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Artist: Los Blops

Album: Los Blops

Label: Shadoks

Review date: Oct. 15, 2006

Certainly one of the more gorgeous-sounding and soul-enriching groups to be rediscovered in the world psych/folk reissue explosion, Chile’s Los Blops offered forth a dense and unique body of work throughout their main period of creativity in early ’70s Santiago. If at any point this review begins to sound like the anonymous praise heaped upon any number of “lost” bands of the era or region, then I wholeheartedly apologize; there is only a finite amount of bullshit that can be digested by anyone curious enough to explore a band like this, and anyone willing to burn themselves over amateur hour at the ol’ reissue post time and again might need to rethink his or her priorities. It’s important to realize how little gold lies at the bottom of the lost music well, but by those standards, anyone who has discovered positive, life-altering spirits from drinking from said well is going to keep supping, even when it tastes of stale piss and regret. I’d like to confirm that the music of Los Blops is clearly lodged in with the former category, but I’d also like to notify you of what you’re in for.

The story of Los Blops extends to the University of Chile, at what I’d presume was in Santiago or somewhere nearby, around the late ’60s, leading up to 1970 (Shadoks’ broken English liner notes don’t accurately portray a goodly amount of usable information about the band). Lead singer and guitarist Eduardo Gatti gathered several like-minded colleagues, tired of racing Gatti’s wheeled Marshall amp around the perimeter of the college’s Cyclotron, and formed Los Blops, who quickly graduated from covers to original material, settled into a communal lifestyle, and found a record label in the local branch of the Communist party. The good-looking group became poster boys for their movement, and quickly became a lynchpin for their homeland’s explosive political situation, which came to a head in the summer of 1973 – effectively ending the band’s career at that stage. In that time, the group, channeling primarily American and British psych, hard rock, prog, and blues revivalism, fostered a gentle, moving folk-rock sound across two albums (1970’s Los Blops and 1971’s Del Volar de las Palomas) with a vibe that could swing from pastoral to that of pressurized concern. As the band’s star ascended throughout their homeland, they were rebuffed by fans who, either questioning their social mindset or their new improvisatory direction in music, booed them off stage at the country’s rock festival in 1972. Crushed, the band released its anger with a third album, 1973’s Locomotora, focusing on the group’s new, expansive sound, borrowing heavily from early Soft Machine, jazz, and harder rock and psychedelic music. So incensed were they by the public’s turn that the group renamed themselves Parrafin for a spell, and recount in the package how the master tapes for Locomotora were rescued from a waste basket in their label’s offices – all this before the album was even pressed. This would be Los Blops’ last effort as a five-piece; a single was pressed up in 1978 for the group, by now stripped down to a trio and decidedly acoustic. Performances have been scattered hither and yon in Chile ever since, and nothing resembling an all-out reactivated band has come to light since.

So how’s the music? Disciplined, fathomed, hallowed, and surreal, the product of its times but never sounding all too dated or hokey. Los Blops the first is a largely acoustic affair, dominated by windy melodies, traditional folk, and modern flourishes. Very much an enjoyable and meaningful affair, it is centered by the eight-minute “Vertigo,” works out as an uneasy, shambling, altogether powerful musical statement, channeling acoustic strum, vocal dirge, flute, and electric blues counterpoint into a stormy, tumultuous ballad of significant proportions. Julio Villalobos, who wrote this song, shines here, as on his “Santiago Oscurece el Pelo en el Agua,” which finds Blops as a master of the slow-burn folk wander; similar peaks are felt on tracks like the dark “Los Momentos” (eschewing the flute that dominates the album by and large), and “Atlantico,” the breezy penultimate instrumental. By Del Volar, fuller instrumentation was cemented in the group, with percussive elements, strings, and accordion playing a more permanent role in the group. Again, the material is surprisingly strong, borrowing more freely from traditional Chilean musics and harvesting strain after strain of dense, florid melodies. Tracks such as “Esencialmente Asi no Mas” and “Campos Verdes” show the group perfecting a blend of those indigenous sounds with Western folk pop a la Crosby Stills and Nash, and work into a spirited rhythm on the back half of closer “Pisandose la Cola,” which wouldn’t sound out of place on a Guided by Voices album.

Fine as these moments are, it’s little to prepare for Locomotora, their crossover work. With keyboards and professional recording (albeit a session largely recorded in single takes), the group sets out to fully explore dynamic and experimental patches of instrumental progressive music across five longer tracks, and they succeed in the way you’d hope for having laid your good money down. There are grooves to spare running all over the album, with outstanding bass foundations, a light-footed scope of arrangement, and impeccably tight, hammering interplay between the keyboards and rhythm section. It’s the only time the band ever gets as heavy as many of their inspirations, and while it’s far from metallic or wild, the tight clusters of athletic playfulness beat out many of their underheard contemporaries from the period and beyond. You can almost hear the screws being tightened around public assumption of who these guys actually were, what they stood for, and Locomotora stands out as a loud, well-defined statement, powerful enough to drown out the haters but sadly lost to a coup.

Originally issued as a three-LP box set, this CD editon attaches the RCA single “Machulenco” b/w “Valle de los Espejos,” and throws all three discs into a handsomely-appointed, hinged cardboard box. It’ll look good on your shelf, and sound even better in your stereo. Say it with me: here’s to less ripoffs in this realm, and more quality output akin to the sanctified work of Los Blops.

By Doug Mosurock

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