Castellón singer-songwriter Sutja Gutierrez is a musician of abstraction and paradox. Lyrically he’s a minstrel of melancholy, obscuring loneliness in hushed vocal tones and melodically upbeat avant-garde music. On the surface, his music is lo-fi bedroom pop. But its undercurrents consist of odd sounds, warped synth, shifting shadows, dark rivers of consciousness, floods of romance and fog-thick textures like fumes rising off a tarmac. He has created a masterwork with his seven-track “White Ponycorn In My Room”, one of the best records of the year. The album begins with a smoky instrumental, filled with ghostly distorted voices fighting and tumbling with electronics and a neurotic-sounding bass guitar. The album starts to find its style and pace with the second track, the stunning “Borderline (Hell, I’m The)”. A rolling guitar line, heavy bass and echoed vocals descend into somber keyboard, romantic sad-sack melodies and near acapella waylays. His music contains shades of the Factory sound, Bauhaus, David Bowie, and Badly Drawn Boy circa “The Hour of the Bewilderbeast”. Bleeding-out never sounded prettier.
No doubt this is one of the most exquisite songs you’ll hear in 2011. The lyrics begin plainly, “I have a problem / I feel alone.” But that’s just the commencement, allowing singer and listener to lose themselves in the resplendence of glum. If you follow Gutierrez’s tweets or browse his website, you’ll find he’s a fan of aphorisms — sometimes playful, often odd, and at other times a combination of the strange and the beautiful: “Born in your love, died in your mouth.” It’s a style evident in his music too. Gutierrez juxtaposes charming phrases with roughness, creating a fascinating friction in his verses. The warped, Nirvana-like track, “I Don’t Want to Be Alone”, moves from graceful desire to crass sensuality: “I don’t want to be alone / I don’t want to give you up / Having sex on the toilet.” Gutierrez is the type of musician that makes sadness feel like happiness. There’s an understanding that love is nothing without the bittersweet journey of having lost it.
“Spanish Poem” is a wistful wind-drift of a song. Single piano notes repeat and overlap, measuring time in their gloomy electro-pop beauty. Gutierrez’s vocals are a dreamy escape. “Another Room (Called Doom)” is another piece of genius, creeping along sexily, and foreboding as a spider’s crawl. The vocals trail a step behind the instrumentation with an elegance. The title track is an off-kilter mix of hard-strummed guitar, reverb vocals and a warped sample. It’s eccentric, and there isn’t anyone that quite sounds like this. This record is highly recommended. Note: “White Ponycorn In My Room” was officially released this week via Jaxart Records and can also be heard at Gutierrez’s bandcamp page. — David D. Robbins Jr.
Sutja Gutierrez “Borderline (Hell, I’m The)”