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Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
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"Hans Joachim Irmler of Faust (on Chi'en album)"

“ Chi’en is an incredible album but it probably won’t receive the recognition it deserves until after 10, 20 or maybe 30 years time...”

- Hans Joachim Irmler of Faust

"Album Review "Chi'en" February 2010"

QA’A (pronounced, simply, “Ka”) is a Barcelona-based band on Màgia Roja, an indie psychedelic/noise record label. Their latest record, “Chi’en” (2009) was mixed and mastered at Faust Studios in Germany, with support from Hans Joachim Irmler himself. And after listening to it, it’s clear to me why Irmler might have become involved: “Chi’en” is a powerful effort that has the focus, daring, and breadth of vision of the great krautrock acts of the 60s and 70s.
This is a bold, uncompromising record. QA’A feels completely assured as it explores territory that’s by turns mantra-like and hypnotic, shrieking-atonal, funky-jazzy, spare and rustic, tribal and antic, or just plain unclassifiably alien. “Chi’en” operates on a daunting scale (six songs averaging over thirteen minutes apiece) and what’s impressive is that the songs are largely justified in their length — each track is a mini-LP unto itself, full of plot-twists, about-faces, climaxes and codas that all convincingly cohere.
Take “Peeling Off”, 25 exhilarating, frightening minutes of everything from Cromagnon (the band, but also the early human) ritualistic mutterings, Amon Duul bonfire-chants, chiptune glitch-beats, Pollock-like tangles of guitar noise, and sax wails straight out of The Stooges’ “L.A. Blues”. The only way a band can make 25 minutes of this kind of sound-adventure compelling is to either do what it does here and provide endless variety and richness of texture, or let the exploration unfold against a grid of pattern — something QA’A consistently does all over the record through recurring guitar motifs, prominent bass riffs and terrific percussion-work. What this does is properly grounds each song’s far-reaching explorations. Think of the best moments of “Daydream Nation”, where Shelley’s drumming can anchor Lee & Thurston’s Fender tornados. You have that kind of magic going on here on “Chi’en”, and it’s not only impressive as hell but a lot of fun to listen to — this is a band delighting in the possibilities of sound.
Other highlights for me included the way the guitars tidal-waved in about halfway through the opener, “Eastdown Westdown”, after a mysterious underwater opening full of tense, hushed vocals. The squalls of feedback at the track’s close provided perfect release. I also loved the Can-like percussion breakdown mid-way through “Speaker Box”, and the whole of “She Provides”, with its menacing bassline, demented pitch-bent guitar riff, and firestorm of catharsis. It’s the second to last track, and by this point the record has grown steadily more exploratory with each song, culminating in the free-form lunacy of “Peeling Off”. “She Provides” in this context is like a seizure after some kind of bout of chemical madness. And after this kind of frenzy comes the only thing that can or should come — rest in the form of the pastoral, restrained, acoustic closer “Chi’en”.
It’s rare that a record this vast, this bursting with ideas, textures and sounds (definitely try with a pair of good headphones), is able to hang together not only song by song but in its conception as a whole. This only happens when a band knows exactly what it wants and isn’t afraid to take itself as seriously as its vision demands. That kind of presence in the world of contemporary psych/prog is rare — compromise and lack of technique find many bands noodling away in lo-fi under-reach. Not these guys. With “Chi’en” they’ve made a truly fearless second record that proves the spirit of late 60s experimental music is alive and well, thank you, and is living in Barcelona in a room in the House of QA’A. -

"Album Review "Chi'en" February 2010 , Michael Lawrence"

I've been asked to review many albums from bands and promoters in my lucrative years as a web music critic, but this is the first time it was from a psychedelic band hailing from Barcelona. There's nothing wrong with the psychedelia?I really like that type of music?but it's the whole Barcelona part. How could they have looked past the picture I have of Basil Fawlty on my e-mail page? I mean, obviously they looked at it before they sent me an e-mail. Shouldn't they be concerned that I'll yell at them and try to poke their eyeballs out?
But, luckily for them, they didn't have any cause to worry whatsoever, because this is without a doubt the best album that a band or promoter ever sent me to review. This is an artsy-fartsy band with a massive kraut-rock streak who seem to have a ton of interesting ideas and are usually able to keep their songs consistently fresh whether it's a fun funk groove or a full-on psychedelic sound collage. Yes sir, there's a psychedelic sound collage in here, and it's a 25-minute one at that, but don't let that turn you off.
Needless to say, this album is not for the weak of heart, and listening to it will surely take a good chunk out of your day (it's five tracks at 80 minutes). The lengthiness of it is a little bit of a problem for me since there are a few moments that I get a bit tired of, and other parts that make me a little bit sick to my stomach. But this is one instance where I almost have to consider those ?sickening? moments all part of the experience.
The first three songs and the last one are about as normal as these guys get. ?Eastdown Westdown? opens with a little bit of ambient sound effects before delving into a mid-tempo, rather creepy rocker with whispering vocals and a plodding, evil sounding drum. The zippy and atmospheric sound effects they implant throughout are compelling and its overall groove is hypnotizing. That goes on for awhile, but suddenly they start rocking out crazily favoring that sloppy, screechy and slightly rubbery guitar sounds that were all the rage in underground Germany in the mid-'70s.
They keep a funky groove going consistently with ?Speaker Box,? which keeps it punchy for its 15 minutes while they pepper it with a series of minimal guitar noodles. That bubbly xylophone texture at the beginning is my favorite part, and I'm a bit disappointed they didn't let it stay around longer! Maybe the only song I'm rather bored with is ?Time is Key? although I'm really only talking about one part of it, a bit in the middle with clean-sounding guitars that sound like a machine stuck in a rut. Other than that, it's a good creepy song to space out to, if that's the sort of thing that turns you on.
The psychedelic sound collage is indeed something to behold, and I'm going on a limb and saying that they did it just as well if not better than their kraut-rock heroes Can ever did. Come to think of it, this whole album seems a little something like a great lost Can album except they actually get quite a bit more intense. Nobody's going to argue that this is bests Can but I'll tell you it at least approaches it. That's really saying a lot.
Even I, speaking as someone who's only really had a passing interest in Can, have been entertained by Chie'n. I found it delightful. When I didn't find it delightful, I found it freaky. When I didn't find it freaky, I found it creepy. When I didn't find it creepy, I found it sickening. Really, it covers a whole range of things! And by the way, the 10-minute ?She Provides? sounds like hell ripping open. There's no other way to describe it. Utterly horrific. I wish I could see the expression in my eyes listening to that while fully immersed in its environment. -

"Album Review "Chi'en" March 2010 , Monolith Cocktail"

Mystically titled and shrouded in esoteric enigma, the experimental progressive Barcelona adventurous dreamers, Qa’a, have created a glowing tribute to the halcyon days of Krautrock, in particular the pioneering work of CAN.
Even the artwork owes more than a passing appreciative nod to the hexagram symbolic cover of the German’s empyrean classic ‘Future Days’, our modern day spiritual students also like wise taking inspiration from the Chinese book of I:Ching, choosing to use the six unbroken lines motif that represents strong action and energy for their own devices.
Qa’a are full of layered references and fables, the band name itself is borrowed from the ancient Egyptian king, whose claim to infamy was being the last of the first dynasty of rulers in Egypt, sitting on the throne sometime around 3100 to 2890 BC. Unfortunately history is very vague about him and experts have never agreed on his exact providence, we know he had a good send off though and that his tomb at Abydos was a pretty impressive sight. It must also be noted that he was known under an array of names including Ka’a, which is how you pronounce the groups name by the way.
Ancient ethnography and inspirational Germans aside, ‘Chi’en’ is a rather ambitious undertaking, eighty lavished minutes in length it certainly runs through the full spectrum of emotions, building us up and taking us down throughout.
Somewhere between the moody dark rock of latter day bands such as Dead Meadows and Black Mountain mixed with the modular tinkering of groups like Holy Fuck and Leafcutter John, our plucky troupe manage to throw up enough surprises to make sure that this is not merely a homage, even though there is an abundance of influences played out on the record.
The opening salvo of ‘Eastdown Westdown’ for instance evokes the ambient sound experiments from the Rolling stones ‘2000 Light Years From Home’ before an acoustic guitar and rolling tender drums evoke the lush sounds of Acid Mother Temple.
Picking up a momentum, the track becomes more sleazy and brooding as wailing feedback and scuzzy distortion build towards a serious crescendo of noise, before sinking into ungodly whispering and shadows that creep up on you as the now gothic charged atmosphere crackles with electrifying discharge. Imagine to yourselves Kasabian if they’d listened to Black Sabbath.
The following tune ‘Speaker Box’ changes tact slightly with the more laid back familiar afro-funk bass lines, marimba derived instrument bolafan and drum grooves of their mentors, CAN, whose ‘Halleluhwah’ runs riot over the entire track.
Oscillating synths fluctuate and wobble as the vocals come over all Nordic sounding before stretching out over an ever-shifting swaying backing.
With respect to the Cologne alchemists they build the track to an Irmin Schmidt classic space sound lab pinnacle, drowning out everything before fading the main theme back in, tipping there hat to ‘Tago Mago’ on the way.
Some respite arrives in the disguise of ‘Time Is key’, with its hypnotic choral backing vocals and distant ethereal chanting, all pensive and heavenly but with an underlining feeling of dread. This could be the mesmerising soundtrack to a Jess Franco horror if Jefferson Airplane in their Woodstock era free spirit confidence had waltz over to the film set looking to score a hit.
The customary pace change brings in a Santana fronted voodoo ritual, the sort where no one gets hurt but the rhythmic frenzy that ensues tips all those standing around over the edge with delight.
Some Hammer House of horror frightening Hammond interrupts proceedings, turning the Latin fuelled jamboree towards the satanic, all in the best possible sophisticated manner.
Next up is the Faust inspiring harassed ‘Peeling Off’, whose Hans Joachim Irmler evidently allowed the band to record in his studio for this album.
They throw in a cacophony of shrieking Indian oboes and Red Indian ceremonial war dance, whilst tampering with a myriad of sound effects and cheeky nods to CAN again, especially ‘Quantum Physics’ and the ‘EFS’ sound explorations.
Everything is thrown into an industrial blender, thanks to Faust, whose non-compromising antagonising edge paws are all over it.
The heavy forlorn melodrama comes on all swaggering, traversing doom and psychedelic fragmented time signatures melting them into one giant pot before ending on a towering improvised noisy sound clash, which bleeds over into the following abstract free for all ‘She Provides’.
This ten-minute collage of unremitting restrain really pushes the boat out taking no prisoners as it weaves around a disturbing background of extreme postulating savagery and waves of discordant sounds.
Phased induced instruments battle with increasing panicky feedback, locked in a struggle of biting deterioration that climaxes in a strange unworldly ambient finish.
The final song is an elegant pastoral acoustic instrumental sonnet in the mode of Ash Ra Tempal or Popol Vuh, calming strumming and sweetly saccharine melodies cosily warp around the listener like a chimera induced come down.
Never actually promising us much, this brief concluding sign off works around some evocative stirring chords and serene moody charms.
Qa’a turn in a well thought out and sophisticated krautrock classic, which high fives a long line of stimulating and galvanised influences.
It must be said that the rich abundance of prior travellers along this particular route is enormous and well documented, making it difficult to sound like anything other then a tribute act blinded in awe.
Treading a fine line between glowing in the light of the past masters and repeating the same experiments over again and again, ‘Chi’en’ always sounds unique and fresh, a resounding triumph of ideas that never fall into the doldrums.
I must mention the critic who waxed lyrical about the CAN comparisons, suggesting with all the gall in the world that our Spanish sonic explorers superseded them. As outstanding as Qa’a are, they’d have to admit they were still in debt to the German seers, remaining pupils still, all be it ready to graduate with first class honours.
We salute you for your endeavour and bravery.



"Vesprada" (Limited edition CDR)
"Chi'en" (CD)

You may download "Chi'en" for free from the Màgia Roja website:

Qa'a's albums have received airplay on:

-Scanner FM (Oficial radio station of Sónar and Primavera Sound festivals)

-Interfase (Independent Spanish radio station)

- Dandylion Radio London (courtesy of DJ Marcelle/Another Nice Mess)

- DFM Holland (courtesy of DJ Marcelle/Another Nice Mess)

- RN3 (National Radio of Spain)

- BBC1 radio UK



QA'A came together in 2006 with a clear concept of experimenting with all types of sounds and instruments.
They won the "Off" section at LEM international experimental festival in 2007 enabling them to record their second album "Chi'en" which was mixed and mastered to tape in May 2009 in Faust Studio, Germany and released on the band's label Màgia Roja in November 2009. The album was produced by Victor Hurtado from Qa'a with the collaboration of Hans Joachim Irmler of Faust as executive producer.
They've played around 70 shows including renowned international festivals such as LEM (2007 and 2009), Sònar (2008) and Primavera Sound (2009) all with great reviews and appearing in various national and international media such as El País newspaper, Mondo Sonoro Magazine, Scanner FM (official radio for the Sónar and Primavera Sound festivals), Time Out Barcelona, Dandylion radio (London), DFM Radio(Holland), BBC1 radio (UK), Interfase radio (Spain), RN3 radio (Spain) and B-TV Barcelona television station among others.
They're set to embark on their first European tour in July-August 2010 and are scheduled to perform at Klangbad festival in Germany curated by Irmler.