Puerto Muerto – Elena

On Elena, Puerto Muerto take their listeners on a geographical and perhaps even ethno-musical world tour of haunting songwriting and instrumentation. At moments chilling, at others sly and almost tongue-in-cheek, the songs yearn to get under your skin in a most seductive, creepy-crawly fashion, and mostly do just that. Once there, the dark-lit tales of woe, abandonment, and jealousy weave a mesmerizing spell that leaves one longing to watch Nos Feratu, or read ghost stories of the old west.
“Father’s Treasure” begins as if it could belong in Act I of a country musical filmed in technicolor. A story told from a child’s perspective about her parents falling in love seems delightful enough, only as the song progresses it slowly turns on its heels and becomes a dark tale of a mother’s jealousy over the love her husband has for her daughter. Eerie? Not half as eerie as the barely audible German murmuring of the “mother” that enters as the song goes minor and accentuates it’s waltz. Or how about at song’s end the female screams caterwauling through the mix before a slightly out of tune child’s piano plays an exiting melody? Nightmares are more comforting.
The following track, “Pretty Girls” follows suit with soaring female vocals that sound like Anne Rice vampires singing for their lost loves over top a fuzz bass and infectiously sleepy drum beat. Forgive the cheap comparison, but it really is fairly accurate: Portishead diced and blended with some “Island Years” Tom Waits, backing vocals provided by a laudanum weary Patsy Cline.
The rest of the record is equally intriguing, unnerving, haunting, and beautiful. Cellos, castanets, ukes, clarinets, and a sitar all make for enchanting juxtapositions and simulate the atmospheres of French burlesque, India, Rumanian gypsy camps, and American bedtime stories. The last three songs are actually remixes of earlier songs on Elena, but they are mostly unrecognizable as such as they take a route more kin to electronica than anything else. And even these are mesmerizing in their own way.