Listening Post 135. In principle, a picture may be worth a thousand words, but in artful hands the ratio can change. Take, for example, Jack Vettriano’s painting The Singing Butler—showing an elegant couple, under servant-held umbrellas, dancing on a beach—which Blaumut lead singer and composer Xavi de la Iglesia brings to life as Vint-i-un botons (Twenty-one buttons), an equal-value, 240-word song, simultaneously tangible and surreal, narrated by the butler himself (video 1). The word-to-image equation is fitting for an album that explores Equilibri—balance—between reality and imagination, permanence and transience, a single moment and the universe of time. Balance is also part of Blaumut’s lyrical and sometimes cryptic palette, drawing on myriad inspirational founts—from Beethoven to Picasso, René Magritte to Roberto Benigni, Juni Taniguchi to Charlie Chaplin. Say the same for the band’s eclectic, elegant folk-pop-classic style. One distinguishing feature of their third album is increased use of electronics, conspicuous in the title track, positing balance as a part of movement, the precise point at which nothing is relative to anything else (video 2). There’s a temporary eternity to Ara que tot va bé (Now That Everything is Fine), capturing the camera-like gaze of a strolling observer (video 3). The album makes one foray into global affairs—La vida moderna dels déus (The Modern Life of the Gods), juxtaposing refugees with impassive leaders and institutions—but there is nothing intrinsically political about Blaumut’s music. Still, the five musicians are pillars of the Catalan culture movement and the world presses on their space outside the studio: In October 2017, on his way to vote in the Catalonian independence referendum, cellist Oriol Aymat’s arm was broken by a policeman’s truncheon. After a month in a cast, he returned to the stage, restoring the band’s equilibrium—and completing the picture. (Música Global Discogràfica)
Note: For the review of Blaumut’s previous album, El Primer Arbre del Bosc, see Listening Post 9, August 27, 2015.
Vint-i-un botons (Twenty-one Buttons): It’s after six/We are on the beach and everything is ready
The gentleman, the lady in the red dress, free floating clouds, while
A painter of tranquil silence talks about the light’s beautiful smile
And Celia waits, patiently, as usual…
I’m thinking the things that I think when I have nothing else to think about
She laughs, and he has the semblance of an elegant and serious uncle
The wind swirls, the sand moves beneath us, and Celia tightens her hat,
Like someone holding on to an idea that might fly away.
Equilibri (Balance): We leave the valley, following the stones
We are inundated with rain from so many storms…
Balance is part of movement
We crossed chasms with our minds
And there is no going back, nor a physical principle that explains it
Balance is fragile… you can feel it
Like holding hands when it’s windy
Like a trapeze apprentice projecting a pathway in the air
We understand fire, from peering so long at the flame
We burn our bridges, along with the toast
Ara que tot va bé (Now That Everything is Fine): Travelers sit on chairs outside the cafe
A dog sits underneath, reluctantly scratching a thought.
We lose track of the afternoon, me and this reflection of painted white walls.
There is a place where I go, where life moves slowly.
There is no urgency in this place, we are eternal, and we amble through the distracted streets
There is nothing new,
Now that everything is fine