Born to a Venezuelan mother and a French father in Paris, La Chica (neé Sophie Fustec) has had a relationship to music for most of her life. Fustec is classically trained in piano, but where she really shines is in her ability to create fractured and devastating synth textures.
These effervescent sonic landscapes reimagine piano traditions of composers like Claude Debussy, creating an apt metaphor for La Chica’s multinational, remixed life. “I grew up in a multicultural immigrant neighborhood that really enriched me,” she says of Belleville, the Paris neighborhood in which – along with stints in Venezuela – she spent her childhood.
It is in this context of cultural saturation that the project of La Chica emerges. “I’m a collage of cultures, which is highlighted by what I propose as an artist: a collage of textures, sounds, sampling, elements that supposedly aren’t made to come together but form a whole with which I identify.”
La Chica’s debut EP Oasis, released in January, is an impressive effort, true to its artist and themes. The meticulous and action-oriented “Be Able,” all synth stabs staggering over a dreamy piano, encourages you to stop dreaming about your best life and go shoot your shot instead (“Wake up and stop wasting your time/You have to fight to survive/Use your energy for the right thing”). On “El Rezo” Afro-Caribbean percussion morphs into bass riffs, which in turn give way to frenetic piano keys, all while La Chica sings about the comforts of spirituality – whether it be un rezo pa’ María o un homenaje a Yemayá (“Seguir la fe que me hace tan feliz/Darle un efecto a la vida diferente”). “Vale La Pena” combines piano and guitar with exasperating, alarm-like exclamations to convey the sheer despair of lust that goes against all reason. Each composition is a sonic patchwork that will no doubt please fans of James Blake.
But it is the title track that will really blow you away. Beginning with a soft piano joined by laconic vocals, “Oasis” shifts effortlessly into raspy textures, ripe pauses, anxious clangs, and a deep, almost palpable longing. Lyrically, its magnificence lies in the exquisite simplicity with which it portrays the bicultural experience of straddling several worlds and its accompanying sneaking suspicion of not having a steady footing in either (“‘toy cercana, ‘toy muy lejos/Abro, cierrro/Es un misterio”).
The visuals for the songs on Oasis are similarly brilliant, both as meticulously collaged and layered as the music. The visual realm is a very important piece of the way La Chica wants you to experience her music. “We use the same artistic codes [in the visuals] as we do in the music,” she tells Remezcla. “A collage of textures, a mix of street art and Basquiat, Frida Kahlo, drawings…” In the clip for “Oasis,” La Chica sings into the camera, shot shoulders up, her face alternatively looking forward and distorted, covered with paint, cut up into a starlike burst; she exists in a surreal tropical landscape of muted pastels and maximalism. In the video for “Be Able,” La Chica trades in her physical presence for a full commitment to collage. Magazine materials – advertisements and covers – are again given a surrealist spin, distorted, cut up, and animated to create something altogether new.
Threaded through La Chica’s work is a longing melancholy deeply familiar to multicultural diaspora kids who have always felt ni de aquí ni de allá. “Being half and half, I felt often that I had to adapt, like a chameleon,” she says. And it is in this adaptation that La Chica and her music find their power.
On Oasis, La Chica harnesses diasporic longing – as well as the deep sadness of Venezuela’s current sociopolitical situation – to create a tonic. “Venezuela’s current situation has inspired me quite a bit,” La Chica says. “I feel so much sadness, and I’d love to send energy to survive and fight.” Oasis offers a moment of a calm, one that makes survival possible, even as we look sorrow straight in the eye.
La Chica’s Oasis EP is out now.