The New LoFi

Ten Years

Montevideo Mondays (XX)

The first time I´ve heard the effect that transforms the song Sacrificio, the first track of Pancho Coelho´s first solo record, I remembered the first time I saw him live. It was circa 2006, when his band Pompas was one of the finest secrets in the city, a hypnotic blend of alternative pop that immediately caught the attention of all written media and packed some good shows. Pompas was the ultimate dream of some who were into rare pop music attacked by guitar effects and spiced with other ethereal atmospheres. Seeing them was a trip in itself: they had attitude, they knew how to wear heavy and keep their sensible fiber alive at the same time. In those years, they even managed to open a very rare Stephen Malkmus concert in the city. A combo of other influences such as Sonic Youth, Pixies or Radiohead was also evident in Miedo, a record still remembered by many around here. Pompas were the proof that predictability was not an accurate adjective for the uruguayan underground at that moment. At least, not when they were around. They were fun, their lyrics mostly were superficial but no one even cared, the sound was everything and even the “silly” approach of some tracks were components of their charm, part of the joke.

I forgot about Pancho after his time with Danteinferno (yes, that´s a MySpace link, now go relive those years) a duo more punk based but with the same experimental purposes, mostly live. They got a couple of records and even managed to take their songs to Brazil. After that, he appeared playing for Buenos Muchachos, maybe the quintaessential alternative rock band in Uruguay, which made total sense for a virtuoso of the noise in the guitar sound that was out of the mainstream radar for a ridiculously long time.

But beyond that, the great news is that since the end of 2013, Pancho has recorded a solo album, one with a singer-songwriter and a even more acoustic approach (sometimes close to the style mastered more recently by the local Señor Pharaon and maybe with other more recognisable references for an american public such as Los Lobos). No matter the change of genre, I´m still noticing his great pulse to bounce between an accesible sound and more freaky incidental moments. Don´t we all want that? A song that conforts, befriends and at the same time defies us, leaving us an energy a little different than mere pleasure? It seems like a continuation of a musical identity that stopped its development and had lots of possibilities, at least in the regional rock scene.

Somehow, in his record El Alta, Pancho manages to make his songs become a kind of quest for the listener: while we are enjoying his quiet folky or bluesy vocals, some effects or dissonances seep in to alter our experience, leaving us with the idea that every song was a strange artifact, one that we couldn’t handle very well and that we have to listen to again. The style seems to need a little more perfection and maybe a bit of production, but its humble, honest vibe, makes the experience even more friendly.

And all this in a pretty enjoyable 19-minute record with only seven songs. Give less than half an hour to Pancho´s songs, they’ll make the rest. They are here.