Review – VA (Valentino Arco) by Danny Playamaqui

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Danny-Playamaqui-Valentina-Arco-1024x1024 Review - VA (Valentino Arco) by Danny Playamaqui

Oh that’s a lot of tracks. Like, way more tracks than I expected. And they’re all named after food? Spices? Welcome to Danny Playamaqui.

So one day on twitter I’m chilling and I find this guy talking about a record (I think) and I’m like “cool yeah whatever twitter” and went back to shitposting. A few days later the guy messaged me a few tracks and I was pretty floored. We geeked out over our respective work, and chatted shop a bit then went about our respective days. When the record came out he asked if I would give it a listen.

This shit opens so catchy I fucking challenge you not to shake your ass just a little. The first track, Paprika, very quickly starts to indicate the record will be a lot more than just catchy and soon turns downright dark. A lot of this record seems to be about interplay between light and dark, catchy and dissonant.

When I first listened to the record I wasn’t actively looking at it, and so I wasn’t aware of any track names. By the time I got to Cumin (track 6) I was comparing it to a fight. Track 17 is literally titled Nutmeg vs Mace so it feels like maybe I hit the nail on the head, and conflict (of flavors?) was a big part of this record. I’m getting ahead of myself…

The fourth track, Parsley, is almost playful. The fox leads you down this path into the dark forest then it runs off and leaves you alone to wander alone in the dark for a bit. So much of all of this feels so very visual, and I keep relating to the cover art done by The Wormling for this record which was extremely well done. The fifth track, Lavender, does this trick again, but this time you’re abandoned in an electrical storm, and then it’s over.

And finally to Cumin. This feels like a lot of conflict. Conflicting rhythm, conflicting panning, conflicting tones. Track seven, Ginger Powder, is strident and lush with sound. Track nine, Junipero, and others are cacophonous and broken.

More than just anxious and dreamy, it’s intensely compelling as it pushes you forward into this soundscape that feels like it’s from some hellish future. Annihilated wastelands careening away behind you as you roll across the landscape in your bullet train. There’s a definite tendency to rocking back and forth in tracks 1, 7, 10 and 11; and there’s a lot of what I started to refer to as this “apocalyptic futurism” influence you get tastes of throughout, but mostly in the latter third of the record.

This is where the weird break hits. Consisting of Coriander where you’re in this kind of airy noisy place, then Junipero where it’s all like some broken soviet music box, and finally the stuttered noisy dissonance of Quina.

Peppercorn brings it back to the record’s core with these nice melodies over the now familiar rocking back and forth mentioned earlier. Track twelve, Citrus Maxima, is one of the catchiest on the record, and it’s kicking off the real home stretch of the album which is all heavily leaning on that previously mentioned futurism. Jars is back to the tricks in the best tracks on the album. Kokum comes off as some noisy thing which hides the later sections of genuinely pretty music.

I think Nutmeg vs Mace (track 17) is one of my favorites just because of how just fucking broken it sounds, until of course it doesn’t anymore. Nothing is actually broken, it’s all perfectly arranged and coordinated to sound this way, and Danny meant for this to sound akin to a top wobbling out of oscillation until it locked back into a groove that allowed it to recover. We’re back to conflict again with this track, not only in its internal conflict which seems to break it apart as it trudges forward, but again in the naming of the track itself. I’ve never tried Nutmeg vs Mace to see which I prefer. I’ll assume nutmeg though without testing it, and we can all pretend I actually did.

The final track, cloves, is something I’m allergic to in real life. I felt like this track indicated there would be another after it to be honest, and knowing now what I didn’t know then I would say there’s a reason for that.

Be on the lookout for VA2. I, for one, would like to know the ending.

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