see “The Destroyer.”) while at other times sounding like other riff-centric groups such as Queens of the Stone Age and Dead Meadow. In other words, this is heavy music that grooves.

There are no official videos for Ufesas yet but this live one certainly shows off their visceral charms:

www.myspace.com/ufesas

Thanks to Leandro Machín for his suggestions for the list!


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