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The Scarlet & Black

Xenia Rubinos promises fresh sound in Gardner this Saturday

Photo contributed
Photo contributed
Photo contributed

Halley Freger

Xenia Rubinos will grace Gardner Lounge on Saturday, Sept. 10 at 9 p.m. to deliver an evening of music that will make you think and feel.

Over the summer, Rubinos released her second album “Black Terry Cat” on Anti- Records. The album opens mysteriously — with a 30-second song. Vocals reminiscent of scatting layer over minimalist bass and a simple drumbeat. Upon first listen, you might begin to think, “What album am I about to listen to? Is this a jazz album? R&B? Noise?”

Just as you get comfortable, the song ends abruptly. If you are looking for neat classifications, Rubinos is not the artist for you. Although often mislabeled exclusively as “Latin music” due to her Puerto Rican and Cuban heritage, Rubinos navigates those identities in relation to her personal experiences and larger political events in a way that requires a totally new sound.

The second track on the album is aptly titled “Don’t Wanna Be.” Her powerful voice effortlessly switches between styles. At one moment, it is sweet and crooning, the next intense and percussive, and then it rings in a haunting, Björk-like bellow.

Rubinos’s music is full of layers, not only of sounds, but also of meanings. The standout track “Black Stars” combines the personal with political, and even the astronomical. Originally, Rubinos wrote this song about the last conversation she had with her father before he died of Parkinson’s disease. But for Rubinos, this emotional experience was also tied to a larger context of current events. The song also explores the current state of police brutality and the work of the Black Lives Matter movement. Rubinos reimagines a black star as one that has died, but whose light continues to shine.

Ultimately, you may not initially understand what sort of album “Black Terry Cat”, is, but any listener can tell it is important. Squirrel Flower, the ambient folk project of Grinnell’s Ella Williams ’19, will open for Rubinos. If you like Joni Mitchell, you’ll love the way Ella’s dreamy voice hovers over her guitar.

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