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Juana Molina

Her Way

Nov 01, 2013 Juana Molina
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On the cover of Wed21, the sixth album by Argentinean singer/songwriter Juana Molina, there is a…creature. Created via an image of the musician wrapped in blue streamers with its facial features digitally removed, Molina says that even before the artwork was finalized, she felt a strange empathy with her monster alter ego.

“It took life so quickly that I already knew what that character was about,” she recalls, adding that the haunted, Alice in Wonderland-style video for album single “Eras” was inspired by the character. “I am not always so lucky to have everything working like that. When that happens, you already know that it’s a good idea. It’s something so perfectly formed that it takes life by itself.”

The creative process behind Wed21’s cover art was the antithesis of writing album itself. Having spent five years away from her craft (“I’m very intensive animal, but not constant” she admits.) Molina returned to work with one simple self-directive—to do things differently.

“It’s as if you knew a way to get to your job, but there’s another difficult way to go there,” she explains. “I wanted to have that experiment, to feel the opposite of comfort. To feel odd, to feel that you don’t know where you’re going and what you’re doing.”

To get out of her comfort zone, Molina started each recording focusing on percussive elements rather than place compositional emphasis on her main instrument, the guitar. The emphasis on rhythmic variations carried through to the end product. Ostensibly a folk album, at the heart of Wed21 is a rough-hewn, highly textured core. It’s an unsettling, otherworldly song cycle—one that suggests both the handcrafted simplicity of Dom La Nena, and wild experimentation of Radiohead. Molina admits it took a while to get to the place where she could experience such freedom in expression.

“I deleted dozens of things and decided to change things last minute,” she reveals. “Some songs totally disappeared by the end of the process. Parts that I was very excited about at the beginning I couldn’t stand any longer. Everything was so new to me. For a foreign ear it may be similar because I’m still the same person. But for me, it was a bit confusing and a bit daring.”

Although clearly pleased with Wed21 (she hints that she’s already considering another album—although no work has been started as of yet), Molina lets out a polite laugh at the implication that she’s done something revolutionary—or that audiences are likely to respond differently to her new boundary-free approach to music.

“A few years ago I had this experience in Chicago where I was playing and I was very nervous,” she recalls. “When I went out on stage, nothing changed. People kept talking. People kept doing their things. They weren’t waiting for me. They were waiting for the main act. Honestly, for one instant, I wanted to leave the stage and never show up again. Instead I had this illumination where I said, no, there’s nothing I can do. All I can do is do what I need to do. And that all I need to do is play my silly show, play my songs, shut up, and don’t think. It was such a relief. From that day on, the whole thing changed. I understood that there’s nothing that you can do. When you understand that, and you understand that fully and deeply and truly, then it’s a big big relief. I was lucky to have that experience. It’s been happening since.”



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