El Naval

In the late '80s, David Roback collaborated with Kendra Smith in the fuzzy goth project Opal, and then moved on to work with Hope Sandoval in the even more lush Mazzy Star. His more recent work, such as producing Beth Orton's Central Reservation, has been somewhat less remarkable. If you find yourself pining for those earlier projects, then you'll love Spain's Mus. No, Roback doesn't have anything to do with Mus, and sure, Mónica Vacas actually sings in Spanish. But her languorous tones are a dead ringer for Smith, and she and her cohort, Fran Gayo, do a fine job of translating Roback's witchy, cinematic legacy for the 21st century.

The coed duo strips Mazzy of its more baroque elements, replaces Opal's wheezy Farfisa with more vague, hesitant synths, and brings the tempo waaay down. What's left after these extractions is a dusty affair -- minimal and heroin-chic. Simple piano figures are wrapped in ghostly Korg synth clouds, jangly guitar, brushed drums, and mysterious, warm electronic hums; acoustic-guitar melodies droop with sadness. The album's sole rocker is the chaotic "Cuesta," a clattering, dubby burst of beautiful sound, using what sounds like corrugated boxes for drums. But even on that track, Vacas sounds listlessly mournful, and by the second-to-closing track, she sounds like a ballerina who has danced herself into a heap in the middle of a tinkly music box. And who couldn't use some good gothic beauty nowadays?


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