Krautrock Noir: Through a Musical Mirror Darkly with Matias Aguayo & The Desdemonas

Oct 16, 2017
Originally published on October 16, 2017 9:00 am

Conversing with Germany-raised, Chile-born electronic music producer & DJ Matias Aguayo is to fall head-first into a rabbit hole of fantastic musical visions. From the countryside in Italy while on tour, Aguayo speaks rapid-fire whirlwind phrases about how he conceived his new and first band project, The Desdemonas (a quartet he fronts, singing and playing a variety of instruments). The band also exists in a fictional story about nightlife in a dystopian world that we encounter in the "Cold Fever" video, based on Aguayo's own drawings. As the first single of the upcoming album, "Cold Fever" introduces a noir All about Eve tale (Aguayo is a huge film fan) that takes place in the dance capital of Sofarnopolis, also the name of the new release.

The Desdemonas began as a collaboration between Aguayo and Gregorio Gomez, a Medellin, Colombia artist with whom he had previously recorded, and grew out of the two artists affinity to "nocturnal" or "mysterious" sounds. For the project, they brought together a four-piece band and even searched out specific instruments, such as the Fender Bass VI guitar, to achieve a specific, surf-bass kind of sound, Aguayo also created "Mona" (a Bo Diddley reference, he adds), a small synthesizer that he attaches to a keyboard and straps around his neck.

While whittling away down time in the recording process, the story of The Desdemonas unfolded with the sketches that Aguayo drew while waiting. He discovered connections between the drawings and the songs and created the fantasy story, inspired by his love of comics and graphic novels.

The results are Sofamopolis, a musical ride with dark, cool aesthetics, beating with the pulse of tales of love, lust, and abandonment in the music. The songs weave an atmospheric punk noir spell, a soundtrack of nearly arquitectonic swells, somehow organic and mechanistic at the same time. Although the tunes generally pulse with the abandon of nighttime beats, there are nods to the movies ("Cold Fever", with its Goldfinger-ish surf vibe) as well as tunes of breathtaking, lyrical beauty like "Dream Sequence".

About half of the songs of Sofamopolis are instrumental, but even those that have lyrics seem abstract - tales are being told, but only in half-whispers. For the lyrics, Aguayo also improvised from what he calls "a non-verbal language" that may sometimes sounds like English or sometimes Spanish (a language his parents, Chilean exiles, insisted be spoken at home) but he clarifies that the words he "discovered" after listening to the music, "almost artificially created, like a magic process."

It's been a wonderful, strange journey, says Aguayo, from that time when he was an immigrant child from Chile in Germany, making music in the countryside outside of Cologne, an outsider adolescent with nothing but some gear and a penchant for recording strange radio programs on cassettes, to creating his distinctive and world-renowned DJ performances, founding the record label Cómeme and now creating the multimedia project of The Desdemonas. He adds with a laugh: "I was pretty much of a strange character there! With techno music or electronic music, I discovered a space where all this didn't matter so much, it [that space] was there for the aliens and for the freaks - everyone could go, no matter what background and what sexual orientation, so I always felt like very chill. It's very natural for me to be in this place, combining the dark European electronic with the grooves that I have inherited from some other place in the world."

Sofarnopolis comes out via Crammed Discs on October 13th

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