Belmez – Apariciones

Belmez – Apariciones

Belmez – Apariciones

Smitten with those downbeat melodies, slow tempos, and minimalist arrangements, Spanish band Belmez give their version of American slowcore on the new album, Apariciones. This LP is full of misfires, but the band’s sound shows a real appreciation for the genre as well as a willingness to step outside of it. When this appreciation comes through, the album succeeds.

Most of the 10 tracks on Apariciones register as standard fare slowcore, with comatose rhythms, strategically sparse notes, chiming chords, and hushed vocals that couldn’t disturb a sleeping house cat. Unfortunately, these tracks are short on the gentle surprises, the delicate textures and climaxes that often shine in the best slowcore. But Apariciones succeeds not from Belmez’ few moments of typical slowcore mastery, but rather from the simple melodies narrated by the guitar in 3 songs: “Ranchera”, “Canción del Rihcón”, and “Aparición”. These tracks reveal a pocket-sized cinematic quality.

“Ranchera” relays a relaxed pop chord progression that uses far more range than any other track on the album. The vocal is still hushed and the pace still sluggish, but this song dares to explore space rather than concentrate it. And the tap dancing drums pump life into this snoozing pop song.

The minimalist guitar figures again go into storytelling mode on “Canción del Rihcón”. Whereas much of slowcore’s guitar work uses repetition to build tension and emphasize subtlety and eventual change, these quasi-visual sounds have a direction. “Canción del Rihcón” is one of the few numbers that just ends to soon. Likewise, “Aparición” accomplishes the same expressive feats. The predictably hushed vocals lend a sense of bedroom intimacy to the music. But, at four and half minutes long, this track eventually wears out.

Unfortunately, by sounding so good, these 3 tracks cast a dark shadow over the rest of the album, emphasizing the mediocrity found everywhere else on Apariciones. Some tracks, including “Navas de Tolora” and “Gracias”, are just bad. And the sound production doesn’t do Belmez any favors, rendering the instruments flimsy and distant.

Slowcore purists might take more pleasure in listening to Belmez than I did. But the lack of craftsmanship and inspiration on their new LP, Apariciones, was disappointing.