Album Review: Viltown – ‘Mecha Corta’

Now HERE’S something that almost certainly passed everyone’s radar: a pop/rock/folk fusion by a band from the Canary Islands.

…OK, being somewhat honest, part of the reason I’m reviewing this is due to wanting to try covering something a bit different. After all, as much as I love metal and hard rock music, one of my favourite genres growing up as a child was folk music and I was a bit of a pop fan in the early 2000s (it’s not a period I look back on with fondness, I’ll admit), so I figured that taking a brief opportunity to discuss something that is going to be far out of everyone’s frame of reference and gives me an opportunity to get back in touch with my roots would be a nice break.

So, who are Viltown? Well, they’re a band from Las Palmas (the capital of Gran Canaria and co-capital of the Canary Island of a whole) who fuses elements of folk from the Canary Islands, pop and old fashioned rock together and are lead by guitarist, vocalist, songwriter and producer Javier Vila. The band formed in 2012 to record some songs Vila had written and the result, Canciones de Andar por Casa, was released in 2014. This record is their follow up to that record. I’ll admit, I don’t really have a lot more information than that on the band, as they’ve not really made an impact in the English speaking world yet and I do not speak enough Spanish to understand much about them with any certainty.

So what are my thoughts on Mecha Corta? Well, I think it’s a decent record that is a very pleasant listen, but might not be strong enough to win over anyone not already on board with this kind of material.

The band’s sound is one that is hard to describe without a proper frame of reference, but it is best summed up as old fashioned rock (albeit with one foot clearly pointed more towards the alternative sound than the likes of, say, The Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin) mixed with old fashioned pop (no trace of synthesisers here!) and Spanish folk music (in particular, the somewhat jazzy, brass heavy kind that can be mistaken for Latin American music by unaware listeners is a clear influence!). This might sound like a very uninteresting mix on paper to most people, but, because I’m the sort who actually likes the sound of Latin American music despite never actually taking the time to explore it himself, I can’t help finding the combination surprisingly interesting. It’s the sort of sound that can only come from someone who truly gets what makes all of those sounds work and is passionate enough about all of them to make sure that any combination of the sounds is one that shows every sound at its best and, for that, I have to give it a lot of respect.

Unfortunately, the songwriting isn’t as promising as the band’s sound, although it is worth stressing that the songwriting itself isn’t necessarily bad. The problem is that the songwriting just doesn’t quite live up to the level of the sound surrounding it, producing something that is pleasant to listen to, but which feels like it is more interesting for its sound than the actual songs on it. I could totally see this record being background music for a Spanish restaurant without anyone finding it too out of place, which is fine on paper until you realise that, well, background music is not meant to be something you actively focus on. The songwriting itself is fairly unsurprising in terms of structure, being based on the more typical structures that one would expect from songwriting (especially in a pop focused medium), but the big surprise is that the choruses, while certainly catchy, don’t really leave a huge impression upon you after the songs have finished. It’s the kind of thing you hear once, find it decent and then forget about it, which is a huge shame due to the sound on display being rather interesting.

The performances across the record are definitely more in the pop vein, so they’re not especially complicated overall, but, when you look at the whole thing together, the performances really come together to make something larger than the sum of its parts. None of the instruments, in that regard, disappoint, though fans of more technical music may be disappointed with them.

Vila’s vocals are decent, though not going to wow anyone by any measure. He has a voice that is definitely suited for this style of music, being soft and poppy, but having a clear sense of what is required to make folk music sound good and using that well. He doesn’t have an especially noteworthy vocal range, but he doesn’t really need to demonstrate an impressive range, so some of that can be pinned down to the music being played rather than his voice itself.

The production on the record is actually pretty good, managing to be incredibly well mixed (you can hear everything easily on the record), engineered (nothing sounds like it’s been approached with a  less-than-professional sound set up) and mastered (no problem with excessive loudness having a negative impact upon the sound of the record here!). I don’t know who produced the record, but everyone involved definitely deserves praise for a great job!

Ultimately, Mecha Corta is a record that I suspect is more of interest to those who want to hear Spanish folk music mixed with rock and pop than anything else. It’s not bad, but I don’t see it being something that most people will really warm to in the English speaking world. Still, I found it a fun listen and, for all my ragging on it in this review, I can’t say that I came out of it feeling like I was disappointed by it, so, if you’re the sort who likes trying out new stuff, then this is worth a look into, as, though I doubt that it is going to be topping anyone’s list of favourite records at the end of the year, it’s not unlistenable at all and the combination of genres is genuinely well done!

Mecha Corta was released on the 14th of April by The Borderline Music.