All Hail Kali Mutsa

By: Marcelo Báez

Is Celine Reymond, the young French-Chilean actress turned singer, trolling us? Or does she really believe herself to be the reincarnation of Kali Mutsa, a mysterious character “born sometime in 1920”? Because it makes for a better biography, let’s hope Celine is fully convinced of the latter. But again, she used to be (still is?) an actress, so she could be trolling us. All of this is pertinent because, regardless of the medium, image is an important part of any artist’s work. And Celine’s possessed gypsy shtick, in particular, is quite something. Thankfully Souvenance, Kali Mutsa’s impressive debut LP, lives up to the eccentric, alluring and bewitching character Celine may or may not be inhibited by.

Mutsa first caught people’s attention with 2011’s “Tunupa,” a catchy pop song with a punchy dance beat, Andean melodies and surreal lyrics, from the EP Ambrolina. The recently released album Souvenance seems to be the culmination of that same sound, but with an expanded Eastern European/Balkan inflection. Some will undoubtedly compare Mutsa’s sound to M.I.A., but one clear distinction is that Mutsa isn’t trying to present herself as a pseudo bad girl. Instead, she channels the elegant mysticism of Yma Sumac, or even Fairuz, and fuses Souvenance’s hyperactive world-esque tunes with aggressive vocals.

One of the strongest suits here is the perfect mesh of electronic and acoustic elements. “Canción de Amor Colla,” for example, has a seamless integration of strings and synths. The same thing can be said for “El Jardín,” the first single. Let’s be clear: Souvenance’s artwork may look like advertisement for your mother’s yoga studio, but this is a party record. With the exception of a few interludes, every song on here has the potential to set a dance floor on fire, or to be used as background music during a decadent pagan ritual.

Even if Souvenance is too strange, quirky or foreign for you, Kali Mutsa deserves to be commended. Mainly because no one, at least in Latin America, sounds anything like her, but also because, come on, aren’t you sick of horrendously generic music? Oh, and have you seen Mutsa’s videos? Watching them will make you feel like you’ve taken a hit of acid in the middle of the rainforest (or your grandmother’s vegetable garden).

In the end it hardly matters if Celine Reymond is just playing us because Souvenance shows she at least possesses an imagination.

LOGISTICS: Souvenance by Kali Mutsa, available now

Marcelo Baéz is a writer, DJ, and musician based in NYC. When he's not producing "Rico Suave" parties, he releases music under P3CULIAR.