From the opening notes of Enfermedad, it’s clear that SOLEDAD is its own animal, a mind-expanding sound experience that oddly enough, feels like an ocean between two people cooking up a perfect storm.
While they have a cult following in Mexico City, the news of their return has yet to set off a million alarms. SOLEDAD is the duo of Esteban Aldrete (drums, vocals) and Brett Schultz (guitar). Esteban is a veteran of the scene, having been part of projects like El Resplandor and Los Pellejos, and, more recently, in grit-raver band Las Brisas. Schultz, is a Chicago via New York expat. They debuted in 2012 with their Fé EP on the venerable Vale Vergas Discos label (which brought us Juan Cirerol, Selma Oxor, Mueran Humanos and Dani Shivers, among many others), and went on to build a scene around Vale Vergas, leaving a trail of amazing concerts throughout the city in their wake. Crisis (side note: maybe I’m being obsessive, but are the titles of each of their albums trying to tell us something?) followed in 2013 and afterward everything went quiet for the duo. Their label went bust (although it was recently sort of revived as Estados Unidos de América Latina), some of their contemporaries became less active or got involved in different projects, and the landscape changed considerably. Now, without warning they’ve released a fantastic new album.
“Enfermedad,” the title track from their new album, is quick to re-establish their sound and remind today’s underground music fans what they’re all about. With influences from the more severe side of post-punk, SOLEDAD like to wage the same sonic warfare fought by Einstürzende Neubauten, Suicide, and the Birthday Party in the early Eighties; the atmosphere is harsh, minimal, and aggressive. The duo employ a minimal setup but that doesn’t mean the music sounds thin or small. Schultz’s guitar is an ever-expanding monster, a massive instrument that funnels Ennio Morricone’s spaghetti western work through a meat grinder. SOLEDAD don’t only resort to the guitar for their melodic backbone; their drum sounds are reverb-drenched and peculiar sounding, spanning different timbres when needed, even if the actual drum beats are mostly repetitive. Aldrete’s desolate baritone fills in the sonic soundscape with a primal performance.
The music is not so much spiky as it is monolithic, with a textured approach to sound that uses repetition as a weapon. It’s also surprisingly melodic, which makes for a very charismatic listen. Producer Matt Vanek knows how to push the band to until they explode in the best way possible. The result is an album that can hardly be considered a departure from their prior work; still, there’s a ton of improvement and better songwriting this time around, with the six tracks displaying depth and variety. “Ciego” is propelled by a motorik beat not unlike those found on krautrock albums by Can or Neu! (though it doesn’t try to sound like either); “Cárcel” is spare and creepy, thanks to Esteban’s vocal performance. The droning “Tiempo” brings thing to a steady pulse, while “Visiones” adds a slight shade of color to the proceedings, although it displays the most aggressive percussion of the album. Enfermedad closes with “Olvido,” an epic track on which Aldrete channels his inner Nick Cave for a showstopper.
SOLEDAD take their time with their compositions to build on texture and mood. This is music that brings out its best emotions on repeat listens and showcases a pair of artists relishing on the darker aspect of their music. Its compositions go to the deep end to bring out something most music doesn’t provide, and we’re better off for it.
Download Enfermedad on their website.