Any level of artistry requires pretension. If not for it, then there wouldn’t be any stakes to make a statement, a bigger declaration other that a product or the result of craftsmanship. Pretension, in its right measure, is intrinsic to art because it pushes it to reach for the stars and fulfill its own destiny.
Of course, “pretension” is also a word that makes us want to run to the hills in disgust. “Pretentious” art is for chin-strokers who have boring lives, right? Well, not exactly. If I were to describe a record that is epic and grandiose, with a playwright for a frontperson delivering theater-level drama to music that is also playful and tuneful, no doubt some of you might point your fingers and exclaim the P-word sight unseen. Let me assure you, Bahía Inútil is all of this but none like you imagine.
The band is compromised by Manuela Infante (for her day job, she is a director/writer for theater), Daniel Maraboli, and Juan Pablo Bello. The Chilean trio have been around for a few years now, having a previous LP titled Stand Sacred, released on Astro’s Discos Río Bueno. Another connection to the Chilean scene comes in the form of Fernando Milagros, who used to be a member of the band but left before recording their sophomore effort; however, he returns briefly to help with some production work.
The album starts with “End Of Our Soul”, the lead off single that we have already covered here in Remezcla. While the members of Bahía Inútil said that the track was a fairly good representation of what the record would sound like, this is not entirely true. While the tune shares a sense of melodrama and ultra-melodicism with the rest of the songs here, hardly any of the other songs in the collection are so electronic in their instrumentation. Synthpop shares the stage (and yields) to a downtempo aesthetic and many organic elements like guitars and acoustic drums. That being said, the general flavor of the recordings is not given by the instrumentation; whether they use synthesizers or pianos, everything has a warmth that keeps you company for the whole ride.
“I Might” is a good example of what Bahía Inútil are best at. The track is very organic and more subdued than the opener, but it never loses its sense of controlled drama and catchiness; it could fit during an alternative block of videos in the mid to late Nineties, with a shade of darkness, a dash of electronics, plenty of guitars, some anguish, and undeniable choruses. It’s the sort of pop music that references trip-hop without going all Massive Attack on us; it feels retro in places without cornering their sounds or making them feel dated. There’s also hints of Garbage and Annie Lennox’s early solo career as well as some suggestions of cabaret-like rhythms and inflections, keeping the mix interesting.
“Holding On” is one of the albums centerpieces, a ballad with rhythmic beats to keep the listener nodding along, dressed up in strings and featuring some guitar work that wouldn’t feel out of place on an album by The xx; it ups the ante without looking back. Infante’s voice is the protagonist of the album and tracks like this one make it plenty clear that her vocals are leading the proceedings. For the last track, “One For Strength,” Bahía Inútil leave the angst of the previous cuts for something more angelic and elegiac; it’s a perfect vehicle for Manuela’s vocals which sound like she never loses hope, no matter what circumstances she faces. It’s an fittingly ethereal closing.
There might be a lot going on on Bahía Inútil’s new album, but there’s nothing pretentious about it, even if it reads like they can chew more than they can swallow. They just want to reach for the promise of hope of the stars in a warm summer night and, by the sound of it, they just might get away with it.
Visit the Soundcloud link above to access a free download of the album, available for one week exclusively on Remezcla.