In the 1980s Chilean society lived under the imposing shadow of military rule and nowhere was this more evident than in the cultural vacuum that enveloped the country as thousands of musicians, artists, writers, and so on lived abroad in exile. But in spite of this creative exodus a generational sub-group of young people emerged into the Santiago underground and developed an alternative scene of musical resistance that, out of sight and mind to most people, provided a crucial release for the frustrations of Chile’s repressed youth.
It is this backdrop which provides the opening scenes of Electrodomésticos: El Frio Misterio , a documentary that focuses on this rebellious movement and its main participants. Formed in Santiago in 1984, Electrodomésticos were key players in the establishment of the underground scene, taking direction from the British punk movement and utilising experimental sound effects. Combined with influences as diverse as Led Zeppelin, Talking Heads, and Kraftwerk, the band went on to forge a musical legacy that today has them regarded as one of the most important Chilean rock bands of the last thirty years.
The film, directed by Sergio Castro San Martin, tracks the origins of the scene in the frenetic atmospheres of clandestine galpons in Santiago such as Matucana 19 and Off Bellavista. The intensity of these venues is immediately apparent in the pulsating energy that surges through both crowds and musicians. The ropey quality of old archive footage, rather than detract from the film, give a raw authenticity that depicts a hitherto largely-unseen side of the eighties in Chile.
Carlos Cabezas & Silvio Paredes
One of the key lines sums up the reality of the time: ‘Pinochet existed but we invented our own reality’. With these low-key gigs being the only available escape from the cultural suppression in which young people were trapped, the scene took on a far deeper significance than simply another musical fad. For many young Chileans, this was when they lived.
Charting the band from its origins to present day, the film looks at the paths taken by principal members Carlos Cabezas (guitar and vocals) and Silvio Paredes (bass). Electrodomésticos broke up in 1991 as Cabezas went on to release numerous solo albums while Paredes formed seminal electro-group Los Mismos, before a short-lived reunion in the early noughties. With contributions by numerous friends and associates of the band, it is as much a cultural history of the period as a typical band documentary.
El Frio Misterio offers a compelling look at a band who surely would have gained more widespread acclaim had they not been constricted by the circumstances of the time. For those unfamiliar with the group, the film still absorbs, as the music, the moody shots of Santiago, and the socio-political commentaries resonate loudly of a tumultuous era. It is undoubtedly, however, the first half of the film with its juxtaposition of the raucous underground scene with military brutality on the streets that truly captivates. Winner of last year´s "Santiago In-Edit documentary festival," this is an intriguing film for anyone with rooted interests in Chilean music.
Electrodomésticos: El Frio Misterio
Directed by Sergio Castro San Martin
On general release