Editor's Note: Sharp-eyed readers will note that we actually reviewed the import edition of Arde, on Acuarela, a few months ago. Because Splendid reviews every submission we receive, we occasionally end up reviewing multiple versions of the same album. Normally, our policy in this case is to confine such "reissues" to the At A Glance page -- but our reviewer, Amy, felt strongly that Arde merits particular attention. Accordingly, we've opted to print her full review.
Sometimes the darkest music also proves to be the most comforting. Such is
the case with Migala's first US release, Arde (translated, "it
burns"). Migala's sense of melancholy, combined with Leonard Cohen-like
vocals (most notably on "Suburbian Empty Movie Theatre"), lends itself to a
mood that is at once peaceful and somber. The beauty in all this
melancholy is that, interspersed among the reverberating guitars and
mournful keyboards, you'll find an assortment of cheerful instruments, such
as the accordion, that help to create an underlying tone of optimism.
Though it was released in Spain last year, Arde and Migala were practically
unknown until recently -- unless you were one of the few who picked up 1998's Así Duele Un Verano, or caught Migala performing as Will Oldham's
backup band during his tour of Spain. I think the chances of that are pretty
slim. Fortunately, Migala's stateside fame is clearly on the rise. It seems as if they've been
building up to this moment for some time -- releasing tracks for
compilation discs, providing opening performances for The Magnetic Fields,
Damon & Naomi and Mark Kozelek, and dishing out a 7" single for Sub Pop late
last year. They probably keep telling themselves "It's just a matter of
time before we blow the Americans away". They may be right.
Arde, besides slipping the listener into a trance-like state, plays
well as a summer driving soundtrack, but only on open roads or in the
country. Listening to Arde in city traffic may result in violence; note "Times of Disaster", in which you'll hear the impatient honking of car horns and the shattering crashes of vehicular collisions. You may want to skip this tune if you're heading into a busy intersection -- there's really no telling what could happen.
If you're looking for a bit more variety in your summer listening,
Arde would easily fit the bill. Songs like the
previously mentioned, accordion-heavy, "Suburbian Empty Movie Theatre" and
"Cuatro Estaciones" are perfect for those days when you're wishing you were
lying on the Mediterranean seaside, sipping an exotic drink, but in reality
are sitting in a kiddie pool in your back yard, downing a Rolling Rock. If you
close your eyes, maybe -- with Migala's help -- you can fool yourself.