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The Bride of Dynamite

Rio En Medio

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Album Review

In part because it was released on Devendra Banhart's Gnomonsong label, Rio en Medio's debut album attracted instant attention among devotees of the sort of odd, spacy folk-based music popularized by Banhart and Joanna Newsom in the preceding years. The wispy vocals and delicate, eccentric songs of Rio en Medio, aka Danielle Stech-Homsy, are embellished by all manner of imaginatively eerie instrumentation and effects on this set, which sometimes has the feel of a folk troubadour trying to sing her way out of a psychedelically echoing bottle or cave. If this is folk, it's only in the loose sense that her ukulele and gentle if off-kilter songs are often at the center. The layered "soundscapes" (as some of Stech-Homsy's contributions are labeled in the credits) will remind listeners with deep folk-rock record collections of the kinds of miscellaneous ghostly noises and tinkles floating around Tim Buckley's folk-psych-rock song "Hallucinations"; the tracks with trippily overlapping voices and sounds might bring to mind some of the weirdest cuts on Linda Perhacs' cult album Parallelograms; and her shy peeping vocals recall those of Vashti Bunyan in some respects. Perhacs and Bunyan were so obscure before 2000 that it would have seemed absurd to cite them as influences on anyone, but as they've been declared favorites of Banhart's, it doesn't seem impossible that they could be reference points for Rio en Medio; certainly there are similarities. Stech-Homsy isn't a pale imitator, though; some of the textures (particularly the ones that sound like radio voices or oncoming/ebbing waves) are both unlike, and a little more disquieting, than anything heard on Perhacs or Bunyan records. The lyrics — some taken from literary texts (and credited as such on the sleeve) such as William Blake's and a Baghdad travelogue, and some by Stech-Homsy — are more part of the overall mood than elements that grab hold of your attention, but are effectively evocative complements to the varied, spooky ambiences and settings. Though not for everyone, it's an impressively creative debut, and should appeal to adventurous listeners beyond the usual hardcore cult for oddball indie folk-rock recordings.

Biography

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s

Rio en Medio is the nom de plume of Danielle Stech-Homsy, who sang, played ukulele, and created "soundscapes" with the help of several other musicians on her 2007 album The Bride of Dynamite. Released on Devendra Banhart's Gnomonsong label, it combined spectral indie folk-rock-oriented singer/songwriter music with unusual instrumentation and sounds not associated with the genre. Some of the lyrics were taken from literary texts by poets and writers; the wide assortment of instruments played by her...
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The Bride of Dynamite, Rio En Medio
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