By Emma Furrier
Mother Muerte is a California-based rock duo, comprised of lead singer Chelsea Salanoa and Jose Cadenas on drums and percussion. Originally hailing from San Francisco, they’ve now planted their roots in Vallejo, California, where they draw inspiration from its Mexican origins to incorporate into their unique, Latin blended sound. Having met approximately 8 years ago while each playing in separate bands, the duo began writing and playing together in 2015 and have since released two albums together under Mother Muerte.
Musically, both members bring different influences and sounds to the band. Growing up listening to genres such as metal and Latin, Jose incorporates this into his percussion style, while Chelsea brings in her love for 60s and 70s rock and folk music. With both of these contrasting influences known, it is evident in their sound that Mother Muerte integrates each spectrum of sound, while putting their own unique spin on their style. Classifying themselves as creating “mystical rock ballads infused with danceable Latin rhythms”, the band truly combines a variety of styles, which result in a haunting, compelling and instantly identifiable quality.
Their most recent release, ‘Mother Muerte (Demo)’, is a twelve-track album released on November 2, 2020. This album contains three singles, ‘Stranger’, ‘Restless’ and ‘Creature’, all of which put you under a trance with their psychedelic infused Latin rhythm. The album’s opening tack, ‘The Burden’ kicks off with the chiming of cymbals and simple chord progression, which then picks up and dives into a rhythmic, Latin-influenced rock ballad. Chelsea’s vocals pair perfectly with the drawl of guitar, holding a haunting quality that lingers with every lyric. The track quickly picks up its tempo, and a variety of Latin percussion instruments are heard joining in sync with one another in the background, while the guitar roars in a style reminiscent to 70s rock and roll. In the breakdown, Chelsea sings melancholically, “I will meet you once again/In my dreams or in my death/Crows of sorrow, guide me home/Mother Muerte rest my soul”. This song is the perfect opener to the album, as it introduces the band’s soul-stirring sound, while presenting their thematic approach to darker subjects of life, love, and loss.
The subsequent track, ‘Devil’s Interlude’ flows seamlessly into a slower rhythm, while complementing its preceding track perfectly. The insistent strum of guitar leads you into a trance, while the surrounding percussion picks up faster and faster, until it explodes in a palpitating Latin track that leaves you with the demanding urge to dance and sway. Conga drums tap out a high tempo, rhythmic flow that is layered under the demanding riffs of guitar. They flow perfectly together; each contouring into a progressive cadence that resembles a haunting melody in the likes of The Velvet Underground meets Santana.
Each track on this albums flows synchronically into the next, almost as if it is a continuation, or an afterthought expanded on in a variety of clever ways. Together, this builds into a thematic, moody piece of work that insists on being played in its entirety. The track ‘Smothered in a Dream’ falls into a swagger of guitar that resembles classic southern rock, a-la ZZ Top La Grange era, with a dirty, rock and roll essence. The foot-stomping breakdown of the song explodes into a roar of kick drums and bass while the lyrics “She promised me light at the end of the tunnel/Flowers at the base of my grave/ Love, and tears of affection/But she giveth and she taketh away/She taketh away” bring the song to a grand finale, shadowing its own subject. The next track ‘Restless’ follows in suit of its prior musical instrumentation, while adding the draw of conga or wood block sounds, integral in Latin production. Almost suddenly, the song picks up in speed, creating a sense of urgency, before dropping back down into a slower and steadier beat. The track takes us on a ride, up and down, ebbing and flowing in whichever way Mother Muerte wants us to go. There is a relentless beat to it that demands attention, while the vocals pour out over the track in a stirring echo. There is a deliberate measure here, and the track is laid out as if the band knows exactly where they want to take us, as the audience lays right in the palm of their hand. It is one the longest cuts on the album, coming in at 8:07 full of alternating inflections and expressive Latin rock.
Other tracks on the album such as ‘G.O.D. (Gift of Death)’, ‘Stranger’ and ‘Bed of Cempasuchil’ live in the same realm of Latin rock, while also adding elements of reggae, bolero, southern rock and roll, and alternative rock. The entirety of this album is thematic, and holds a haunting quality to it, reminiscent of a soundtrack to films such as Tarantino’s ‘From Dusk till Dawn’. With their steady build in tempo, heavy use of percussion and guitar, and lyrical focus on life, death and traditional Mexican elements, Mother Muerte establishes themselves as truly evocative Latin-fused rockers, while unequivocally stepping outside of the box. Unafraid to blend a variety of genres, they represent American rock in its purest form, taking traditional elements and building them into a larger-scale presumptuous blend of influences and style, that is uniquely and unabashedly their own.
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By Edward Burnett
Those who are long term readers of Rock N Roll Reports will be very familiar with Brighton rock band YONAKA Who have been the focus of previous articles as well as a special exclusive interview back in November on the site. The band released a new single last week entitled ‘Seize the Power’ and naturally we just had to cover it. This isn’t your standard single though as it actually brings with it big change alongside the expected familiarity. To truly analyse this change, I am going to divide the single into three different themed categories of discussion. Firstly the musical style then the lyrics behind it and finally the unique use of tonal shift with colour’s role in enforcing this.
As promised, I am starting with the music and sound itself. Lead singer Theresa Jarvis is well known for her amazing vocal capabilities and these are unsurprisingly on show here again. However, here is where the first change lies as far as this single is concerned. There is far more presence of spoken word in this song than in any of YONAKA’s previous back catalogue of work. This change is needed though for the topic of the song as it allows Jarvis’ voice to come through as sermon-like, connecting with the listener on a deeper level with this direct approach. This is all the more important with when the theme of empowerment is considered which runs through the whole of ‘Seize the Power’. It is the resounding message of getting up and fighting again which will be spoken about more in the lyrics section but it is nevertheless vital to mention now as the two go hand in hand. The drums from Rob Mason start simplistically with a steady and slower beat than usual but soon build to a far more rhythmic pattern which compliments the single’s chorus and in total acts to ramp up the emotion behind Jarvis’ vocals.
Now onto the topic of this song and the lyrics which help convey it. ‘Seize the Power’ seems like a check up on yourself as a listener, especially your mental health. Like the title suggests, it is fully about seizing that power and empowering oneself to do what has been viewed as the impossible for too long. YONAKA encourage us to break through these self imposed barriers of doubt reminding us of the power we all have as individuals. This core message is undoubtedly influenced by the Covid pandemic and its depressing reverberations around the world with social distancing and lockdowns negatively affecting many people’s state of mind. Yet Jarvis states at the beginning that she “woke up this morning...looked in the mirror” and felt “different” as she had “finally made a decision”. Here she is empowered by making a positive step in the way of decisiveness, escaping those perils of doubt which have rendered many to be unmotivated to seize their life back during the pandemic. Following this, Jarvis opens it up to the listener asking “hey there, how you been?”. This is a question which essentially now more than ever we need to ask one another. Looking out for others and even simply asking if they’re okay is empirical. The key line which summarises this whole message to perfection is “as soon as you taste independence, you start living in the present”. As most of our lives have been on pause this past year, none of us have been living in the present but rather a limbo which we are only starting to come out of. Our independence has been somewhat removed with continuous lockdowns and curfews being enforced by governments globally in an attempt to tackle the spread. With all this in mind, that lyric resonates all the more powerfully knowing that’s we can start to live again. It is an undying message of hope as well as the mentioned welfare and empowerment.
Finally we come to arguably the most important change of all with this 2021 release, the tonal shift in colour. Previous YONAKA releases, including 2019’s debut album ‘Don’t Wait 'Til Tomorrow’, have predominantly featured red as the core colour of the artwork as well as the bands “Y” logo. I see this as reflecting the band’s music at the time with red often being used to show anger and therefore unhinged emotion. Such unhinged and raw emotion was always present in YONAKA’s previous songs showing the red to be an accurate thematic reflection on the music produced. However with ‘Seize the Power’ there has been a noticeable colour change from this familiar red to a tranquil blue. Even the band’s logo has embodied the new colour too. Make no mistake, this again is key to the current ethos and mood of YONAKA’s new song. Blue is a calmer colour which can be shown to represent more control rather than unhinged, raw emotion. This tonal shift is evident in the music as Jarvis is far calmer and composed via the spoken word throughout the song and that undying desperation has been replaced by an unwavering confidence, reflecting a gaining of control. Another way of saying gaining of control? Seizing the power.
Overall, this is an extremely brave and bold single to produce which is full of thematic as well as stylistic change, all while maintaining the brilliant core essence of YONAKA. This hopeful message of empowerment is exactly what both the rock music scene and the world in general needs given our drastic situation. It’s certainly worthwhile listening to YONAKA on this topic of seizing power as they are experts on doing so. With music as good as this to follow up on an already amazing debut album, the power is well and truly in their hands.
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