Imagine yourself standing in a bazaar, perusing through displays of old books, coins, and knick-knacks. You walk through narrow, dimly lit passages as your eyes struggle to adjust to the shadows and dust. The air is heavy with the smells of coffee, tobacco, leather, and jasmine. All around you, men haggle furiously, children laugh and scream, and amused old ladies pay more attention to their phones than to the confused tourists cooing at some antique-looking artifact on their table. A day in the life of a silk road market is the sonic palette for Hondo, Le Parody’s brilliant and eclectic new album.
Hondo is an amalgamation of Bollywood beats, trip-hop whispers, pseudo-religious chants, battle cries, and heavy atmospheric production. You can practically smell the spices in the air. This is music that transports you, and though it heavily references Eastern sounds, they act more as a vehicle than a destination. The sitar, lute, and trumpet add to the immersive experience without actually dictating the theme. That honor goes to Solé Parody herself, who draws a line in the sand with every song. It’s a musical dare to the listener and to the possible antagonist who inspired her words.
Album opener “Hemos Venido a Deshacerlo” sets the tone with a heavy sitar and trumpet, creating a sense of unraveling as Parody breaks you down before building you back up. The confrontation continues on “El Camino Largo,” where she calls out any judgment from the listener while dismissing uninvited opinions: “No me hables de paz, niño consentido, que tu no conoces el camino largo.” As we progress, we begin to see glimmers of hope on current singles “Hondo Agujero” and “Saetas en el Aire,” almost literally burying her rancor and then floating above it. “El Agua es Clara” invites serenity, sounding like Portishead through a kaleidoscope, while “Ríos de Lamentos” goes to an even more trance-like place. “Peligroso Criminal” also feels like an obvious single, pulling from Bollywood rhythms and disco beats. The track is a dancefloor-ready pop gem that remains cohesive within the meticulously crafted soundscape of Hondo. “Cae Cae Cae” closes the album as a meditation on letting go and embracing life’s inevitable free-fall.
One of various recurring themes throughout the album is the constant distortion of Solé Parody’s vocals. Though always discernable, the vocal haze also serves to highlight moments of lyrical clarity. On “Dejadla Sola,” one of the album’s strongest statements, her voice suddenly shifts from fuzzy muttering to full-on wail as she begins to hurl a barrage of warnings at the listener: “Dejadla sola, que no le duele! Dejadla sola, y qué si le duele?” It builds on the record’s greater themes of independence and self-reliance. Another major high is Frank Santiuste’s trumpeting. His skills are a revelation and add to the build-up of every song. Each time, the first blow of his instrument heralds the oncoming awesome of serious groove.
Part of what makes Hondo such an exciting offering is its complete departure from the sound of Cásala, the Spaniard’s 2014 debut. Not that she had anything to prove, but the sheer contrast of the two albums is mind-boggling. She’s gone from ukulele and vocal loops to creating the perfect Buddhist temple playlist. Who knows, maybe on the next record she’ll take us to the moon and back. At this point it seems Solé Parody can make anything possible.