November 9, 2017

LP: Aqua Viva - Piece of Water

Agua Viva mixes sparkles and snark on their new album.

Let’s start at the beginning, because you know when someone starts out with a Caetano Veloso cover, things are gonna get good. That psychedelic guitar riff that leads off these eight short tracks should tell you just how things are gonna be, and the record doesn’t get any less direct than that. From the get go, Josi Arias flexes her ability to take regionally defining classic sounds and turn them into a perfectly modern product. Moving to her solo project of Agua Viva after years of fronting the Argentinian post-punk outfit Los Cripis, Arias focuses her songwriting on reinterpreting her geological influences - most notably Tropic├ília and Nouveau Bossa - into a sly and gritty contemporary sound.

Piece of Water comes from a place that will feel exceedingly familiar to anyone who frequents the bandcamp platform. But while “post-punk” is a term quite often tossed like wet spaghetti at discordant DIY bandcamp finds, at this point many of us are moving quite far away from anything resembling punk. Not Arias, however. It’s almost uncannily easy to see how many of her songs could, with a few decades of different production motifs, sound like a catalogue pick from bands like Depeche Mode or Siouxsie and the Banshees. Siouxsie especially seems to carve her mark here. On a track like “A Shape for Us,” a cold and terminal wit slices through the song’s beachy guitars and shrill robotic high hats in utterly-Siouxsie fashion. Agua Viva is a project that quite obviously doesn’t waste time and doesn’t mince words. Each song seems to have started as a highly-specific scene in Arias’ head, and every element assembled plays a different role in expressing the life of the moment from which it came. The most reliable quality through each of these hyper-scenic songs is Arias’ gripping delivery. Opting out of the all-too-common soft or tight-lipped vocals often associated with contemporary indie pop, Arias never hesitates to explore deadpan vocal tricks. Sometimes there’s a shit-ton of reverb and sometimes there’s absolutely none, but the blade of Arias’s words doesn’t ever inch away from any song’s throat. The refrains “I just wanted to be your girl” (“Vietnamita”) or “Baby baby baby you’re always right” (“Ghost in Town”) sound far less fragrantly romantic than they do dryly reprehensive. Arias is devoted to her inspirations here, but she doesn’t play coy or subservient to them. Instead, rather, she blends them in a bucket and drops them on the head of any scorners or inhibitors in her life. And of course this all happens with the sparkling glint of glitter, sunshine, ocean waves, and razorblades.


Listen to Aqua Viva on bandcamp.


Elijah Fosl is a freelance music and culture writer who's really bad at describing themselves. They hail from Louisville but live in Chicago where they work, ferociously devouring cassette tapes and local produce. Find them on Twitter at @elifosl