"Let us, then, be up and doing, With a heart for any fate; Still achieving, still pursuing, Learn to labor and to wait" -Longfellow

Friday, June 17, 2011

Ceremonious Transfiguration: Some Belated Ruminations on Mexicans with Guns' "Ceremony"

Released May 10, 2011 on Stones Throw

San Antonio native Ernest Gonzales (aka Mexicans With Guns) weaves together soundscapes using his electronics in an expert way to create computerish music that sounds warm and lush and living.  Drawing on the vast sonic and cultural diversity of his hometown, Gonzales is on to something truly special.  He has previously released a fair-sized body of work, but Ceremony is his first LP and his most unique, fully realized effort to date.  The album itself, cohesive and unified in its subject matter and textures, can be looked at as an actual ceremony...

This Ceremony is that of the next becoming, the return of Quetzalcoatl in his star-craft of angry compassion and bomb-blast; returning to a darkened inner landscape of nervous want. Organic and vibrating with jungle romance, the album has colder more metallic moods as well... Moments where the human 'element' involved transcends nature without re-arriving to tell us if that's a good thing.  Aptly named songs "Jaguar" and "Deities" are replete with hazy images of nervous animals, scratching and pacing, worshiping their own slowed and distorted breath, waiting to live. But there is a sense of holiness felt as well, the truth of the mosaic of atoms that comprises everything is liberating and represents deepest equality and purest freedom from worry.

"El Sol y La Luna" is a track that focuses on the split personality of reality, the dual natures dealt with extensively here: the abandon of some final party and the relief of a ravaged nature freed from its tormentors. It begins with what sounds like a curious animal calling and testing the rumbling hush and breaks into the back and forth of a hurried pulse. You can, and are most definitely supposed to, party like it's 12/21/2012 to this album, but you can also use it, more contemplatively, to see further into the archetype-guarded psyche of reality.  Truly human voices show up at times to celebrate life's gifts ("Me Gusto"), lament damnation while twisting words at a shrugged-at salvation ("Highway to Hell" and "You Got Me Fucked Up") and to bring some sense of our temporal moment to the album. Everything else is abstraction- now dense, now airy -searching oblivion and loss for an already understood meaning that we keep on forgetting.

"Death and Rebirth", as the title suggests, begins by transporting the listener to a wasted plain licked barren by some nameless calamity. The aura of holiness which somehow attends this entire album, becomes shattered and chaotic here. There are hopeful textures, but these feel like superstition and delusional nostalgia; the longing for an Aztlan that never existed any more than some transcendental Jerusalem.

In "El Moreno", the track that closes Ceremony (and probably its most ceremonial sounding), we seem to hear broken church organs droning beneath a new kind of mass; both overtaken by some foreshadowed melodies and an ever blossoming static.

In today's music world there are a shitload of folks making electro-house-fusion-chillwave-witchy-whatever mush... but there are a few, like Gonzales, who loudly make the argument that electronic music can be as genuine and rewarding as any other type of music.  Bottom line: Ceremony is a gem that deserves your attention.  Download the standout track "Death and Rebirth" below, BUY THE ALBUM because it is an experience that these few clumsy words cannot capture and go see Mexicans with Guns live as soon as you get the chance... you will be glad you did.

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