Listening to "Estaré Alegre, No Estaré Triste" from Meridian Brothers' upcoming album ¿Dónde estás María? transported me to the sonic equivalent of a Baroque church in the Americas — structures that, despite belying their colonial origins in over-the-top gold ornateness, remain deeply informed by an indigenous and criollo sensibility.
Meridian Brothers evolved from a conceptual band where Eblis Alvarez, one of Colombia's most innovative experimental musicians, played all the instruments. A classical and jazz guitarist and graduate in composition from the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen, Alvarez had moved on to explore tropical sounds in an electronic context at a time when he was also being influenced by artists such as Björk, Kraftwerk and Radiohead. Under the moniker of Meridian Brothers, he has successively crystallized iterations of his musical vision across seven albums; the last four with Soundway Records.
Alvarez, as usual, composes and records all of Meridian Brothers' music (he brings together the band for live shows). For the first time, though, Alvarez includes the cello, an instrument he has played for 20 years. By adding the strings, this tune — and many others in the new album — creates a heady mixture that constructs and deconstructs tidbits of the Western-European musical elements brought to Colombia ,roots that existed long before the colony and retro tropical trends from all over the Americas.
"Estaré alegre, no estaré triste" shapeshifts repeatedly, emerging from cello and chimes to build to an insistent rhythm, accompanied by odd crooning that turns trippy in a light and sunshine-y way and propelled by frantic beats and punctuated by unusual sounds and atonal weirdness. The song is classic Meridian Brothers, a musical treat as cerebral as it is visceral, marked by a delicious strangeness that never ceases to delight the ear.
¿Dónde estás María? will be out on Soundway Records on September 8.