The El Mansouris, Bueno, Antonia (DC)

The El Mansouris

The El Mansouris is a new experimental-pop supergroup fronted by two vocalists, Fiona Kohrman and esteemed live-looper Margot MacDonald, and includes sound artist and multi-instrumentalist Alex Braden (also of Young Rapids, formerly of Bella Russia), bassist Drew Hagelin of Cigarette, and Sam Raymond, formerly of Rival Skies, on the drumkit.

The El Mansouris kept quiet about their act until February, when they performed hour-long sets at three sold-out shows in D.C. arts spaces—Hole in the Sky, Transformer, and Studio 1469. It was a deliberate, carefully positioned debut that made it seem like the band had dropped straight from the heavens with a full repertoire of rich, synth-y grooves and heartrending vocal runs.

-- Christina Cauterucci, WCP

Bueno lead man Luke Chiaruttini first met Mikey Gagliardi, who plays guitar and sax, on a bus ride home from Catholic school. Mikey threw his shoe at Luke's head, and then kindly asked for Luke to give it back. It was one of the many quiet rebellions that Mikey, Luke, Joe Imburgio (bass), AJ Pantaleo (drums), and Mike DiBenedetto (guitar) would engage in throughout their adolescent years growing up and fucking up in Staten Island. Whether sneaking in underage for rock shows at the now-defunct Martini Red, or journeying to the middle-of-nowhere Staten Island to play packed shows, the guys of Bueno know music at their home base can be an uneven struggle. Yet the borough holds a quiet abundance of creative energy that has pushed Bueno to be as enterprising as any other act throughout the five boroughs.

Bueno has journeyed a long way from their early days on the school bus. The band has grown up through the Staten Island rites of passage – rebellion, Catholic guilt, apathy, malaise. They've also toured around the country, and during their most recent travels, Chiaruttini took to writing Illuminate Your Room, the follow up to 2015's Guilt. Illuminate has all of the yearning and exploration of a trip written right into its DNA. Largely recorded in Sunset Park at the homespun studios of Shea Stadium guru Adam Reich, Illuminate bristles with the unpredictability and raw energy of Bueno's strong suit, the jam session. Guitar occasionally jumps ahead of bass and drums, and songs cut in abruptly simply because Reich thought to hit record mid-jam. But Chiaruttini took to writing more of this record, and the structure of Illuminate is more plotted out. The album draws upon the aural grab bag of decades of New York City rock to catalog a 24-hour span, opening in the early morning hours with meandering and somber piano, and closing out the album by evoking late evening with a howling, aching saxophone.

Ultimately, Illuminate Your Room is an internal journey, a meditation on Chiaruttini's own push and pull relationship with society in all its forms. Up against gender expectations, suburban malaise, and technological excess, Chiaruttini finds his escape in having no purpose. Album standout "Oh Lord I'm Confused," for example, weaves together fast and loose guitars with a story of a girl from D.C. who spends her afternoons drinking champagne and playing the drums. The song conveys that rollicking, fleeting sensation of being apart from society yet still at the heart of the sprawling American empire, overstimulated and completely alone. Chiaruttini finds these pockets of 21st century isolation closer to home too – on the atmospheric title track, he walks around the Island in the pre-dawn morning to find a scattered array of windows lit up by TV glow or a bedside lamp. In our most intimate spaces, at all hours of the day, society's reach still holds strong. Because even in a sleepy borough like Staten Island, it's still so damn hard for Bueno to get any rest.

$9.99 - $12.00

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