At Devil Dirt – Chapter II: Vulgo gratissimus auctor

Those who are familiar with Fester’s Lucky 13 lineup from last year know that I freakin’ love At Devil Dirt. The debut album from the duo from Santiago, Chile was #6 on my list, and it’s free! When I heard last December that they had already started recording their second album, I had to change my shorts from the anticipation. Interestingly, when Torche came out with their latest, Harmonicraft, the catchy sludge pop immediately brought to mind At Devil Dirt. Their guitar tones are quite different of course, with Torche’s tightly wound songs and catchy hooks more like hard candy to At Devil Dirt’s fuzzier, chewier taffy, with a looser desert rock vibe, but with those killer vocal harmonies.

Chapter II: Vulgo gratissimus auctor is clearly a progression, but away from more immediate desert sludge pop and into deeper, darker, weightier terrain. The album took me a few listens to get into, but it quickly became one of my most played albums of the summer. While I have not yet received the CD, which was scheduled to ship this week, the band made downloads available via Bandcamp in the beginning of the summer.

“I Am An Ugly Skin” kicks off the album with the doomiest, bluesiest dirge the band has ever done, complete with harmonica. While at first it seemed a bit of a downer to start off an album, I now look forward to luxuriating in the colossal, heavy guitar tones. On “That The Start Sweet Ends Bitter” it sounds like they’re dabbling in some of the free-form psych of Argentina’s Los Natas or Germany’s Colour Haze, before launching into a more familiar groovy, syncopated drum and bass signature. “Peel” sounds the closest to the succinct style of their first album, which covered twelve tracks in just 35 minutes, while Chapter II’s eleven tracks clock in at over 47 minutes.

Their Bandcamp page lists Néstor “Gato” Ayala as the sole vocalist, so either Francisco “Hongo” Alvarado’s backing vocals are uncredited, or Ayala tracks the vocals to harmonize with himself. Either way, they continue to be part of the secret weapon that makes At Devil Dirt stand out and above a fairly a fairly crowded subgenre. The best example is album highlight “Let It Flow.” The harmonies take a fairly simple rhythm and melodic structure and elevates it to blissful heights that transcend genre, like something Hüsker Dü or Smashing Pumpkins might have strived for, but not quite nailed. Perhaps it’s because of these understated but brilliant touches that leaves people struggling to pick out familiar frames of reference.

At Devil Dirt may be somewhat isolated in their location, but they are beyond doubt the caliber of band that should get label support to spread their music far beyond South America, and do some touring to let us witness the magic firsthand.

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