El Sonido: Costa Rica

El Sonido

This week in El Sonido we head to Costa Rica. We've invited Pablo Acuña of the blog Dance To The Radio to write about some of his favorite artists coming out of the country at the moment:

“Pura Vida” (Spanish for “pure life”) might be a philosophy that encourages the appreciation of life’s simple treasures. Slowing things down, celebrating good fortune, and refusing to take anything for granted embodies this laidback lifestyle. This might also be the same for the Costa Rican music scene, a country that is in the midst of a music renaissance. Far from Chile, Argentina and Mexico in quantity, but pretty close in quality the music environment and culture in the Central American country have stepped up in Latin America lead by the uniqueness of their musical features, the unusual way bands work within themselves and the very cool projects that surrounds them. It’s precise and obligatory to mention the input of projects such as Epicentro, Folk Collective, Dance To The Radio, Super Legitimo, Perra Pop and every venue that opens their doors to any kind of act, have on the development and exposition of these bands.

Yeah, you can mention Las Robertas, Ave Negra and Los Waldners leading the way. However we are becoming a music market where from the bunch you can choose what you love and what you really don’t dig that much. For the first time the concept of selection is more pronounced than ever, meaning that music does not evolve from just a couple of bands. In my quest for music discovery around Latin America I have found several Costa Rican projects in their fetal status:

Vicepresidente, at the top of my list, recorded and released their first official EP with the help of Daniel Ortuño from Los Waldners. In a nice write up from Paola Rogue in Dance To The Radio, the singer affirmed that Antes de Huir is a contradictory picture of wisdom, raw and visceral humanity that makes us run against change even when we know that there is no other way; that change is the great constant and there is no life without it. To that wonderful appreciation I would add that even if we are unaware of the “ideals, dreams, or objectives” that the band might have to penetrate into the depths of their psyche, it’s not too outlandish to propose that what’s been “fading” and “graying” is precisely the belief that music presents to them an escape route from their sometimes turbulent existence, and that same effect transfers to the listener. I can’t recommend enough this EP.

Bengalas would come as an interesting, yet mysterious, project for some. It’s led by Suzy Love and is so full of the familiar sounds of synth-pop. Perhaps more accurately, this act of almost-comic stoicism is catchy, particularly among a growing audience of non-Spanish speakers, who recognize a great talent as much as they do most of the world's ambivalence to it.

Following a long hiatus, instrumental rock band Niño Koi presents themselves as a more mature band in their 2015 return. "Logos, Pathos, Ethos" continues to tap into this special vector of imagination, emotion and possibility, making everything that much more vivid. In a recent interview (soon to be aired) with the band, it’s revealing how many internet reviewers of the band seem drawn to this temptation, describing personal experiences connected to the music or imagining scenarios that it could accompany.

Pablo Rojas said goodbye to his band Florian Droids a couple of weeks ago, but that didn’t mean a separation from music for Pablo. With Monte and his new project, Hijos, he continues to explore his innate curiosity for musical sound. Rojas has generally drifted away from the psych-rock formula used in Florian Droids, and more toward an experimental, quasi-electronica sound. One thing remains the same though: Rojas’ knack for oddball lyrics and strange, if at times poetic, metaphors.

Zòpilot! and Monte are two of the great acts from my country. I’ll try to avoid going too far with praises, but they both bring unfiltered glacial awesomeness. "Sornaca" and "El Descenso de Los Voladores" are both wicked examples of how these bands have grown into perfectly respectable bands.

Finishing with José Sáenz and Árböl Pájarö Fuegö, two projects that I sincerely expect to rise to the occasion in the following years. Among newcomers Hijos, Vicepresidente and George West, I believe these bands are gonna be noticeable in and outside Pura Vida country."

Thanks, Pablo, for the great tips! El Sonido is off to see for ourselves. I'm currently in CR to attend the Epicentro events and the first-ever NRMAL Costa Rica concert, and promise to bring back more great music to share with KEXP listeners. To hear more fresh Costa Rican sounds check out the mixtape at the bottom of this post that Pablo and I curated together.

NRMAL Costa Rica. November 21st 2015.
NRMAL Costa Rica. November 21st 2015.

Chilly hosts El Sonido every Monday night from 6-9 PM. Follow Chilly on Twitter and El Sonido on Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks for listening. See you next time.paz.

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