Finding Harmony in Baja California With Psych Rock Duo Lorelle Meets the Obsolete

At over six minutes, “The Sound of All Things” is the longest song on Balance, the new album from Mexican rock duo Lorelle Meets the Obsolete. Sustained synthesizer notes rise and fall in gentle swells; birds twitter amid space noises. The churning beat and buzzing guitar don’t come in until almost halfway through, and lyricist and guitarist Lorena Quintanilla’s effects-treated vocals don’t come in until an unhurried minute after that. It’s pretty and peaceful, in a way, and the whole album seems to come from the same daydreamy place.

Drummer and bassist Alberto González says the sounds of the song are drawn from the environment surrounding the couple’s home in Ensenada, Baja California, where they’ve been perfecting their psychedelic blend of krautrock and experimental noise over the last few years. The small house sits on a hill surrounded by trees and overlooking the ocean. They often go swimming. “We have developed a strong connection with the water,” he says, adding that the serene synth lines depict the movement of the ocean. The bird sounds were recorded outside their bedroom studio.

Life in Ensenada seems to have influenced the album in even deeper ways than that. Originally from Guadalajara, Quintanilla and González moved to the quiet town in Baja from Mexico City, where they had been gigging around and working as a tutor in public schools and as a bank auditor, respectively. Chambers, their last album before leaving the city, was critically well-received, but the two musicians hated how hurried the recording process was. “We felt like we had no control. We had only two days in the studio so we had to do everything very fast,” Quintanilla remembers. In a situation like that, González says, “You feel like stress has control of what appears on the album.”

Looking back, a lot of things about their lives in the country’s capital were hurried. “In Mexico City, we lived in a very nice apartment, but we had to pay for a practice space that wasn’t close to the apartment. If we wanted to rehearse in the evening, we had to drive for two hours and try to beat the traffic at rush hour,” González recalls. “It wasn’t bad. It’s just something that we didn’t want,” Quintanilla explains. The time came when they wanted to focus on their music full-time.

Their lives in Ensenada are very different from their experience in the capital; it’s much cheaper to live and the pace of life is much slower. They practice and record at home and live carefully on what they make as musicians. They have a few friends and three cats. The town is an hour and a half south of Tijuana, so if they want to tour in the U.S., they only have to drive for a few hours instead of buying a plane ticket. “Moving to Ensenada has completely changed our lives and the way we make music. When we really started to focus on this album was right after we finished touring, so all of our attention was given to the making of the album,” González states with a sense relief in his voice.

“Moving to Ensenada has completely changed our lives and the way we make music.”

The pair spent a year working on Balance and the result is collection of songs they are proud to call their own. “We feel comfortable about every decision we made for the album,” González avers. Both musicians agree that the raw, angry sound of Chambers had something to do with their frame of mind under the circumstances at the time they made it. Likewise, Balance reflects their new, more purpose-driven approach. “It’s more contemplative. We had the patience to let the songs do what they want to do, like three minutes of a synthesizer on The Sound of All Things,” Quintanilla says of their LP.

Over the course of the year, balance emerged as a theme for them on the album – they even recorded different versions of each song. One would be Quintanilla’s take on the song and the other would be González’s. Then they chose the version they liked best to go on the album (The songs “Waves of Shadows” and “Waves Under Shadows” is a case where they couldn’t decide.) There is a balance between languages, as well. Some songs are in Spanish, some in English, some in both. Finally, the album does strike an even-handed harmony between quietness and loudness and melody and noise.

“In 2014, when we were touring a lot, and the year before that as well, it was too much craziness. After touring, when we moved to this house, we wanted to recover some balance, or some quietness. We started taking care of ourselves, very basic stuff like eating well and resting well,” she says. She has even started practicing transcendental meditation and reports that it has had a positive impact on her songwriting. “When you meditate you release stress and you have more energy. You can be more focused, because you are not so concerned about little things. Now that we are writing the new album, ideas just pop up very easily.”

“We feel a kind of rush and connection right now.”

Lorelle Meets the Obsolete have built a following in Mexico, Europe, and North America. They play big festivals like Austin Psych Fest and Liverpool Psych Fest and are currently preparing for another European tour. Their lives can be just as hectic as they’ve ever been, but the difference is that now they can return to their house in Ensenada to recharge – and work on new music, something they’re especially eager to get back to after this round of gigs. González says, “We feel a kind of rush and connection right now. It’s really powerful. We have to take advantage of it.”

Balance is out Friday, September 16 on Captcha Records.