# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Ava Luna - Infinite House

  by Adrian Janes

published: 21 / 5 / 2015

Ava Luna - Infinite House
Label: Western Vinyl
Format: CD


Striking third album from New York band Ava Luna who combine soul, funk, rock and literary references

The house that Ava Luna occupy on this album is indeed a place of spaciousness. At the same time, most of the songs operate within single-length architecture: it’s a record that is full of ideas without feeling cluttered. With a style described as “nervous soul”, founder Carlos Hernandez’s dream of blending influences as disparate as Sly and the Family Stone and Wire often works really well, drawing on each at will to create songs that are confined by none of them. Opener ‘Company’ immediately demonstrates this, mixing smooth harmonies, shimmering guitar and simple keyboard chords over a brisk beat, before suddenly unleashing an utterly blistering guitar on the chorus as Hernandez demand,s “Do you appreciate my company?” Such surprises are not uncommon on this album, feeling sometimes like turning a corner to crash into a wall, sometimes like nooks and crannies where lurk half-heard voices and angular guitars. The loping funk of ‘Tenderize’, coolly marshalled by Julian Fader’s drums and Ethan Bassford’s superbly fluent bass, is another study in contrasts: Hernandez’s tortured and distorted vocal set against the calm of Rebecca Kauffman and Felicia Douglass; poppy,Tom Tom Club-type keyboard at one moment, screams at another. Somewhat incoherent, nonetheless it works as music that demands attention yet is still immediate enough to be danceable. ‘Steve Polyester’ is a largely tedious half-spoken, half-sung piece which may be intended to be humorous but, if so, it’s a joke I don’t get, although on the playing side there are some interesting moments. ‘Roses & Cherries’ picks up the standard again, the vocal evoking a David Byrne edginess while a lovely recurrent guitar phrase is decorated with glittering keyboard. The further you go into ‘Infinite House’, the better it gets. With ‘Coat Of Shellac’ the band reach another level. Douglass takes the lead, her singing understatedly soulful, while the brooding groove is scored with sharply treated guitar. On the chorus things switch again, as girl group harmonies sit alongside a guitar whose original home is surely mid-80s Sonic Youth, while during the middle eight there’s a hint of Velvet Underground about the rhythm guitar and Motown in Douglass’ singing. The title track is essentially an instrumental with wordless harmony vocals, a pleasant enough passage to the remaining five tracks. Impressive up to now, it’s with these (which make up the second side of the vinyl LP) that this album attains the top floor. The first half of ‘Black Dog’ is a tender ballad, the delicate interplay of voices and guitars like Grizzly Bear at their best. Extraordinarily, it then explodes with fearsome drums and guitars as the collective singing reaches an unexpected depth and richness, a climax like grunge gone gospel. Over an insistent beat, Hernandez sings ’Best Hexagon’ in his best soft soul voice, although the straightforward romanticism of such as the Chi-Lites is complicated in this song by setting its tryst in the Library of Babel of Jorge-Luis Borges. This may be the point at which to note that many of this album’s lyrics are equally abstruse and allusive. But in defence against inevitable (and not completely unfair) charges of pretentiousness, the singing here and throughout is so heartfelt and the melodies so strong that the actual words almost don’t matter, because the emotions come through anyway. On ‘Billz’ the lyrics contend between the bizarre (“I’m a Mandrake/Land for lease to rot: “So shrill!”/Thread to bare to grip these hills”) and a chorus that’s in the tradition of classics like ‘Money’s Too Tight to Mention’. This is an island of clarity where Hernandez desperately asks “Who’s gonna pay my bills?”, the backing vocals a sympathetic echo over foundation-shaking drums before guitar, bass and percussion pound out the pain of poverty. Intense already, the coda pushes to a further extreme, Hernandez’s voice like Prince fronting Fugazi and leaving the intellectualism behind as he ruefully tells his lover “I’m yours, and if you tell me that you’re mine/You’re the one that I’m getting next to/But our love ain’t gonna pay my bills.” Hernandez’s singing on several tracks is like a slightly tremulous Daryl Hall, never more so than on ‘Carbon’, a piano-based ballad swept across with Frippesque guitar that wouldn’t be out of place on Hall’s own ‘Sacred Songs’. He makes it strangely touching, even if once more some of the lyrics are odd enough to raise André Breton’s eyebrows. Concluding track ‘Victoria’ is a wild dub work-out, Bassford and Fader providing a totally compelling rhythm over which echoed and twisted vocals create an atmosphere that is genuinely disturbing, the sound of mad women and men let loose in the attic. Though the earlier songs but suggest the quality of the later ones, all in all this is an outstanding album. Dave Fridmann’s mix brings out the band’s capacity for ferocious power as much as for funk and fine playing. If you’re at the threshold of this house, hesitate no longer.

Track Listing:-
1 Company
2 Tenderize
3 Steve Polyester
4 Roses and Cherries
5 Coat of Shellac
6 Infinite House
7 Black Dog
8 Best Hexagon
9 Billz
10 Victoria
11 Carbon

Band Links:-

Label Links:-

Post A Comment

your name
ie London, UK
Check box to submit

Pennyblackmusic Regular Contributors