Should we be surprised that Sergio Chotsourian has new material in the works? Yeah, probably not. At all. We’re barely a month removed from his last video, an animated clip for the song “La Historia de Hanuman” (posted here) from his 2015 debut solo album, 1974 (review here), and certainly less than a year out from his issuing the 2016 follow-up, Aurora (review here), but that’s just kind of how it goes with the former Los Natas and current Soldati and Ararat frontman. Multiple projects, multiple releases in the works. Always something happening. Dude is prolific. From where I sit, that only adds to the appeal of his work.
“El Latigo y las Riendas” is the first glimpse of material post-Aurora that Chotsourian has given, and among the things it tells us is that it seems like he’ll continue to keep his focus on solo work for the time being while still playing out with Soldati. That puts Ararat on the back burner as they have been for the last couple years as the Sergio Ch. solo-project has really started to take shape around Chotsourian and various collaborators, from Miagros Arrom, who played on Aurora, to his daughter, Isabel Chotsourian, who sat in on a re-recording of the 1974 the track “La Sal y Arroz” (posted here) last Spring.
I would doubt that the version of “El Latigo y las Riendas” featured in the video below — which if the curtain in the background is anything to go by seems to have been recorded in a living room (presumably Chotsourian‘s own) before being run through a line-drawing filter — is the final one, and kind of assume that by the time the track makes it onto whatever release it does, it will be fleshed out some, though one never really knows, and Sergio Ch. has never exactly been shy about giving his listeners a raw glimpse at his songwriting process. Or, you know, could be both, since it’s not like songs haven’t shown up in different forms across different releases, sometimes even different bands. One can never really be too sure. That’s part of the appeal too.
Please enjoy “El Latigo y las Riendas” below, followed by a translated version of the announcement that was posted when the track was shared on the social medias:
Sergio Ch., “El Latigo y las Riendas” official video
happiness is only real when shared… is a phrase that I stay in some movie. For those who are and for those who left us a message. New video premiere of Sergio Ch. “El Latigo y las Riendas.” Enjoy!
True, it might seem kind of curious that former Los Natas and current Soldati frontman Sergio Chotsourian would dip back to his 2015 debut solo album, 1974 (review here) and bring together a video for the track “La Historia de Hanuman” when in 2016 — working under his adopted Sergio Ch. moniker and releasing through his own South American Sludge Records imprint and Pirámide Records — he put out a follow-up, Aurora (review here). Generally one promotes the most recent release. My suspicion, however, is that the “La Historia de Hanuman” clip has been in the works for a while. Hand animation takes time, and it doesn’t seen unreasonable to think the second Sergio Ch. record happened while the process was ongoing.
As is my usual position when it comes to Chotsourian‘s work, I’ll take it as it comes. And frankly, I’m happy for the excuse to revisit 1974, which was an album filled with heartfelt personal emotionalism and grief expressed in raw acoustic fashion as well as an experimentalism and sonic range that Aurora only continued to broaden. Sharing some of its tracks — including “La Historia de Hanuman” — with Cabalgata Hacia la Luz (review here), the third full-length from the Chotsourian-led trio Ararat, 1974 found its maker coping with the loss of a parent and telling stories from his own life in a way that no one else could. I don’t speak the language, but those songs — once again, including “La Historia de Hanuman” — remain poignant and memorable. I expect they will be a part of Chotsourian‘s repertoire going forward no matter where his progression as a songwriter might lead him. Rightly so.
You’ll pardon me if I leave the credits for the video in their original Spanish. I think even if you don’t really speak the language you can probably figure out what they say, and somehow it seems more appropriate than translating this time around.
Sergio Ch. “La Historia de Hanuman” official video
VIDEO OFICIAL DEL DISCO DE SERGIO CH. – “1974” PRODUCIDO POR SERGIO CH. VIDEO REALIZADO POR JOAQUIN ZELAYA
Posted in Reviews on January 12th, 2017 by JJ Koczan
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to not think of Sergio Chotsourian as a kind of figurehead representative of South American heavy. From his work over the course of two decades in Los Natas and Ararat to the just-getting-started Soldati, as well as his Sergio Ch. solo offerings, other offshoot projects and collaborations, and the continuing impact he’s had on artists around him with his label, South American Sludge Records, the Buenos Aires native has positioned himself at the fore of a crucial and vibrant underground through both his own creative output and his commitment to helping promote others in Argentina and the surrounding nations. As the label has come into focus over the last several years and stood behind an increasing number of releases, Chotsourian‘s craft seems to have become all the more prolific for having the reliable outlet.
In 2015, he made his Sergio Ch. solo debut with 1974 (review here), and Aurora follows that album and Soldati‘s first demo (discussed here) as a late-2016-issue sophomore outing on South American Sludge and Pirámide Records. Like its predecessor, Aurora finds a basis in demos that were posted online circa 2013 — for the title-track, which opens, and “El Herrero,” which immediately follows — but these have been rerecorded and mixed by Chotsourian (who also did the cover art) at his own Death Studios, built upon within themselves and added to other pieces to result in a six-song/53-minute full-length that’s still in no small part defined by its opener, which is presented this time around in two component pieces, each one starting a half of the album.
Granted, some of that defining aspect of “Aurora” and “Aurora II” might be due the fact that they are 19 and 15 minutes long, respectively. One is reminded of Ararat‘s 2012 album II (review here), which made use of the extended “Caballos” and “La Ira del Dragon (Uno)” to make such an impression with shorter inclusions surrounding. But the vision on Aurora is clearer in its structural intent and the aesthetic different, with Chotsourian joined only by Milagros Arrom on guitar and metallophone throughout, instead of playing as part of a full trio band. And the experimental vibe with which “Aurora” (18:55) and “Aurora II” (15:17) play out isn’t to be understated. 1974 had some undertones of drone but made its primary impact with more traditional folk-style songwriting; guitar, piano, vocals at its core.
“El Herrero” and “El Laud” work in a similar vein — the former punctuated by Arrom‘s metallophone — and each half of the record finds a more plugged-in, fuzzy and psychedelic finish in “La Heroina” and the instrumental “El Llano,” but even these feel far removed from Chotsourian‘s last LP. Really, it doesn’t even take getting as far as two minutes into “Aurora” for the shift in approach to be made clear, the title-track starting with a drone-march of a guitar line backed by deep-mixed organ, a fuzzier guitar tone emerging amid a threat of drums before a turn into the verse riff after four minutes in brings the first lyrics. It leaves little room for middle-ground impressions, by which I mean the listener will either be hypnotized or not. “Aurora” celebrates its nod and does not depart from it until about 17 minutes in, as the central guitar figure is overwhelmed by swirling noise and feedback (and actually that guitar part is still there, just buried). Chotsourian has toyed with drone before, but “Aurora” marks the first time he’s brought Earth-esque drone rock to such account. To his credit, he makes it his own.
Likewise “Aurora II,” the arrival of which serves to emphasize the mirrored structure of Aurora‘s two halves, each of which begins with a longer experimental piece (the two “Aurora” tracks) and follows first with an acoustic-based cut (“El Herrero” and “El Laud”) and then a more electrified one to finish (“El Laud” and “El Llano”). Vinyl would seem to be the intent, at very least what’s meant to be conveyed, but I’m not sure the album would fit on a single platter in its current incarnation, i.e., without some form of editing for a shorter runtime. Nonetheless, “Aurora II” complements the preceding opener as the pinnacle of Chotsourian‘s experimentalism, moving from a wistful initial guitar line and metallophone flourish — one is reminded of Hexvessel‘s “Sacred Marriage,” though that’s likely sonic coincidence — through forwards and backwards psychedelic noodling into a wash of consuming and ritualized drone.
Instrumental in its entirety, its chimes, surrounding keyboard lines and opaque but still worship-prone soundscaping spread out as they go, moving further and further away from the earlier “Aurora,” the guitar line that started “Aurora II” and really just about any form of physical reality. What “Aurora II” shares in common with “Aurora” is trance and structure. Just as the opener held to its central guitar figure, “Aurora II” — while definitely departing from it in its extended midsection — bookends with that same wistful line, which returns following a stop at around 12 and a half minutes in to carry to the finish. At that point it’s hard not to think of “El Laud” as a return to ground, and that might indeed be Chotsourian‘s purpose, but wherever they were placed in the tracklisting, there could be little doubt Aurora would be defined by its titular pieces. That said, both “El Laud” and the fuzzy reaches of “El Llano” offer plenty of spaciousness in their own right, the latter finding a place within a drone more cosmic than that of “Aurora II” but not completely separate from it in its layering.
As the guitar on “El Llano” clicks off for the last time, kind of suddenly, the core message of Aurora is underlined in a stylistic expansion for Chotsourian‘s solo material. That is to say, if one was expecting a straight-ahead follow-up to 1974, this sophomore effort will no doubt come as something of a surprise. Taken in context within his discography — particularly some of the breadth attained on the aforementioned second Ararat disc — it’s not wholly out of place, but there’s a purposeful distance that Auroraputs between itself and just about everything else Chotsourian has done to-date. That makes it much more difficult to predict where he might go next, but also allows this collection to satisfy on another level, both on its own and in terms of the Sergio Ch. catalog, which it would seem has only begun to establish the broadness of its scope.
Posted in Whathaveyou on August 26th, 2016 by JJ Koczan
A couple years ago, Sergio Chotsourian, formerly of Los Natas and currently of Soldati, Ararat, his Sergio Ch. solo work and South American Sludge Records issued a two-song release called Aurora. It was digital-only and I’m just going to assume that the new version of Aurora due to be issued as a CD/DL next month — on South American Sludge and Pirámide Records — is built off that. The opening title track, on the 2013 original, was over 19 minutes long, an experiment in drone looping topped off with echoing vocals, creating a pretty vast space. “El Herrero,” though much shorter, kept a similar mindset, just didn’t take it to quite the same lengths, blending it instead with Sergio Ch.‘s well established memorable songwriting.
I don’t know whether Aurora — the 2016 version — will work in the same way. If I had to guess, I’d imagine it will work along reasonably similar lines to how his 1974 full-length (review here) was issued first in a sort of demo form and then built out to be a complete album. The addition of other tracks here and instrumentation gives some clue as to the overall intent toward a fuller sound, but of course we won’t actually know until it’s out.
If you don’t already keep your eye on the South American Sludge Bandcamp page (linked below), it’s a treasure trove of underground heavy in a variety of styles from Argentina and beyond that’s easily worth your time and support. Just a word to the wise.
Album info follows. It’s in Spanish, but I’m pretty sure you can figure out what “guitarra” means, even if your language skills are as limited as mine:
Sergio Ch. – Aurora [CD] [S.A.S. 050]
Tracklist: 01 Aurora 02 El Herrero 03 La Heroina 04 Aurora II 05 El Laud 06 El Llano
It is not an exaggeration to say that Sergio Chotsourian is perhaps the most important figure in South American heavy rock and roll in the last 20 years. Since the mid-’90s, he has spread an influence outward from Buenos Aires, Argentina, first in early Natas releases like Delmar and Ciudad de Brahman, as well as through that band’s later work as Los Natas and into other acts like the more experimental trio Ararat, whose three albums to-date stand as testament to a broadening aesthetic palette. Further evidence of that comes in projects like the one-off Solodolor, the newly-formed Soldati, Chotsourian‘s soundtrack to the film Los Viajes, and his recent collaboration with his daughter, Isabel Chotsourian on a digital single featuring the track “La Sal y Arroz” (posted here).
That song is of clear personal significance — a full-band version also appeared on Ararat‘s latest, 2014’s Cabalgata Hacia la Luz (review here) — and so it’s fitting that the solo rendition should lead off Chotsourian‘s first outing under the nom de plumeSergio Ch., 1974. Self-recorded and issued through his own South American Sludge imprint, 1974 began life as a short digital collection of home demos, but was eventually branched out to a 52-minute/13-song full-length. In addition to “La Sal y Arroz,” it also shares “Las Piedras,” “La Historia de Hanuman,” “La Familia y las Guerras,” “Los Escombros del Jardin” and “Los Viajes” with the aforementioned most recent Ararat, so it’s probably fair to think of the two as companions, though in truth, Chotsourian‘s work has blended together from one release to the next over the better part of the last decade, as evidenced in the move from the last (to-date) Los Natas record, Nuevo Orden de la Libertad (review here), into the self-titled Ararat debut (review here), along the same piano progression in 2009.
Piano is a key factor in the overall impression of 1974. Like John Lennon‘s Dakota demos, some of these tracks revolve around the minimal arrangements of piano and/or voice, as on the beginning of “Los Barcos,” or in “4737 Minutos” (that’s about 3.2 days), “Los Viajes” and the closing title-track. Even when not being played, the resonance of the piano seems to remain, whether it’s in bell chords or plucked notes on acoustic guitar in “Bed Room” or “Las Melodias,” or the subtly psychedelic echo on “Las Piedras” and the standout “Los Escombros del Jardin.”
Sergio Ch. brings in Walter Broide (Los Natas) and Alfredo Felitte (Ararat) to help on drums periodically and Milagros Arrom for a violin guest spot on “Los Barcos,” but otherwise 1974 is entirely his own, vocals, bass, guitar and the keys. He layers his voice depending on the song, resulting in varied atmospheres between built-out tracks like “La Sal y Arroz” and “Las Piedras” and more singular stretches like the minute-long “La Blusa,” a quick excursion of jangly slide guitar perhaps to lighten the atmosphere following “La Historia de Hanuman” and “La Familia y las Guerras,” which together typify the emotional weight under which a fair portion of the record is operating. These and “Los Barcos,” “4737 Minutos,” the rawer “Las Melodias” and “1974” create a melancholy crux, the wistfulness set forth in the opener built upon for the duration until the title-track seems to round out by cutting short having asked more questions than it answered. That, of course, is a guess, because the lyrics are in Spanish and that’s one of the many, many languages my ignorant ass doesn’t speak, but the prevailing impression comes through nonetheless of these tracks being as much an exploration of feelings as sonics.
As a result, 1974, like a lot of solo offerings, is deeply personal. Its sound is broad and expressive and gripping, enough so that one barely notices as elements like percussion, bass, violin, piano, etc., come and go and come again. These things are part of the overarching reach of Sergio Ch.‘s solo work, established here for the first time but definitely constructed from an ambience he’s brought to life in his bands before. The familiarity of some of this material bleeds through the different arrangements as well, and perhaps 1974 could come across as a richer listen for anyone who caught Cabalgata Hacia la Luz, but the other is by no means a prerequisite for the one. Though they share some songs, the two albums stand alone and the fluidity that Chotsourian brings to these tracks remains steady throughout the CD runtime.
That said, it’s easy — particularly given his track record for such things — to imagine that some of these songs might end up on future Chotsourian-related releases. Indeed they already have if one counts the Isabel y Sergio Ch. version of “La Sal y Arroz,” but even beyond that, fuller-arrangements of “Las Melodias” and “El Pastor de la Hormigas” seem by no means out of the question. Whether or not that happens — and if it does, with what project — of course will remain to be seen, but even if this stuff does continue to show up elsewhere, 1974 will remain a landmark in Chotsourian‘s catalog, because it’s the first full-length to bear his name alone and for the new sonic territory it covers in relation to his prior accomplishments. In mood, performance and execution, it engages on a richly human level.
Truth be told, I almost didn’t post this video from Isabel and Sergio Chotsourian, because it’s so personal I feel like I’m intruding by even writing about it. The song is “La Sal y el Arroz,” which has appeared on the 2014 Ararat album, Cabalgata Hacia la Luz (review here), as well as Sergio Ch.‘s solo offering, 1974, and it brings together father and daughter in an exploration of family and memory, aural as well as visual, the clip being made up of old home movies taken, apparently, over a span of decades.
One of the major themes of Cabalgata Hacia la Luz was familial loss, and that sentimentality invariably is at play in this new version of “La Sal y el Arroz,” which was striking even before it became a multi-generational duet. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first appearance on a recording of Isabel Chotsourian, but if the translated PR wire info below is anything to go by, it’ll by no means be the last — an EP is apparently in the works that will be issued via Sergio‘s South American Sludge imprint.
Sergio, known of course as the guitarist/vocalist for Los Natas before taking up the bassist/vocalist mantle in Ararat, released a demo last month with his new project Soldati (discussed here) and had a collaborative single late last year with Gonzalo Villagra (ex-Los Natas) and drummer Rolando Castello, Jr. (Aeroblús), and so seems to be in the midst of a creative boom. My only regret is that boom hasn’t involved a webstore with international shipping for South American Sludge releases, as I’m still dying to get my hands on a copy of 1974. One of these days.
In the interim, you’ll find Isabel y Sergio Ch.‘s debut collaboration below, followed by the aforementioned translated info on the upcoming release.
Isabel & Sergio Ch., “La Sal y el Arroz” official video
Isabel and Sergio Ch., father and daughter, are part of a unique musical meeting. A new version of the great song “La Sal y el Arroz”; previously part of Sergio Ch.’s solo album. “1974” and versioned for the Ararat album “Cabalgata Hacia la Luz”.
This time making a new record intimate, a single sound, production and minimalist concept that give a new song to flight and landscape unique acoustic to record this exciting encounter, intense and family.
Made in video by gunkza films about the history of a father and his daughter, growth, and stories their travel along Argentina in 70 years. Originally filmed material only in super 8 and adapted to the concept of this video clip.
Recorded and produced by Sergio Ch. EP coming together to be edited to a cover of The Animals’ “The House of the Rising Sun” for South American Sludge Records.
I’m not sure if “Sally del Blues” is a one-off or the beginning of a new project, but the band is billed as Sergio Ch., Villagra y Castello Jr., which is a mouthful if you’re booking the billboard or otherwise involved in marketing, but about as much as many who’ll take it on will need to know, information-wise. Sergio Chotsourian of course has spent the last half-decade-plus in Ararat (he also had a solo album out this year), but prior to that, he fronted one of Argentina’s most landmark trios, Los Natas. This new project — again, if it is a project — reunites Chotsourian with former Los Natas bassist Gonzalo Villagra, and though it’s been a while since that band released an album, if you’ve ever heard any of their stuff (their last outing was 2009’s Nuevo Orden de la Libertad; review here), you know that’s no minor pairing.
Not only does Sergio Ch., Villagra y Castello Jr. bring the former Los Natas bandmates together, but it also features drummer Rolando Castello, Jr., who played in Pappo’s Blues offshoot Aeroblús in 1977 alongside Norberto “Pappo” Napolitano himself. Unsurprisingly, classic heavy rock unfolds on “Sally del Blues,” which reminds of what Chotsourian and Villagra were able to accomplish together tonally in their former outfit and lays it over a solid foundation of a beat from Castello. All three take part in the vocals, at least for a couple shouts (as you can see above in the photo by Santi Sombra, who also made the video), but Chotsourian has the lead through most of the song, and he lays out an effective hook in no time flat.
Whether or not anything comes from the trio after this, I don’t know. The recording of “Sally del Blues” is pretty raw — that’s the idea — but if they headed back in to make a record of this kind of stuff and released it through Chotsourian‘s South American Sludge imprint, I doubt they’d meet much resistance.
Sergio Ch., Villagra y Castello Jr., “Sally del Blues” official video
Sergio Ch (Los Natas, Ararat) Gonzalo Villagra (Los Natas) and Rolando Castello Jr. (Aeroblues, Patrulha Do Espaco) meet in this unique opportunity to make a musical encounter heavy Blues possible.
Recorded and mastered machine tape in analog form, as was done in the 70s, they recorded a powerful song and possibly iconic for the History of National Rock called “Sally del Blues.”
Recorded and produced by Patricio Claypole at Estudio el Attic Video made by Santi Sombra and Rock in Motion Felix Bunge Music Management
This video isn’t new, but I’ve been on something of an Ararat kick since the announcement last week of their forthcoming third album, Cabalgata Hacia la Luz, and the stream of “Nicotina y Destrucción” from it (info here), both breaking out Ararat‘s 2012 second LP, II, paying regular visits to the new song — like again, right now — and checking out some of frontman Sergio Chotsourian‘s solo tracks. There are a few scattered about the former Los Natas guitarist/vocalist’s Soundcloud page, along with stuff from the one-off side-project Santoro, various Ararat demos, soundtrack work and what appears to be an anti-bullying PSA, so I’ve had plenty to dig into.
Chotsourian, who also goes by Sergio Ch., also has an not inconsiderable number of videos to his credit, including this one for the song “Las Piedras.” The record it’s said to come from, 1974, I don’t know if it has had a physical pressing, but everything I’ve heard off of it has been stellar, and ditto that for the material from the follow-up, Aurora. Whether these solo outings will be put out through Chotsourian‘s own label, South American Sludge Records, I don’t know. I basically check in on a weekly basis at this point to make sure the label didn’t start a webstore and have everything sell out while I wasn’t looking. Yes, this is an actual concern for me.
“Las Piedras” has percussion and a bassline, so it’s not quite just Chotsourian and an acoustic guitar — in Ararat he’s joined by guitarist/keyboardist Tito Fargo and drummer Alfredo Felitte — but that’s still the root of what winds up a spacious recording. As soon as I have more info on the release of Cabalgata Hacia la Luz, I’ll post it, but I stumbled onto this on Thee Facebooks while I should’ve been (and sort of was) working this afternoon and have spent the last week nerding out, I felt compelled to share: