Review Summary: Here it is 'The Dark Side of the Moon' of the psych-stoner. Simply superb.
Los Natas is a rare case in the world of underground heavy music. How a band from Buenos Aires became an overseas cult way before the most recent psych-stoner explosion in Europe, can only be explained by understanding the context where Ciudad de Brahman is produced.
When Kyuss broke up, in 1995, their unique sound had reached and influenced some young musicians from around the globe. In an era where internet was not the force it is today and TV was more concerned with the grunge scene than with the Palm Desert scene, that influence was subtly and freely taken through different interpretations. In fact, if we look at the post-Kyuss projects and the bunch of Swedish bands born by the end of the 90s (as Lowrider, Truckfighters and Dozer), we could easily find a relatively homogenous sound; but this sound, eventually called “stoner-rock”, got widely transformed by bands that, far from any scene and geographically isolated, had enough creative freedom to explore other elements. We take psychedelism for instance. Los Natas in Argentina, and Colour Haze in Germany, are the most successful examples. It is because of them and all the projects born around them, that stoner-rock defines today more of an attitude than a specific musical style. But while Colour Haze needed half-dozen albums to get recognition, Los Natas reached the cult at the second album: Ciudad de Brahman.
Actually Los Natas had reached recognition with the previous and their first album Delmar (1996). But I want to believe that such internationalization was due to an early cooperation with Man’s Ruin, the San Francisco´s defunct record label who had worked with bands as Kyuss, QOTSA or Fu Manchu. Delmar (1996), besides showing already an impressive sense of melody coming from the guitar of Sergio Chotsourian, has a poor production and its tracks are largely based on “Psychotropic” (Kyuss song, from And the Circus Leaves Town, 1995). This means psychedelic beginnings made of multiple guitar layers, and heavy climaxes at the end through monolithic riffs. Sergio also tried to sing in English most of the time, and the cover shows an album already under pressure to become a desert-rock classic. Ciudad de Brahman is however a huge step forward, at least musically speaking. Desert themes are still here, riffs 'a la' Kyuss as well, but the band was able to gain enough confidence and freedom towards a world of innovation and experimentalism, based on new structures, tempos and instruments. After this description we would expect an album full of jammy and long compositions as it is usual in the psych-stoner bands of today (or as Los Natas did in the Toba Trance volumes, 2004), but Ciudad de Brahman went exactly the opposite way…
Ciudad de Brahman is formed by 14 short songs, each one of them mixing in totally different quantities heavy riffs, psychedelic lines, and instrumental minimalism. This approach of creating 'straight to the point' tracks out of experimental psychedelism, was probably supported by Dale Crover. The Melvins drummer went with Los Natas to a Californian studio to produce the album and to contribute with some piano and guitar work. The result is heavy-psych for skaters/psych-stoner for the masses... What makes Ciudad de Brahman so special however is the fluid way Los Natas align and connect such different ideas and emotions in songs all less than 5 minutes in length. We rarely find the same riff played twice, due to Sergio’s talent in varying constantly the guitar lines through a good amount of effects (especially wah-wah) and layers. Dead Meadow would widely use the same technique in Feathers (2005).
In songs built towards heaviness, the band felt into predictable structures several times though. Perhaps in order to allow more elaborated vocals as “Tufi Meme”, “Paradise”, “Adolescentes” and “Rutation”. But when that did not happen, the band composed the most accomplished songs in Ciudad de Brahman: “Meteoro 2028”, “Ciudad de Brahman” and “Alohawaii”.
“Meteoro 2028” is Los Natas’ most iconic song and defines the whole album. Different riffs, tempos and states of mind are fluently and fiercely disposed in crescendo. The climax of the song is unforgettable...
“Alohawaii" uses the same concept of climax but in a more progressive way, as it was explored in Delmar (1996). A doomy sequence of riffs follows a smooth introduction where Dale Crover shines playing slide guitar. This beginning is one of the most beautiful moments in Ciudad de Brahman.
The song that names the album is an instrumental aimed to fuse riffage with psychedelism. A kind of furious interpretation of “Apothecaries' Weight” (Kyuss song, from Blues for the Red Sun, 1992) betaking Sergio’s notable wah-wah work.
However it is in the songs built around psychedelism, where Sergio’s particular talent is more highlighted. His sense of melody creates beautiful landscapes that reach the perfection in the cosmic “Carl Sagan”, and the nostalgic “Nadha”, respectively and purposely the intro and the outro of the album. These songs also reveal Miguel Fernandez as a great bassist. The way his bass 'dances' with Sergio’s guitar in “Nadha” for example, makes us forget the amazing bass lines he made for Delmar (1996). He plays the most complex and heaviest riffs in Ciudad de Brahman too (at 1:23 in “Alohawaii” and at 0:23 in “Resplandor”). Walter Broide, the virtuous drummer who doesn’t like patterns and repetition either, has also is talent stood out in this album. The whole “Polvareda” proves it.
Despite not being a conceptual album, the perfect alignment of such different musical concepts makes Ciudad de Brahman very enjoyable and memorable as a whole. Every song is there for a reason, and nearly every song eventually became a hymn in their discography. Here it is 'The Dark Side of the Moon' of the psych-stoner. Simply superb. Los Natas would use a similar approach to compose Corsario Negro (2002), which marks the transition to a much heavier and sludgier sound. And the band would abandon definitely the psychedelism in their last albums before announcing their end in 2012. Almost a decade after Ciudad de Brahman was released, psych-stoner explodes in Europe, making it one of the classics in the genre. And slowly overtaking Delmar (1996) as the most recognized album of the band.