The Buenos Aires based ensemble Factor Burzaco is back with their third helping, aptly titled 3. Led by composer Abel Gilbert, these Argentines span the musical palette, going from rock to jazz, classical, funk, and even hints of metal, all spun around an avant-garde mentality. While this album didn’t speak to me immediately upon first listen, it was a clear lesson in the rewards of patience. Factor Burzaco delivers brilliant music that careful listeners will quickly come to love.
While there is great stuff every step along the way, the latter parts of the album really caught my attention. One particular duo of tunes that comes to mind is the “Soga” / “Soga func” tracks. Those who are fans of Gentle Giant will certainly find the former to be a fascinating piece. Essentially it is an acapella piece in the style of GG but done only how a rock in opposition type band could pull it off, maintaining strong similarities to GG’s contrapuntal style but with a more warped sense of tonality. The way the song starts off with a very classical sound and shifts towards the experimental is awesome as it picks up moments of agressive shouting, strange vocal effects, whispers, and raspiness, finally closing off with the voices mimicking a wah-wah pedal that leads perfectly into the follow up: “Soga func”. At this point the band goes into full on avant-funk that will totally make you nod your head and grin at the clever arrangements, exciting drumming, and surprising snippet of prog metal territory.
Throughout the album, Factor Burzaco shows expert level of control in their range of sonic-production. Take “En transito / Ausdep mal” for example. This fascinatingly and mysterious piece banks on its use of dynamic as it brings in delicate but exciting marimba interjections and guitar swells that work together to create a gripping piece of music. “Las,” a piece whose title seems to be quite the understatement given the intriguing lyrical text it presents, is truly a gem that shows off the depth of Carolina Restuccia’s voice with its powerful, sorrowful vocal lines augmented by the gorgeously abrasive flute whose sense of rough sustain creates a perfect atmosphere for the voice to blend into. The entrance of a solo vibraphone acts as a demarcating point in this song, signalling a split towards the even more eerie second half of the piece where Restuccia is supported by a beautiful group of harmonizing singers who, after laying down a perfect and destabilizing harmonic support, bid us their farewell with a collective hiss.
What I did not expect on this type of album was an epic length track, but by-golly we got one and I must say it’s good. “Silencio,” the album closer, clocks in at 14 minutes, starting off with moody drones and interesting modulations before Carolina’s vocals enter with a captivating melodic approach that is quite modern and classical. Little by little the band enters, eventually arriving at a point where vocals are supported by punchy percussion and an arrangement that becomes quite chaotic before stabilizing. When a great 5/8 groove comes in the singing returns, this time with nice instrumental arrangements featuring vibraphone and woodwinds striking at all the right places. As the track continues on we even get a classical guitar interlude that has a few tricks of its own. The way it starts off conservatively is quite a surprise considering the nature of this band; that is, until it begins to make wide use of rest and dissonant motifs that create tension before woodwind swells build up a wall of threatening sound. As the guitar continues to pluck a repetitive dissonant chord the bass comes in and adds a more comfortable progression to the sound, becoming playful alongside a vibraphone which offsets a really cool avant-jazz section which hints at its South American roots. If you’re a fan of really tasty drumming, you’ve come to the right place; Facundo Negri really shows that he knows how to lay down musical lines on the kit. My only complaint here would be that he doesn’t get enough time to really show off his talents. And just to add in a few more touches of strangeness, the band finishes off “Silencio” with a chorus of narration devolving into alien-like echo before a fierce attack of instruments sends us off to a mysterious and ambient ending, much like how the song started.
If you haven’t checked out Factor Burzaco yet, it’s a good time. Don’t be scared off by their avant-rock tendencies. Yes, they’re a band that requires some dedication from the listener, but in the end they show a keen ability to blend and seamlessly transition between many styles in a way that is convincing and maintains their own distinctive voice. Couple that with a knack for spanning the chasm between music that is playful, deep, urgent, and even disturbing and we have on our hands a downright solid album.