Tropical Shreds: Las Nubes at Trans-Pecos
November 18, 2019
New York City
On November 18th, a cold and rainy Monday night, Miami-based band Las Nubes performed a compelling show at Trans-Pecos in Queens. Self-identified as “Lo-fi fuzz-worshipping pelotudas en Miami that just wanna shred,” Las Nubes produces raucous yet dreamy punk with the effect of a tonic. Fronted by Ale Campos on guitar and vocals, and joined by Emile Milgrim on drums, Gabriel Duque on guitar, and Cuci Amador on bass, the band was a welcome antidote to the otherwise dreary evening.
Las Nubes released an album titled SMVT in June and played quite a few songs from the new record, as well as some even newer tracks. The album title pays homage to the band’s former name, which originated as a solo project created by Campos—one that was a little more hardcore than Las Nubes. Still the band carries a sense of abrasiveness, as songs from SMVT came crashing down before rolling out and building up again. Undoubtedly influenced by the city in which they live, Las Nubes’s sound is washed out, reminiscent of sun-drenched pavement and tumbling waves, and some of their best songs are in Spanish.
“QSW” is one example. Campos, whose first language is Spanish, writes and sings most of the songs, and her voice provides a balancing effect to the rougher aspects of the music. In both Spanish and English, it carries its own complexity, as it’s soft, somewhat flat, and disaffected. This combination is especially pleasing to the ear in “QSW”—as the words are a bit more rounded in general. At Trans-Pecos, in addition to performing an amped-up version of the song, Las Nubes also performed a translated version of “Can’t Say”—which was originally recorded in English for an earlier EP. While both versions have their appeal, the Spanish one was rather remarkable live, as Campos’s voice continually lulled and peaked, while the drums and bass turned over each other in confluence. Both are the type of songs you keep on repeat.
For the English songs, lyrics such as, “Lately I’ve been feeling nothing,” on the track “Hellbag” and, “I’m feeling empty, feeling dead inside,” on “Cold,” reflect a relatable, depressive state induced by current times—and/or the misery of certain relationships. It’s the kind of music that makes you feel seen, feel less alone in your own depression. Campos has even relayed that she wrote some of these lyrics while lying on the floor. Complementary to the jaded affect present in her voice, these lyrics create a slight contrast to the pleasure of the band’s dynamic sound—one that works quite well.
Musically, Las Nubes is sophisticated. They might be lo-fi and DIY, but their structures are elaborate. Each instrument has a significant presence, creating a sound that’s textured and full of static. Their pace is original as well, as songs slow down and speed up, pull back and dive forward, and change direction unexpectedly. It’s an enjoyable ride, and there’s often just the right amount of momentum before an indulgent drop—some kind of rip current, if you will.
Trans-Pecos, with a fiddle-leaf fig onstage and the silhouettes of plants hanging from the ceiling, provided a fitting venue for a band that thrives in a lush, humid climate. Campos’s voice subtly took a backseat to the cutting guitar riffs, spitting fuzz, and thrashing drums. Milgrim was prominent on drums, as Duque and Amador brought forth layers with their guitars, while Campos employed various pedals to meticulously tweak the sound. The band carries a touch of surf—presumably the result of one or more of Campos’s pedals—but they certainly don’t hold back when it comes to their harder features. Live, Las Nubes has a captivating presence. It’s easy to be taken by the music, to feel present and alive in the midst of the clamour they create.
The reverberation of the sound was physical, and the band members threw their bodies into their work, hair and all. It was delectably loud and rough, at times bordering on noise. Las Nubes had no problem filling the relatively small venue with their blurry yet pronounced melodies. They showed that they really do just want to shred—and that they do it well.