Alla
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Alla

Wheeling, Illinois, United States | INDIE

Wheeling, Illinois, United States | INDIE
Band Alternative Avant-garde

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Allá roughly translates as "over there", which kind of sums up this Mexican-American trio. They come from Chicago, sing in Spanish, have a Brazilian Tropicalia obsession and recorded this album over the course of four years. The results are shiny, summery and decidedly Eurocentric - breathly bossa novas like "Tu Vida" recall the retro-futurism of Stereolab, the cryptic hip hop of "Sigue Tu Corazon" hints at mid-80's Scritti Politti, the equivering strings of "Un Pedazo" invoke Portishead, while the spookier instrumentals suggest Can or Faust. Throughtout, Lupe Martinez's deadpan voice provides a constantly hypnotic feature. John Lewis - Uncut Magazine (UK)


The number of Spanish speakers in the United States hovers somewhere around 35 million, making the U.S. the fifth largest Spanish speaking country in the world. Of that group, roughly 28 million Spanish-speaking Americans are of Mexican descent, and that includes around a million people in Chicago alone (two-thirds of whom were actually born in Mexico). That leaves the Windy City the second largest Mexican immigrant community in the United States, after Los Angeles.

Which is all to say, when the inevitable Spanish language indie big bang happens, it's as likely to begin in Chicago as just about anywhere else in America. Sure, right now the cool kids may prefer their exotica in French, Portuguese, or Swedish-accented English, but demographically speaking, more and more of those future cool kids will be Spanish/English bilingual, at least, and the music they listen to will likely reflect that. It's practically a statistical certainty, especially once you factor in Mexico's own ongoing alt-rock and indie explosion.

That's where Chicago's Allá steps in. Brothers Angel and Jorge Ledezma cram countless fresh ideas and stylistic conflations into each track of Es Tiempo, Allá's debut, and without the usual distractions or whimsy. Singer Lupe Martinez's gorgeous oohs and ahhs are overdubbed into a wall of breezy coos. The loping rhythm of "Tu Vida" is rococo yet subtle, the drum breaks and scratching for once relegated to the background instead of shoved in your face. Several songs-- like "Solo un Milagro", "Una Dia Otra Noche" (with its sprightly strings), and "Sigue Tu Corazon"-- ride Latin rhythms but never lean on them like a crutch. "El Movimiento" is funk-laden shoegaze. The title track is a lovely, dreamy cloud with a vague allegiance to trance-inducing krautrock drone.

And as if the music weren't great enough, the backstory's a winner, too: Jorge, then playing with brother Angel in the band Defender, threw himself into his day job and moved in with his parents, all in an effort to save up the cash to bring the music in his mind to life. Seven years and reportedly $40,000 later, Es Tiempo is it, and the investment of both time and money may explain why the results sound so self-assured.

Steeped as it is in pop, jazz, mild psych, and post-rock in equal measure, the group comes off a little like a south of the border Stereolab. Granted, Stereolab's already got more than a little Mexico in it (R.I.P. Esquivel), and anyway, such comparisons, while perhaps initially useful as an entree, remain superficial at best. The nicest thing about Es Tiempo is the way it not only recalls disparate cool touchstones without ripping them off, but also avoids the sorts of crass pitfalls and clichés that could have sunk the project. Indeed, Allá's ambitions are such that one suspects (and hopes) more acts will follow in the cross-border path-- both geographical and metaphoric-- that this band is blazing.

- Pitchfork Media


Allá sound like the Cocteau Twins at a cocktail lounge on an Acapulco cruise ship, which is strange, considering that the Mexican-American trio has its deepest roots in blue-collar Chicago and instrumental post-rock, specifically the band Defender, which played a few shows with Can's Damo Suzuki. But the Spanish-lanuage "Es Tiempo" finds good footing on the lido deck, combining lush synths and equally lush actual strings into a sunny stew on "No Duermes mas". Hints of Stereolab and Tortoise creep in at times, and "Tu Vida" even incorporates some scratching and distant rap samples, but the those influences are never sharp enough to puncture the sumptuous, exotic vibe. Josh Modell - Spin Magazine, July 2008


It was a different brother band however, that was the main event at Equalizer this month. Brothers Jorge (guitar) and Angel Ledzema (drums) form the core of the fervently buzzed about Allá which is pronounced Ay-ya for those of you who don’t know how to say tortilla. The smooth as silk vocals of guitarist Lupe Martinez is the icing on their intricate uh… sound cake (just go with it) as she deftly triggers multi-layered looping and verb effects on her voice that dramatically build and shimmer transporting the music beyond ethnic boarders into the other-worldly. Maybe they should call her “Loopay!” Har, har. har! Ok, calm down. Allá have been suddenly getting quite a bit of attention with occasional spins on alt rock station WXRT here in Chicago but interestingly they have faired even better in the national and international press earning the title “band of the day” by the UK Guardian and a profile in the trendsetting The Fader magazine. It’s the beginning of a pay off that hasn’t come easy for a group that operates quite a bit outside of the lines that typical success for indie rock bands tend to fall inside of. There is no question that the music is engaging, melodic and powerful, but for a band whose songs are sung mostly in Spanish and blend the far flung sounds of Brazilian tropicalia and bossa nova with the more current trend of electro synth-pop (think Stereolab) as well as Radiohead style experimental rock, Allá don’t fit in easily with any scene that’s out there yet. “We can’t just piggy back on any trends and get popular by proximity like a lot of other bands can” says Jorge who produced the band’s debut “Es Tiempo” out now on Crammed Records. “We’re sort of pioneers, we need to start our own scene I guess.” Jorge is right. I’ve never heard anything quite like it before, at least not all coming from one band, but I’m sure someone said the very same thing about Manu Chao at some point and that hasn’t stopped him.

The record Es Tiempo sounds phenomenal which is a really good thing considering that it took Jorge 4 years and a reported $40,000 out of his own pocket to get this labor of love completed. By major record label recording budget standards 40k may not sound like much but for your average 20 something underpaid urbanite hipster kid it is a massive accomplishment. More impressive still is managing to record at A-list rooms all over the world including Chicago’s Engine Studios and Sweden’s famed Tambourine Studios with the help of major engineers like Colin Studybaker (Iron and Wine, The National Trust) and arrangers like Patrik Bartosch (Eggstone, The Cardigans).

As great as the record Es Tiempo sounds however, Allá’s ultimate success is a fight that will have to be won in the streets and they know it. It will be a city-by-city siege in which fans are converted by the power of their performance. But their performance is a considerable power indeed. You can’t really watch an Allá show and not “get it” on some level. If nothing else Alla’s ambition and tenacity indicates that they will be around for a while –they don’t seem like the types to give up. I imagine in a few years I’ll be headed down the neighborhood Tropicalia-Krautrock-brit-pop-electro-mexican-groove lounge to grab a drink and check out a band… I dunno, what else is going on tonight?
- KEXP Blog


Discography

Debut full length "Es Tiempo" out now on Crammed Discs

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Bio

Allá (Ayê-ya) - Es tiempo para la revolucion. The sound defining a revolution, Chicago's Allá, is the mark of a new revolution in psychedelic pop music. With the release of their debut album, Es Tiempo, Allá is poised to bring their sonic manifesto to the world.

Allá is the vision of producer Jorge Ledezma, his brother Angel Ledezma, and chanteuse Lupe Martinez. The core members of Allá began playing together in a former life known as the instrumental synth based ensemble, Defender. Through this musical kinship, silent languages were created and an in-the-pocket telepathy was perfected. This trio became increasingly interested in creating a sound that took inspiration from, and paid homage to their Mexican heritage, and through that Allá emerged.

The sound of Allá encompasses the sounds of the Brazilian Tropicalia movement, Motown, German Krautrock experiments, the lush romantic harmonies of traditional Mexican trio music and the Wilson/Spector symphonic pop productions of the 60's. Allá sounds everything and nothing like their forebears creating the perfect paradox.

Completely self-financed, Allá's debut Es Tiempo was written and produced over a four year period employing countless musicians and guests hailing from different parts of the globe. The multi-national effort that surrounds this album is due to the extensive traveling and soul searching producer Jorge Ledezma did throughout the writing and producing of the album. Es Tiempo was entirely produced by Jorge and engineered by Colin Studybaker (Iron and Wine, National Trust), using the studio like a musical instrument, the album was created in an unconventional method to create their unconventional sound. Recording took place in some of the hottest rooms all over the globe; Clava Studios, Engine Music Studios, Soma Electronic Studios, Key Club Recording Company, Spectra Mobile Studios and the famed Tambourine Studios in Sweden. Jorge spent a considerable amount of time in Sweden where some of the music was tracked and all the string and horn arrangements where laid down with the assistance of arranger Patrik Bartosch (Eggstone, The Cardigans).

The musical roster of Es Tiempo includes Jorge Ledezma on guitars, keyboards, vibes, loops, percussion and backing vocals. Angel Ledezma provides drums, percussion and found sounds. Lupe Martinez provides the lead vocal orchestrations and harmonies, second guitar and Fender Rhodes. A key component of the total Allá vision was to enlist the skills and contributions of many of the bands' musician friends. Es Tiempo features the guest appearances of no less than sixteen contributors, whose individual efforts all combine to the sonic pyramid of the album.

Lyrically, the Spanish language songs have a personal significance to the members, covering their experiences with the Mexican-American/Chicano experience, the Mexican immigrant experience, inner city social pressures, and the universal theme of love and spiritual and cultural awakening.

By taking cues and influences from all the best parts of their record collections, their passion for each other and their heritages, the members of Allá have clearly found a new direction in sound. Born out of necessity and struggle, Allá now bring to you their pronunciamento for the movement, Es Tiempo.