Staccato du Mal
Musically, Miami is a very electronic-based city, as recently confirmed by ‘my first’ WMC that had just passed last week. I unfortunately can’t get into the nebulous area of ‘house music’, even if explained and rationalized by folks whom I admire and see eye-to-eye with in so many other areas. It seems most of the electronic music down here induces a shared euphoric experience for listeners based on a series of crescendos and cadences marked by the DJs raised arms in the fog. This lovely city is really built around this kind of dj-participant relationship, and if not negotiated with, the four-on-the-floor and smooth sax lines can occasionally isolate you from a few social settings.
With this as a backdrop, a musical presence like Miami-based Ramiro Jeancarlo can emerge.
Jeancarlo is the lone-figure behind the cold multi-synth sounds of Staccato du Mal and its latest LP Sin Destino that comes out on March 22nd on Brooklyn’s Wierd Records. On Sin Destino, Jeancarlo proposes aptly titled compositions that express the record’s thematic ideas of desperation, isolation, and aimlessness. The desperate words and situations are bemoaned above varying synth textures, fittingly placed within the context of a Miami landscape of consumerist sprawl and post-Cuban modifications of Latin-American identity.
Jeancarlo sings in both English and Spanish as seamlessly as one can converse here in Miami. Half-Chilean and Venezuelan in heritage, he slides into his native Spanish to probe deeper meanings of his words and chooses his titles in Spanish powerfully. The record’s title Sin Destino usually translates as “aimless,” but the literal “without destiny” gives a nuanced summary of the whole record.
The first single “Desespero” presents Jeancarlo’s “desperate” character with clear maniacal tics. There are verses of sung-pleading to “stay within” with eerily playful follow-ups like, “…so sorry Charlie,” conjuring up a hackneyed serial killer. These words brood over a gallop-like dance beat that kicks in with a paper-snare and scraping hi-hat of his Hammond Auto-Vari 64 drum machine.
The record is heavily instrumental and matches the vocals with its intent to unseat. On “Foto Archivo,” a left-handed and unnerving synth intro on an EML 101 initiates a pulsating movement toward the final crescendo-for-one. It serves as a lonely backlash against the feeling of isolation, creating a sonic visual of the clichéd phrased of monstrous regret: “Oh my god, what have I done?”
The CD release has two bonus tracks including “Kevorkian,” a dialogic game between a patient and doctor — but can also be interpreted as a different relationship that borders on counsel and dominance. “Is it over?” is one of the clearer lines that emerge, begged by the perceived patient in the relationship. It’s haunting for sure and the varying structure of the main verse gives the dialogue another level of uncertainty and aimlessness that plays heavy thematically.
Jeancarlo describes the composition as personal and fiction that can be blurred in its performance and composition:
“At one point “he’s crazy” stems out so loud and personal that I had to respond myself “I’m not” as I weave in and out of a song I’m hiding behind.”
– Ramiro Jeancarlo, via e-mail
Though as grim as it sounds, there is some human warmth that comes across in hopeful, layered-harmonies on tracks “Lost Image” and “En Sueños.” Musically, Jeancarlo masterfully uses the timbres of various synths to create his own landscapes and moods as a comment against the exclusiveness of the city. SdM’s Sin Destino is a modern exposition on “period instruments,” a term mostly applied to Baroque Ren-Faire type of things, but all synths and drum machines are pre-1980s with his personal sound and synchronization modifications.
Steeped in themes of isolation, Staccato du Mal’s finds a community only a two-hour flight away on NYC’s Wierd Record label. The label, run by artist Pieter Schoolwerth focuses on post-wave minimal synth music performed and played at the weekly Wierd Party at Home Sweet Home. The party often features label acts like Martial Canterel and Frank (Just Frank) with comrade DJs Frankie Teardrop and Syb as guests.
Grab Staccato du Mal’s Sin Destino on LP or CD from the Wierd Store
Guest Post by Kevin Mason (Co-Music Director, WVUM)