50 Years of Music: 2017 – Juana Molina - Halo

KEXP 50
06/15/2022
Albina Cabrera

As KEXP celebrates its 50th anniversary, we're looking back at the last half-century of music. Each week in 2022, KEXP pays homage to a different year and our writers are commemorating with one song from that year that resonates with them. This week, Albina Cabrera looks back at the experimental dream of Juana Molina's 2017 album 'Halo' and shares a musical treasure. Read or listen to the piece below.

Read the version in Spanish below


In 2017, being a Juana Molina fan and living in Argentina definitely described a way of enjoying music. By that time, we had already accepted the saving role that sound-looping could play when interwoven between multiple musical layers and textures. Add a nightmarish narrative to that melodic process and you get Juana Molina, stirring up a cauldron of songs that transform into atmospheres of sound with polished lyrics. And although it wasn’t a surprise—Juana’s talent dates back to long before Halo—it was one more step on the path she started walking with Tres Cosas (2003). A dreamlike step? A more paranormal one? I think it’s a bit of both. Indeed, the launch of her seventh studio production in May 2017 marked the date on which the Argentine composer would release one of the most internationally acclaimed albums of her career. That’s more than enough reason to talk about this record.

The name Juana Molina means a lot to KEXP, and I can’t even begin to explain how much it means to me. And that’s not just because I’m Argentine or because people from my country are unbearable over-the-top when it comes to national pride, but because, on my first day as a volunteer at KEXP, I was organizing some super old tapes of several audio-recorded sessions when I came across the one that Juana had done in 2005. I let out a scream when I found that Argentine treasure, taking it in my hands as a magical sign from the universe.

In Argentina, we’re all our own heroes. We work collectively, shout a lot (over just about anything), and are a faithful and proportionally strict audience. Sometimes, we become too strict and make the mistake of not paying attention to or properly understanding certain types of artistic genius. Big mistake. I think that’s part of what initially happened with Juana Molina’s music. A complete lack of understanding. A woman who leaves acting to transition into experimental music at her own rhythm, without offering any explanation? What’s all this craziness? Could it be freedom? Whatever the case, it led Juana to dramatically expand her international career, accompanied by an audience comprising different nationalities, backgrounds, and languages, one that supported Juana’s music even when Argentina had yet to fully comes to terms with it.

Long before the time I screamed in the middle of the office on my first day as a volunteer, Halo’s composer had already visited Seattle and other places in the United States on several occasions. I think this context is necessary for you to understand why I was so insanely excited. It was a win. It was a bridge that would help me connect. It was musical justice. In my hands was a piece of an exceptional artistic career and a collective victory.

At least that’s how it felt to me. It was September of 2018 and Halo was a regular part of our programming. I recently tried to remember exactly which songs, but I couldn’t (my brain is a swamp, please love me anyway), so I asked our digital brain, AKA our cloud-based music library, and I found KEXP’s content on Halo: reviews, Song of the Day, Live on KEXP, and more. Our favorite songs? "Cosoco", "Al Oeste", "Paraguaya", "Sin Dones", and "Cálculos y Oráculos". Looking back on the album with a 2022 perspective, that last song is my favorite.

It’s always a good time to remember that scream at the office and the imaginary embrace between myself and that 2005 tape, which fell into my hands in 2018, when I was still engrossed in an album from 2017, and which represented the start of a personal journey that I’m still on in 2022.

Oh, and I forgot to mention one thing. A lot of people have said that this is an album made for nighttime, but in my opinion, it’s best listened to in the morning, when the veil between your dreams and reality is still thin enough that you’re VERY confused.

Translation by Partners in Language


Original version in Spanish by Albina Cabrera 

En 2017 ser fan de Juana Molina y vivir en Argentina definitivamente describía una forma de disfrutar la música. Por ese entonces ya habíamos aceptado la herramienta salvadora que el loopeo sonoro podía constituir si se entretejía entre muchísimas capas y texturas musicales. Si a ese proceso melódico se le añade una narrativa de pesadilla, el resultado es una Juana Molina revolviendo un caldero de canciones que se convierten en atmósferas de sonido con líricas más acabadas. Algo que, si bien no fue sorpresa pues el talento de Juana data de mucho antes que Halo, fue un paso más allá en el camino que comenzó a construir en Tres Cosas (2003). ¿Un paso onírico? ¿Un paso más paranormal? Yo creo que un poco de ambos. A tal punto que el lanzamiento que protagonizó para mayo de 2017, su séptima producción en estudio, significó la fecha en la que la compositora argentina lanzaría uno de los álbumes más internacionalmente aclamados de su carrera. Razón más que suficiente para hablar de este disco.

El nombre Juana Molina para KEXP significa mucho y para mí, ni les cuento. Esta aclaración no es sólo porque soy argentina y en mi país somos insoportablemente exagerados cuando de orgullo patriota se trata, sino porque en mi primer día como voluntaria en KEXP me tocó ordenar unos tapes muy viejos de muchas sesiones que sólo quedaron en audio y me topé con la que Juana había hecho en el 2005. Grité cuando encontré ese tesoro argentino y lo tomé en mis manos como señal mágica del destino.

En Argentina, todos somos nuestros héroes. Funcionamos en colectivo, gritamos mucho (por cualquier cosa) y somos un público fiel y proporcionalmente estricto. A veces nos pasamos de estrictos y terminamos no atendiendo/entendiendo la genialidad artística de manera correcta y nos equivocamos. Mucho. Creo que algo de eso pasó con la música de Juana Molina al comienzo. Una completa incomprensión. ¿Una mujer dejando la actuación para mutar a la música experimental bajo su propio ritmo y sin dar explicaciones? ¿Qué es todo este lio, acaso la libertad? Sea lo que fuere, hizo que Juana expandiera su carrera internacional de forma vertiginosa, acompañada por un público de diversas nacionalidades, backgrounds e idiomas que apoyó la carrera de Juana cuando aún el público albiceleste no había sido completamente interpelado.

La compositora de Halo ya había estado en varias oportunidades visitando Seattle y el resto de los Estados Unidos, incluso mucho antes de que yo gritara en el medio de la oficina durante mi primer día como voluntaria. Creo que este contexto es necesario para que comprendan la causa de mi excitación desmedida. Era un logro. Era un puente musical que me ayudaría a conectar. Era justicia musical. Tenía entre mis manos un pedazo de carrera artística excepcional y una victoria colectiva.

Al menos así lo sintió mi corazón. Era septiembre de 2018 y Halo sonaba regularmente en nuestra programación. Intenté recordar qué canciones exactamente pero no lo logré (mi cerebro es un pantano, quiéranme así), por lo que le consulté a nuestro cerebro digital AKA nuestra librería musical en la nube y encontré las memorias de KEXP alrededor de Halo: reviews, Song of the Day, Live on KEXP y más. ¿Nuestras canciones preferidas? "Cosoco", "Al Oeste", "Paraguaya", "Sin Dones" y "Cálculos y Oráculos". Esta última es mi canción preferida del disco mirando en retrospectiva desde 2022.

Siempre es un buen momento para recordar ese grito en la oficina y ese abrazo imaginario que le di a un tape del 2005, que apareció en mis manos en 2018, cuando yo aún estaba atada a un disco de 2017 y que constituyó el comienzo de un propósito personal que aún se mantiene en 2022.

Ah, olvidaba mencionar algo. Muchos dijeron que este álbum es nocturno, pero para mí es un disco para escuchar en las mañanas cuando aún la neblina de lo que soñaste y la realidad siguen estando mezcladas lo suficiente para confundirte y MUCHO.
 

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