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On ‘¡Ay!’, the tropical music of Lucrecia Dalt’s childhood turns into avant-garde sci-fi : NPR

Lucrecia Dalt has turn out to be one in all fashionable music’s most fascinating chameleons.

Pedro Nekoi for NPR

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Pedro Nekoi for NPR

Lucrecia Dalt has turn out to be one in all fashionable music’s most fascinating chameleons.

Pedro Nekoi for NPR

In celebration of Latinx Heritage Month, NPR Music is spotlighting a sequence of artists throughout Latin America who’re partaking with their musical heritage in distinctive methods. From transforming conservative genres for brand new eras, to teasing out fashionable sounds from old-school devices, these artists symbolize the wide selection of experimentation that makes up up to date Latin music.

Three months in the past, the experimental musician and composer Lucrecia Dalt was on the Spanish island of Mallorca licking a rock. She was filming the music video for “No Tiempo,” the lead single from her new album, ¡Ay!, taking part in the a part of Preta, an alien newly landed on planet Earth. As Dalt explains over a video name, she was licking the rock as a result of Preta is ready to sense stratigraphy along with her tongue — in a manner, she is ready to style geological historical past. At one other level, Dalt dances weightlessly as a result of Preta is “organless,” transferring with a sluggish movement grace to a winding bolero rhythm. Collectively, the photographs and music conjure a world that’s sensual, surreal, sci-fi and decidedly romantic.

As we speak Dalt is sitting in her Berlin residence studio, wearing a snug woolen cardigan, backed by an array of synthesizers, a huge bookshelf and an ominous sculpted white hand. She laughs on the absurdity of pairing what she describes because the “tropical music” that she grew up listening to in her native Colombia — bolero, salsa, merengue — with the album’s alien-driven narrative. “Generally I learn the lyrics and I am like, ‘God, that is so insane,’ ” Dalt says. “Different occasions, individuals ask me what the lyrics [all sung in Spanish] imply and I am like, ‘Preta is channeling time by way of her glandular gate.’ It feels weird that I am saying that within the context of a bolero track however, on the similar time, it feels proper.”

Dalt has turn out to be one in all fashionable music’s most fascinating chameleons. Throughout a sequence of albums launched since 2005, the musician has occupied many kinds, from creator of off-kilter indie pop (launched beneath alias The Sound of Lucrecia) to purveyor of esoteric Colombian area recordings. A pair of data on Human Ear Music solidified an avant-electronic sound earlier than her transfer to New York-based label, RVNG Intl. prompted extra reinvention — spoken phrase poetry on 2018’s Anticlines, atmospheric horror on 2020’s No Period Sólida. On ¡Ay!, which interprets as “Oh!,” Dalt has recorded her most dramatic transformation but: an album of lushly organized “bolero sci-fi,” one which fuses tropical music, jazz and electronics however which — she makes clear — is not any “fusion” file.

Dalt has been desirous about ¡Ay! for a few years. The Berlin-based musician summoned the “reminiscence of rhythms” from her Colombian upbringing moderately than exact, studied recreations. She began writing because the pandemic started within the spring of 2020, a interval following a number of the busiest months of her life. She had not too long ago wrapped up work with an orchestra in Chicago, recorded a collaborative album with Wolf Eyes‘ Aaron Dilloway, and produced materials for an artwork set up on the Museum of Fashionable Artwork of Medellín in Colombia, all whereas recording and touring No Period Sólida. The musician was possessed by an “eruption of untamed, artistic power,” however when the virus arrived she was pressured to decelerate. It felt like the best second, Dalt says, to pursue an album of tropical rhythms that might ultimately require “very affected person studio time.” Every day the Colombian sat at her keyboard, listening, reflecting, and taking part in the music of her childhood. “I had extra of this introspective time,” she says. “I used to be slowly analyzing tracks and pondering, ‘What is occurring with this development? Why does it generate this sense of longing inside me?’ “

Like so many individuals who skilled the pang of homesickness throughout lockdown, Dalt sought consolation within the music of her previous. “You have a look at these recollections differently, by way of the lens of nostalgia,” Dalt says. “I used to be right here, they have been there.” The emotional thrust of music from artists La Sonora Matancera, José A. Méndez and La Lupe grew to become intertwined with Dalt’s recollections of the place she most related to the music, her household residence in Pereira, a metropolis excessive within the Colombian mountains.

“One of the best ways for me to explain it could be the reminiscence of cozy conferences at residence with my uncles, the household gathering and speaking. The music was simply there — very current,” Dalt says. Her grandfather performed maracas and sang; Dalt’s mom performed guitar. In a broader sense, she says, “Music was inspired however it wasn’t imposed … I at all times considered it as one thing enjoyable.”


You may hear a playful sensibility rise to the floor of ¡Ay!, not simply in its delightfully absurdist story of an alien, however the preparations themselves. On “Bochinche” (“The Mess” in English), amidst a tremulous organ and a salsa beat carried out by longtime collaborator Alex Lázaro, Dalt sings of Preta the alien inhabiting a corporeal type, maybe for the primary time, “Oh how good / Oh how nice / A hand / In my hair.” As Dalt croons with poise and an exquisite sense of comedic timing, a spritely trumpet performed by Lina Allemano parps into life. “It was so humorous to see this excessively experimental jazz participant doing such a foolish melody,” Dalt jokes. “Her making faces as she’s doing it and us having fun with it, after all.”

Regardless of springing from a spot of melancholy, the tone of ¡Ay! might hardly be thought of unhappy. Typically it seems that Dalt is just having an excessive amount of enjoyable experimenting with music, not solely incorporating the metallic stabs of her Prophet 6 synthesizer into downtempo rhythms of South America, however stretching her vocals round conventional track buildings. Melodies typically fold again on themselves, as on “Dicen,” through which Dalt relays the village rumors circulating about Preta. “She thinks she’s the Circe of Aeaea … / She crawls round and licks all of it up,” Dalt sings as a mournful trumpet pipes alongside her. When it arrives, the Colombian’s breathy exhalation of the closing phrase, “So ‘dada’,” lands like a musical punchline.

Whereas Dalt’s sound has shifted profoundly, her lyrics repeatedly return to time, earth and the boundaries of human notion — the hallmarks of her work for various years now. However the place there was a medical, virtually scientific nature to earlier contemplations, as if Dalt occupied the area between her former career as a geotechnical engineer and present profession as a musician, on ¡Ay!, her voice is altogether richer and full-blooded. Even on “El Galatzó,” through which Dalt returns to spoken phrase, the aural high quality of the phrases feels simply as vital as their which means. “Now I understand how it feels / to have cubic miles of rippling water in my peripheral / imaginative and prescient,” she recites as if performing a soliloquy, backed by Isabel Rößler’s flickering double bass.

Preta is the product of conversations with Miguel Prado, a UK-based thinker, with whom Dalt struck up a friendship with in 2021 over Twitter. “We ended up speaking concerning the concept consciousness fairly a bit,” Dalt says. “How restricted our data is, and even the place it may be positioned. That concept triggered the existence of Preta as this pure consciousness entity that may’t be contained inside our human physique.” For Dalt, the album’s alien protagonist represented a possibility to increase the romantic, Latin genres she’s mining. “Bolero music, and all of this [tropical] music, is about love,” she continues. “I believed, ‘Okay, perhaps Preta can convey some type of concept about love that’s extra everlasting. How can I play with that in a manner in order that it feels as if it is nonetheless embedded within the romanticism of bolero with out being specific?’ “

“Why not put these two issues that don’t have anything to do with each other subsequent to one another and see what occurs?” Dalt asks of those genres and such cosmic concepts. On the one hand, “sci-fi searching but additionally wanting inwards,” Dalt says. On the opposite, the large feelings of bolero — sorrow, compassion, intimacy and eroticism. The connection between the 2 parts of ¡Ay! has solely flourished since its recording, changing into even additional “entwined” in the course of the improvement of the reside present alongside choreographer Yalda Younes. As Dalt says laughing, seemingly reveling in blurring the boundaries between actuality and efficiency, custom and the avant-garde, “Preta has actually gotten into bolero dancing.”



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