Midweek Music Break: Dúo del Sol, hello Kaleidoscope

Duo del Sol

[Image: Dúo del Sol — guitarist Tom Farrell and violinist Javier Orman*]

Probably because of this Midweek Music Break series, a couple of years ago I started to receive, via email, promotional announcements about new performers (or new albums by old performers) — even or especially, performers whose work I’ve never covered. The first time this happened was shortly after I music-broke with a band called Harlan Pepper; the group is from Hamilton, Ontario, and so — coincidentally — were the other performers alerting me to new releases. (I don’t know much about Hamilton, Ontario, but I know it’s got an uncommonly high concentration of musical talent and ambition.)

Most of the writeups I get this way don’t encourage me to explore further, although I’ll usually give a listen for the first 30 seconds or so of the new video or free download. The bands often describe themselves in terms like this (not quoting anyone’s exact words, but this is the sense):

We’re just a bunch of four guys who’ve known each other our whole lives. We think music sounds best when it’s spontaneous and played from the heart. And the music on our first EP reflects that. We recorded it in a barn on Jimmy’s dad’s farm over an intense weekend of loud, soul-ripping throat-shredding sound…

They often cite the influence of bands I’ve never heard of (not really a surprise: I’m no authority). They’re always earnest, generous with their sample MP3s, and often (not always) young. I wish them all well, and apologize to any I’ve seemed to ignore: there’s just too much music to hear — way more than books to read, even — and I just don’t write about it often enough.

Still, there are exceptions. Here’s how Dúo del Sol described themselves in the email announcement of their first album, called hello Kaleidoscope (and released yesterday):

Both of us were accomplished classical players during and after college, touring and winning awards in that realm. The most obvious career choice would have been to stay the course, but something was missing.

Dúo del Sol freed us. It is the most rewarding thing we’ve ever done. Musically, we innovate from improvisation and obsess over the songwriting. Creativity is the norm and our lifestyle, and we explore any world that our muse takes us to… We’re both drawn to highly emotional, personal music. Dúo del Sol lets our shared classical training shine through, but we are not constrained by any preconceived blueprint.

The message included, of course, a link to their home page, and cited a review in a Los Angeles entertainment magazine. It also included this video, a “teaser trailer”:

That got my attention.

The duo had already released an EP when they held their successful, modest Kickstarter campaign to fund the album’s production. I didn’t know of them then, but I know I’ll pay attention henceforth. hello Kaleidoscope — as the video above hints — pretty much bursts at the seams with energy. Guitar and violin together is not an unusual combination, of course, and even not-an-authority I have heard them in jazz settings. But Dúo del Sol, with all its percussive, insistent Latin urgency, has already earned a place in my Favorites playlist.

About that “energy” and “urgency”: although the video suggests that the tunes on hello Kaleidoscope will bring you to your feet, pulse pounding, the album also attends to the quieter urgencies of the heart: you’ll find yearning here, expressions of things painfully absent as well as joyfully in attendance, and sometimes the one turning into the other. Here, for example, is “Louie” — which escorts you from almost twenty seconds of silent contemplation to a sort of quiet swing (which may further lead you, as it led me, to a sudden grin), and ties it all up with a prolonged, single sweet note of finish: a last swipe with a buffing pad at the polished musical surface.

And here’s “Cualquiera,” which puts them firmly back in move mode:

It’s kind of a tough pick, though. When I first started this post, I wanted to do a playlist which included all eleven songs. But I’d rather send you to Bandcamp — where you can both listen to and buy the whole thing yourself.


* It’s not just guitar and violin. They also manage to work cello, percussion, and even an accordion into their mix, and a couple of songs include vocals as well as instrumentals. But oh, yes — it’s the violin and guitar which you’ll remember.

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  1. You know the Qualceria link isn’t working?

    • Arrgh — no! Will fix… thanks so much for the heads up! (I have really got to attend to comments here more promptly…)

    • It helps to get the song name correct (especially when one’s filenaming convention depends on the song name): it’s actually “Cualqueria,” not (as I originally called it, and you quoted) “Qualceria.”

      All copacetic now!

  2. ‘Copacetic’? Really??

    A new one on me! And it immediately struck me as odd, not just because it’s so rare that I come upon a previously unencountered word these days, but also because it rings false as a Greek- or Latin-derived adjective (it looks Greek in form, but I couldn’t think what on earth its ancestor would be supposed to be).

    Etymonline.com tells me that it is a relatively recent (last hundred or so years?) Southern US coinage, arising as African-American slang, possibly (likely, it seems to me) derived from a French Creole word coupe-sétique – but that isn’t a lot of help, since sétique seems to be unknown to all modern French online dictionaries.

    Another can of worms!

    • This was funny to me — I never really gave it a thought when inserting it there: just assumed it was common. It’s vaguely jocular, in the way of a-wink-and-a-nod-and-a-thumbs-up. Not sure where I first heard it, but Michael Quinion’s invaluable World Wide Words site says:

      It’s rare to the point of invisibility outside North America. People mostly become aware of it in the sixties as a result of the US space program — it’s very much a Right Stuff kind of word.

      The first stages of the flight of Apollo 10, like most of the flights that led up to it, have gone like clockwork. In the words of ground control at Houston, everything has been “copacetic” — a term of undetermined origin which means perfect.

  3. And you still seem to be in two minds – or one mind expressing itself inconsistently? – as the correct name of the song. You wrote ‘Cualqueria’ in response here but ‘Cualquiera’ in your revision to the post.

    Damn Spanish and its relentless mellifluousness: all combinations of vowel-sounds seem equally plausible and delicious!

    • No idea what’s going on with your comment above — why it got incorporated into MY comment. The Mysteries of WordPress…

      I’ll just have to throw up my hands at this point, re: getting the song title right. However, copying-n-pasting from either iTunes or Amazon, it’s Cualquiera — i before e.

      (I was also confused while typing it by my memories of the old newsletter/magazine associated with the (presumably now defunct) Quality Paperback Book Club, to which I belonged for probably close to 20 years: Qualiteria.)

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