Second album from Peruvian psych explorers Búho Ermitaño. Like nothing else in this – or any other – galaxy
Release Date: 23rd June 2023
Label: Buh Records
Formats: Vinyl, Download
The press release had me intrigued. It warned me to prepare myself for an assault of Peruvian psych rock exploration, with references to Kraut Rock and Andean folk; hypnotic instrumental explorations, melodic passages and bursts of cosmic rock. Well, Implosiones, the second album from Lima-based collective, Búho Ermitaño has all of that and, I may venture to add, quite a lot more, including lashings of Beefheartian jumble, a few dashes of straight-ahead heavy rock, chunks of funk and even a splash of Indian raga for good measure.
Búho Ermitaño was formed in Lima, Peru, in 2008 by guitarists Franz Núñez and Diego Pando. They began as a “jam” band but, over time, and as the band’s lineup became more rigid and constant, the music became more disciplined. The current lineup came together in 2014 and now comprises Franz on guitars, flute, synth, bass and voices, Diego on guitars, vocals and bass, along with Leo Pando on synths, theremin, bass and guitar, Irving Fuentes on charango (a type of Andean lute) and bass, Ale Borea on percussion, effects and zither and Juan Camba on drums, percussion, bass and flute. The band are leading lights on the Lima underground scene and, alongside their commitments to Búho Ermitaño, most of the band’s members are actively involved in copious side “sound experimentation musical projects.”
I think you’ll agree – my intrigue was well-placed – but what does Búho Ermitaño sound like? Well, to be perfectly honest, Implosiones sounds unlike anything else in this, or any other galaxy. There are plenty of familiar points of reference but, taken as a whole, Implosiones is an exhilarating, fascinating blend of the familiar, the unfamiliar and the downright scary!
A cacophony of percussive noises yields to a solid, relentless, drum rhythm to get opening track, Herbie, underway. The Andean folk influence is immediately recognizable, whilst wha-wha guitars provide psychedelic rock references and the guitar solos nod in the direction of funk. The debut Búho Ermitaño album, Horizonte (2014), was an all-instrumental affair but, this time around, there are voices and even lyrics around, most notably on second track Explosiones (the opposite pole to the album’s title…). Leo’s ponderous bass resonates and noodly guitars give the song a dreamy – if slightly ominous – feel. Diego’s vocals, along with the other voice inputs from Franz and Irving sound like a plea for salvation, as the intense rhythms and the subtle guitars threaten to fully absorb any listener with the courage to get close enough.
As we’d been told to expect, there’s also a melodic aspect to Implosiones, and nowhere is that quite so evident as on Preludio, the album’s shortest track. Laced with birdsong, the tune’s pastoral guitars offer a radical departure to the experimental assaults that inhabit other parts of the album. But perhaps the album’s first real highlight comes with Ingravita (the tune’s title means “Weightless”) where Búho Ermitaño show us exactly what Peruvian Psych is all about. The tune ebbs and flows like the tide as the drum and bass rhythm surges, then withdraws and, throughout, the spacy guitar licks encourage the listener to lie back and dream, and, when Leo’s theremin kicks in, the dream is complete.
Buarabino, the first track on side two of the vinyl album is, by all accounts, an old band favourite. Described as “a drift of psychedelic folk,” it’s a piece in several movements. Irving’s charango provides the focus during a tune that flits between Andean folk, raga, rock and jazz, before settling into a frantic dance tune that picks up speed relentlessly until dizziness sets in and the Andean dancers collapse in a heap. A thoroughly uplifting, invigorating and breathless piece of music, Buarabino is probably the centrepiece of the entire album.
The title of Entre los Cerros, the album’s lead single translates as “Between the Hills,” but such earthbound landscapes are left far below as the music heads out into deep space. Diego Pando plays an urgent and relentless bassline and Juan and Ale add pepperings of drums and percussion, whilst the guitars and the synths go crazy. Close your eyes and you’ll be convinced it’s Hawkwind that you’re hearing.
Closing track Renacer (it means “Reborn”) is another tune in several parts. In many ways, it’s possibly the most experimental track on an album that breaks convention and boundaries at every turn in the road. The movements – traditional folk, heavy rock and jazzy experimentalism flow smoothly together whilst guitars simmer and wail and Franz holds everything together with a bubbly bassline. The searing, piercing outro puts the lid firmly back on this hive of musical mayhem; Implosiones is an album that anyone with a taste for the unexpected should check out. And Búho Ermitaño is, indeed, a name to look out for.
Listen to Entre los Cerros – the album’s lead single – here: