Childs Go For Cinematic Wonder on ‘Realidal,’ Their First Album in Nine Years

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Last decade, a unique record came out of the Mexican underground. It was 2006, the name of the album was Yui, and it was credited to Childs. Those of us who weren’t lucky enough to live in the Ensenada vicinity, which is Childs’ birthplace, didn’t know anything else about the mysterious project. Yui was a beautiful collection of mostly instrumental tracks that relish their open chord optimism and delicately plucked melancholy. Childs seemed to be shrouded in beauty and hope (similarly to their contemporaries Austin TV, although Childs didn’t make it its mission to reach for raised-fist euphoric moments), opening the sentimental panorama of the music scene in the country, which was dominated by emo, metalcore, and electroclash projects at the time. Their artistry was undeniable, and so was their mystery. After a few isolated live performances in the following years, Childs seemed to have dropped off the map until last year, when they announced a new album and a tour.

I’m not sure how much of this plea to obscurity is calculated. For the casual listener, finding information on the project is quite difficult. It mostly works to its advantage; it requires you to fill in the gaps as you wish and make up your own story. Since there’s not a stock image of Childs being a band, solo project, collective, angel, or a mutant from outer space, we’re free to associate the music with what best suits our consciousness. Realidal, the second album in Childs’ discography, functions like a work conceived and executed in a dream setting. It’s as though a film score, an ambitious art pop opus, and a post-rock band played at the same time, one on top of the other, joined only by their desire to have their sentiments communicated without planning or words. The resulting sound is nothing short of glorious in its scope.

Yui truthers may cry foul on this being a Childs record, since it kicks off with “Mensajes.” The track features vocals and a guitar arpeggio seems to be moving the song along in its conventional pop rock structure. With a closer listen to the layers of sound, it’s the same Childs after all, and as the album progresses, it reveals itself as the logical extension of the first record. Mostly, though, an evolution has been clearly marked. Realidal takes their sound — fresh, sweet, and expansive — to bigger and bolder territories. It’s hopeful and starry-eyed, even more so than the debut, and the production is crisp and clear.

Guitar arpeggios seem to drive most of the album, but there’s plenty of electronic whispers in there. It also features a poppier aspect of Childs that was hardly hinted at before. They showcase this in the life-affirming melodies that inhabit the verses and the Arcade Fire/Fang Island-sounding triumphant choirs that lift some songs to a higher plane of ecstasy. Everything is more bombastic this time around, as they apply post-rock crescendos to their major chord sentimentality.

There’s a cinematic influence and structure to Realidal – it works as a large piece from start to finish. Many of the songs seem to be setting the stage for something larger than life, reflecting grandiose moods and conjuring vivid images. Although the melancholy that characterized some of Childs’ early tracks is mostly gone, songs like “Elegia” and “La Oveja Perdida” wouldn’t surprise anyone if they were recorded in the same sessions as Yui, except with everything blown up considerably. “Día Futuro,” on the other hand, goes full-on score mode: synths surge, rhythms ascend, voices lift off in a wordless chorus. “Fuga” closes the album, a ballad that refrains from feeling like a sad conclusion. It seems to be yearning but looking forward to what tomorrow will bring with a smile.

Realidal is a grand statement from a band (or person or project or what have you) who know how to work ambition and mystery to their advantage without getting swallowed by it. I just hope it won’t take them another nine years to follow it up. Still, Childs makes sure the wait is worth it; after all, epics are not born without time and effort.