Rata Blanca – “Magos, Espadas Y Rosas” (1990)

So we were strolling the mean streets of Buenos Aires the other day (♠) down by the domestic airport.  It was hot out, and we were hungry, and about every thousand feet or so there was food truck on the side of the road, quite literally just parked there in a lane of traffic.  We passed a number of them by hoping we’d eventually find one selling beers, but it was not to be, so eventually we stopped for some delicious choripáns.

Two youngish guys were working there and we ended up striking up a conversation with one of the regulars, a construction worker who the food truck guys were stunned to learn actually spoke some English (♥).  They also had some sweet-ass 80s style metal cranked up on the boom box.  Fortunately our buddy Norberto has some Spanish skills and we were so down with what they were playing that he asked them who the band was.

ratablancamagos

Rata Blanca.  White Rat.

They seemed pretty stoked that we were into the sound, and the next night when we were out to pick up a pizza and ran across a little CD shop, we strolled in and came out with a few Rata Blanca CDs.  Somehow one of these (Norberto bought them both) ended up at my house (sorry Norberto), which is why I’m sitting around on a school night drinking whiskey and listening to Argentinian hair metal. (♣)  Because hair metal is awesome.

Magos, Espadas Y Rosas was the second full-length from Rata Blanca, coming out in 1990.  I feel like music trends in Argentina were just a bit behind the curve for a while, which is understandable after years of living under a military dictatorship, so while Rata Blanca sounds like all my favorite hair metal bands of the 1980s, they got their start in 1988 and were prolific in the 90s and 00s.  I get flavors of Deep Purple on “Mujer Amante”, Queensryche on “Hez Tu Jugada”, and Stevie Vai “Porque Es Tan Dificil Amar”.  It’s all here.  Leather.  Guitar solos.  Soaring vocals.  Choripáns. (♦)

I didn’t expect to come home from Argentina with some top notch sleaze metal, but Rata Blanca delivered thanks to the guys at the food truck!

(♠)  Pretentious, but true.

(♥)  He asked us about Trump.  Everyone in Argentina asked us about Trump.  Argentinians love to say, “I don’t want to talk about politics” immediately before going on a diatribe about politics.

(♣)  Let’s be honest.  The whiskey would have happened regardless.

(♦)  Technically not metal.  But should be.

Hermética – “Ácido Argentino” (1991)

hermeticaacidoThis is the second of the two local classic reissues we picked up on our recent trip to Argentina, a 2015 pressing of Hermética’s 1991 thrash beast Ácido Argentino.  Hermética were active from 1987 to 1994, and while they performed live almost exclusively in Argentina (with the exception of one show in Uruguay), they were successful enough to open for a number of top international acts like Black Sabbath and Motörhead.  Thus far they have resisted the temptation of a reunion, though given their solid place as a foundational band in Argentine metal one would suspect that getting back together, even for one album and a brief tour, would be fairly profitable.  As near as I can tell this album, their sophomore effort (♠), is the only one to have received the vinyl reissue treatment.

Ácido Argentino feels like a metal album from an slightly earlier period.  It’s much less Metallica / Persistence Of Time / Countdown To Extinction radio-friendly post-thrash and more a blend of NWOBHM and Kill ‘Em All – soaring vocals imposed over machine gun drums and the occasional guitar solo, and a couple of slower numbers thrown in for good measure.  Musically there’s plenty to enjoy here, even if you don’t speak Spanish and therefore can’t follow the lyrics.

(♠)  There is some debate as to how to classify 1990s six-song Intérpretes – is it an album, or an EP?  So depending on how you view IntérpretesÁcido Argentino is either Hermética’s second or third full album.  When their self-titled debut, originally released on vinyl in 1989, came out on CD two years later, the CD version included both the debut and all of Intérpretes, lending some credence to the latter release being more of an EP than a stand-alone album.  

Soda Stereo – “Nada Personal” (1985 / 2015)

I’ve been a bit of a bad absent blogger as of late, only posting once on Life in the Vinyl Lane over the last two weeks.  That’s definitely the longest such stretch I’ve had over the 4.5 years of the blogs existence.  And while it wasn’t intentional, it was probably good for me to take a bit of a break.  As much as I love Life in the Vinyl Lane, there are times that it can start to feel like a second job, and the last thing I want is to get burned out and to lose all the joy I get from writing it and interacting with readers. The one post I did write over the last few weeks was about the music shopping scene in Argentina, most notably how damn expensive vinyl is there – new sealed records selling routinely in the $40-60 range.  So while I traveled south with a list of bands to look for during the trip, I didn’t come back with a lot of music, and definitely not a lot on vinyl.  I finally broke down on one of our last days, though, and picked up re-releases of two classic Argentine albums.  There are a handful of Argentine bands getting the re-release treatment right now, most notably Attaque 77, Virus, Hermética, and today’s featured band, Soda Stereo.

Normally when I Google international bands that I’ve never heard of from the 1980s, I don’t find a whole lot of information (at least not in English).  That was not the case, however, with Soda Stereo, who apparently were a pretty big big deal throughout the Americas, especially in the Spanish speaking countries.  How big?  Well, their 2007 reunion tour yielded five straight days of sell-outs in Buenos Aires and an estimated 300,000 fans saw the band play that week.  Plus they sold out all but two of the shows on the entire tour.  Not bad in my book.

sodastereonadapersonal

Mendoza’s Amadeus Rockería had new reissues of Soda Stereo’s first two albums at 720 pesos each (♠), so I arbitrarily picked one of the two and ended up with their sophomore effort, 1985s Nada Personal.  And damn, after playing the first side of this thing I’m kind of wishing I’d just bit the bullet and bought the other one too, because Nada Personal has some still-fresh-sounding new wave jams on it.  The two opening tracks, “Nada Personal” and “Si No Fuera Por…”, feel a bit more like earlier new wave numbers with that certain hard-to-define quality that seemed to define so much of the European punk-transitioning-to-new-wave stuff of the early 1980s, which I love.  “Cuando Pase El Temblor” brings elements of ska and calypso, a funky island vibe that makes me wish I was back in Buenos Aires in that warm Argentine sun, sitting outside and drinking ice cold bottles of Imperial lager without a care in the world except for what to do about dinner, a song like the love child of The Clash and Dexy’s Midnight Runners.  The synths and jazz-infused “Danza Rota” harkens back to the soundtrack of every 1980s teen movie ever, while “El Cuerpo Del Delito” lets the bass run wild and get funky.

Things are just as entertaining on the B side, and the fact that the vocals are all in Spanish doesn’t detract from my enjoyment at all.  I’m sure this is due in part to the fact that Nada Personal has a very familiar sound to it – having started to listen to music in the new wave era, these songs are quite comfortable to my ears, though far from stock or boring.  I’d hazard to say that most music fans in the US probably can’t name any musicians from Argentina unless you’re into something very specific like tango, and after listening to Soda Stereo (and the contemporary electro outfit Farmacia) I have to say that’s too bad, because there Argentines know their stuff and I’m looking forward to digging into the rest of the stuff we brought home with us.  And to the next time we can visit that magical country… Argentina, we will be back.

(♠)  That’s about $47 each US, which is a lot for a new release.  However, it looks like there are plenty of new sealed copies of their debut available on Discogs and they can be had for about $25 – which includes shipping.  So I may need to break down and order a copy.

Record Shopping – Argentina Style

Hola amigos y amigas!  Sorry that it’s been a while since the last post, but the Life in the Vinyl Lane family is wrapping up a nice vacation in Argentina, our first time visiting South America.  We’ve been super busy (we walked approximately 55 miles over the course of 4.5 days in Buenos Aires according to our fitness tracker…) and since we’re getting ready to head home in a couple of days (which involves three flights… ugh) I thought I’d reflect for a few minutes on our attempts at record shopping.

So first things first.  A lot of stuff in Argentina is super inexpensive by US standards.  Great local wines are easily found in the $5-10 range and I’m constantly amazed at how small our food bills are.  But some stuff is expensive as hell, and one of those things is, unfortunately, vinyl records.  Brand new, sealed vinyl generally sells in the 650-800 peso range, or about $40-50 US, and I saw a few double albums priced around $90 each.  Ouch.  In talking to a guy at one of the shops, it sounds like the big problem is there are no longer any major pressing plants in the country, so even the re-releases of classic Argentinian bands are manufactured in the Czech Republic and shipped to Argentina, which adds all kinds of extra costs and taxes.  Used vinyl is pricey as well, though, and generally in very shabby condition.  It appears the jackets produced in the 1970s through 1990s were of poor quality stock and most suffer from evidence of moisture exposure, which isn’t a surprise given the climate and what I suspect was a general lack of home air conditioning back in the day.  Now, if you want Argentinian pressings of the rock classics, they’re all available; just expect to pay $10-30 for low quality copies, many of which looked like the probably wouldn’t sound too hot on my table if they played at all without skipping like a kindergartener.

I probably should have dropped $30 for the beat-to-hell copy of Led Zeppelin II I found just because I love the record, but it would be something that just sat on my shelf unplayed, a fetish item, so I decided to pass.  Unquestionably the items I got most excited about were original pressings of two different records by the OG Argentinian punk band Attaque 77, but at 3,600 pesos each (about $230) in “Good” condition, I just couldn’t justify the expense.  I can’t find any sales history on these from the various sites that track such things, so I’m sure they’re quite rare.  But to spend that much on something that had more scratches on it than a cat lady’s sofa didn’t make much sense to me.

I hit up quite a few shops in Buenos Aires, probably a half dozen in total.  But I only ended up buying stuff in one of them… and that was only CDs!  To be fair, I’m not going to write about any place where I didn’t make a purchase, which unfortunately only leaves me with two shops to touch on here.

Tempo Musica 
Jorge L.Borges, 1664
1414 Buenos Aires
Palermo

tempomusica

We stumbled upon Tempo Musica by accident on our way to a pizza joint near our rental apartment.  Up to that point I’d been completely shut out musically and was a  bit bummed.  However, earlier in the day we’d been at a food truck in an out-of-the way part of town and the dudes running it were blasting some killer Argentine metal, so we asked who the band was and they told us Rata Blanca.  We decided what the hell, and asked the guy at Tempo if he had any, and he seemed quite excited that some Americans wandered in asking for local metal.  Next thing you know we left with about 8-9 CDs by various local bands, including the previously mentioned Attaque 77.  And unlike vinyl, new CDs are cheap here – were paid about 140 pesos each, rough $9.

The guy working there, who I believe is the owner, was cool and spoke very good English. He was happy to talk about local music and made some good recommendations.  The shop is tiny and is mostly given over to CDs.  He had a little vinyl too, though honestly I didn’t spend much time flipping through it.  A worthwhile stop if you’re in the Palermo district and looking for some local jams.

Amadeus Rockería
Necochea 75
5500 Mendoza

amadeusrockeria

I was going through vinyl withdrawal by the time we traveled from Buenos Aires to Mendoza, and I only had one shop on my list that I wanted to check out – Amadeus Rockería.  A narrow hallway of a shop, it’s packed to the gills with all kinds of stuff from music to DVDs to patches to buttons and backpacks and posters…  There’s a decent amount of loosely organized vinyl that is grouped by category (“1970s Rock”, “Male Singers”, etc.) but not alphabetized or arranged in any other way, making digging difficult.

Before even stepping foot inside I’d already decided that at the very least I’d pick up one or two of the local re-releases I’d seen in Buenos Aires, so with that in mind I came away with reissue copies of the sophomore albums from speed metallers Hermética and new wavers Soda Stereo.  They weren’t cheap (720 pesos each), but at least I’m bringing something home on vinyl.  Condition on the used records was similar to what I’d seen in Buenos Aires, and one thing that made this place a bit tricky is that most of the vinyl stock wasn’t priced – I had to take it up to the counter to find out how much everything cost.

 

Fortunately that wasn’t all we experienced on the music front, as we also got a chance to hook up with brothers Ariel and Diego Sima from the electro-group Farmacia.  I recently reviewed their latest release Suero, and that resulted in us getting in touch with them.  We had a great time meeting with them in Buenos Aires and bought some of their previous albums (CDs and cassettes) from them as well.  We got to play some of it in our apartment and it’s fantastic stuff – you’ll definitely be hearing more about it on the blog after we return home next week.  It’s important to support indie artists directly whenever possible, so it was a privilege to meet them and buy some of their merch.  We even hooked up again later in the trip with Ariel who took us to a local pizza/empanada joint where we spent a few hours talking about our lives.

Well, that’s it from Argentina, my friends.  Hopefully I’ll get back to a more typical posting schedule in a week or so!

Farmacia – “Suero” Cassette (2017)

I was excited when I heard that the newest release from Reykjavik’s Lady Boy Records was for the Argentinian electro-duo Farmacia, not because of any familiarity I had with their music but because I’ll be making my first ever visit to South America later this Spring, which will include some time in Buenos Aires.  I haven’t started doing my music research for the trip yet, so this brand new album called Suero is a nice appetizer.

farmaciasuero

Suero starts strong with “Yello,” a track built around some very old-timey sounding beats that combines the old and the new in interesting ways.  But don’t be fooled – this isn’t a retro-futuristic album, as I quickly discovered on the next tune “Adan de Adan,” which builds it’s soniscape around backwards masking.  This gave me some flashbacks to sitting in my room back when I was in high school, recording Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd albums to cassette and then manually flipping over the tape innards so I could play them backwards and look for those infamous “Satanic messages.”  I’m not certain if Farmacia are trying to get me to worship the Dark Lord on “Adan de Adan,” or perhaps just encouraging me to eat more fiber.  To be honest, I rather like not knowing.  That and I’m too lazy to bother playing it backwards, even though technology has made that super easy to do.  Too easy, really.  The kids today will never understand how hard we had to work to listen to backwards messages on albums back in the day.  Uphill.  Both ways.  The struggle was real.  Stupid kids today.

ANYWAY… back to Suero.  At the risk of sounding obvious, Farmacia use a lot of repetition within their compositions, and that sticks out because they utilize unusual sonic elements.  Plus they seriously mix it up, bringing a broad range of styles to Suero‘s nine songs – you’ve got stuff that approaches EDM, but other pieces that are more like electro versions of the Butthole Surfers (I’m thinking “Gangrena (Versión II)” and “Sábanas (Live Only For Us)” here), and even pure ambient (“Espiral”) and an acappella track (“La Cifra”).  There’s a little something for everyone.

As always with Lady Boy, Suero is available as a cassette in a limited edition of 50 copies. (♠)  You can listen to the whole thing HERE for free and to your heart’s content as well.

(♠)  Lady Boy has put out 17 releases so far, and while most are on laser etched cassettes in limited runs of 50 copies, they’ve also put out a couple of “records” engraved on lucite, a CD, and a tangerine with a download code etched onto it.  I’m reliably told that Nicolas from the label still has one of these in his refrigerator.