It’s a short, sharp shock of a record with no unnecessary adornments and no fat on any of its eight songs. Gone are the psychedelic wig-outs found on previous releases, replaced with bass-heavy post-punk grooves inspired by the roots of The Congos, the no wave of Ike Yard, the industrial hip-hop of Dälek and the dark modular moves of Hiro Kone, all while harnessing the elemental power of Jon Hassell’s Vernal Equinox.
“One of the rules that we had when writing was to keep the songs minimal in terms of instrumentation,” explains guitarist Alberto González. “We didn’t want to do overdubs and endless layers this time around,” adds singer and guitarist Lorena Quintanilla. “We limited ourselves to the instrumentation of the new, four-piece line-up and we recorded almost everything live. The songs had to be very solid.”
“We easily get bored with what we do, music-wise, so that motivates us into keeping things fresh and different,” continues Alberto, as he explains the change of direction. “Each album is a good representation of where we are at. We fear the thought of being trapped in the same ideas from years ago. There’s something about nostalgia that creeps me out.”
Strangely, it was nostalgia that inspired the change. The duo marked their tenth anniversary in 2021 by playing reworked songs from their back catalogue and sharing videos online. The new arrangements saw them swapping between synths and guitars, and this – as well as Lorena’s two acclaimed solo releases as J. Zunz – has informed the new set-up.
The live in the room feel of the album also came from watching The Beatles do the same in Get Back. (One of a number of inspirations on the album including the poetry of Mario Montalbetti, the TV series Atlanta, Eugenio Polgovsky’s documentaries and Arturo Ripstein’s movies).
Jace Lasek was the perfect person to bring this feeling to the fore. “That’s one of the things I’ve always loved about The Besnard Lakes’ records,” says Alberto. “And I really think he brought that to Datura. The only note we gave him before the mix was ‘we want this album to sound big and aggressive’.” It worked, that’s exactly how it sounds.
Not really surprising for a record that covers cultural colonialism, imperialism, conflicting opinions, intense emotions, strange dreams and insomnia. The title refers to the genus of plants often associated with ancient rituals that are also sometimes used as poison or hallucinogens. “We liked the idea of a flower that opens at night,” says Lorena. “A type of Datura grows all over the neighbourhood where we live. People try to get rid of them because they are afraid of their dogs eating them, but they always regrow again and again in the same places.”
A bit like Lorelle themselves, then. Datura is their fourth album for Sonic Cathedral and their sixth overall. We last heard from them at the start of 2020, when they followed the previous year’s acclaimed De Facto with a new EP and set out on the road in the US, wending their way to a slot at SXSW. History had other ideas, however, and they were left high and dry in upstate New York, resorting to a Crowdfunder to enable them to get home before lockdowns came into force. The band was paused.
“At some point in 2022 we decided it was time to write new music and everything flowed easily,” says Alberto. As life returned to normal they played shows, firstly in Mexico and then, earlier this year, they finished what they started three years ago and toured the US with SUUNS.
Now, finally, they are set to flower once again with Datura, their most direct and dynamic album to date; proof that nature really is healing.
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