Spiral Vortex’s new album Prisma isn’t an easy listening experience. But that’s a good thing. The album keeps you on your toes by mixing basic acoustic instruments with decidedly more abrasive, synthesized content that makes the album veer into almost sci-fi and futuristic tonal territory. The songs the band sings on each of the tracks are notably sentimental, even arguably something of a set of love ballads. All of the music is immaculately sound-designed, indeed the album begs the listener to hear all of the tracks with the best headphones possible.
The cover artwork, featuring nine translucent sheets of glass across a clouded sky, is a perfect
representation of what the group seems to be going for. In equal measure a musical experience that is fundamentally pure, but through means often conflicting in their appearance. As a result, even the most sentimental track on the album – arguably ‘Nueva Vision’ in this case – feels a bit removed and somewhat unsettling. There’s a deliberate falseness to the sound, a sort of throwback-sounding synth that adds an ambience making the song anything but what it literally should be. This is helped by the mixing of the vocals, somewhat tiny and auto-tuned without devastating the authentic aspects of the singer’s performance. ‘The devil is in the details’ seems to be a good catchphrase to apply to Spiral Vortex. Yet they make it easy to spot, and that’s part of Prisma’s subversive fun.
Hispanic music has always had a distinctive relationship with the sentimental. Indeed, the music itself has a soulful and identifiable style that makes one feel a significantly colder touch when listening to straight Americana classics a la Don McLean or Simon & Garfunkel. Marrying said sentimentalities with a trendy popular music model – in this case, pop and its Spanish-speaking cousin pop latino – Spiral Vortex creates an intriguing hybrid that can’t specifically be categorized exclusively as one or the other.
On the one hand, the vocal style and various aspects of the musical compositions point to all things almost bachata, while the beats and underscoring cruxes of each track make one think of the 90s West Coast R&B craze. The band pays homage to all these influential elements without ever truly settling predominantly as one or the other amongst them, and coupled with said quirky inclusions more reminiscent of underground alternative rise Prisma to another level altogether.
While Spiral Vortex doesn’t quite hit the glory of other avant-garde, alternative-minded groups and artists like Robert Miles, Vangelis, or the solo work of Phantom Planet’s Alex Greenwald, it is a solidly crafted, delightfully off-kilter piece of polished, pop latino electronica. The juxtaposing sounds will make it a particularly hit with indiephiles and anyone interested in recording artists that aren’t one hundred percent conventional.
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