Lucrecia Dalt: ¡Ay! Album Review

Lucrecia Dalt is joyously cerebral. For the past decade, the Colombian artist has used her oblique experimental music to reflect on metaphysical phenomena and the nature of human consciousness. Dalt has a penchant for philosophical contemplation, and concepts from her training as a geotechnical engineer often creep into her work. on his new album Oh! she repeats this learned mode. On this occasion, the story focuses on Preta, an extraterrestrial entity that arrives on our planet and confronts for the first time the earthly conceptions of temporality, corporeality and love. Over 10 tracks, Dalt sketches out a sci-fi vision of the bolero, son, and other classic genres she grew up with, laid out with wandering congas, jazzy double basses, and trembling tides of distortion. Unwinding the rhythmic threads of these styles, she weaves them with threads of opacity and dissonance. Through it all, Dalt raises questions about the rhizomatic essence of time, deftly using texture and acoustics to deliver on the promise of narrative-driven experimental music.

Oh! he’s not just technically masterful; it is also a bold statement about cultural identity. In the western world, the traditional or folkloric genres of Latin America, especially those of African and/or indigenous origin, are considered static and creatively obsolete. These are presumed to be relics of the past, styles that few experimental musicians would play. but in Oh! Dalt rejects that type of colonial thought. Instead of discarding the genres of his youth, he transforms and stretches them, showing just how capable they really are. The result is an invitation to expand narrow interpretations of Latin American music and identity, embracing multiplicity and idiosyncrasy in the process.

All this context may sound heady, but Oh! it doesn’t require you to fully understand the details of your narrative, or even to study its underlying sources. The music is soulful and meticulously arranged, and all you have to do is surrender to it. It helps that the engineering of Oh! it’s pristine, often evoking a smoky late-night lounge, the kind you might find in a 1940s spy movie. At times, it’s so vivid and immersive that it feels like Dalt is singing right into your ear, perhaps a byproduct of her recent adventures as a film and television composer.

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Take the outstanding “El Galatzó”. A somber double bass thrums, a flute flutters through the air, and galactic synths linger like a UFO suspended in the sky. The warm, open thumping of the bongos, played here with wooden sticks, converges with the metallic stabs of the synth, allowing the rhythmic silhouette of a bolero to emerge. Dalt assumes the perspective of Preta, keeping his voice low and close to the microphone. He enunciates her words with intent, each fricative consonant arriving with controlled, breathy precision. The track plays out at a slower pace than the typical bolero and son, giving it a mesmerizing, meandering feel. By the time the final verse arrives, he no longer feels as if Preta is describing his experience of his tangible world; it almost seems like a manifesto, as if Dalt herself refused to conform to restrictive ideas of identity and gender. “I don’t obey your linear truth”, sings Dalt, with high strings crescendo in the background: “I will break your narrative / And I will alter your flattened landscape”. (“I do not obey your linear truth…/ I will interrupt your narrative/ And I will alter your flattened landscape”).

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