Thanks to the variety and overall quality of this year’s lineup, it’s easy to recommend artists to catch at this year’s NRMAL fest. The bill is strong in sounds to blow your mind, make you dance, get you blissed out or all this at the same time. It’s this same reason why it’s also difficult to narrow it down to a list of five acts worthy of your time. How can you say one is worthier than the other?
That’s why I decided that the criteria for my picks would be the sets that represent your best chances of living unique moments, witnessing the beginning of careers when they are just kicking into high gear and barely enough people are paying attention. This list is all freshness and exhilaration, artists that are exciting to us, and hopefully to you as well. In short, you will be sorry if you miss them, they are sure to play some of the best music in the festival.
Bogota’s own Eblis Álvarez’ solo project bridges rootsy tropical melodies, digital experimentation and deep content to make something that has a new vibe. Meridian turns into a five piece band when playing live, so that should make things interesting in and of itself, but that’s just the beginning. They are worthwhile to catch in concert because they’re changing the rules of the game in a genre that is fast becoming stale. Put it this way: Meridian Brothers are a college-level seminar for anyone who listens to or is trying to make nu cumbia or similar stuff.
It seems like everyone who comes into contact with Raquel Berríos and Luis Alfredo Del Valle’ music falls hopelessly in love with it (we are definitely no exception, they’re one of Remezcla’s top crushes). Their tropically-tinged synthpop is beyond original, sensual and probably twice as haunting live than on their Dev Hynes-produced EP. Catching their set at NRMAL will give you bragging rights of seeing them before they get bigger, so don’t sleep.
There are high probabilities you have no idea what this trio sounds like. After all, they are a very young band playing a difficult kind of music that is not aimed at everyone (think Sonic Youth-approved guitar damage jams). But that shouldn’t be an excuse to not to see their exhilarating live set. The energy of the three of them playing off each other with an almost telepathic ability feeds their hunger. Seriously, you’ll swear they’re about to rip their instruments apart at any given moment.
Starting as a bedroom project in a small town in Brazil, Boogarins have captured the imaginations of thousands the world over, including alterna-vets like Flaming Lips and Guided By Voices. This is due to their music, a fresh take on 60s psych rock, full of fuzzed out guitars and sunshine melodies that also incorporates their native country’s tradition of genius musicians (Os Mutantes, Caetano Veloso, Gal Costa, etc.) Their set will bring together vintage rock junkies craving something more traditional, people looking for noisy goodness, and everyone who can appreciate beautiful melodies. It will be like a Mexican Woodstock for less than an hour.
The Uruguayan singer for Brooklyn band The Beets is representing Captured Tracks south of the border, but he fits more naturally onto the bill and region than most, like someone well-versed in the rock en tu idioma culture. At least it sounds like he’s informed by the original wave of Cono Sur rock icons, integrating his songs with post punk melodies, folk sensibilities, general playfulness, and even referring to literary icons from the region like Julio Cortázar in his lyrics. It will be very exciting to see him perform music based on sounds Mexican audiences are very familiar with, with the added factor of being brewed somewhere else. It’s sure to be a unique experience.