Listening to Spiral Vortex’s latest album Prisma, now available in stores and on digital mediums such as Amazon, Spotify, and iTunes is a mixture between relaxation coupled with several twists of an unforeseen musical knife. The latter is the strange, purposefully off-putting synths and ambient sound effects permeating all of the tracks – the opening song ‘Portal’ sounding less like an atypical pop song and more like a remix from Stranger Things. There’s a creepiness that hangs over every track courtesy of this artificial-sounding, dissonant noise, making the album have a de facto edge that clouds any attempt at its classification for easy listening.
The vocals of the band really shine on tracks such as Nueva Vision, Ojos de Eclipse, and Pøstindigo – an uncanny tenderness in spite of said discomfort sounding especially high during each song’s chorus. The contrasting elements provide a sort of clinical listening experience where none of the singer’s visible wells of emotion ever threaten to overwhelm. Everything is cool, calm, polished, and clean – one gets the sense of entirely translucent water running over porcelain when thinking of analogies. The fact some of the songs border on the ballad model, along with all of the vocals being sung in Spanish adds an exotic flavor to the whole endeavor. There’s a sense of both respecting tradition and bucking it, in the process making the term ‘subverting expectation’ a core value in the compositional model of each of Prisma’s musical designs.
Prisma translates to the English word ‘prism’, or ‘perspective’ or ‘viewpoint’. While non-Spanish speakers may not fully comprehend the themes and messages the album pointedly tries to portray, they will respond to the evocative layers in each of the musical sounds – particularly with the presence of synths and ambient effects interlinked with an electric guitar in Pøstindigo, or a 90s-styled keyboard and standard 90s R&B beat mixed with an eerie hum in the concluding track Islas. The only tracks on the album that retain a more stereotypical pop sound include Poliedros, Lunes, and Cerro Castillo. However even they sport strands of the clinical-sounding artificiality the other tracks share, Lunes’ wide-ranging guitar performances seeming to blend into one single, metallic-like lilt. The ‘weird’ factor is what keeps the album interesting and makes it stand out. The soulful vocal performance coupled with complimentary guitar and keyboard automatically conjures a sense of security, said security subsequently ruptured by a cold, clammy synth that adds a distinctly unsettling vibe to even the calmest, sugariest, and sweetest tracks on the album.
Prisma might not break new ground, but it is a solidly entertaining and unpredictable alternative pop latino record. Everything is expertly structured and immaculately crafted, every instrument and every sonic design choice knowing its place and perfectly interwoven with each other. The result is something that is almost too safe on an audible level. It’s all so perfect there seems to be almost no risk involved. Thank goodness for the vocal performance, which adds a touch of humanity with its quavering sentimentality and sense of melancholia. Yet such a presence is yet another perfect cog in the sonic system of Prisma. All contrast is immaculate, all wild flaws unattainable.
by Alexander Marais