San Lazaro - La Despedida (LP - Gatefold)
La Despedida - Spanish for "The Farewell" - is a breakup album. A psychedelic, post-apocalyptic meta-breakup album by a band that has broken up more than once. For over a decade, San Lazaro have been playing and writing original Latin music in Melbourne. A tribe of lost Latinos, cobbled together from all over the Spanish speaking world. From Chile to Cuba to Catalonia, they've come together at the Southern end of Australia to sing the songs they needed to sing and tell the stories they needed to tell.
This album, like San Lazaro, is more than the sum of its parts - more fortunate accident than grand design. There's so many different influences that its origins are hard to pinpoint. It's a reflection of a world where children of a dozen diasporas ended up in the same adopted city, dreaming of motherlands they don't quite remember, cannibalising and co-opting stories and musical influences from each other's lives to make meaning in their own.
La Despedida is composed of storytelling that is honest, unapologetic and unambiguously personal. Not just breakup songs, but protest songs, songs of insomnia and midnight ennui, songs about losing friends to drug addiction, songs that promise music can save us. Unconcerned by the fact no-one around them has any idea what they are talking about, San Lazaro have put together a collection of Spanish language songs that reflects the alienation and uncertainty of 21st century suburban life.
The music is a synthesis of far flung elements from all over Latin America's musical history: Afrocuban Rumba, Son Montuno, Peruvian Cumbia from the 1960s, New York Salsa from the 1970s, and more than a few echoes of the Chilean protest-folk movement that was extinguished in the coup of 1973. All the influences all together - unbound by borders or eras.
It's not glamorous, unlike much of contemporary Latin music. The simple almost-live production allows for the musicians' craft and identity to shine through. It's distorted and psyched-out and echo-drenched but it always feels like the same band playing in the same room, no matter what corner of the Latin world they're nodding to. This is a band that has been playing together for a long time, and the self-assurance and confidence that goes with that makes La Despedida an ambitious record that feels effortless and natural.