Catalan! Arts

Compilation CD Pop Rock from Catalonia 2016
Compilation CD Pop Rock from Catalonia 2016

Pop Rock from Catalonia 2016: tracks selected by Xavier Cervantes (music journalist) in collaboration with Anna Cerdà (coordinator, Pop Arb Festival), Jordi Herreruela (coordinator, Cases de la Música), Joan Pons (music journalist), Marta Salicrú (music coordinator, Time Out Barcelona), Guillem Vidal (music journalist) and ICEC.

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El rei dels verns
Roger Mas: El rei dels verns (2:52)
CD: “El rei dels verns”
Author: Roger Mas

Songwriter Roger Mas puts his characteristic deep voice and thunderous delivery to work in a musical rendition of a Goethe poem. There is nothing this force of nature, which has become a respected figure on the European song writing scene, would not dare to tackle. Sober and Spartan, all he needs is his voice and a guitar to convey the complexities of beauty and death. A haunting vocal that whispers and fades, and then comes back to pack a punch in a ballad that feels like it is being sung by a troubadour from the beyond.

Cant de batre
Maria Arnal & Marcel Bagés: Cant de batre (4:24)
CD: “Cant de batre”
Author: Maria Arnal & Marcel Bagés

Singer Maria Arnal and guitarist Marcel Bagés give a contemporary twist to their exploration of oral tradition Iberian music, as in Cant de batre, a song with a Moorish influence of the kind traditionally sung by Valencia workers in the fields. In this case, they blend a Catalan song that hails from the farmers of Tavernes de la Valldigna, recorded by Alan Lomax, and another in Spanish with Alicante roots. A treasure that demands to be discovered.

Pasaje entre las cañas
Flamaradas: Pasaje entre las cañas (3:11)
CD: “Pasaje entre las cañas”
Author: Flamaradas

On the outskirts of Barcelona, on the banks of the Llobregat River, lies an expanse that is neither urban nor rural. A place that welcomes anything and everything, where industrial plants coexist alongside an airport, highways and artichoke fields. And that is the setting that inspired Daniel Magallón’s music. A vagabond collection of songs seeking to build an identity based on the sum of different identities and cultures. In this ramble among the reeds, an African guitar strums out a rumba to be danced at a town festival.

Flors de cactus
Joan Miquel Oliver: Flors de cactus (3:31)
CD: “Flors de cactus ”
Author: Joan Miquel Oliver

Since Antònia Font, one of the most popular bands in Catalan music, went their separate ways, frontman Joan Miquel Oliver has been busy pursuing a solo career which, while maintaining its poetic element, also pushes musical boundaries. Yes, essentially it is atmospheric pop that moves between the uplifting and the melancholic, but now the Majorcan musician has let loose with a synthetic samba rhythm. All this serves to make Flors de cactus a gorgeous eccentricity guaranteed to get you on your feet.

El hombre de barro
Hidrogenesse: El hombre de barro (4:39)
CD: “El hombre de barro”
Author: Hidrogenesse

If Sparks were Pet Shop Boys, they’d be Hidrogenesse, the duo made up of Genís Segarra and Carlos Ballesteros: ironic, sensitive techno-pop with a live show that never fails to impress. After dedicating their album Un dígito binario dudoso to Alan Turing, they went on to devise the Roma album as a tribute to cinema. The song El hombre de barro, which functions as a synthesis of an emotional electronic musical, is their homage to the genre of monster movies.

El Guincho: Cómix (feat. Mala Rodríguez) (3:54)
CD: “Cómix ”
Author: El Guincho (feat. Mala Rodríguez)

The hedonistic tropicalism of Canary Islander Pablo Díaz- Reixa seduced the critics of Pitchfork almost a decade ago, putting his electronic soul music firmly on the international map. Always on the lookout for any dance rhythm that would get the crowd up at any festival the world over, the vocal is now refined, while a reggaeton beat that is more sensual than frenzied provides the dance rhythm. Cómix features Spanish hip hop megastar, Mala Rodríguez. Caribbean Electrocubism.

Za!: Badulake (3:33)
CD: “Badulake ”
Author: Za!

A concert by this Barcelona duo is an intense, entertaining and, above all, interactive experience. Theirs is a show that has graced many an Australian and European stage for a while now. With a sense of humour that shuns sophistication, Badulake brings a vibrant collision of heavy rhythms into play, featuring metal roots and harmonic lines from the East. What Za! provide is the kind of experimental music the Beastie Boys would dance to. Popular underground.

Santa Mamita del Raval
Salvaje Montoya: Santa Mamita del Raval (3:15)
CD: “Santa Mamita del Raval”
Author: Salvaje Montoya

Salvaje Montoya is the group Tarantino would love to listen to. They’re The Sonics playing cumbia. So, psychocumbia with chrome guitars and voodoo rhythms, drunken voices and lyrics written in the early hours born of a festive soul and hundreds of hours spent watching B movie by-products. Santa Mamita del Raval is the patron saint of the marginalised who won’t forgo fun, the queen of the internal frontier of the neighbourhoods of Barcelona.

A l’univers li sua
Xarim Aresté: A l’univers li sua (3:14)
CD: “A l’univers li sua”
Author: Xarim Aresté

Xarim Aresté (formerly of Very Pomelo) is a guitarist who knows no limits and a composer bubbling over with incredible ideas. If the Bob Dylan of the Rolling Thunder Revue had travelled to the Balkans, he would have returned with songs like A l’univers li sua. Trombone, trumpet, mandolin, bass drum and a tavern choir propel the song towards its explosive finale - starting out with a simple acoustic and building and building into a suitable soundtrack for the most exciting street during Carnival.

La clau de girar el taller
Adrià Puntí: La clau de girar el taller (3:12)
CD: “La clau de girar el taller”
Author: Adrià Puntí

Cult musician and dissident poet, Adrià Puntí, casts his spell over the audience as soon as he begins to sing. After a number of years away, he is back, proving once again that he belongs to that stable of unique writers that are impossible to imitate. Neil Young in a nightclub, a Van Morrison who is not afraid to show his fragility, a dulcet-toned Tom Waits. This song combines emotional catastrophic rock with everyday pop. Sensitive Surrealism.

La daga
Ferran Palau: La daga (2:24)
CD: “La daga”
Author: Ferran Palau

When Ferran Palau works outside of his group, Anímic, he puts existentialist ferocity aside to delve into the folk-pop of ancient stories and pagan religion. ‘You plunge the dagger into my neck, I will leave my body’, he sings in this track on which the electric guitar serves as counterpoint to the voice of a troubadour who is not of this world. With four essential elements, he constructs a hymn about the mysteries of yielding to magical forces.

Núria Graham: Christopher (3:05)
CD: “Christopher”
Author: Núria Graham

The Primavera Sound festival record label was in no doubt: they needed to sign this very young singer of Irish heritage, born in Vic in 1996. A devotee of St. Vincent and Tame Impala, Núria Graham’s debut album condenses musical influences ranging from dreampop to a predominantly electric signature rock. Restless and full of the energy of ambitious youth, she has all the attributes in place to catapult her onto the international scene.

Ara és aquí
Les Sueques: Ara és aquí (2:55)
CD: “Ara és aquí”
Author: Les Sueques

They are neither Swedish nor do they make Nordic pop. Raquel Tomàs, Tuixén Benet, Blanca Lamar and Pau Albà emerged from lo-fi post-punk underground and their contrasting blend of distorted guitars and sweetsounding vocals. They were all about carefree charm, but now, more ambitious and increasingly less lo-fi, Les Sueques are basing themselves on a powerful rock sound that harks back to the greats of times past and is at its best savoured live.

Pop y espiritualidad
Nueva Vulcano: Pop y espiritualidad (3:09)
CD: “Pop y espiritualidad”
Author: Nueva Vulcano

Taking up the baton from Aina, one of the legends of Catalan hardcore-punk, Nueva Vulcano is a trio that injects intuitive pop into a punk guitar context, following the great American tradition that links Chapel Hill and Washington DC. Pop and Spirituality, the story of impossible love, is a shot of youthful spirit, a tribute to the melodic glories of Jawbox and Superchunk, a celebration of gigs that leave you with a broken body and a smile on your face.

The Saurs: Thursday (2:35)
CD: “Thursday ”
Author: The Saurs

High voltage garage rock adorned by some savage saxophone. That sums up this track by The Saurs, a trio that has been snapped up by the Primavera Sound label. Young and free from preconceptions, fuelled by the raw essence of rock and pace of punk, elements that are propelled by their instrumental mastery. And even with all that, the record provides but a glimpse of what they are able to do live, in their natural habitat.