A Flor de Piel

(Western Vinyl)


A spirit of dislocation runs through the third album by Montañera – real name María Mónica Gutiérrez – where disparate musical cultures and styles rub up against one another, and where the interest lies in how they tessellate. Perhaps that’s appropriate: after all, A Flor De Piel is reportedly a response to the Bogotá -bred singer’s relocation to London, and all the homesickness, culture shock, and difficulty in starting again in a new city that that entails.

Not that this is a particular sad-sounding record – at least, not directly. It’s more an examination of musical feelings through different lenses: the same melody on ‘Vestigios’ is first sung delicately and then echoed as a muscular synth line to accentuate difference; a heart-on-sleeve vocal delivery is paired with icily abstracted synth burbles (‘Me Suelto Al Riesgo’) that amplify a sense of dissociation. The effect is impressively original and intriguing, reminiscent of Björk’s more recent digital folk songs in their welding of traditionalism to glitched and decayed electronica, and, maybe not coincidentally, just as emotionally opaque, which ends up being to both the album’s advantage and detriment.

Indeed, when Montañera allows herself to truly wail, on album centrepiece and standout ‘Como Una Ram’, something gutural and genuinely affecting emerges that demands repeat plays but also reveals a lack elsewhere on the record. Then again, the closing pair of fractured lullabies work so well precisely because of their digitally crisp palettes and Montañera’s restraint. Their combination adds up to a record of breadth and depth, presence and absence, and strangely intangible longevity.