New Music Enthusiast’s Club: Leonino

leoninoLeonino – Naked Tunes

Leonino is the latest project from legendary Chilean artist Jorge Gonzalez, original member of and songwriter for the highly influential 80’s band Los Prisioneros.  Coming up in Pinochet’s Chile, Gonzalez’s music was a resistance to the dictatorship, a rising cry for the alienated and disaffected youth of the nation.  The group’s particular brand of new wave flavored, rock-a-billy punk made them arguably the biggest band in their native Chile, saw them achieve immense popularity throughout the rest of Latin America, and culminated with tours with artists like Peter Gabriel and Bruce Springsteen.  And then they disbanded in the early 1990’s.

Gonzalez moved on, recording and performing with different bands and experimenting with electronic music, eventually relocating to Berlin, Germany.  Naked Tunes finds the man traversing the rich waters of psychedelia, R&B, and electro-pop…and in English no less.  Experimental tinkerings throughout the album’s runtime give it a spacey and sometimes ethereal vibe, like some alien’s take on streamlined baroque pop.  Later era works from artists with decades of material to draw from can sometimes be a daunting experience.  I’m happy to say that Leonino comes out swinging for the fences and succeeds for the most part.  Gonzalez draws from an array of influences as diverse as Pink Floyd, Serge Gainsbourg, and Scott Walker.  There is very much a David Bowie vibe amongst the proceedings as well, and it makes for a very interesting listen.

The album begins with the proto-new wave, acoustic dance hop of “I Think We Should Be Friends,” featuring Chilean electronic producer Pier Bucci and some smooth and sexy falsetto from Gonzalez.  The jam bops and weaves, something to snap your fingers and nod your head to.  It sounds like meeting a beautiful stranger in a faraway land…and buying them drinks.  The album then veers into more introspective territory on its first half.  “Don’t Change Your Mind” feels like a lover’s plea, a call back to bed, like something that Paul Williams would have swooned over back in the 70’s.  “My Love Will Set Your Free” is a love ballad that builds and builds on an infectious melody that eventually reaches out into the cosmos, only to come back again.  And then things start to get a little more ambitious.

Naked Tunes’ second half starts with the Pink Floyd-tinged “Not The Sound,” a pulsing and psych-drenched rhythm and blues statement featuring Mariano Scopel.  Perhaps a callback to more political days, this album highlight is an old rabble-rouser reflecting back on his anxious past, but keeping things squarely in the present with the repeated proclamation, “I am not that sound, I am that thunder.”  “How Many Times Did You Save My Soul” then kicks in like some old soul rock magic, all handclaps and piano work.  The aforementioned Bowie adulation is most present here, and it works wonderfully.  The record never lets up from there, this second half being much stronger than the first, whether it be the Serge Gainsbourg influenced “It Wasn’t Mean to Me,” the psych-pop and string majesty of “After the Big War,” or the primarily a cappella album ender “There Is a Light.”  Gonzalez and Leonino end it in a big way, and it’s beautiful and real.

Naked Tunes is currently available from Hueso Records, and you should check it out, but in the meantime, here’s a small sampling from the album.  Take a listen to “Not The Sound,” and watch the video for “Don’t Change Your Mind” below.

 

 

Thomas H Williams

Thomas H Williams

From a bunker somewhere in Central Texas, Thomas H. Williams spends most of his time with his wife, his two sons, and his increasingly neurotic dog. He listens to a lot of music, drinks a lot of excellent beers, and gets out from time to time. For even more shenanigans, visit heavenisanincubator.blogspot.com.

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