Camila Moreno’s newly released album Panal (honeycomb) is the latest and third offering from the young Chilean musician. In something of a departure from her earlier work (e.g. about half the songs in her debut album almismotiempo are heavily influenced by Chilean folclor), Moreno makes a first step in the transition from Chilean pop-fusion to rock. The change in direction is certainly not an unconscious one; in fact Moreno has for some time been mindful of not getting bogged down in a single musical style or form. The sentiment is no better illustrated than in a December article from online Chilean news outlet emol.com that quoted Moreno as saying, “Me aburrí que me encasillaran en el folk y en toda esa movida tan estrecha” or, “I’m bored with being typecast as a folk singer and all that narrow movement”. Indeed, when we told her that we were keen to cover her new album she said, “I hope that you will not call it folk!” So in the spirit of good Anglo-Chilean relations we will henceforth refrain from using the ‘F‘ word! Camila Moreno has been compared variously to artists like Björk and PJ Harvey and indeed these are some of her influences. Significant others include The Beatles and Radiohead. Most often thus far, however, she has been compared to the Chilean Nueva Canción f**k movement of the 1960s. Nevertheless Moreno resists the label and has been determined to free herself from what she sees as the shackles of being defined as belonging to the movement or even, as some say, being part of the legacy of and torchbearer for Chilean Legends Violeta Parra and Victor Jara. Some have noticed the seeming jump from f**k to rock and suggest overtones of Radiohead are apparent in the new music. As paniko.cl succinctly put it “Mas Radiohead, Chao Parra?” This certainly would make sense given that Moreno often cites the English band as a major influence, but is there any substance to the suggestion or is it more simply a desire to change? Now that the album is out, we can decide for ourselves. Incidentally, the release of the album courted some controversy in that Panal was partly financed through the use of ‘crowdfunding’. Moreno used website idea.me in which fans were encouraged to contribute to production funds in return for rewards ranging from early release copies of the album with personalised messages to intimate concerts with the singer. Moreno had received some criticism for raising funds in this way and posted a rebuttal on facebook, saying that artists deserve to be paid properly as in other professions and that ultimately, “Es super simple , si no quieres , no participes del disco , pero ahórrense la mala onda, porque eso sobra en este país y en el mundo…” “It’s super simple, if you don’t want to, don’t participate in making the album, save yourself the bad vibe, because there’s plenty of that in this country and the world …” the singer said.
Panal, the album:
The album starts with an explosion, that’s for sure. Incendié, a well-chosen powerful ‘dropped d’ tuning heavy anthemic opener, remains distinctly South American in flavour (at least to the European ear) with incessant batucama-style drumming creating an immense percussive drive, fused with indigenous Mapuche instrumentation. Yet simultaneously, the track has a classic rock feel to it that recalls Led Zeppelin’s Four Sticks or perhaps, with the drums marching us onwards, The Immigrant Song. Incendié leaves us wanting more and with high expectations. We are not disappointed with the follow up De Que, which one can imagine could have been influenced by Radiohead’s Go To Sleep, also featuring overlaid Zeppelin-esque mandolins giving sumptuous tone. The track builds to such a bass-filled crescendo that at this point one could be forgiven for not knowing what the word f**k means! That’s not to say that there aren’t delicate slices to the record like the beautifully evocative title track for example. The album also holds some very wistful, melancholic tracks like the haunting piano led Te Quise which is accompanied by Moreno’s powerful vocals. Panal is an intelligent album both mature and in its outlook and rooted in core passionate beliefs such as the repression of indigenous peoples (Yo Enterré). It is not a rejection of f**k but a recognition that there are great musical possibilities to be had when one is free of certain constraints. What is slightly disappointing though is that the album is not a truly novel work but rather the potential beginning of a sea change in Camila Moreno’s musical sound scape. I don’t think Oxfordshire’s five-piece have got anything to worry about just yet but then as Camila herself recognises in her facebook rebuttal, “I don’t consider myself an established artist, but hopefully an artist though. I know that I’m working on it and I love doing it.” Arguably the best indication of a transition to a new sound comes from a track called 1, 2, 3, por mí, por ti, por todos mis compañeros, ironically not included in this album. Interestingly the song contains a doffing of the hat to Radiohead’s Kid A track optimistic. So if Camila Moreno is still playing in a f**k band someone has clearly failed to mention it to her. Chileno gives Panal 7/10.