Live Concert Photography: Juana Molina with Arc Iris at Le Poisson Rouge 9/18/17
Juana Molina is a Buenos Aires-born and based singer/songwriter, producer and actress, who interestingly enough is the daughter of renowned tango vocalist Horacio Molina and actress Chunchuna Villafane. Unsurprisingly, the younger Molina grew up in an intensely musical home — her father taught her guitar when she was 5, and her mother introduced the then young, aspiring musician to her record collection. As the result of 1976’s military coup, the Molina family fled their homeland and lived in exile in Paris for six years, and during that time, a teenaged Molina’s musical tastes were vastly expanded by regularly listening to a number of French radio stations, known for programs that spun music from all over the globe.
The Molinas returned to their homeland when Juana Molina was a 20-something, and as a young woman, Molina was determined to be become independent and purse a career in music; in fact, like many young people, her initial career aspirations were to earn some decent money for a few hours of work, and having enough time to write songs, record and tour. Molina had long knew that she had a talent for imitations, and looking for a decent gig, she auditioned for a local TV program, and based on the strength of her impressions, she got hired on the spot. Molina quickly became one of Argentina’s most popular and beloved comedic actors. Within three years of that audition, Molina had her own show Juana y sus hermanas, in which she had invented and impersonated a series of characters; not only was the show wildly popular in her native Argentina, the show as syndicated to several Latin American countries, making her the region’s Carol Burnett.
Her own show was on for about four years, when Molina became pregnant and as a result, her smash hit show went on hiatus. With a lot of free time on her hands while on maternity leave, Molina found herself reflecting on her rapid rise to stardom, and she couldn’t help but think “this isn’t quite what I wanted to do.” And with a highly popular TV show under her belt, Molina decided to quit acting, so she could focus on her lifelong passion — music. Interestingly, her decision was one that many Argentinians bitterly held against her for several years; in fact, her full-length debut, 1996’s Rara was only critically panned by critics, who resented her career change. Along with that, fans of her TV show would show up to her sets, expecting to hear or see similar jokes to her show, but they couldn’t quite understand her new “folk singer character” in which she kept singing strange songs without any obvious jokes. Dejected by the criticism, but desperate to continue what she felt was her life’s true calling, she relocated to Los Angeles for some time, where her music was better received, and began familiarizing herself with a variety of electronic instruments.
After spending time licking her metaphorical wounds and honing her songwriting process and sound, the Argentine singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and actress returned to Buenos Aires, where she recorded her self-produced sophomore effort Segundo, an album which incorporated an increasing use of electronic instruments. In fact since, the release of Segundo, Molina has developed a reputation for a sound that meshes organic arrangements with electronic production — typically layered and sampled loops of acoustic sounds with beats and synths. And while 2000’s Segundo received international attention, her third full-length effort, 2004’s Tres Cosas may arguably have been her breakthrough record with The New York Times naming the album one of their Top Ten Records that year, and she’s been championed by the likes of David Byrne, Will Oldham, and others. And while some critics have somewhat lazily compared Molina’s work to that of Bjork and others, her sound and aesthetic has been described with a number of different terms and descriptors including folktronica, ambient, experimental, neo-folk, chill-out, indietronica, psychedelic, indie pop and even progressive folk, perhaps cementing a reputation for her work for being uncompromisingly difficult to pigeonhole; in fact, Molina has arguably become one of her country’s most experimental artists.
Halo, Molina’s seventh full-length album will further cement her reputation for being a restlessly creative, experimental artist, and with album single “In The Lassa,” Molina and her backing band pair a hypnotic and dreamy production with propulsive, tribal-like beats, shimmering and sinuous guitar lines. Evoking a wildly lucid and feverish dream. the soundscape Molina and her backing band have created with that single — and the rest of the album, actually — seem to twist, turn and morph into weird structures and moods at will while nodding at Radiohead’s “15 Step.”And it shouldn’t be surprising that lyrically, the material touches upon witchcraft, premonition, dreams as metaphors for complex emotional states and for a more primal instinctive state.
Since 2013’s critically applauded Wed 21, Molina has done quite a bit of international touring, plying across across the European Union, Latin America, Southeast Asia and the US — and unsurprisingly with release of her seventh full-length album Halo earlier this year, the Buenos Aires-based artist embarked on an international tour to support it, and the tour featured a short run of Stateside dates, including two New York area dates — September 16, 2017 at El Museo Del Barrio and September 18, 2017 at Le Poisson Rouge. I caught the renowned Argentinian artist headline a show at the aforementioned Le Poisson Rouge with Providence, RI-based trio Arc Iris opening. Check out photos from the show below.
With the release of 2014’s self-titled debut, the Providence, RI-based trio Arc Iris, comprised of Jocie Adams, Zach Tenorio Miller and Ray Belli quickly received national and international attention for the shift shaping grooves reminiscent of Hiatus Kaiyote, as they opened for the likes of St. Vincent, Jeff Tweedy and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and played major festivals like Bonnaroo, End of the Road and the Rolling Stone Weekender.
The trio’s sophomore effort, 2016’s Moon Saloon was reportedly a natural progression from their debut, as it found the band experimenting with a textured, nuance groove and melodies with big, boom-bap like beats and unusual song structures.