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Juana Molina @ The Cedar Cultural Center

Apr 11, 2014

Juana Molina put on a true experience at the Cedar on 4/9/14.

Hypnosis, noun: an artificially induced trance state resembling sleep, characterized by heightened susceptibility to suggestion.

Suggestion? I was already hypnotized with 70 degrees registering on the weather meter.

Hypnosis suggestion: Watch Juana run song by song and become more hypnotized. Keyword: loop. Take susceptible suggestion and run a positive feedback loop and know that the sun is setting, but Juana’s music will keep your hypnotic fun alive.

With that soliloquy over, let’s look at what Juana did, as well as her opener, Rajjjar Septet.

Rajjjar Septet 

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There wasn’t much to go on or expect prior to their performance.  They have for listening two tracks that barely pass the one minute mark available online. This observation made me wonder what we would see. Impressively, the Septet made a wonderful layered project where each musician was a key player, which might sound illogical. But, remember the remarks about Poliça and their two drummers? Well, the septet not only had two drummers, but on top of that, three bass players. One was an upright orchestral, the other two standard guitar placement. A viola or violin (I may have erred in observation but believe it was a viola) played the most melodic tones, using a continuous swapping between pizzicato and bow.  

What resulted with all of that was a fabulous, non-vocal concoction of heavy drums, deep bass (or three basses), and a melodic following with hypnosis being an easy go-to word. The set was a bit short, but it’s all we wanted, and we got it.

Juana Molina

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Juana Molina came to the Cedar on a beautiful day. Everybody was happy, yet the patio was oddly empty of people drinking beers and smoking on the patio. This created something that was eerie, or—within the definition of hypnosis—highly susceptible to suggestion.

Juana was supported by two stage musicians, and had a delightful apparatus of fun instruments that she used to create the music. To her right were keyboards and the looping device, on her left there was a lone cymbal. Once each part was played, it was looped and played over and over.  The songs played therefore started small, then grew up piece by piece to an entire ensemble. We heard her most popular tracks, including “Eras”, which was reproduced to immaculate perfection. She then went to her older work (Un Dia, and Son) and stayed there for some time.

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It was loop and loop. Everything built itself on a single part, played one by one, and constructed with an exemplary looping device.  Often with this type of performance it can feel somewhat artificial when you start hearing sounds of instruments that aren’t being played. However, in Juana’s performance it was impressive because with proper attention you could see each part being played and added to the mix. Juana’s songs require a certain amount of production. When it must be reconstructed live, an artist has a choice between hiring more stage musicians, running an acoustic-like song, or playing each part which may be heard in and out. Juana was completely in. Pardon the excessive use of the term “loop”, but this is what made the show what it was.  All tracks sounded like they were made on the spot, but then the avid listener sees what has to be done in order to make the music that one hears on Juana’s discs. 

I don’t know about you, but hearing each track with very close reproduction of the song, made this hypnotic concert complete. “How did she do this/that?” and “Where did that come from?” were some remarks I heard as I cycled through the rows of seated fans, which is commentary I’ve honestly not ever heard from a seated audience before.

She comically asked the attendees for those who also spoke Spanish. Despite many hands in the air, she had no use for these people.  It must have just been a survey, so her act continued. She played with skill, and with the sun set for the night it was a great pleasure to extend the day with a great performance from the Argentine musician.

Evan Weitz