b. Argentina. Atypical composer Kerpel has a similar relationship to the music of Argentina as the Nortec Collective seem to have to the music of Mexico or Tom Waits might have to Americana. The musician appears to revere his home-country’s indigenous or traditional music while simultaneously treating this same music with a welcome degree of irreverence.
Kerpel studied music in Buenos Aires before composing music for the aerial performance art/interactive theatre group De La Guarda, a vocation that seemed to free him from expected notions of the folk or pop song. On his 2003 debut, Carnabailito, Kerpel fused traditional folk instruments such as the Argentinian flute, the erhu (Chinese violin) and cavaquinho (Brazilian guitar), with melodies from North Eastern Argentina. However, these recordings were then used as source material to be processed, distorted, and re-edited via his computer. Tracks frequently featured what appeared to be the sound of a needle being dragged across vinyl but not with the dexterity of the turntablist. Rather, Kerpel seemed to draw on a palette of such sounds for their slurred, eerie, and disturbing qualities. Similarly, when a child’s voice narrated a song on ‘Sintenerte’ the effect was ghostly and dislocating rather than twee. The lyrical tone of Carnabailito was generally bleak, but there is still joy to be taken from the album. Kerpel’s unexpected take on Argentinian music suggested ways of updating or advancing a traditional form that do not simply reduce this music to a homogenous sound free of the qualities that might have made it striking in the first place.