Aguaturbia Is a Chilean rock band formed in 1969, featuring Carlos Corales on guitar and his wife Denise on vocals. The band is known for pioneering heavy psychedelic rock in Chile, eventually enjoying international acclaim. In addition to psychedelic sounds, wah-wah guitar effects and heavy blues rock chord patterns, Aguaturbia also incorporated elements of Latin American folk music into their work. The band is noted for causing controversy in the Chilean press at the time for stepping outside of prevailing social norms.
· 1996 - Psychedelic Drugstore
· 2010 - Aguaturbia acoustic version
· Denise Corales - vocals
· Carlos Corales - electric guitar
· Willy Cavada - drums
· Ricardo Briones - bass
Original drummer Willy Cavada died on October 1, 2013.
YouTube is a wonderful, magical repository of all kinds of music (videos and audio albums) from the most contemporary releases to the most obscure old music. I often randomly stumble across amazing music hitherto unknown to me while I was looking for something else. It is astonishing how much music from, say, the late Sixties and early Seventies one can find from acts that by no means set the world alight at the time yet managed to release one or more records. Some citizens continuously find the time and the enthusiasm to download these albums to YouTube.
So far the richest treasure trove has been psychedelic and hard rock bands from the late Sixties or very early Seventies, whether from the UK, the USA or other corners of the world.
Probably my best, most entrancing discovery has been the 1996 compilation album Psychedelic Drugstore showcasing the Chilean band Aguaturbia. It is one of a slew of similar albums from the era (roughly 1968 to 1971) that I was idly looking at. My attention was drawn to the album cover and name. When I saw the track listing, with “Somebody to Love” and “Crimson and Clover” in particular, I decided to listen to the record. There was no indication, on the YouTube site, of the release date of the record or of the band’s origin, but I thought, what the hell, if it did not move me within a song or two, I could always look for something else. I go through a lot of YouTube music by listeingin to only the opening two or three cuts of a record; if my attention is not being engaged and held, I change albums.
With Aguatrubia I was hooked from the first notes. I listened to the entire album with a sense of rising delight and euphoria in making the acquaintance of a hitherto unknown psychedelic gem. The band may not be of the same calibre as I am used to in Sixties psychedelia, such as Jefferson Airplane, for example, but the basic three piece of guitar, bass and drums could play and brought a completely original, slightly off-kilter perspective to the table that the more established an accomplished bands on the big labels cojuld never do. At first, given the oddness of the female vocalist’s inflections and accent, I thought that Aguaturbia, despite the Spanish name, must be Japanese and it was only because I googled the band that I found out where the originated from. Who even knew that Chile had a rock scene much less a psychehdelic one! My ignorance I guess.
A somewhat rinky-dink, amateurish-sounding version of “Somebody to Love” is the opening cut. I love Jefferson Airplane and this is one of their signature tunes. Aguaturbia do not do a note for note copy of the Airplane tune and to a degree it is not a very successful version either. On this evidence Aguaturbia would have been no more than a mediocre bar band covering the big US or UK hits of the time. The shrill female vocalist sounds as if she is phonetically repeating the lyrics she learnt from listening to the Airplane record without ever seeing the lyrics in print and without understanding what she is singing. This imporession is true of every cover song on the album.
This primitive interpretation of “Somebody To Love” song is rescued by the thunderous drumming and powerful, agile bass guitarist who is definitely a co-lead instrument along with the fuzzfreak guitar fireworks. The band is a classic power trio with vocalist but even in Cream Jack Bruce’s bass is not always as prominent as on Aguaturbia.
The second track is “Erotica;” basically a psychedelic freakout with the vocalist moaning orgasmically. It was probably intended to be risqué and daring at the time of free love in the Haight, which must have pretty much only rumours in the much more conservative Chile. Today the faux orgasmic vocalisation simply comes across as quaintly naive. The psych rock backdrop rescues the track from utter ridiculousness. One can visualise a youth movie scene from the era, featuring a crowd of hippies frugging in a nightclub while this music is the soundtrack.
This period odditiy is followed by a storming version of “Rollin and Tumblin,” which sounds like the Cream arrangement played by Blue Cheer fronted by a thirteen year old female singer with a small voice. Blue Cheer was kind of part of the San Francisco psychedelic scene, though at the heavier end of the spectrum. The Aguaturbia guitarist turns up the fuzztone on his guitar and rocks out plenty.
“Ah Ah Ah Ay,” which follows, is an instrumental jam that fades out much too soon and before a truly tance-like state can be achieved.
“Crimson and Clover,” at over 10 minutes, is the awesome and masterful centrepiece of the album In its original form, by Tommy James and The Shondells, the sound and performance suggested that it could be a druggy, psychedelic trip if played live. In Aguaturbia’s hands we are entertained by the absolute highlight of the album with a long, grooving guitar rave up that keeps on building and building and delights all the way. The instrumentalists are not amateurs but there is a refreshingly different attitude to the music, as one would not expect from an American band doing the same thing, yet also with enough familiarity to suggest that the musicians were aware of what was going on in the USA but possibly only from the records they were listening to and not from personal experience.
“Heartbreaker,” the surprisingly melodic song by Grand Funk Railroad, is made over into a pop anthem with less of the stodgy heaviness of the American band’s version and more of a soulful ambience where the female vocals aid the melody and feel of the tune. Possibly one of the best Grand Funk covers one is likely to hear. The unintelligible phonetic vocals are disarmingly cute.
The psychedelic bands often had a strong blues background and influence and Aguaturbia seems to be no exception. It’s nod to the blues is the long blues workout of “Blues from the Westside” with a solo section where one realises that the guitarist is a truly original visionary who sounds like some of his Northern American peers but always finds a new way to express blues tropes in exceptional and unexpected ways that turns the tune into an enthralling blues rather than the clichéd rehash as would have been the case with so many other bands. The freaky vocal style is the only aspect that makes this tune not so much a blues as a novelty.
“Waterfall” follows, another psychpop experience where the lyrics are little more than another sound in the mix because they are so unintelligible. Even the chorus sounds like “wider fall.”
Third last track is yet another, mostly instrumental, erotic freakout called “Evol” and this is a fraction louder and more frenetic than “Erotica,” which makes one wonder about the type of sex South Americans like. On this evidence it is fast, furious and with shrieking.
“I Wonder Who” is the penultimate number, a sweet pop song with the psychedelic heaviness that underpins the album. The last track is “Aguaturbia,” sung in Spanish, which gives it another dimension altogether, as straightrforward a piece of Hispanic pop fluff as one could hope to find.
This collection, then, is presumably the best of Aguaturbia and if some of it is quaint, most of it is loud, pounding psychedelic rock with some of the most agile, inventive freak bass playing I’ve heard and with accomplished fuzztone guitar and the busy drumming that charaterizes so much of that style of music; all is movement and flux, like the light shows behind the bands on stage. Perhaps the band members were deadly serious; perhaps they were imitating music that semed impossibly far away in space and time and could not quite get right even if they gave it a damn good thrashing.
Whatever. I love this album.