Maria Usbeck Amparo on LP
Solo Debut from the Former Frontwoman of New Wave Act Selebrities!
Maria Usbeck's solo debut, Amparo, is a collection of songs written and recorded across the span of three years in Ecuador, Buenos Aires, Santiago, Barcelona, Lisbon, Easter Island, Costa Rica, the south of Florida, L.A. and her home in Brooklyn. Though the songs were composed electronically, Amparo called for an acoustic treatment, so Usbeck spent a winter in the studio recording the arrangements live with producer Caroline Polachek and mixer and engineer Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson. Fleshed out in full sonic color on the marimba, xylophone, quena flute, piano, and harp, the album stretched into something hi-fi and expressive, meditative but not meandering.
Amparo stems from Usbeck's desire to compose in Spanish, her native language. Growing up in Quito, Usbeck was immersed in salsa, merengue, bachata, and Andean music, but was more attracted to German and American culture than to her own, and moved to America by herself at 17. After five years of fronting new wave outfit Selebrities and writing songs in English, Usbeck experienced a delayed-onset homesickness and knew it was time to "let the mother tongue speak."
The backbone of Amparo is percussion, vibrating throughout with timbales, tumbas, a talking drum, bongos, shakers, and an Indian flat drum, with the gaps filled in by her field recordings of birds, beaches, and jungles. The songs were written and recorded chronologically, with the exception of the closing track, a cover of Colourbox's "Tarantula" reimagined in Usbeck's Spanish translation. Amparo is a reflection of the textures of Usbeck's childhood. It is also a distinctly grown-up pop record – a travel diary, music made by a visiting outsider to tap into a shared core of human expression.
Emotively, Usbeck is her most powerful on piano ballads "Uno De Tus Ojos" and "Jungla Inquieta," but is a magnetic narrator throughout, moving between whispers, chants, and lullabies. Amparo pulses with many stories in many voices, but they flow together seamlessly like water, leaving behind a wordless hum.