Information on the band is relatively sparse, but Todo el Odio del Unicornio… is the self-released debut full-length from Santa Fe, Argentina, desert rock trio Samurai. It arrives with nine component tracks that run a 45-minute course of sandy-dune familiarity, nodding at the heady jams of countrymen Los Natas’ earlier work and in turn that band’s own stylistic forebears in Kyuss, and where likeminded next gen rockers Humo del Cairo took roughly the same style and pushed it into fuller-toned sonic realms on their second record, Samurai seem content to relish in a natural-sounding humility. The fuzz in Vincente Armando’s guitar does much of the talking when it comes to the central ethics of Todo el Odio del Unicornio…, a song like second track “Cassablanca” seems to stack its layers of psyched-out leads one on top of the next. On the whole, the work is derivative, but not without its charm and by no means poorly made. Argentina has a number of heavy psych acts somewhat less definitively stonerized, and their blatant, still clearly developing take on the style is part of what gives these songs their edge. Production is minimally invasive, and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Samurai, which is Armando on guitar/vocals alongside bassist David Ezqueil and drummer Santiago Montruchio, recorded live (if they did; like I said, info is sparse), such is the extent to which the instrumentation especially does the work of conveying a human feel. Ezquiel’s bass could be louder in the mix, but I’m a sucker for bass on this kind of recording, so take that with a grain of salt – in any case, Samurai’s debut is not lacking for low end warmth, whether it’s Armando’s own in the guitar or the periodic thud of Montruchio’s floor tom and steady kick drum.
And there’s something to be said, especially in desert rock, for faithful recreation of what’s been done before. Opener “Moto” starts out with a riff that for a second seems to hint at Saint Vitus’ “I Bleed Black” before setting the course that most of the rest of Todo el Odio del Unicornio… will follow – namely that of straightforward riffing and intriguing, driving rhythms. Armando’s vocals are well-mixed semi-melodic shouts that seem at times to be consumed by the relative swell of the music surrounding. Like a lot of the record, that’s done right for what the band is trying to achieve. Samurai are pretty clearly familiar with the style they’re engaging, and they still manage to inject some personality of their own into what they play, so the likes of “Moto,” “Cassablanca” and “La Tradición de la Sonrisa” – which follows in more directly Natas-derived form – give a fair impression. Breaking the album into thirds, the first three tracks of Todo el Odio del Unicornio… comprise the longest, the 17-minutes seemingly meant to envelop or engross the listener, zoning them out as the rest of the record builds on what’s already established. It’s a solid ethic, and again, Samurai aren’t the first to employ it, but they do so well, and as “Más Rápido” takes hold from “La Tradición de la Sonrisa,” I find I’m more willing to go along with its motor-rocking push than I might be had I not already been lulled by the 12-minute opening duo particularly. This skillful structuring plays out across the CD – centerpiece ‘The Masters” fittingly placed as one of the most memorable cuts – and proves to be a major factor in the band’s potential, showing they’re not just riffing out and letting the rest fall together as it may (admirable as that ethic is sometimes) but instead consciously thinking about what they want their debut to be.
“Vómito Cardíaco” adds wah swirl to the forward riffing that showed itself on “Más Rápido” – another relatively familiar tactic that’s put to good use, Montruchio adding quick fills as the riff cycles through a noisy jam. The final third of Todo el Odio del Unicornio… gets underway with “When I Learn,” which starts with Armando’s Kyuss-style riff and rougher vocal, and gradually works a melodic lead into its grooving thrust. The ensuing “Tierra Helada” pulls back on the pace somewhat, but the riff seems even more insistent, rising out of the mix for sub-squibbly waves that only underscore the layering at work with Armando’s guitar, and it’s mostly in moments like this that I find myself wanting more of Ezqueil’s bass in the mix, to stand up to that wash. Nonetheless, “Tierra Helada” might be the album’s best single riff, and it does well atmospherically to set up the more psychedelic beginning of the closing title-track, which is the first since “Cassablanca” to top six minutes. The finale is the longest song at 6:53 and a fitting atmospheric build to end the record, pulling away from vocals to emphasize the interplay among the trio. If you’re listening and you’re not already hypnotized by the time “Todo el Odio del Unicornio” comes on, however, it’s not going to make a difference in your overall perception of the album. That’s not so much a critique of the strength of the individual track as a note that your perception of what Samurai are doing is going to depend a lot on your own willingness to meet them on their level of homage. They sound sincere in their appreciation for those who came before them, and without actually naming a song “We Heart Sky Valley,” they do a solid job of getting that point across while also conveying some of the potential for what they might do the next time around, whether that’s to fall more into the laid back heavy jamming psychedelia that’s present now in what they’re doing but not really at the fore or delve further into the heads-down riffing that comes up periodically as well. Or maybe they continue to do both and just develop a more individualized style within that framework. Either way, Todo el Odio del Unicornio – immediately familiar as it is – still makes me excited to find out.
Tags: Argentina, Samurai, Santa Fe, Unsigned bands