Juana Molina @ Bowery Ballroom, NYC 7/3/06

Juana comes from a background in television comedy, a bit of trivia thrust upon me by a friend as she handed me a copy of Tres Cosas a few years back. Latent stereotypes took hold as I pressed play on my CD player (remember those?), but those predispositions melted with each track, and I sat stunned. Then I laughed. It?s cruel when your friends play with your biases.

So I had no choice but to perpetuate the cruelty, setting up my unsuspecting companions at Juana?s Bowery gig. The result was the same, but I shared their amazement. In this live context, the depth of Juana?s minimalist textures and smoldering compositions was hypnotic and disarming. The rest of the night featured Psapp (Psucked) and a rather lifeless José Gonzélez (better at Spin). Miss Molina was a show stealer.

Her Bowery set focused on the Son material, undoubtedly this year’s best after-after-party album. You’ve seen the tricks before ? looped acoustic fingerpicking, layers of vocal harmonies, occasional scat singing, Frida Kahlo unibrow, etc. ? but not in these hands, and not with such deft touch. Her compositions are rooted in Argentinean folk, but the genius lies in her ability to bend toward ambient electronica with such marked subtlety. Using phase shifters, plenty of keyboards and the sultry breathiness of her voice, Juana transformed the Ballroom into a surrealist soundscape. Didn’t feel like the LES. Felt like a woozy walk through Argentinean alleys. On Absinthe.

You can see her tonight at the Seaport. You really should. In case you missed ?em last time, here are some free MP3 links. Your iPod will love you.

Juana Molina ? ?Micael? (MP3)
Juana Molina ? ?Malherido? (MP3)
Juana Molina ? ?No Seas Antipatica? (MP3)