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Diego Garcia knows how to mine romantic yearning in his work. His acclaimed 2011 solo debut Laura was the ultimate bedroom recording, an intensely focused and utterly entrancing chamber-pop song cycle about unrequited love, his own. The titular Laura was a woman he fell for in college but lost during a hectic period a decade ago when he was fronting Elefant, a New York City-based rock band that toured the world with artists like Interpol, The National and Morrissey. By the time Laura was finished, Garcia accepted the fact that she might only exist in his life as the subject of these songs. Then he miraculously won her back (and later married her). But those years of estrangement left an indelible mark and continue to inform his work.
Garcia’s new album, Paradise, continues to expand upon the romantic sound he had begun to shape throughout his work on Laura. The album’s hybrid of influences, from the late-sixties ”Anglo” crooners like Jacques Brel, Serge Gainsborg, Leonard Cohen and Scott Walker to the early-seventies passionate balladry of Latin American artists like Roberto Carlos, Jose Feliciano, Piero, and Spaniard Julio Iglesias, is a musical reflection of who he is: a U.S.-bred son of Latin American parents who thinks in English, but can speak fluently in Spanish.
Says Garcia, “When I was in the studio making the Laura album, I was digging through my parents’ record collections and really taking a deeper look at Latin troubadours. There was one singer named Piero; I heard his song ‘Mi Viejo’ and it changed my life. I spent a whole session listening to that song, to all the details. When you listen to those singers, the drama in their delivery was so powerful, the way they would capture ‘the malady of love.’ Then I had this sort of eureka moment. It sparked an idea that felt very natural to me, reaching into that lost world, that golden age of Latin music.”
“Tell Me,” the first song Garcia completed after his reconciliation and return from the road, was the catalyst for Paradise: “I got into the studio and out came ‘Tell Me’. Stylistically, I wanted to make the transition to album number two as gradual and natural as possible. I didn’t want to just get into the studio for the sake of reinvention, make a record and completely ignore what had gotten me to that point. It not only allowed us to get our confidence back and compose the rest of these songs, it also served as the bridge we were looking for to the new album.”
Paradise offers more than equal time examining the nuances of love and relationships but on an even deeper and more universal level than Laura. “Start With The End,” the Spanish-guitar-percussion-driven album opener hits with a brash, celebratory flourish. Garcia admits, “It was the last song written for the record and I felt like making a little noise to celebrate.”
“Sunnier Days” is a pure-pop highlight, with a sing-along passage near the end that audiences everywhere will soon be memorizing. But the song’s title, just like the album name, is deceptive. Offers Garcia, “That song is one of my proudest moments. For me, it’s a strong pop song in that it takes your mind off things, both sonically and lyrically. But underneath the surface there is a deeper spiritual message that hopefully bring you closer to the truth.”
Garcia balances blissful romanticism in upbeat songs like “She Dances” and “Donde Estas,” (his first song sung in Spanish) with a recurring frisson of uncertainty and longing on such dramatic narratives as “Thoughts Of You”, “My Heart Is An Island” and the genuine “Truth Will Ring.”
“‘Truth Will Ring’ is one of my favorite songs,” he says. “The inspiration for that is how everything can feel and look perfect from the outside, but really, you never know what another person might be thinking, and I think that happens in a lot of relationships. If you’ve lived life, if you’ve had your heart broken, had your ups and downs with or without a partner, that’s ultimately what I’m singing about.”
The real-life happy ending that followed the release of Laura marks a creative new beginning for Garcia, and it’s the jumping-off point for Paradise: “I got my girl back, I have a family now. I spent three years on the road, and the future is wide open. We brought this new energy to this completely new place in my life. But in real life there are still cracks, and as an artist what I’m intrigued by is looking into those cracks for whatever beauty is there. That never goes away.”
-- Michael Hill
Kan Wakan arrive with a striking breadth of vision that immediately places them among modern pop’s most beguiling and inventive new artists. The Los Angeles-based group’s extraordinary self-titled debut EP introduced their ornate and enveloping amalgam of psychedelic soul, post rock, electronica, noir jazz, 60s soundtrack stylings, and orchestral pop, all reshaped and rearranged to create something both startlingly original and utterly contemporary.
“KAN WAKAN” – which heralds the band’s full-length debut, entitled “MOVING ON,” arriving everywhere June 2014 – is highlighted by “Forever Found,” and first single, “Like I Need You,” which has already been championed by the ever-influential public radio station, KCRW, as well as by LA Weekly, which recently named Kan Wakan among the “Los Angeles Bands About To Blow Up.”
Kan Wakan emerged in early 2012, the musical brainchild of composer/producer/multi-instrumentalist Gueorgui I. Linev. The Bulgarian-born musician originally set out to create solely instrumental music inspired by his lifelong passion for classical minimalism, but the involvement of chanteuse Kristianne Bautista and producer/guitarist Peter Potyondy rapidly saw the project grow in both scope and purpose.
“Initially the project began as an outlet for me to perform some of my bedroom instrumental ideas with a small chamber ensemble comprised of strings, brass and percussion” Linev says, “At one point it felt natural to me to introduce guitars, keyboard and drums into the mix, and around this time is when I met with Peter and Kristianne. It took a very natural course as we spent the next year or so experimenting together and more like minded musicians came into the mix.”
As the core group built upon a truly variegated palette of influences, common musical themes began to manifest, including a epic but cinematic deep soul approach inspired by such icons as Bill Withers and Nina Simone. “Forever Found” – the band’s first fully fleshed track – proved the aural template from which Kan Wakan lit out on their exploration of what Linev refers to as “the juxtaposition of song and symphony.”
At the forefront is Bautista’s powerful, provocative voice – described by Linev as not unlike “the lead instrument in an orchestra” – which conveys remarkable levels of romantic nuance and human complexity to songs like the mysterious “Moving On.” With a name inspired by the word in Tagalog (Kristianne’s native language) for interstellar/outer space, “Kalawakan,” the trio was abetted with various players live, all of whom help bring the bold sonic vision to full fruition.
“Many roots of ideas are inspired by moving picture and fiction. A lot of arrangement ideas usually start with a quick sentiment, and develop viscerally undocumented over some time before I feel comfortable enough writing them down.”
Kan Wakan’s opening demos earned them well-deserved attention, including significant airplay on the one and only KCRW. Having made an instantaneous impact, the band then spent the better part of 2013 recording at studios around the greater Los Angeles area. Produced by Linev (aka Crooked Waters), co-produced by Potyondy and multiple GRAMMY® Award-winning producer/engineer Darrell Thorp (Radiohead, Beck, Air, Gnarls Barkley) and Mixed by GRAMMY® Award-winning engineer Tom Elmhirst (Adele, Florence and the Machine, The Black Keys, Arcade Fire, Amy Winehouse) the sessions were adorned with sumptuous strings performed by the Metamorphosis Chamber Orchestra and conducted by Linev’s beloved uncle, Bulgarian Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra music director/conductor Stefan Linev.
“We wanted to put no limits on what we were setting out to do,” Linev says. “We tried to put as much of ourselves on the record as possible so that we can look back on it as a real and honest statement of who we were in that moment, both musically and spiritually.”