Astro: Songs About Animals and the Gods, From Chile
UPDATE: Astro's show tonight, November 28, has been moved from the Fonda to Los Globos, with a tweaked lineup.
Santiago, Chile has become a hotbed for cutting edge music, and the latest in the city's exports is electro-indie group Astro. Unlike contemporaries who use their music to promote political awareness, Astro focuses on, you know, animals, gods, and humans' relationship to these entities. All in a fantasy/sci-fi setting.
Often lumped in with MGMT and Animal Collective, the twenty-something members of Astro draw from the prog-rock of their parents' record collections, groups such as Genesis, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Yes, and King Crimson. This sound informs Astro's self-titled debut, released on Nacional Records in September, and their lyrics are, naturally, in Spanish.
"Spanish is a very rich language, phonetically speaking," says principal songwriter and frontman, Andres Nusser from his home studio via Skype. "If you're singing to your people, to your city, to your friends, and you want your message to be understood, you have to do it in the language that you communicate to your people."
Astro's sound relies heavily on electronics and studio trickery, and has a distinct international appeal. Irrepressibly upbeat, its danceability is propelled by inventively applied synthesizers and infectious, hook-laden choruses.
"When we hear music sung in English, we barely know what the lyrics are about. But it doesn't stop us from listening to the songs. The lyrics are sent to a second plane not as important as the music," says Nusser. "There is a circuit in Europe for bands that sing in English. South and Central America is an exception where you can sing in your own language."
Their quirky videos, for the singles "Ciervos" (above) and "Columbo" showcase the group's offbeat sense of humor. The former features the band in Lion King-esque headgear, frolicking in bathing trunks-cum-animal skin loincloths surrounded by antelope.
"We are not an 'eco-band'," Nusser adds. "But the whole concept of the album uses the idea of nature to develop everything else."
The lyrics to the playful track "Panda" are not comprehensible, even for native Spanish speakers, because they are in code. The panda of the title is, in fact, a pseudonym for a female friend of Nusser's.
"I lived with 'Panda' and her boyfriend, who was caught at the pub with another girl," explains Nusser. "I had to watch the fight the next day and I wrote the song to calm both of them down."
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