Fémina cultivates a soft but assured sound on their third LP, which finds its inspiration in genres native to both Americas.
When considering Fémina’s Perlas & Conchas, the phrase “rough with the smooth” comes to mind. The title refers to pearls and shells, both polished surfaces that come to be from the ocean’s constant erosion. Depending on the culture, “concha” also refers to a woman’s vulva, a subversive meaning which belies the simple, earthy title. The beautiful music of their third album likewise stems from struggle, this one against the harsh realities of existence. As the bandmates told Rolling Stone, the album highlights the triumphs of the individual over hardship and the improvements such victories provide.
Consisting of sisters Clara Miglioli, Sofia “Toti” Trucco and additional member Clara “Wewi” Trucco, Fémina combines folk music from South American with R&B sounds of the ‘90s. Their own background in Argentina lends a magical quality to Perlas & Conchas, where the natural realm holds great and transformative power. A melding of genres and experiences manifests in light guitars, hi-hats and collective vocal chants, all of which fuse together in a soft yet forceful mixture.
To finesse this combination, Fémina received help from two wildly different collaborators: English producer Quantic, known equally for his expertise with cumbia and soul sounds, and Iggy Pop, founding father of the punk rock movement. These opposing forces arrive at a middle ground with Fémina, which incorporates each of them into Perlas & Conchas’ smooth revolution. Quantic softens their folk edges using lo-fi guitars and looped percussive beats – when members dip into their rap verses, the instrumentation lends them an East Coast air. Meanwhile, Iggy’s rebellious mentality plays into the album’s feelings of discontent and independence.
Because of the various elements at play here, Perlas & Conchas sounds novel at certain points and familiar at others. The aforementioned R&B and hip-hop moments of “Perlas” and “Palpita y Goza” tap into ’90s nostalgia at its finest. “Treparme” and “Plumas,” both tracks thumping with UK-dance flourishes, are tempered by Fémina’s soothing vocals for a simultaneously fretted and collected track. As far as novelty goes, the culmination of lite bass drops, opera and Iggy Pop’s deep, aged voice on “Resist” showcases Fémina’s commitment to, and talent for, crafting a unique sound.
But truly, what separates the album’s songs from others is the trio’s harmonic voices and the ways they slink in and out of these established genres. When singing together, their chants lend gravitas and mystery to these styles. The brisk, simple pace of closer “Somos Lo Que Somos” gains a lovely complement in their three-part harmonies and assured rap delivery. Eventually, the track diminishes to just their voices and an emotive saxophone. “We are what we are” recites the trio, who just a few songs prior say the line “Antes del sueño, el pensamiento es manso” (“Before the dream, the thought is meek”). Perlas & Conchas gives Fémina’s dreams a physical form while also hinting at the possibilities of the ones they haven’t yet dreamt for themselves.