Music Interview/Review: La Armada’s ‘Anti-Colonial Vol. 2’

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Anti-Colonial Vol. 2 is the latest artistic attestation by the (mostly) Dominican-born, Chicago-based hardcore band, La Armada. The album is unabashed poetic rage, an opus to the freedom found through art, bringing to life shared experiences and the unimaginable moments that lead to authentically creative achievements. The band’s all-powerful rock sounds, along with the unique storytelling artwork that accompanies the record, make this a must-have.

As its name suggests, the album is La Armada’s second volume in a series, which may or may not continue, but this second edition is large-scale artwork. It doesn’t include just music, thought-provoking lyricism, and outstanding graphics with a lesson in history y cultura, it is also about disclosing, through art, the journey to get to this point—the significance of exploring one’s cultural roots, ideologies, and humanity.

The graphics in Anti-Colonial Vol. 2 reveal an imagined, altered reality of the history of Taíno culture. The album cover is magnificent, striking. It reflects the monstrous moment a Taíno cacique (chief) realizes he’s being kidnapped.

 

La Armada had a major change within the band with two new members, each bringing their unique musical identity, which provides more opportunities for growth and creativity. They were able to “sharpen the knives of writing more as musicians.” Whatever the case may be, their sound is tight, layered in nuances that move listeners through histories not to be forgotten. Their words move with poetic ardency.

Anti-Colonial Vol. 2 begins with a confident and funky bass that gives way to the Caribbean punk/core adventure. A spoken-word piece welcomes you with the full sounds of a band beginning to form. The bold music advances in a leisurely fashion and suddenly backflips into the dramatics of intense rock deliriousness.

I spoke with guitarists Paúl Rivera and Jonathan Salazar just before heading out to perform a show in Bedford Park, Illinois as part of their winter tour. I asked if we could speak briefly about their new album while I was on the radio with Future Rootz (105.5FM). We had a great conversation en español y la puedes escuchar aquí.

On the song “No Tiene Precio,” La Armada begins with a quote from the movie, Wall Street. Businessman Gordo Gekko, played by Michael Douglas, is explaining the virtues of greed to a group of stockholders. He proudly declares, “The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms—greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge—has marked the upward surge of mankind.”

“La Armada is touching on more introspective topics, more personal, like the corruption of man and the ideals of man,” says Rivera. “’No Tiene Precio’ talks about the experience of seeing a person that, at some point or another, you did not consider a good friend, a good ally, etc. Then you begin to see how a person is corrupted when he starts to follow ideals that are based only on the teacher, on the yo-yo, on how to get ahead at the expense of the other person. It is a very personal song—I think that is transmitted. The song is getting a lot of attention and that makes us think that we managed to capture the feeling of the song very well.”

“A song like ‘All We Know’ talks a lot about the beginnings of the pandemic and the mental and emotional cost that it brings when suddenly you can’t do what you like to do,” explains Salazar. “In our case, it’s performing live, and you’re left with the feeling of how it takes away your identity. So every day became like repetition and that song touches on that theme.”

 

They also make reference to bandmate Casper’s experience living in Puerto Rico during Hurricane María and the earthquakes surrounding his hometown of Yauco. Some of the tracks acknowledge these first-hand experiences. The album feels personal because it is, and despite the challenges they’ve faced together and separately, they have hope about the future and refuse to dwell on the negative. “We will move on,” they explain.

Indeed we will. La Armada continues speaking on what matters to them and they have fully embraced more introspective ponderings. This, in turn, has created an even richer layer of sounds in their music, especially on Anti-Colonial Vol. 2.

 

Featured image: La Armada performing at the Cobra Lounge in Chicago, Illinois, February 26, 2022. (Jose Calvo)

Sandra Treviño is a music journalist, DJ and radio host living in Chicago. Listen to her on the radio Friday afternoons on 91.1FM Vocalo and every second and fourth Monday at 6 PM CST on 105.5FM Lumpen Radio. she is also one half of the female selecta duo The Ponderers. #futurerootz #theponderers #djangelfuk

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