Lucrecia Dalt’s ¡Ay! opens with a celestial organ, followed by the sort of metallic synth chimes one might hear at the start of a Mario Kart race. The track that follows, “No Tiempo,” builds slowly, a double bass swelling to accommodate a clarinet and trumpet duo and, finally, Dalt’s subtly gorgeous alto crooning.
One could listen to all of ¡Ay! and marvel at the beauty of Dalt’s unearthly arrangements without knowing anything about its concept, but an understanding of the strange story behind the sound makes the music even more compelling. The album tells the tale of Preta, an extraterrestrial, feminine consciousness who actualizes herself as a creature composed of cosmic dandruff in order to visit Earth. Landing on the peak of a Mallorcan mountain, she descends to deliver a series of decolonizing messages: Time is not linear but rhizomatic; love is not a finite fixture but an endless, gushing stream.
In the wake of her new album’s October 14 release, Dalt broke the record down for The FADER, track by track.
1. No Tiempo
Weightlessness. This song was about creating something that felt adrift; like that feeling you get when you watch Knife in the Water and hear Krzysztof Komeda’s score. “No tiempo” is the first track where I thought about how I could bring together the two disparate worlds of bolero and science fiction. I sing in Spanish: “I tore out the marl bound for fairer weather, it smells oddly of ozone.”
2. El Galatzó
“El Galatzó” illustrates Preta’s first exploration of Mallorca. Preta is the protagonist of the story behind ¡Ay!, an alien entity who has gathered a body in the hydrosphere from evaporated dead skin. I wanted her passage through earth to be musical — her footsteps marked by the bass line and percussion, and her field discoveries accented by flutes, vocals, and synths. Elements that might appear only once. Preta says: “Now I know how it feels to have cubic miles or rippling water in my peripheral vision. Every inch of it exists in relation, so it’s hard to grasp. One edge full of water, the opposite edge, El Galatzó. A faded cosmological electromagnetic fossil, with no effects on humans…”
In Chris Marker’s Level Five, Laura says: “I recognize myself in that island.” On “Atemporal,” Preta, a timeless entity, says: “I recognize myself in that rock… timeless.” This song is a coalescence of many colors from my palette — like a collection of Dalts commingling from different eras: vocoders, synths, heavily processed drums, use of texture and distortion slowly transforming into an energetic, slowed-down, alienated tumbao.
During the pandemic, I often listened to Harry Belafonte’s Calypso and The Upsetters. “Dicen” is the result of bringing some qualities of these worlds together. Belafonte’s harmonized vocals and the tape distortion and feel of “Return of Django” embedded in a bolero pattern, plus vocal manipulations made with modulars. The lyrics unveil the town gossip surrounding Preta: “She thinks she’s the Circe of Aeaea, or the Sphinx or Medea… So ‘Dada.’” No one can understand her! “She crawls around, she licks it all up. Just look at how she dances — what a mess! And she just doesn’t care, so ‘Dada.’”
A falling progression, vocals harmonizing, a jazzy something… Why not? Playing this piece live, it’s become one of my favorites from the album. Fun to perform, fun to dance to. Can you imagine being bodiless and suddenly feeling trapped, like theatrical containment? Irreversible…
6. La desmesura
Can a pure, conscious mind be altered? Preta is tripping out. She says: “Such excess. Such exuberance. Pure fortune of eventful storytelling.” She’s enjoying her passing through our world, and who wouldn’t? I mean, she landed in beautiful Mallorca. For this one, I processed the percussion with an Erbe Verb [synth], modulating the parameters in a way so that they would help to twist the groove.
In Lovestreams, Sarah Lawson, played by Gena Rowlands, says “Love is a stream: it is continuous, it doesn’t stop.” Preta knows, agrees, and lives by this sentence and tries to use this example to tell us about this important fact. It’s rare to find creatures on earth that identify with this. I recently found one, and he told me, “Love is the finest vibration in all of creation so it permeates everything.” How lucky are we sometimes.
A moment of vanity in Preta’s adventure, she’s enjoying her newly acquired body, her hands, and her dress. And a moment of real fun for the record. Inspired by Machito y Graciela’s song “Ay José.”
In Nicholas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth, a hidden X-ray camera reveals that Thomas Jerome Newton’s humanoid alien body, portrayed by David Bowie, looks organless. Is he just pure code? Exquisitely opaque? In the lyrics, Preta’s wondering, with compassion, about how terribly the human species is doing with disaffection and drama. The music was an attempt to make a sci-fi, slowed down and panned, abstract salsa.
I wanted to honor the memories I have of eating at places in Colombia while someone plays boleros on an organ to those dining. When I discovered Ernesto Hill Olvera’s version of “Oración Caribe,” I knew I wanted to do something in this line. Twisted into a dramatic ending.