The Art of Maury van Loon / Fall~

Written by Alexander Greco

June 29, 2020

The more I delved into the artwork of Maury van Loon (artist name, Fall~), the more I was reminded of two books: An Eternal Golden Braid, by Douglas Hofstadter, and House of Leaves, by Mark Danielewski; and I was reminded of two specific concepts from those books: consciousness as a feedback loop of infinite, mirrored reflections, and unconsciousness as a labyrinth, with our conscious egos/identities as the trapped Icarus.

Maury’s artwork really clicked for me when I saw in them these mirrors and this labyrinth.

And Then the Bubble Burst
Summer 2019
A5 paper. Pen and ink.

Making almost exclusively black and white ink art, though with a few notable pieces that include color, Maury mixes elements of surrealism and abstraction with influences from anime and similar art styles. Her artwork has wide range of content and subject, but the primary focus seems to be on identity: our identity in relation to others, and our identity in relation to ourselves. Maury does this with portrayals of faceless or featureless individuals, depictions of bodies disassociated from their faces, mirrored counterparts of either twin-like or dualistic individuals, and of people falling into vast or disintegrating spaces.

However, as Maury discussed more and more about her creative life, I discovered her interests and skills to be far broader than only visual art. In addition to surreal ink-work, Maury is active in music—including work on film scores—currently studies Japanese Language and Culture, and has worked off and on for a few years on a fantasy story. Though our interview focused on Maury’s artwork and the underlying themes of the artwork, our overlapping interests opened up a number of topics we only scratched the surface of.

“[…] I would currently describe my endeavors as an artist as ‘illustrator’, but I have a degree in music composition, and I’m currently studying Japanese which sometimes makes me feel a bit in Japanese I would say barabara, which means ‘in pieces’, as if I’m holding a handful of different identities and I am not just one person.”

Still, though Fall~ has a wide range of interests, art has been and remains a central part of their life.

Us
April 2020
A4 paper. Pen, ink, gel pen.

“I have been drawing since as long as I can remember. It has always been a form of expression, as I had (and to a certain degree still have) trouble grasping the meaning and reality of my being. I think I started with illustrating, since it’s a very low-key form of art. Basically I can draw whenever I want, wherever I want, because I only need a pen and paper.

“I do believe all different forms of art have their own ‘language’ of expression – music or film can take you on a whole different emotional journey – and I am more than only an illustrator, as I have done a degree in music composition with a specialization in film and I’m currently doing a degree in Japanese Language and Culture with a specialization in Japanese film and animation. But making art is the one that seems most consistent throughout my life.”

Here, I completely agree with the idea that every form of art has its own sort of language, but I would also go on from that and say that every artist has their own variation of that language, with Maury being no exception to this. So, what is the language she speaks with her art?

We Live Inside a Bubble
Summer 2019
A5 paper. Pen and ink.

Maury speaks with sharp contrasts of black and white, swarming lines like black static, and blurred clouds of grey. Maury’s syntax is the human form, floating or falling into teeming mouths of the abyss, or into the vast emptiness of space. Faces especially are key in this language, whether they are emotional, blank, expressionless, hollow, or replaced with disconnected, celestial objects.

Many of Maury’s pieces depict twisting, knotting throngs of arms reaching out to or out from the piece’s subject, or other similar serpentine forms. In many pieces, there is a symmetry to them, either a mirroring of images or some other geometric translation, and many pieces also possess a yin-yang type of duality, strongly influenced by the black and white contrasts. In others, there is an almost anti-symmetry, a chaos of lines or ink static.

Circles are a consistent motif, some being the subject’s head, some being in or through the subject’s head, others being in the subject’s chest or abdomen, and others surround an individual or individuals. These circles—often comprised of circles within circles (sometimes within even more circles); and often ringed with jagged lines or objects, or with twisting, looping, knotting forms—recall the forms of the labyrinth, particularly the Classical Cretan labyrinth and the Medieval Chartres pattern.

However, the best example of this Labyrinth is not in any of the pieces with primarily circular patterns, but in “Lost in Thought”, which really shows this maze-like nature of the mind.

Lost in Thought
June 2020
A4 paper. Pen.

“This piece is about how far you can become separated from your true self, by trying to fit in or please people around you. It’s a recent piece, but it reflects back to a time when I truly lost myself and now I regularly evaluate my choices and how far I stand from things that matter for me, instead of trying to become the ideal of society (or rather, how I think society would like me to be). The further you get, the harder it becomes, so the line between body and brain becomes this maze-like thing and at some point, you will get stuck and lose (like in the Nokia 3310 snake-game).”

So much of Maury’s artwork relates to identity: either finding or rediscovering oneself.

How is it that the most difficult thing to find on this planet is yourself?

How is it that so many of our own thoughts can be so much harder to understand than the endlessly complex machinations of the external world?

How is it that our own minds—the place we ought to feel most at home, the place we ought to know better than any other landscape, the place we ought to feel safest can be the most frightening and cruel of landscapes; can possess the deepest jungles of the uncanny and unfamiliar; and, in times of great uncertainty, in moments of overwhelming depravity and in the darkest architectures of our Dreams’ wild cinemas, can our own minds be venues of such tremendous violence, disorientation and disassociation?

Let Us Catch You
February 2020
A4 paper. Pen, ink, gel pen.

There is also a recurrent theme of falling, though the movement of many subjects is ambivalent (in many pieces, individuals could potentially be perceived either as falling or rising). Paired with this theme of falling/rising, there is often an impalement or explosion from the abdomen, and in a few, there is another body emerging from the abdomen, implying something like a birth or a rebirth (similar in some ways to the emergence from a cocoon or chrysalis). This also carries on the ambivalence of rising/falling, as one body seems limp and lifeless, while another living body reaches up above it.

On this theme, Maury explained:

“It contains this sense of loss and despair, living in a world that doesn’t feel quite right. A world where you don’t seem to belong. When you long for something, someone, anyone, and reach out, but you can never really grasp it. Is it just an illusion meant for someone else? Are you not worthy?

“It’s a sense of the fear of not being in control yet at the same time it’s the realization and acceptance you’re not in control and that it’s completely fine. Maybe it’s not falling, but letting go.”

A number of pieces possess the motif of a wave-like object/figure which seems to be just about to crash onto the subject of the piece like crashing water of an ocean. This might be the internal ocean of the unconsciousness crashing down on the conscious ego, but this might also be the minotaur stalking that unconsciousness, overpowering the conscious mind.

The piece “Shadowself” puts a face to this crashing wave or cave minotaur, and Maury gives it a name.

Shadowself
March 2020
A4 paper. Pen and ink.

“My official artist name is Fall~ and the right character in this piece is the visualization of Fall~. It represents the unexplainable core of feelings and thoughts that want to break out.”

Does this make the figure on the left Maury?

Is this Maury studying Fall~?

And Fall~ studying Maury?

And if Fall~, as depicted here, is the “Shadowself”, the unexplainable core of feelings and thoughts attempting to break out, does that mean the Minotaur stalking Maury’s mind is Maury’s own creativity? Is the Shadowself (Fall~) a rejection and repression of creativity—of ideas, talents and expressions not welcomed by society—and the projection of negative attributes onto oneself?

A loathing of something you love—of something that makes you unique—until it becomes a monster you must reconcile with?

But Maury, rather than flee as Icarus did, confronted this minotaur in her artwork, and it became Fall~.

Here, I think I’m actually reminded of Gandalf and the Balrog’s fall in the Mines of Moria, prompted not by the wizard fleeing, but by his confrontation. This fall—this confrontation—not partially parallels the Icarus myth (Moria being the Labyrinth, the Balrog being the minotaur), but also has the ambivalent duality of rising and falling. The two’s fall eventually led to a rise back up from the depths, where the battle finally concluded on top of a mountain peak. This of course led to transformation, metamorphosis and rebirth.

These complexities of identity, self-identity and self-transformation do not end here, however, and Maury had quite a lot more to say about both one’s self and one’s ego, as well as one’s self in relationship to others.

“I think one’s identity is relative and thus continuously changing. Without people around us and memories to mirror who we were, who we are, and who we do or do not want to become, there is no ego. There is a certain human connection to it, whether through a shared experience, a longing, or a realization that you have gone so far from your true self. By exploring these areas through art, I can identify, acknowledge and express things that are blocking me, but also things I couldn’t or wouldn’t say out loud.”

Here, I asked if this fluidity of identity was something inherent in being human, or if it was a contemporary issue of modernity, and also if there was any way of truly getting to know one’s self. Maury replied:

“It’s probably part of human nature, but I do think modernity has amplified our sense of self and our capability to manipulate our self-image. One reason is that we are now encouraged to become individuals and have our own opinion, and this seems to go hand in hand with a sense or a wish to be unique and different […] On the other hand, there’s social media and textual communication, which allows you to have a big control on how you represent yourself in your use of words, your looks, your identity. With which sub-culture do you associate yourself with?

“Maybe we have become a lot more self-centered, but maybe we also have become a lot more dependent on the approval people around us. We’re more fluid. And because upbringing and environment have such a huge influence on the development of oneself, I don’t think you could ever purely be your true inner self. Maybe if you live in a shack up a mountain in Farawayistan. I try to keep myself in check by really trying to listen to my belly-feeling (inner-universe 🙂 ) to feel if choices I’m making feel right for me and feel right for my moral-compass, and if my moral-compass is still moral enough, so I can keep going without self-doubt or regret.”

How do you go about defining yourself? And where do you plant your flag in saying, “This is ‘I’; this is what ‘I’ am and what ‘I’ believe”?

So many, if not all, of our own ideas and beliefs are ideas have been circulating throughout cultures and societies across history—evolving or adapting with each new age or era and growing into new ideas or spawning new fields of knowledge. So much of what we call our own mind are collections of ideas passed on to us through our parents, through school, through our friends, or through televisions, computers and phones. So much of our behavior is either instinctually or chemically influenced, or they are behaviors we’ve picked up from those around us, people we see on TV, characters in books, comics, movies or shows.

How much of “you” can actually be found amidst this carnival of “not you”? And how much of the “not you” has influenced and altered “you”?

Beyond this, “who we are” can be such a fleeting reality. We’re one person at one moment, then we’re angry or sad or scared the next moment, and suddenly we’re practically a completely different person. We may even change how we act depending on what we wear, who we talk to, where we talk to them. How different of a person are you if you’re having drinks at a bar compared to drinks at a friend’s house, or how different are you when you wear denim jeans and sneakers compared to shorts and flip flops, or when you’re at work compared to when you’re at home?

How different of a person might you be just based on the colors of the walls around you, the smell of the room you’re in, the expressions and body language of the people nearby?

Maury further explores the influences that others have on us and our sense of self, particularly the painful and at times frightening aspects of it, in the piece, “Kings”.

Kings
Summer 2019
A5 paper. Pen, ink, gel pen.

“’Kings’ kind of represents all the people around us that we feel are judging us (often with no good reason). It could be that guy in the train, or the woman in the store. They gang up, stare, judge. Them against us. There is a sense of power and arrogance in it, hence that they are self-proclaimed kings. I think it is also influenced by the growth of the importance of individualism, in which many are prone to believe they themselves are the most important, rather than the wellbeing of the community.

But obviously this judging only happens in my head, because 99% of the people you pass in the streets don’t even notice you, let alone care.”

An often overlooked or undervalued aspect of understanding someone’s creations is understanding where these ideas have grown from—the inspirations and influences of someone’s art, music, writing and so forth.

In addition to anime, Maury mentioned a number of other influences, including film and music.

“I have this peculiar habit of intensely loving only a few artists so much that their work is on repeat rather than exploring a quantitative amount of artists. My current repeat playlist (named “repeat”) consists of #2 by Nils Frahm and a handful of tracks from the Westworld soundtrack by Ramin Djawadi. I especially love films that are thought provoking, or take me on a journey and preferably have an amazing atmospheric original score. Watching the Lord of the Rings Trilogy kind of has become a yearly tradition, and I have become so familiar with the lines that I bought the Japanese dubbed version to use it for my language studies haha. Anime is also a huge influence, especially visual, since the Japanese seem to apply a lot of shots and poses that I find beautiful and my computer is full of screenshots that I use as reference.

“In the end I love the feeling these works give me, this feeling of inspiration, or they maybe even make me feel alive and that I’m allowed to live. That there’s more to life than only living. And that’s what I want to give back to the world. If the inspired-me can inspire someone else again, who then can inspire another and so forth… That would be enough.”

In discussing her favorite anime, Maury said:

“One of my favorite anime films is Ghost in the Shell, because it’s full of layers. As humans we are watching a drawn representation of human-like cyborgs, so there is this double sense of artificiality. The director Oshii Mamoru also uses a lot of visual symbolisms and mechanisms that confuse the spectator. This is even more noticeable in his other animation film Angel’s Egg in collaboration with illustrator Amano Yoshitaka, who also worked on the Final Fantasy series (which I love 🙂 also the soundtrack!). The themes in Angel’s Egg are about loneliness and purpose and faith, and it’s set in a very dark world where this girl wanders through a deserted town with an egg, until she meets a man of whom we never truly know if he is friend of foe. It’s on YouTube with subtitles if anyone’s interested.

The original Fullmetal Alchemist has been hugely influential, which I prefer over Brotherhood because I think the original is more dramatic. Although, both soundtracks are wonderful. The hands that are represent in my work definitely find their origin in this series. The parallel universe/time travel theory of Steins;Gate also had a very big impact on my own way of theorizing an approach to life choices. They have a timeline that breaks up in several timelines, and made it really visible. Nowadays, when I look back at choices I have made and how they lead me to where I am now, I imagine the choices being forked roads and every path is another Maury leading a different life.”

Welcome to My Mirrored World
Winter 2018
A3 paper. Pen, ink, gel pen.

The influence of both Ghost in the Shell and Fullmetal Alchemist can be seen in Maury’s works, “Welcome to My Mirrored World” and “Let Us Catch You”.

Maury mentioned that a shot from the 1995 Ghost in the Shell anime film inspired “Welcome to My Mirrored World”, and though I don’t know specifically which shot this was, the scene I immediately thought of was one where the protagonist is rising to the surface of a body of water, and her reflection creates a sort of mirrored, parallel reality before she breaks the surface of the water. With “Let Us Catch You” and several other pieces, we see the inspiration of the long, tendril-like arms related to Truth and various scenes where certain types of Alchemy are performed in Fullmetal Alchemist.

Though we didn’t discuss her art process in as much depth as we discussed other topics, Maury did explain how she comes up with many of her ideas, as well as part of her process of using recurring motifs in her art:

“There are two ways. Way 1: I live life. Life gives emotional friction. This emotional friction finds a visual representation that I doodle in my book of ideas. Way 2: I watch film. Film merges with random thoughts and memories of other things and I doodle it in my book of ideas. When I feel creative or a necessity to deal with my thoughts and emotions, I open my book of ideas, pick a pre-sketch and start drawing the composition. A lot of times inspiration and this feeling of necessity happen in the same moment.

“Often, I already know what kind of textures I want to use, or I decide to use several, for example I make one with a universe background, while the other will get a tree growing out of somewhere. For this reason, I create a template for most of my designs so I can easily make several versions with the help of a light box. I kind of see it as a puzzle. I have several reoccurring textures and motifs which I keep switching around in new compositions. Sometimes new ones are added or old ones become obsolete.”

Along with discussing her art, Maury and I talked a bit about her music, film projects she’s been involved with and a story of hers she’s been working with off and on for a few years.

“I would love to compose a score for a Japanese animation. That’s definitely in the top three of my bucket list.

“During my music degree at Plymouth University I worked on the feature film Jannertown with director Guy Brasher, which was such an amazing experience. His film is presented in several chapters that all have their own genre, but everything is connected. So musically this meant working with several themes that could return in various ways ranging from elevator music to futuristic synth music and orchestral superhero music.

“More recently I have worked with Pim Kromhout on a performance theater act inspired by the painting “Golconde” by René Magritte. The act consists of four very tall men with umbrella’s and there is music coming out of the umbrellas. Although the four men look the same and the music sounds as one whole, every man has his own tune that symbolizes his individuality. Unfortunately, it’s on hold because of Covid-19.

“[…]

Chaos
2016
A4 paper. Pen, ink, coloured pencils.

“My art and my music come from the same inner-location, which I at some point started to see as a fictional world. In my art there are returning characters which were initially just personifications of emotions, but at some point, influenced by the endless amounts of binge-watched/read-stories, I thought I could try to make my own story. And I got as far as plotting the whole first part of a trilogy, including strange dimensional travel laws, gods and prophecies, geographical maps. It was supposed to get a soundtrack too, with themes for different locations and characters. There was a lot of longing and tragedy.

“Unfortunately, I’m not a very good reader, so I failed to read back what I had written and then I lost track of all the complexities and now we’re three years later. But with all the free time Covid-19 has given me I’m actually taking a different approach in telling the story in a visual novel style. (trying to.) (also giving me a temporary meaning in this meaningless existence.)

“The story is set in an unchanging world. Characters that do administration of administration of administration. They look like barcodes and every minute of every day of every day is planned out for them. The world has long ago reached a form of perfection and so they are in a state of preservation, because if there would be any change, Being would change to Becoming and he would carry the world back to Chaos. (this works better in Dutch). While this barcode-species called ‘Others’ are supposed to be like robots, the main character has this inside-universe that makes her set out into the world and then things happen and she meets all kinds of people and discovers all sorts of secrets.”

The fortunate and the unfortunate aspect of Maury and I’s discussion is that we had a huge overlap in interests and so much to discuss. There was a lot Maury had to say that I could not fit into the article, as well a lot I wanted to say about Maury’s artwork and a number of topics related to her artwork that I could not fit in. Nonetheless, it has been a pleasure going through her artwork and hearing her thoughts on many things.

Whaleoplane
March 2020
A3 paper. Pen, ink, gel pen.

Maury’s artwork spans across philosophical and psychological themes and subjects, but her artwork stands on its own even without these underlying themes. The stark contrasts of black and white captures your attention, pulling your mind into a reeling labyrinth of shifting identities, crashing emotions, and the enveloping hands and faces of a comforting, conforming throng of people. With every day being another trek through a maze of faces, words, beliefs, motivations, personalities, relationships—and all the twisting, knotted, overlapping, intersecting crossroads between them—how long can we avoid the minotaur we’ve kept imprisoned inside our minds?

How long until the walls come down? And all the thoughts, emotions and beliefs we keep bottled inside come surging out?

Maury’s art is able to show both the tension between ourselves and others, and the tension between ourselves and our own minds: the mazes and the mirrors we navigate every day.

If you would like to see more of Maury’s work, you can find her on Instagram at www.instagram.com/fallsomnia or @fallsomnia and @fall.in.progress. Her primary website is www.fallsomnia.com and her music can be found on www.soundcloud.com/fallsomnia. Please give her art as well as her music a look/listen, and if you enjoy it, be sure to follow her.

The Rock Music of Argentina

Article Written by Alexander Greco

With Lucas Galeano

May 7, 2019

Stay until the end for a list of recommended music.

Argentine Crowd at a Pearl Jam Concert

I was hooked on Argentina when I watched a clip of Pearl Jam live in La Plata, Argentina. I’ve never seen anything quite like a few thousand Argentines losing their minds to Even Flow. I watched this, and realized there was something special about Argentina.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of talking to Lucas Galeano, a rock enthusiast from Argentina, with a rock broadcast page on Instagram. We talked at length over email, and I got to pick his brains on Argentine rock—its history, its influences, its passion, and where it is today.

“The musical culture of Argentina is very broad and has many influences due to the large number of migrations that came from different parts of Europe—it is a mixture that acquired its own identity. …there were many Spanish, Italian, French, German, Polish and Portuguese influences. They came from many different countries at different times, but culturally the strongest influences were the Spanish and Italian.”

Argentina was settled by the Spanish monarchy in the 16th century, and officially declared its independence in 1816. After years of civil war, Argentina emerged as a modern, federal nation. In the late 19th century, Argentina enacted liberal-economic policies, and promoted large-scale European immigration. By 1908, Argentina was one of the most prominent countries, and by the 50’s and 60’s, Argentina was booming with American rock music.

“[In Argentina] we are already talking about rock music in the 1950’s with the explosion of rock in the United States. The local bands had their first influences, but they just covered [the American bands]. In the 1960’s, there is a lot of influence of beat music. The bands that most stand out from that time are Los Gatos, Almendra, the beginning of Sui Generis, and Pappo. They all exploded in the 70’s.”

The Argentine Dictatorship of ’76 – ’83 was marked with violence, censorship, missing persons, and a decreased standard of living.

This explosion of music coincided with a military dictatorship in Argentina, which lasted until 1983. This dictatorship was responsible for the deaths and disappearances of thousands of people, and for the censorship of journalists and musicians.

“Argentina had a long time of the twentieth century dictatorships. It affects a lot in the psychological sense, since lack of freedom is not just damaging to a person; it is damaging to a country. At that time, it was a hard blow also for the disappearances that there were in the country… there was no freedom of the press. If you went out at night without authorization, they took you prisoner.

“It was a very hard blow for the country. Many musicians had to leave the country, and those who remained sent hidden messages in their songs to avoid problems with the regime. That was extremely risky. If [the government] found out, they were killed.

“The messages of the musicians are subtle in their songs. If they have noticed something, they censor the lyrics or, directly, they ban the song. The majority of rock of the 70’s Argentineans are letters in double sense. Everything they said had a different meaning. The Charly Garcia stands out first and foremost. The public song called ‘The Dinosaurs’. He said in the lyrics that the friends of the neighborhood can disappear, but the dinosaurs are going to disappear. The dinosaurs were a metaphor for the military, but they did not realize it.”

It was a boom of joy, and was represented in their songs. In the eighties the music was very happy. The lives of the people changed, but the economic present of the country was not good. It was hard to live every day, but the Argentine was happy.”

Los Gatos in their Early Years

…when democracy returned, [the country] felt a boom of joy that was transmitted in music.

Despite the unfortunate circumstances surrounding this boom, the music that came from the late 60’s up to the early 80’s shaped Argentine music into something truly unique.

A Young Litto Nebbia

One of the first major original Argentine bands, Los Gatos, was formed in the late 1960’s. Their debut album was the first Argentine rock band to locally out-sell American and British records, and this has been considered the birth of Argentine rock. However, when a new dictatorship arose in 1976, Litto Nebbia, the lead singer of Los Gatos, fled the country and took refuge in Mexico. Eventually, Litto was able to move back to his home country, though it would not be for several years.

Other major Argentine bands of the time were Vox Dei, Sui Generis, and Almendra.

Vox Dei

Vox Dei (Voice of God) began in 1967, and is the first Argentine rock band to have created a concept album, titled “The Bible” (1971). Vox Dei produced 10 albums in the 1970’s, and a total of 19 albums between 1970 and 2015. They were also one of the first progressive rock and psychedelic rock groups, as well as the first Argentine rock-opera band.

Charly Garcia and Nito Mestre

Sui Generis is a folk and progressive rock band formed in 1971, and is considered one of the most influential Argentine bands of all time. Sui Generis was formed by Nito Mestre and the aforementioned legend, Charly Garcia. The band originally played experimental psychedelic music, but eventually found a voice in the folk genre.

Charly Garcia would go on to form other legendary Argentine bands, such as Seru Giran, La Maquina de Haver Pajaros, and PorSuiGieco. Beginning in the 80’s Charly Garcia became a highly successful solo act, and has put out several albums that experiment with jazz, folk, synthpop, lo-fi, and, of course, hard rock and experimental rock. Many of his albums are comparable to the musical experimentation of Radiohead, The Cure, and Beck.

Almendra

Almendra is another Argentine band of the 60’s to experiment with psychedelic rock, folk music and progressive rock. Almendra has often been compared to The Beatles, and though they broke up in 1970, their first two albums—Almendra and Almendra II—revolutionized the Argentine music scene. After splitting, members of the band formed new groups—Aquellarre, Color Humano, and Pescado Rabioso. The lead vocalist—Luis Alberto Spinetta—would go on to be another highly successful solo act.

These artists, and several others, changed music in Argentina forever. Just like the music revolutions of America and the UK, Argentine music began evolving in the 70’s and the 80’s, especially with the fall of the dictatorship in ’83. From this came new, dynamic artists, with influences spanning across American and British pop, classical European music, and Latin dance music (the Tango, in particular).

“You have many popular Argentine artists who were on e very popular artists throughout Latin America. Classics [I] would say Charly Garcia, Seru Giran Gustavo Cerati, Soda Stereo, Luis Alberto Spinetta, Pappo, Renga, the “Indian” Solari. Contemporary artists, very good bands that are already playing, [include] Las Pelotas, Divided, The Pills of the Grandfather, Ciro and the Persians, Babasonicos, You Point Me, [and] The Decadents, there are many.

“Today is difficult, because there are many very good bands, but I Stayed With You to Point out to Me, The State of the Motorized Police, the Plan of the Butterfly, [and] Crossing the Puddle.”

Las Pelotas (The Balls, or Bollocks!) began in the 80’s, and contains elements of hard rock, 90’s psychedelia and 80’s synth and FX. In addition, some of their songs use Latin rhythms and chord progressions, as well as elements of funk, blues, reggae, folk and punk. They’re an incredibly dynamic and fun band to listen to.

Las Pastillas de Abuelo Live

Las Pastillas de Abuelo (The Pills of the Grandfather) is an urgent, driving fusion of hard rock, latin music and jazz, and god damn did I like their music. This band may be one of the purest fusion of traditional Argentine music and influences, and the rock revolutions of America and Britain. Las Pastillas de Abuelo began in the 2000’s, and contains the experimental, post-rock vibes of the time. However, this is one of those bands that transcends the genres it was born from, and becomes its own, unique type of music. It’s all at once relaxing and urgent, driving you forward with fluid grooves and huge energy.

Babasonicos is another thoroughly unique band with a great sound. In some ways, they remind me of Muse or The War on Drugs, in other ways they remind me of Alt-J and The Flaming Lips, and they also remind me of a Latin crossbreed between Guns and Roses, Beck and The Beatles. In other words, they’re really difficult to pin down…

…but I love it.

They’re their own incredibly unique band, with their own eclectic mix of Latin-folk, electronica, classic rock, dream-pop, and psychedelia. They’re funky. They’re heavy. They’re psychedelic. They’re absurd. They’re deeply emotional. They’re overall fantastic. I highly recommend this band, they’re fucking crazy.

In addition to these bands, Argentina has a huge variety of contemporary artists who deserve a listen. I listened to at least a couple dozen contemporary Argentine bands, and I kind of loved every band I listened to. However, for the sake of time, I narrowed down my current five favorites (though there’s still a lot to explore).

archipielagos self-titled EP

archipielagos is a math rock band that experiments with all kinds of styles and sounds. Their music includes odd meter, dynamic and complex rhythms, beautiful polyphonic melodies, and experimental composition. While the songs are primarily instrumental, the vocals we do hear are gut-wrenching yells, dreamy, crooning laments, and lo-fi sampling. Their music is similar to bands like American Football, Hella, Foxing, and Tiny Moving Parts, though this band is already developing a distinct voice. They are a pretty fresh and developing band, and have the potential to be a truly unique group if they continue down the path they’ve begun.

Las Ligas Menores

Las Ligas Menores (The Minor Leagues) is a bittersweet mix of garage rock and dream pop. Their music maintains a driving yet not frantic rhythm, matched by calmly-energized guitar riffs that dance on the edge of clean and bright melodies, and big, heavy walls of distortion. They play with a youthful energy similar to bands like The Strokes and Florence + The Machine, but mix it with the synth and distortion of bands like New Order and My Bloody Valentine.

El Mato a Un Policia Motorizado

El Mato a Un Policia Motorizado (That Boy Killed a Motorized Police) is a pretty popular post-punk/rock outfit stylized by drifting, spaced out melodies and punk-infused noise rock. Their music is a carnival of shoegazing pedal-work and electronica. If you go far enough back into their discography, you find a heavier punk core, similar to the now-legendary sounds of Cap’n Jazz and Sunny Day Real Estate. Their newer albums however explore a wide breadth of sound, and broaden their compositional toolkit.

Harm & Ease

Harm & Ease takes a much different approach stylistically than the other bands I’ve talked about. Harm & Ease mixes hard, romping blue-rock with powerful, soulful vocals. This band is a mix of heavy blues, grungy, energetic soul-music, and a gritty folk twang. On top of this already-dynamic sound is a psychedelic veneer reminiscent of the Doors and the Flaming Lips. Harm & Ease is groovy, powerful and unique, and god damn, what a voice this guy’s got.

Riel’s Sueno Electrico album

Riel is an incredibly well-executed balance of 90’s indie rock, 80’s post-punk, and contemporary garage and blues-rock. Mixing the dissonant, heavy sounds of Sonic Youth and Nirvana, the jangling walls of 80’s reverb, and the stomping intensity of bands like White Stripes and Arctic Monkeys, Riel creates a landscape of churning, crashing noise one moment, then a drifting, dreamy river of reverb the next moment. Riel’s music is a sunny drive with the windows down, a waterfall of percussion and shredding, and a journey into the Great Beyond of distorted feedback.

Like I said, there’s a huge list of Argentine rock music that I’ve only just begun to explore. If you listen to these bands and enjoy them, by all means, do some exploring of your own. You’ll never know what sort of bands you’ll find.

Now, I wouldn’t be doing Argentina justice if I didn’t talk about their live music scene. It’s wild.

In addition to listening to hours and hours of Argentine rock spanning from the 1960’s to the 2010’s, I’ve also watched at least 2-3 hours of footage from rock concerts in Argentina, and it’s fucking crazy. Thousands of people are jumping up and down, and chanting, and singing. You can see the band members’ eyes light up when they play for Argentine crowds, and it has this massive effect on the band’s energy. Sometimes, the Argentinean crowds seem to take over the entire concerts, by beginning a song on their own, or singing so loudly they’re almost competing for volume with the band onstage.

As my friend, Lucas, explained, “The concerts in Argentina have a lot of adrenaline. And that adrenaline is from the beginning of the recital until it ends. Here we sing the solos of guitar, piano, saxophone, whatever. Sometimes the same audience invents songs for the bands that give life to the show.”

“I have seen many interviews with musicians from other countries, and they are fascinated by the attitude of the Argentine public in relation to artists. If you are a musician and want to record a video, the best place to go is always Argentina.

“Once I went to a festival here. I met a Peruvian and he said, ‘I can not believe the energy they have, I do not give more and you continue, I can not keep up with your rhythm’.”

There is a deep passion in Argentina for music and live performance. There is a love for the energy and the wildness of music. There is a love for the beauty and the complexity of music. There is a love for the craft and the showmanship of music; a love of playing, a love of experimenting, a love of coming together as a group, a love of the power music has on you, and love of the freedom of music.

Argentina is a nation with a history of struggling for freedom, battling for its sovereignty, and rising up as a nation of individuals. I’ve seen pictures of beautiful nations, and I’ve seen art from distant lands, but there’s something special about listening to music that feels entirely individualistic. When I listen to Argentine music, I think what drew me in the most was the sound of each, individual musician being empowered through their music. It’s beautiful to listen to.

To end this, here is my list of recommended Argentine musicians and songs:

For early music and classic rock:

  • Los Gatos

One of the first major Argentine bands to become popular. Their debut album out-performed American and British records in Argentina, and their first record is considered to be the birth of Argentine rock.

  • Favorite Album:

Seremos Amigos

  • Favorite Songs:

La Balsa

Quizas No Comprendan

Manana

  • Sui Generis

A legendary duo of two highly-influential Argentine musicians, Nito Mestre and Charly Garcia. These two would go on to start several other bands, as well as successful solo projects.

  • Favorite Album:

Vida

  • Favorite Songs:

Cancion para Mi Muerte

Rasguna Las Piedras

Confesiones De Invierno

  • Almendra

Considered by some to be the Argentine Beatles, though they have a sound and style that is quite distinct from the Beatles. This band revolutionized Argentine music.

  • Favorite Album:

En Obras I y II

  • Favorite Songs:

Color Humano

Ana No Duerme

Muchacha (Ojos de Papel)

For 80’s to the early 00’s

  • Las Pelotas

This band implements the best of 90’s rock, 80’s and 90’s synth/FX, Latin fusion, and elements of jazz and reggae.

  • Favorite Album:

Amor Seco

  • Favorite Songs:

Si Superias

Astroboy

Hola Que Tal

  • Las Pastillas del Abuelo

2000’s post-rock fusion band. They blend a wide variety of influences, including heavy rock, folk music, and traditional Argentine music.

  • Favorite Album:

Desafios

  • Favorite Songs:

Incontinencia Verbal

Viejo Karma!

Ojos de Dragon!

  • Babasonicos

A highly experimental 90’s and 00’s band. They mix hardcore rock with punk, psychedelic blues, electronica, and folk-rock.

  • Favorite Album:

Vortice Marxista

  • Favorite Songs:

Larga Siesta

Desarmate

El Loco

For contemporary bands:

  • El Mato Un Policia Motorizado

Popular 00’s and 10’s band. Roots in punk and hardcore rock, though they progressively experiment with more and more synth, psychedelia, space-rock, and dream-pop.

El Mato A Un Policia Motorizado

Guitarra Comunista

Mas O Menos  Bien

La Noche Eterna

  • Harm & Ease

Powerful and dynamic fusion of folk, funk, soul, punk and blues. They mix huge, stomping sounds with roaring vocals.

  • Favorite Album:

Black Magic Gold

  • Favorite Songs:

Run Back

Save Me from Myself

Cosmic Measure

  • Riel

Driving and dreamy mix of post-punk, psychedelic blues/garage rock, and 90’s indie rock.

  • Favorite Album:

Sueno Electrico

  • Favorite Songs:

Vertiginosamente

Nocturno

Merienda