The Mayans warned us…

URSS bajo el arbol – Lin3as M3ntal3s

It’s a no brainer that Mexican culture is firmly based on the strange, magical beliefs we held. Whether the cornucopia of gods we had as Aztecs/Mayans/Olmecs/etc or the various religions (mainly Catholic, but there’s variety now), the Mexican culture feeds on the mysticism.

It seeps through our literature (see: Carlos Fuentes), our films (Libro de piedra – very good) and our subconscious. So why not in our music?

Sure, the music scene is… the subject of another rant, let’s focus on a band that embraced the liberty of psychedelic rock. A band called URSS bajo el arbol. We have mentioned them before.

Their new EP, Lin3as M3ntal3s, has just been released in crisp, spacey vinyl. Made up from 4 tracks (recorded live on the studio, dunno if in one take, but still wow), experimentation is the name of the game. A certain Adrian Terrazas Gonzalez (sax player for Mars Volta) drops by to add some extra atmospheres…

The sound is very trippy. The flanger pedal is used (but never abused) and the ideas thrown around are on the jammy nature. There’s some droning (a signature sound for psychedelia) and the voice is detached, like La Llorona (the Mexican Banshee) doing the rounds in Coyoacan.

Opening track ‘Lin3as M3ntal3s’ pulls no punches, it goes straight for the jugular. A five minute smogarsbord of guitar effects used creatively, a pounding drumbeat solidly giving a foundation to everyone else and a very sneaky bass that although it feels slightly buried in the mix, it shows its head (and fangs) with apt demeanor.

‘Hombr3 Esqu3l3to’ has a very vals rhythm (choon-tah-tah!). Like a party gone very wrong, the atmosphere is thick with an uneasy group of sounds. The song does go into some sombre territories, feeling like the aural representation of a danse macabre.

‘Contra si mismo’ is the slow groove of the EP. For a few minutes or so. It starts with the groovy, slow pace of a reflective moment, but the cathartic-like explosion of instruments in the middle (including a very funky organ) is superb. There’s a very interesting fingerpicking moment where the sound pans from left to right and back to the left. It makes the song very expansive and thick with atmospheres.

All things come to an end and ‘Insomnium’ is their swansong. And what a way to go. Remember what I said about the bass being slightly buried, creeping like some killer underwater animal? This is where it jumps out and bites. This 9 minute plus mastodon is the crown jewel in Lin3as M3ntal3s. The sound of the world grinding to a halt (I blame Tlaloc) with the proclamation of “siento que no estoy aqui / el tiempo avanza sin mi”. “I feel I’m not here / time advances without me” is the warning before it all breaks down and speeds toward a final spiral (crazy sax solo included).

This is probably one of the best psychedelic albums I’ve heard in a while and I’m pretty proud it’s from Mexico. It shows that there really are alternatives to the tripe we get on the radio. It just needs a little love and nurturing. Check it out if you like spacey, trippy music.

Words: Sam

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