So here’s an awkward moment for you: I was standing in back of The Purple Turtle at last year’s Desertfest in London, chatting with a couple of the rather sizable film and promotional crew that Cultura Tres brought with them from their native Venezuela (actually they were in Banda de la Muerte, from Argentina, and touring with the band, but I’m creating a narrative, so bear with me here) for the gig and their subsequent touring. Also there was their manager, Vania, in town from Bulgaria. Quite an international assemblage we made. One of the dudes along with Cultura Tres starts taking CDs out of a bag. Thinking he’s setting up a distro with a pile of CDs on the merch table, I’m immediately stoked out of my brains to see the cover above for what has turned out to be Los Natas‘ swan song release, 2011′s Rutation — an album that wasn’t released outside Argentina and one that at that point I’d already been trying for the better part of a year to get my grubby mitts upon.
“Holy shit!” I said with my usual amount of play-it-cool subtlety, “I’ll take that one.” Dude gave me the “uh…” look and some pitying soul explained to me they weren’t selling those, they’d just brought them from South America for Vania. Feeling as much the fool as ever, I explained the trouble I’d had trying to sort out an encounter between myself and Rutation, which Los Natas released through their own South American Sludge imprint and eventually skulked away to down my weirdness in oversized Newcastles and take pictures of Cultura Tres, who were shooting footage for what would later become their “El Sur de la Fe” video. One of those times where I just have to hang my head and go, “Boy, is my face dumb.”
Actually seeing the disc had the effect of supercharging my search, but to no avail. I tried Oui Oui Records in Argentina, which has distributed Los Natas‘ stuff in their home country since 2003′s Bee Jesus box set a decade ago, as well as a bevvy of worldwide distros North American, South American and European, eBay, Amazon sites from around the globe, etc. At this point, not to toot my own horn, but if I want to find a CD chances are I know where to look. Rutation did not want to be found.
I wouldn’t say I gave up on it, because I have many late-night eBay searches that would indicate otherwise, but it became apparent to me that Rutation was just one of those records I’d have to wait until it found me, rather than the other way around. Sorry, but if I can get a copy of Colour Haze‘s Chopping Machine (and I did), nothing’s totally unattainable, it just needs time. I waited for my time, and lo, right around the Xmas holiday a note comes in on Thee Facebooks from none other than Vania that she’s got a copy of the album for me.
Bless my miserable soul. I felt like I was waiting to adopt a puppy while I stood in line at the post office to pick up the package, sent from Bulgaria (for some reason Eastern European packages always require a signature). My stomach was tight with apprehension, but when I finally got the envelope and opened it, there was the disc. I swear to Robot Jesus there was a glow around it, and maybe it was leftover Xmas music, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t hear a choir singing. It went in the CD player before I even turned the car on, like it would play anyway before I turned the key. Some things just become an immediate priority.
In my reading about the album beforehand, I knew the recordings themselves were old. Rutation was put to tape on a mobile unit in Buenos Aires in 1997, so it would’ve been after Delmar was recorded but before Ciudad de Brahman — well into the time when they were still Natas, before the Los was added — the very heart of their most desert rocking period. Some of these tracks showed up on 1999′s Unreleased Dopes, and according to some sales I’ve seen on eBay, the band had cassettes of Rutation with them when they toured the States in 2000, but the 2011 issue is the first official CD release that I know of, and I couldn’t have been more stoked to finally get to hear it.
Most of the tracks can be traced in different incarnations to Delmar or Ciudad de Brahman. Cuts like “Carl Sagan” and “Meteoro 2028,” arranged here as a desert-delic closing duo, and “Alohawaii” were excellent on the latter record and prove so again here, but the highlight of Rutation somewhat surprisingly is “Adolescentes,” a track I’d never really given much of a second glance on Ciudad, but which shines surrounded by “Siluette” (which I’ve yet to trace to another Natas release) and “Brisa del Desierto,” leading to the aforementioned closers. When they want to, Natas lock into fuzz riffing unrivaled in my experience, and you can hear that in “Polvareda,” but the airier parts of “Paradise” show that even at their rawest, there was room in the band’s approach for more than just riff-led Kyuss-isms.
All told, Rutation is just over 31 minutes long, but it still shows the character of what was then a young trio, and for the kindness of the gesture on Vania‘s part that got the disc from South America to Eastern Europe to New Jersey, I just had to write on it. It’s a gift I know I’ll appreciate for years to come, and if Los Natas really are done, then I consider myself all the more fortunate to have been able to get a copy of their last statement as a band.
Tags: Argentina, Los Natas, Los Natas Rutation, Rutation, South American Sludge