Sep 20

Omargeddon #16: Cizaña de los Amores

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I joined last.fm in 2007 because I’d seen some of my friends use it to tag their LiveJournal entries with the song they were currently listening to and thought this was a pretty boss idea. But I soon realised that as far as I was concerned, its primary feature was the radio stream (which has since either disappeared or has been made a premium feature). I’d play it solidly as work* background music and appreciated the mix of 95% stuff I knew and liked and 5% random shit. At the time, I couldn’t possibly imagine anyone being interested in viewing my profile and so had no hesitation in publicly sharing my listening data. Then, after many enthusiastic years of scrobbling, I logged out in the summer of 2018 and haven’t been back since. This is largely due to this project, because seeing in black and white how often I listened to the same albums over and over in a short span of time made me cringe.

I had a similar amount of embarrassment at the end of last year when Spotify generated a slideshow of 2019’s top artists/songs, and I genuinely worried that if someone were to analyse that information, they’d conclude that I should be placed in some kind of a home. This weird and pointless self-shaming has certainly motivated me to seek out more new music this year, but in my heart of hearts, I know I’ll always find a lot of comfort in a select playlist of firm favourites played incessantly. I’ve previously likened it to being a small child who wants to hear the same bedtime story for months on end, and now more than ever, I just want to know that the story ends if not happily ever after, then at least how I expect it to.

Cizaña de los Amores (“Love’s Tares” and “Love’s Darnel” have both been offered up by machine translations) was recorded in Clouds Hill Studios, a location much beloved by Omar Rodríguez-López for many years now; his most recent release was also recorded there. With Ximena Sariñana on most lead vocals, an eerie digital collage album cover by artist Sonny Kay, and a psychedelic pop core, the similarities between it and Solar Gambling are fairly obvious. Both feature recurring lyrics and melodies that often blend into a continuous flow, and instrumental or near instrumental songs acting as codas, so the parallels between the two make me regard them together as an unofficial double album.

Where Solar Gambling starts with a burst of luminous and energetic trippiness, Cizaña’s opening track “Soledad y Silencio” is a dark piano ballad with lyrics and melodies by bonus guest vocalist Lisa Papineau. It’s stark and brooding, building up to a crescendo of scratchy distortion layered over guitar that, apart from instrumental album closer “Carne de Perro”, is the extent of classic psychedelic ORL guitar freakouts on this album. Because of this intro, I tend to think of it as the dark side B to Solar Gambling’s bright side A. This is untrue, because there are moments of light throughout this album and darkness all over Solar Gambling, so I suppose what I’m really hearing is a textural contrast of density and airiness. 

Similar to the straightforwardly poppy Umbrella Mistress, often the punchy and upbeat tempo belies the sadness behind the lyrics of songs like “No Hay más Respuestas” and “Corazón”. Ximena’s vocals are warm, but the lyrics are detached and absent, another similarity with Solar Gambling. However, these tracks have a specific focus on the innate sadness of love; indeed Lisa Papineau’s English language tracks reflect the themes present in Ximena’s Spanish lyrics – a smothering passion for someone who doesn’t understand unconditional love, leading to resentment towards the object of that love, and a profound inability to communicate resulting in exasperated inertia.

Previously released on the live album Los Sueños de un Hígado, the longest and most standout track “Victimas del Cielo” may be my favourite Ximena-led song from any ORL release. She belts out her lover’s disappointment over sweet organ, matched with brushed beats. The intensity is impressively maintained for the duration, with guitar taking a backseat, only stepping out to augment the lyrics. I’m particularly moved by:

Todo tengo, menos lo que quiero [I have everything, except what I want]
Y si me hace daño [And even if it hurts me]
Es mejor vivir en vano [It is better to live in vain]
Víctimas del cielo [Victims from heaven]
Tengo culpa entre los huesos [I have guilt in my bones]
Hazme ley del hielo [Make me a law of ice]
Que soy capaz de verlo [So that I’m able to see it]
Y mezclarme con el sol [And melt with the sun]

Such lyrics are countered by the yearning of “De Piedra”, the coda to “Corazón”, where the repetition of debes volver [you must return] is quenched in lush layers of swirly effects that dance around the vocals. It’s a slightly more subtle, reverbed trip than the overt psychedelia of Solar Gambling, but no less intense for it. 

“Infiel Hasta la Muerte” continues the trend for chirpy tune/bummer lyrics. I’m not sure if this is advice directed towards a friend or lover, or someone desperately trying to snap out of an ill-advised romance:

Los que no dan, estan destinados a sufrir [Those who don’t give are destined to suffer]
¿Por qué no sabrán lo que es decidir ser amado sin engaños? [Why don’t they know what it is to decide to be loved without deceit?]

I read: once a cheater, always a cheater. I love how the organ rolls with the vocals, the sheer density of emotion like a diamond – beautiful, cold and steeped in cruelty. It leads well into Lisa Papineau’s second song “Nada de Amore”, echoing the themes of frustration heard in Ximena’s songs and playing out with “Carne de Perro”, an instrumental coda featuring an understated and brief guitar solo, a clear indicator of mid-era ORL.

At this stage in his career, the shift away from lengthy jams towards a focus on vocals and other instruments was still pretty new and experimental. Cizaña de los Amores picks up where Solar Gambling left off, with shorter (for him), stripped down (again, for him) poppy psychedelia supporting Ximena’s plaintive, oftentimes mournful cries. Juan Alderete and Marcel Rodriguez-Lopez’s solid rhythm section and the soothing, repetitive lyrics are exactly the comfort blanket I need right now. I strongly suspect that if this album were available on Spotify, it would feature heavily in my 2020 favourites slideshow.


*I used to have all my parcels sent to that particular workplace, and I’ll never forget the time the Head of IT knocked on my door and said he thought there was post for me, but there was no name on it. It was CD-shaped and I’m guessing he picked it up from the ??? box in the mailroom and opened it because he’d also recently bought a CD and also had his crap sent to work. Bearing in mind that I hardly knew the dude, he correctly identified me as the purchaser of La Radiolina by Manu Chao. I asked him if he’d heard the sounds of Manu drifting down the corridor or something, but he said no, he just had a hunch it might be me. I’m still mystified to this day how he worked that one out, or indeed why my name was left off the address label in the first place.

Track listing:
Soledad y Silencio (Loneliness and Silence)
No Hay más Respuestas (There Are No More Answers)
Víctimas del Cielo (Victims of Heaven)
Corazón (Heart)
De Piedra (Of Stone)
Infiel Hasta la Muerte (Unfaithful to Death)
Nada de Amor (No Love)
Carne de Perro (Dog Meat)

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