Pablo Malaurie and The Case of The Japanese Siren
Article by Kevin Vaughn. Photos by Brett Wishart.
It was a Saturday evening in March of last year. The weather was a perfect no jacket kind of night. I was on my way to a pre-concert concert at the fashionable Patio del Liceo in Recoleta with my friend Fabi. She was unusually punctual, me uncharacteristically late. I was greeted by a packed room of twenty somethings sitting Indian style on the floor of the art book store Purr Libros. I took a seat next to Fabi and we flipped through the books that were at arm’s length while waiting for Pablo to start the show, he’d be playing a small set with music from his first solo album, El Festival del Beso.
If you frequent enough art openings at Patio you begin to recognize people’s faces. It’s sort of an in-between of Northern barrio pretension and underground art haven mostly frequented by the young skinny jean and vintage button up type. So it was curious to see a lone older woman seated quietly at the store’s bench. Her hair was pulled back Grace Kelly style, glued perfectly in place with an ivory hair pin. Simple pearls decorated her neck and slung from her ears. She had chosen her skirt suit in accordance to her purse. She sat upright and patient, her bag sitting erect on her lap, knees together with one foot slung behind the other ankle. She was impeccably regal, and completely out of place. As far as I knew the show, which felt more like a friend playing in a living room than an actual concert, was only advertised via facebook, “She must be his grandmother,” I thought to myself.
While composing El Festival del Beso, Malaurie imagined himself as a juglar anónimo (traveling performer) who over a period of hundreds of years wandered the globe spreading his art. The music is, in his own words, “new music from the year 500”. It is exquisitely delicate. The songs transcend time, his voice hitting the falsetto sound of a 19th century geisha and his guitar hooks at times reminiscent of 1950s pop.
Mid concert the woman whispered something to Malaurie, he leaned his ear in and the intimate exchange brought a quick smile to his face. The concert ended, she got up and quickly disappeared down the long corridor and into the night. Later I asked Malaurie what she said to him, “me dijo que ella sabía cómo cantaban las sirenas japonesas y que yo cantaba así,” (she told me that she knew how the Japanese sirens sang and that was how I sang).
In June, Malaurie released his second solo album, El Beat de la Cuestión. Whereas El Festival del Beso is new music from the year 500, El Beat de la Cuestión is “old music from the year 3000”. It is a textured album that, like it’s predecessor, cannot be contained under any genre. It plays with elements of pop, rock and electronica, uniting it all with a futuristic synth sound that wanders between loving nostalgia and absolute melancholy.
My brain has permanently connected the image of that woman to the sound of Malaurie’s voice, not only because of that special moment I witnessed but because of the mystery of the whole thing, a mystery that lends itself perfectly to the timeless landscape that Malaurie paints. The image of this elegant woman, who had appeared out of nowhere to share her message with Malaurie, has become a juglar anónima of sorts in my own imagination.