One of the first things you learn as a musician is other people’s songs. It’s part of the process of learning an instrument (or device) and gives you an idea of how to write your own material. Arguably, all music is assemblage and a musician who keeps learning and dissecting other people’s compositions is owning that notion and most likely gaining from it. Some songs inspire tribute and re-interpretation, and when done right these versions come to life in a whole new way.
With Algodón Egipcio‘s Canta: Lefse Records, Venezuelan indie-pop producer Ezequiel Bertho announces a new series of cover albums he will be releasing under the title Canta. This release includes some of his favorite tracks from Lefse artists, the label that released his wonderful first album, La Lucha Constante.
What better way to kick off this series than by paying tribute to the bands that he shares a label with. It’s a gesture as much as it is a way to further establish himself stylistically. Each of the seven tracks covered have been marked with Bertho’s dreamy and lush style, presented in a booming, starry-eyed manner. What seems to be a common thread is that each song is stripped down to its bare-bones essence and then adorned in acoustic-electronic soundscapes.
One of the most notable tracks is Youth Lagoon’s “Afternoon,” beautifully arranged with acoustic guitar, drenched in reverb and sampled orchestral instruments. Although the arrangements are impressive on Dominant Leg’s “Make Time for the Boy,” Bertho’s soft-spoken baritone flattens the song a bit, as the affect in Ryan Lynch’s pop-crooner style carries the original. It’s fun to hear Cuckoo Chaos’ knee-jerk irony sedated into dream pop and how Bertho decided to acoustically cover Dana Buoy, an artist who uses similar elements in his music.
The album is a great selection of songs from the Lefse Records catalog and might actually make us want to revisit the original albums in case we missed something. At the same time, we wonder if Bertho is cooking up something of his own. By learning other people’s songs and having the liberty to reinvent them, he is exposing himself to a whole new palette of ideas and structures. If you are an actual Algodon Egipcio fan, you may miss one thing: his ability to couple great lyrics in Spanish with melody. Canta: Lefse Records, and most likely the rest in the series, proves his ability to arrange and rearrange, to select and curate playlists, and to preserve a song’s most redeemable qualities.