Title: Advance 2021
Coming from projects like A Sad Bada, Colectivo No, La Golden Acapulco, Esconder Micara, Teogonía, and many more, this Chilean fourtet hailing from the capital city of Santiago might just catch your ear with the energy they project in their work and the political (back)ground in which they stand.
I first learned about them through last year’s Festival Virtual Mutante which celebrated Productora Mutante, a stronghold in Chilean underground music, 23 year anniversary. I haven’t had the chance to see them live yet, but I got interested in their mixture of elements of so-called alternative music (a meaningless category which at least helps us create an image about them) and decided to check out their only recording so far.
Recorded and released on September of last year, this two track demo showcases the mixture of slow, heavy and evocative constructions central to the post-metal anatomy with a vocal delivery and rumbling approach akin to post-hardcore’s emotionality and some rhythms and ideas coming from groove metal and sludge. It’s the sound of alternative metal in a classical combination very reminiscent of the overly nostalgic ‘90s, with a thick and strong, but not too tight, instrumentation. This kind of sound somehow still persists in various micro-scenes of the country, with groups very often trying to portray their own version of it through the years.
The lyrics are concerned with the name sake of the group, Sugako Kanno, a Japanese anarchist journalist interested in the liberation of women and humanity as a whole. She was executed by hanging on January 25, 1911 by the Japanese government due to her connections to the High Treason Incident, a plot by a group of socialists and anarchist to assassinate the Emperor Meiji. 26 people were arrested of which twelve were hanged to death despite the lack of direct evidence. Two more were sentenced to eight and eleven years of prison respectively and the remaining twelve were sentenced to life imprisonment. Kanno was the last person to be killed. She was previously on trial due to her participation in the demonstration known as the Red Flag Incident, a celebration for the release from prison of the anarchist Koken Yamaguchi, but she was found not guilty. Of course, these cases were used as an excuse for political persecution and the criminalization of socialist actions, feeding an anti-Left sentiment that still hasn’t left contemporary Japanese society.
“Nublado (18 enero 1911)” starts with a trembling melancholic guitar arpeggio sustained by a droning low note and a ringing high noise that attaches itself to their uneasy dance shortly after the piece commences. As the title might make us think, it has a cloudy vibe. It’s kind of foggy, but only just until the reverberating drums suddenly break in, slowly and firmly pounding , building up to a rough riff that enters the scene kicking, repeating itself, affirming itself. Then, we get into the verse with yelling vocals that narrates part of the High Treason Incident. The date on the title refers to the day the sentences were declared. The track itself avoids a typical verse-chorus-verse structure and builds one part after the other in a seamless way.
“Testamento”, the second and last song, slow-paced and hypnotic, continues in the same style. The pulse of the overdriven bass drags you alongside the ambience sustained by the half-sung vocals, something between a lamenting spoken word speech and a restrained scream. Overall, the song is more dynamic than the first one, with a nice use of contrast and changes in volume. The high parts are stronger, the low ones more dense and the electronic details shine through way more while still staying in the back as a subtle but important accompaniment. Of course, all of this considering the rehearse-like quality of the recording which might hinder or strengthen the release depending on your taste.
As far as it goes, we get an overall idea of Sugako’s intentions in these ten minutes. Despite the subtlety the band proposes, they are still very direct and confrontational, as many groups within the genre. Not quite atmospheric and too reliant on the post-rock side of post-metal and its build up clichés, but nevertheless concerned with creating sonic environments and emotions that fully embrace the lyrical and historical concepts behind the band. It might be interesting to see if in the future they experiment more with their use of textures, noises and other techniques, as well as if they keep on trying different vocal styles and ways of shaping the combinations of different parts in their songs while still being coherent.