Flako - Natureboy - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Flako - Natureboy

by Joseph Majsterski Rating:6.5 Release Date:2015-04-05

Dario Rojo Guerra, born in Chile and now working out of London under the name Flako, has his feet firmly planted in about half-a-dozen different places at once with his first long player, Natureboy. He's essentially fearless when deciding what kind of music to make, not concerning himself with whether or not he's putting together a cohesive musical experience, rather focusing on songs one by one, and trying almost everything at least once in the process.

The set begins with the aptly named 'The Opening/Purple Trees', which is actually two songs in one. The first is a perfect piece of ambient meditation, featuring a slow, ghostly build-up that seems to drift in from a million miles away before glittering shards of synth appear in the foreground and a sparse bassline feeds into the slightly more upbeat second-half, notable for its oddly chanted vocals.

The second track, 'Schipibo Icaro', is where expectations are cast aside, with a bizarre mix of elements: a mouth-harp, bells, and what sounds like a theremin trapped in a low budget haunted house. These disparate objects are girded by a mildly pounding beat and almost human gasping and puffing, as well as strings in the finale.

After the weird experimentation, Guerra sets aside all the instruments, resulting in the utterly exquisite ambience of 'Gelis', a delicate, stately track which is altogether marvelous and probably the album's best song. In fact, these first three tracks are the high point, with most of what follows struggling to match them.

There are a number of songs that feature muted, yet bombastastic horns. 'Kuku' is sneaky, alternately counterpointing distant horn blasts and heavenly choirs, skittering along on clicking, clacking beats and high-pitched, marbly steel drums. Similarly, 'Lyrebird' stomps lightly, and 'Payaso' rumbles along like a marching band in a Terry Gilliam film.

'Twelve O'Clock Shadow' is composed mostly of cinematic strings and has a 70s disco vibe, and 'Golden High' is a fairly successful attempt at channelling Shpongle's Raja Ram, all moody atmospherics and flute. 'Who Do You Think You Are' is a funky, spooky piece of work, with bubbly bass and more of the clicking and skipping percussion found in many tracks.

Still, despite his seemingly unlimited creativity, Guerra doesn't nail it every time, with a good third of the songs being either too short ('Som Da Aura', 'For You (Reprees)'), too shallow ('Spice Melange', which sounds like outtakes from half a dozen other songs on the album), or both ('Solo for Chloe', a bit of electronic noodling that doesn't really go anywhere) to leave any real impression other than as filler between the more noteworthy tracks. And 'Shape of Things to Come' sounds like a poor man's 'Kuku', a rehash without a revelation.

Guerra also tries on jazz on a few songs, having the most success in 'With Me Now', putting together a soulful, mellow tune well supported by vocals from guest singer Dirg Gerner. In other songs, it's more of a stylistic element than the central conceit, further proof that Guerra has no single guiding principle when designing his music. The album concludes on the reggae-influenced 'The Odd & Beautiful', which begins simply and predictably enough before a brief electronic interlude breaks things up and leads into a very quiet, guitar-driven finish.

Natureboy is a work of peaks and valleys, of high highs and middling lows, a disjointed, incoherent work that rarely settles down. With 16 tracks averaging three minutes each, there's never a chance to get cozy with any particular section of sound before it's cast aside for the next fleeting bit. The overall effect is an album that is tough to get a grip on and can slip past the listener again and again, full of intrigue but lacking impact.

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