Occasionally I'll come across a record that sounds very pleasing to me and then realize that the music falls outside my usual areas of interest. Like, for instance, this new one by Florencia Ruiz that I've been listening to a lot in the last few days. Luz de la Noche is the name of her album, and it releases in the USA today. Ruiz is from Argentina and I can't even understand a word she's singing, as it's all in Spanish, but that hardly matters at all. On the surface, with its modern production values and occasional tango flourishes, it might comes off as contemporary South American pop music at first blush. But, it's really a lot, lot more than that.
Buenos Aires-born Florencia Ruiz has made at least a half dozen records since 2000, targeted primarily for the Mexican and Japanese markets, as well as her home country. Armed with a guitar and a fetching, meaningful voice, Ruiz has built an audience in those countries, and I don't see why she couldn't do the same here in the States. Luz de la Noche, which means Light Of The Night," aims to do just that, as this is her first American release.
Although there's an honest approach to her music that's apparent to even the casual listener, the real appeal, I think, comes mainly from these two things: she and her producer Carlos Villavicencio deftly blends in modern sounds with traditional, even ornate instruments, and Ruiz, who wrote all the songs, is just a damned fine songwriter (well, at least I know she's got the melodies down). Her abilities as a composer stem from being able to fold in elements of jazz, classical, rock and local flavors into her music so inconspicuously, it makes classification of her music superfluous.
In spite of the meticulous production touches applied to these songs, none of them are overwrought; with most of the songs running less than three minutes, the point of a song gets across completely and as soon as it does, it vaporizes, leaving you wanting just a little bit more. As for other uncommon production techniques, how about these juxtapositions:
- Alumbraremos (We'll Enlighten): Enya-like new age backdrops, a mini classical orchestra, and jazz-rock chordings.
- Estuve Asi (I Was That Way): combines just a bass clarinet, vibes and percussion (and some tactical use of sampling) with Ruiz' soaring voice to fabricate an enchanting, dreamy soundscape.
- Hacia El Final (Towards The End): classical violin set agains the backdrop of start/stop thumping percussion and a lonely electric guitar.
- El Futuro Flor (The Future, flOr): heavy metal guitar wailing over a bank of trombones...and it works like magic. Now, that's thinking out of the box.
And then there's the beautifully poetic Todo Dolor (All Pain)" (video below), enhanced by Jaques Morelenbaum's cello and Hugo Fattoruso's tasty jazz piano. Right after that comes the funk-rock of Nada De Vos (Nothing From You)," where Ruiz' vocal takes just enough edge off of it to reveal a soulful harmony underneath that tough demeanor. The title track that concludes this album is just Ruiz and her guitar, a sparse but alluring tune that demonstrates the appeal of her music going beyond any creative arrangements that permeate the rest of the disc.
The beautifully complex way these songs are constructed and arranged, and the ethereal way she sings these songs impresses me as an Argentinian answer to the great Brazilian contemporary singer-songwriter Ivan Lins. Lins gained some notice in the US during the late 80s when he made an English-language record targeted for these shores. Florencia Ruiz hadn't changed her singing language, at least, not yet. But there's no reason to wait for that in order to appreciate and enjoy her music. In any language, for any culture, Luz de la Noche is a fresh treat for the ears.
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