Chilean alt-pop auteur Alex Anwandter’s 2016 triumph Amiga channeled queer defiance into both ecstatic dance music (its first half) and reflective balladry (its second). Anwandter’s new album, Latinoamericana, draws equally on the colonialist past and the nationalist present for a cohesive portrait of a new age of anxiety, where hope for the future grapples with the alarmism and despair of the daily news. Opener “Malinche” evokes the eponymous 16th-century Aztec woman, still a controversial figure in Mexican culture, often perceived as a traitor for allying with Hernán Cortés during his brutal conquest. Yet the target of Anwandter’s cryptic accusations sounds more contemporary; “Now you want the taste of the invisible,” he sings, and “You think yourself a preacher/but you are predictable.” Amiga protested violence against, and oppression of, queer people in Anwandter’s native country, but as the title suggests, Latinoamericana takes a broader view, obliquely addressing the rise of right-wing demagogues in not only Chile, but also Argentina, the United States (where Anwandter now resides), and Brazil — the last of these represented via covers of songs, sung in Portuguese, by iconic artists Milton Nascimento and Chico Buarque. Anwandter’s palette of musical influences has also expanded; though the prevailing mode is still impeccably produced synth-pop, bolstered by lush string arrangements, he incorporates traditional South American instruments throughout to enhance the folkloric feel and, on the ominous “No Te Puedes Escapar,” there are bracing hints of new wave and Krautrock. The ambitious scope of Latinoamericana makes for perhaps a less immediate experience than Amiga, but it rewards close attention like nothing else Anwandter has made, revealing new layers of lyrical and musical complexity with each replay. It’s essential listening for anyone seeking politically engaged, artistically impassioned pop music.
Published as part of Foreign Correspondent | Issue 1.