Caught in a Trance

Juana Molina at the Triple Door, Seattle | 10 February 2009

Juana Molina at the Triple Door, Seattle

This show was being billed as the first time Argentinian actor turned maestro, Juana Molina was visiting with a band in tow. Truth be told, she doesn’t need a band, she is a band. Her rig was set up on stage right with a drum machine, keyboards, looping pedals, as well as various other pedals, knobs and wires. She was accompanied by bass and drums played by two fellows she had only met four days prior. Most of the evening you had to strain to hear the live bass and drums. She may have a band with her this time, but the show is entirely Juana Molina as she clearly demonstrated when her band left the stage mid-set allowing her to go it alone for ¿Quién? (Suite) .

She appeared on stage with a slight smile and immediately started weaving her electronic magic with the title track to her latest album Un Dia which transitioned into the album’s second song Vive Solo. Watching Ms. Molina concoct her trance inducing cornucopias of sound is truly a wonder to behold. She makes it look like she’s just tossing it off, a little guitar loop to start, programming in a drum beat, then looping a couple vocal tracks on top. I’ve seen this done before, but she pulled if off with aplomb. Even when she didn’t, like on the encore, where she messed up one of the loops, she started singing improvised lyrics about how she screwed up the track, and having to fix it. I’m not sure how many people noticed the loop error, her improvised lyric, or her quick fix, but she did it all without ever stopping the song.

Just watching her at work like some kind of mad scientist might have in and of itself been entertainment for some, but the layered and textured songs that she create went above and beyond what you hear on her records. On cd,  many of the songs have a minimalist feel to them leaving space for the listener, last night with the help of the Triple Door’s excellent acoustics, she filled the room with a mind altering melange of sound. Songs would take on lives of their own, some even inducing trance-like states in the audience. Parts would remind me of Stereolab, Astrud Gilberto, Samba, and then Acid House, or Goa Trance.  Molina creates a mood and altered state of being with her voice, guitar and loop pedals. That mood or altered state is not all together very different from what shoegaze bands like Deerhunter/Atlas Sound, My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive have done with guitars and effects pedals, but no one is doing this kind of thing employing the tools that she does.

My only quip about the gig, was that after a while, I wanted her to play the guitar riff for the entire song, to see where she might take it. This is where a she could really improvise with a full band playing everything live and off of one another. That is a very minor complaint, though.  Juana Molina is clearly a master a creating sound collages on the spot, with ease and to amazing effect!

mp3: Juana Molina – Los Hongos De Marosa (from Un Dia)

There are more photos from the night over at my Flickr. The Stranger was also there.  Last but not least, here are the remaining Juana Molina dates in the US, don’t miss her if she’s near you.
13-Feb-09 San Francisco GAMH
14-Feb-09 Santa Cruz Rio Theatre
15-Feb-09 Santa Barbara Soho
16-Feb-09 Costa Mesa, CA Detroit Bar
17-Feb-09 Los Angeles Troubadour
20-Feb-09 Minneapolis Whole Music Club
21-Feb-09 Madison Der Rathskellar
22-Feb-09 Chicago Morse
23-Feb-09 Cincinnati / Newport KY Southgate House
24-Feb-09 Cleveland The Grog Shop
26-Feb-09 Boston Brattle Theatre
27-Feb-09 NYC Le Poisson Rouge
28-Feb-09 Washington DC (solo) IOTA
1-Mar-09 Philadelphia (solo) World Café Live

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