Review & Full EP Premiere: Atavismo, Valdeinfierno

Atavismo Valdeinfierno

[Click play above to stream Atavismo’s Valdeinfierno EP in full. It’s out July 23 on Adansonia Records.]

True to form, even a short release from Atavismo has a pervasive sense of atmosphere. The Algeciras, Spain, band blew any and all minds willing to follow along with last year’s Inerte (review here), and to be perfectly honest, I’m still a little up in the air as to whether Inerte was their full-length debut or a sophomore outing after their first release, which was 2014’s Desintegración (review here). As it’s comprised of four central tracks, Valdeinfierno, which is their new ostensible extended-player and debut on Adansonia Records, shares some structure in common with that first offering, but the palette has grown exponentially. It’s been four years, which can be nothing in the life of a band, and Atavismo do retain some of the heavy psychedelic underpinnings that they began to develop into a more progressive mindset with Inerte, but Valdeinfierno is no less a leap from the last outing than that was from the first.

It once more finds guitarist/vocalist/synthesist Jose “Poti” Moreno (ex-Viaje a 800Mind!), bassist/vocalist Mateo and drummer/vocalist Sandri Pow (also ex-Mind!) expanding their sound. They’ve expanded the lineup of the band as well, welcoming Koe on keys, synth and vocals. I’m not sure who contributes what to which parts of “La Palmosa,” “Quejigo,” “Valdeinfierno” and “Sapo Sagapo” but with the intro “Tropmetillas de la Muerte” and the outro “Etreum al ed Sallitemport” — yes, the outro is the intro backwards, in content as well as name — Valdeinfierno is all the more about progression and showcasing different sides of their personality, with each cut offering something different to stand it out from its surroundings, whether it’s the proggy shuffle of “La Palmosa” or the folk-tinged acoustic/electric blend of “Sago Sagapo” or the jam into which “Quejigo” so fluidly launches or the title-track’s sudden turn from drifting heavy psych into Iberian-folk-tinged percussion and jamming. More and more, Atavismo seem to be defining their own stylistic parameters outside of prescribed genre lines. This only suits them all the more.

If we’re arguing that Valdeinfierno is an EP — and since the band says it is, basically we’re not arguing at all beyond a hypothetical — a point in favor of that position is the diversity within the tracks. Even from where they were early last year, Atavismo have taken very clear steps to move forward. That would be all well and good, except for the fact that there’s still such a flow between the songs. At 28 minutes, it could go either way– the debut, for what it’s worth, was 37, and Inerte was 42 — and the way these songs work off each other and seem to add to an overarching statement of stylized progadelic intent speaks to an LP methodology. Maybe it’s a hard sell. What matters more than what one should call it is the vibe the band takes such obvious care to present and to maintain over the course of those 28 minutes. The patient drift past the midpoint in “La Palmosa.” The brightness of the fuzz guitar blast in “Sapo Sagapo.” The slow beginning of “Valdeinfierno.” The mini-freakout of “Quejigo” with its uptempo bounce. All of these things help give the respective tracks a sense of personality of their own, and yet all of them tie the material together as well. They unite as much as they distinguish.

Atavismo

After the wash of keyboard and plucked acoustic guitar notes and clarinet and mellotron of “Trompetillas de la Muerte” — which, by the way, is 39 seconds long — “La Palmosa” takes hold with an insistent strum and plays back and forth between fuzz-laden breaks and an immediate build of forward momentum. Keys in the background help tie together transitions, and Atavismo jam their way through a midsection break that’s the hypnotic beginning of a build, except that instead of paying it off in traditional fashion, they leave off to silence and let the start-stop riff at the core of “Quejigo” — no less danceable than its predecessor — keep the spirit moving. The drums are crucial to this as the guitar joins their rhythm and blown-out vocals mark the beginning of the first verse. Like “La Palmosa,” “Quejigo” builds its own tension, but at 3:22, it opens up to pay it off with an uptempo jam and the already-noted bounce en route to the presumed end of side A.

The title-track is also the longest song on Valdeinfierno at 8:26, and in its concept, it’s the most striking inclusion of them. It works in two sections and the first of them is a lull. Gently, it rises to a serene level of volume with a patience over the course of its first two-plus minutes that feels born out of classical music, never mind prog, and when the airy guitar and drums kick in a bit before 2:30, their entry isn’t even so much a “kick in” as a “oh hi do you mind if we do this thing we promise it’ll be awesome ah cool thanks” and with what sounds an awful lot like a xylophone backing — keys? — Moreno unfurls a slow, jammy lead. By the midpoint about two minutes later, the mood is set and Atavismo set to exploring the landscape they’ve drawn, but then at 5:50 a surge of volume signals to the drums, which then begin cycles of tom runs and the guitar moves into a speedy and winding lead that seems to carry a Middle Eastern influence in its scales, but drops out after seven minutes to percussion and room-mic’ed shouts that end. That switch in volume and meter is so resoundingly important to Valdeinfierno. It’s the moment where the band proves that not only are they able to pull off different stylistic turns between their songs, but within them as well. As “Sago Sagapo” comes through with its soft keys in the background, easy lead layer behind acoustic strumming, the peaceful feel of earlier in the title-track returns, but it’s hard not to think maybe Atavismo will jump ship again and start adventuring into different terrain.

They don’t, really, and “Sapo Sagapo” brings up another fuzzy solo before dropping to silence and letting “Etreum al ed Sallitemport” run backwards through the EP’s intro with all the more of a progressive feel. But the lack of predictability remains firm and it’s become one of the strongest assets Atavismo have at their disposal. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether Valdeinfierno is an EP or an album. It only matters to me because when I invariably salivate over what they do next, compulsion will lead me to wonder if it’s their second LP, third EP, second EP, etc. Of far greater importance is that this mini-album is precisely that: a condensed full-album flow executed over a shorter series of tracks. It acts as a showcase of Atavismo‘s growth and experimental sensibilities, but it also inevitably bridges any and all gaps between those experiments as they arise. This band makes some of the most beautiful music I’ve heard in underground psych. It’s time more people started taking notice.

Atavismo on Thee Facebooks

Atavismo on Bandcamp

Adansonia Records website

Adansonia Records on Thee Facebooks

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One Response to “Review & Full EP Premiere: Atavismo, Valdeinfierno

  1. […] No nos ha dado tiempo de escucharlo, pero ya está disponible el nuevo EP de Atavismo (el proyecto que siguió a los míticos Viaje a 800): Valdeinfierno. […]

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