Matus, Claroscuro: Beyond Light and Shade

Posted in Reviews on January 13th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

matus claroscuro

Prior to its late-2015 release, there was some question as to whether the full-length Claroscuro would be the final offering from Lima, Peru-based classic heavy rock experimentalists Matus. The five-piece — currently operating with the lineup of guitarist/bassist/keyboardist Richard Nossar, vocalist Alex Rojas, vocalist/guitarist/bassist/thereminist Veronik, bassist/guitarist Manuel Garfias (also El Hijo de la Aurora) and drummer Walo Andreo Carrillo — had been dealing with geography issues between Peru and Australia, where somebody moved, and I’m not sure how or if those issues were resolved, but Claroscuro was released regardless via Espíritus Inmundos with Rainbow-style cover art from Marcos Coifman (Reino Ermitaño) as the follow-up to the 2013 semi-album, Espejismos (review here) and 2010’s Más Allá del Sol Poniente (review here).

Continuing the band’s progression within eerie and subtly complex rock with eight tracks/28 minutes of new material for a quick but resonant long-player, it is rife with rhythmic fluidity and engaging melody on songs like closer “Hada Morgana” and the swing-into-drum-solo of “Rompecorazones” and “Jenízaro.” Flourishes of organ, flute, percussion and layers of acousti and electric guitar emphasize a classic progressive feel, and Rojas‘ vocals play to that excellently across many of the tracks, though as ever with Matus — formerly known as Don Juan Matus — personnel and function tends to vary throughout. Matus are no strangers to changing up their approach, and Claroscuro does so almost immediately with a considerable shift in production sound between opening salvo “Umbral” and “Niebla de Neón” and the subsequent “Mío es el Mañana.”

“Umbral” serves as the album’s intro, with artful theremin — that is, more than just noise — providing a lead line over an Iommic riff and a rolling groove that emerges in “Niebla de Neón” over one of the record’s many rich basslines. That theremin returns at the end, after the song has crashed and cymbal-washed out to a closing line of acoustic guitar and transitions into “Mío es el Mañana,” which is rawer in its guitar tone, more upfront in keyboards and has more blown-out vocals atop compressed-sounding drums, like all of a sudden Claroscuro became a NWOBHM demo from 1976. That’s not a complaint, just a notable shift.


At six minutes, “Mío es el Mañana” is the longest cut included, and it holds its form throughout, once again built on a foundation of bass that disappears to the piano, synth, acoustic and percussion of “Firmamento,” a let’s-do-the-complete-opposite-thing-now swap of South American pastoralia. Three songs in and Matus have presented three different looks, the last of them a complete departure from any sort of sonic heft in favor of an easy-flowing pop-singer vibe that, if you were listening to the CD passively, you might have to blink once it’s over and go back to be sure of what you just heard. Go figure that after a gong hit Matus launch into the Spiritual Beggars-style classic heavy rock of “Rompecorazones” en route to Carrillo‘s percussive excursion in “Jenízaro.” If you’re looking for it to make linear sense, you’re listening wrong. The best thing to do with Matus is to just let them carry you across these changes, because even when they refuse to build a bridge from one aesthetic to the next, they’re persistently able to make it work one way or another.

A sense of ’80s metallurgy resumes with the 90-second “Paisajes del Futuro,” which quickly rolls out a doomy atmosphere amid overlaid whoas like an intro to something much more grandiose before fading and giving way to the acoustic/cymbal wash intro to “Crisálida,” on which Veronik takes the lead vocal position for answer the non-lyricized vocals of “Paisajes del Futuro” in kind but in much different, more melodic, less fist-pumping context, the two-and-a-half-minute course remaining quiet but tense all the while, because honestly, who the hell knows what’s coming next.

Matus make good on the promise for weird with “Bizarro Cabaret,” which recalls some of the Alice Cooper Band-style strut on Espejismos, but keeps Veronik at the fore for interweaving layers of scat given further jazzy context thanks to guest trumpet from Bruno Rosazza and the underlying bassline that seems to feed right into the opening crash of “Hada Morgana,” another two-plus-minute push of progressive heavy rock swing that’s here and gone in a flash, turned in a completely different direction from “Bizarro Cabaret” before it, but unquestionably pulled off by Matus, who apparently don’t need any longer than 28 minutes to effectively offer more breadth than most bands could on records twice as long.

To call Claroscuro quirky would cheapen its ultimate range, and while its title refers to contrasts of light and dark, the truth is that Matus don’t even make it as simple throughout these eight tracks as pitting one side against another. Instead, they gracefully set a multitude of elements in motion and then skillfully direct the listener along a guided path between and through them. If this really is their final album — and somehow I doubt it will be; creativity like this doesn’t just stop — then it’s a bigger loss than most will realize.

Matus, Claroscuro (2015)

Matus on Thee Facebooks

Matus on Bandcamp

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Matus Announce Claroscuro for April Release

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 10th, 2015 by JJ Koczan


It’s an emotional rollercoaster of an update from Peruvian (also apparently Australian) collective Matus. The outfit — also formerly known as Don Juan Matus — will release their new album, Claroscuro, on CD via Espíritus Inmundos with vinyl potentially to follow, and that’s great, sign me up. But there’s also the part about how it’s potentially their final outing, and that’s more than a little bit of a bummer. Based in Lima and headed by guitarist, etc.-ist Richard Nossar, they got their start a decade ago and have been pursuing adventurous heaviness ever since.

The last Don Juan Matus release was 2013’s Espejismos (review here), which was recorded over a number of years, so to find out that Claroscuro took most of one to put together isn’t really a surprise, I guess it’s just a downer to see a cool project maybe coming to an end. Hopefully Nossar and company decide to keep rolling after this fifth record and there are more to come, and that Matus keeps going,

Time will tell, ultimately. Or another update from the band. Either way, here’s the latest on Claroscuro from the PR wire:

matus claroscuro maybe

MATUS – Claroscuro CD release

Espíritus Inmundos is proud to announce the exclusive, worldwide CD release of Peruvian collective MATUS (formerly known as DON JUAN MATUS) fifth album, Claroscuro (Chiaroscuro).

Recorded on almost a year span and featuring new drummer Walo Andreo Carrillo of Christian Van Lacke & La Fauna fame, Claroscuro could be the band’s swan song.

Release Date: April 2015.

Matus is a musical collective formed in December 2005.

The band has released 4 albums and 2 split singles in a 7 year span on various labels from Perú, Germany, Japan and the United States.

Their music combine elements of late 60s psychedelia, early 70s heavy rock, folk, blues, ambient, to name a few.

Matus, “Umbral – Niebla De Neón”

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Duuude, Tapes! Don Juan Matus, Espejismos

Posted in Duuude, Tapes! on September 20th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

Is Espejismos, the latest release from Peruvian progressive heavy psych rockers Don Juan Matus, an album? There are a couple different ways to answer the question, and I don’t think any of them are wrong, only more right than the others. You could say no, it’s not. It collects five new songs recorded separately by the band members and couples them with alternate versions and early mixes to, at most, make an EP with bonus tracks dispersed throughout. You’re not wrong. You could say yes, it’s an album. It’s cohesive, it’s got a flow from song to song, and the five-piece obviously took the time to structure it in a way that made the most of that, so who cares if there are six engineers listed in the tape liner and that recording was done over a period of six years between the band’s beginnings in 2007 and 2013? They put it out as an album, it’s an album. Who cares anyway?

You wouldn’t be wrong to say that either. It’s all true. I land on the third option: Kinda. Is it an album? Well, kinda. Those new tracks — “Contico a los Dioses Antiguos,” “Vortice Espiral II,” “Espejismos II,” “Auroral” and “Carne Humana para las Masas” — do a lot to tie the release together, but for anyone who heard 2010’s Más Allá del Sol Poniente (review here), the Melvins chug and soaring vocals of “Mundo Alterno” and the classic heavy prog rock of “Kadath” are going to be familiar, even if the context is different and the songs appear on Espejismos in different versions than on the last album (“Kadath” also showed up on a split 7″ with Oxido last year; streamed here). So it’s kinda a new album from Don Juan Matus, whose future is reportedly uncertain on account of geographical distance between its members, but whatever you want to call it, it’s a smooth, varied listen, and particularly on the Caligari Records tape, which forces you to hear one side at a time, it does have an undeniable flow.

Only one of the new songs appears on side one, and that’s the opener, so side two, which starts with “Vortice Espiral II” is bound to be less familiar. What starts out with heavy ’70s style weirdo psych — Alice Cooper Band, maybe? — soon gets met with chirping frogs, acoustic guitar, flute and mellotron on a 2008 version of “Matorral,” only to give way to cymbal wash and kick drum thud on the brief “Espejismos II,” only to move into patient, ambient pastoralia on “Auroral” and offset more nuanced psych exploration on “Verde Nocturno/Las Horas Azules” with a cinematic vocal and instrumental progression backing an extended classic rock solo. Rounding out, “Carne Humana para las Masas” is — of course — a theremin, snare and lightly plucked electric guitar piece that sounds vaguely Eastern European in its sad melody, only to end with concert hall applause. So yeah, it’s a bit of work to keep up with everything Don Juan Matus have to offer even on the half of Espejismos that’s mostly new, but as was the case with Más Allá del Sol Poniente, it’s a challenge worth taking on for adventurous ears.

The cassette version of the album — if that’s where you’re at on the delineation — is limited to 100 hand-numbered copies (I got #29), and comes with an eight-panel insert on quality card stock that on one side has the foldout Daniel Serrano artwork and on the other gives the info on who in the band recorded what and when. That’s a lot to keep up with as well, but the upshot is that even when you know the songs, you never quite know what’s coming next as you make your way through the two sides.

Don Juan Matus, Espejismos (2013)

Don Juan Matus on Thee Facebooks

Caligari Records

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audiObelisk: Stream Oxido and Don Juan Matus’ Split 7″ in its Entirety

Posted in audiObelisk on November 29th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

Peruvian progressive doomers Don Juan Matus have joined forces with countrymen classic metallurgists Oxido for a split 7″ that seems almost too heavy for a platter that size to hold. It seems an odd match at first. Oxido trace their roots back to a 1983 demo and play a post-Judas Priest type of straightforward classic heavy metal, while Don Juan Matus seem to be on a trip of thickened progressive heavy psychedelia if their third album, Más Allá del Sol Poniente (review here), and the song “Kadath,” included here, is anything to go by.

And yet, it works. At the end of the day, heavy is heavy, and that’s something Oxido and Don Juan Matus certainly have in common. The 7″ was released on New York’s Wardance Records, owned by Freddy Alva (he of Last Cause and the much-heralded 1989 New Breed NYHC compilation; not a bad endorsement to have), and finds the two bands united by that underlying love of classic heaviness. Oxido may move faster and Don Juan Matus‘ prominent organ keeps them well aligned to ’70s rock one way or another, but both “El Angel de la Muerte” and “Kadath” are imbued with a guitar-driven righteousness, whether it comes in the form of the chugging gallop of the former or the lumbering largess of the latter.

The record, which is limited to 300 copies and is a split release between Wardance and Basilica Records, has been out for a minute or two, but I haven’t seen the tracks online anywhere (maybe they are, it’s a big internet from what I’m told), so I asked if I could host them for streaming and was graciously granted permission. You’ll find both sides of the 7″ on the player below. Please enjoy:

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

For more info on the Oxido/Don Juan Matus split, check out Don Juan Matus on Thee Facebooks or Oxido on Thee Facebooks, or hit up the Wardance Records store.

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Don Juan Matus’ Más Allá Del Sol Poniente Receives Vinyl Release

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 15th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

Word came down on Friday that Más Allá Del Sol Poniente (review here), the 2010 third album from Peruvian prog/psych rockers Don Juan Matus, has just received a vinyl issue in a variety of pressings, including a limited diehard edition with a poster, postcards and marbled grey platter.

The release comes via Clostridium Records, while the original CD was handled by Golden Procession (Japan) and Espíritus Inmundos (Perú).

Here’s the latest and the links:

Don Juan Matus – Más Allá Del Sol Poniente vinyl release

Clostridium Records are proud to announce the exclusive, worldwide vinyl release of Peruvian collective Don Juan Matus’ third album, Más Allá Del Sol Poniente.

The album, which earned record of the year accolades in such mainstream media as El Comercio and Caretas magazine, was originally issued in late 2010 via joint release between Espíritus Inmundos (Perú), and Golden Procession (Japan), only on CD format, making this the first time the album’s available worldwide in an analog format.

The LP has been released on gatefold 180g vinyl, featuring reimagined cover art by Karen Müller, in classic black, white, and ultra-limited die-hard marbled grey wax. The latter also includes an A2 sized poster and 3 postcards.!/pages/Don-Juan-Matus/157325094289441
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Don Juan Matus, Más Allá del Sol Poniente: Trip Beyond the Setting Sun

Posted in Reviews on December 9th, 2010 by JJ Koczan

While my only prior exposure to Peruvian collective Don Juan Matus was their 2008 self-titled debut, their third album, Más Allá del Sol Poniente (Espíritus Inmundos) finds the five-piece a much more eclectic, genre-bending outfit. Lineup turmoil and artistic growth alike are to blame, but whatever did it, their sound has matured into dark textures of classic adult prog, with glimpses of the raw stoner sound they came from, but a more engrossing take overall on it. The eight tracks that comprise Más Allá del Sol Poniente’s 35-minute runtime span a wide sonic array, and although each seems to have a personality and drama all its own, there remains a flow to the album that’s essential to its ultimate success.

The way intro “Bajo la Sombra del Arbol de la Vida y La Muerte” bleeds into the riffier, classically plodding “Kadath/Más Allá del Sol Poniente,” for example, is just one of Don Juan Matus’ resident smooth transitions, going from piano and guest synth from Carlos Torres Fuentes to Alfonso Vargas’ crashing drums and what might be Más Allá del Sol Poniente’s most accomplished vocal performance from singer Alex Rojas. The semi-title-track also represents the more guitar-led side of Don Juan Matus, which doesn’t come out on every track, but when it does, comes out cleanly, the guitar work of Richard Nossar (who also produced the album and contributes synth and vocals), Manuel Garfias (also bass) and/or Veronik (also flute, theremin and vocals) sounding big enough to make an impression but not so large as to leave no room for the more experimental side of the band to come out on other tracks, such as the bass-driven instrumental space psych synth of “Ectoplasma,” which follows immediately. At just over two minutes, “Ectoplasma” is more of a transitional moment, a kind of warning to listeners that anything could happen on Más Allá del Sol Poniente, and in that it’s effective, since instead of a turn toward the weird, it leads into the riff-heaviest cut on the record, “Mundo Alterno.”

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