Sílvia Pérez Cruz has been clear in the past about her love of storytelling. “The song has to have a story that I believe in and I can make my own. I think I have that influence from my mother. My mother is a good storyteller, and she’s always believed that songs are stories,” she told NPR in an interview six years ago.
Latest album Farsa (género imposible) gives away its plot in the title. A reflection on the space between appearances and reality, the record sets out to expose the fragility between the two borders. The farce is the absurdity of presentation, it seems, a lie which will be explored in grand, abstract terms over the course of fifty minutes or so.
For an album entitled ‘impossible genre’, the sentiments of Fado and Flamenco are pronounced, though the Catalan singer is not afraid to drift away from Iberian home comforts. Having spent a year recording the album, the multi-instrumentalist has been careful to scatter influences throughout the album. In softer moments, classical training on the piano gives a refined warmth to genres traditionally associated with lamenting about loneliness by the sea. Strands of Tango return a folky charisma to other parts of the album when it risks becoming too formal. The breadth of the artist’s range is a niche in its own right, and here it finds its application. In the past, Cruz has attempted covers of classics – ‘Cucurrucucú paloma’, ‘The Sound of Silence’, ‘The Man Who Sold the World’ – with strange and interesting results. But it is here in Farsa (género imposible) that the singer best synthesises her formative influences.
The album itself does little to distance itself from Cruz’s previous ventures. More of a holistic concept than a portfolio, the record is happy to maintain a steady pace, undulating vocals up and down with no obvious intention to resolve or overcome. Soaring and stooping around instrumentals, Cruz is the protagonist of her own adventure but owes much to a supportive environment. In its balance between harmony and contradiction, ‘Plumita’ is a highlight, stretching the use of strings to weave chaos into order. In other moments, soft vocals will contradict sharp lyrics; thematic transparency will overlap with understated thoughts. It is an unsettling mix, often enchanting, thoroughly confusing.
Of note, the album has been constructed as a multi-genre piece in collaboration with other artists; theatrical, cinematic and written accompaniments are due to support and give context to an elusive and frequently complex album. Fado for the east coast, the cultural guidance of Catalonia’s broad artistic hub lends something new and provocative to a record that has already settled into an identity. With some hesitation, one could poke at the tentative link between theatrical influence and an album about farce and disguise.
Managing its paradoxes well, Farsa (género imposible) rewrites the rules of storytelling, creating a perfect tragedy wrapped in resignation and mystery.
Words by James Reynolds
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