Carlos Hernandez takes pleasure in harming the things he cherishes most. In his band, Ava Luna, the Brooklyn-based musician defaces the classic soul music he grew up on, stabbing it with dissonant post-punk guitars, bending the rhythms at odd angles and burning the edges with abrasive noise. Considering his father has made a living spinning R&B records around New York, Hernandez's compulsion to damage the music of his youth might suggest unresolved daddy issues. In fact, it's the opposite: Ava Luna is his admission that, no matter how far you run from it, your DNA will always catch up.
"I've always heard the old maxim that eventually, everyone will make the records they liked when they were 10," he says. "It doesn't matter how punk rock you are, you'll end up remaking your dad's record collection."
Of course, it's doubtful there's a record in his father's collection quite like Electric Balloon, Ava Luna's new album. There aren't many artists in general daring enough to apply the self-destructive tendencies of No Wave to the elegant grooves of Motown. Naturally, the group is full of surprises: "Daydream," a frantic, nervy dance tune, opens Electric Balloon with a nod toward early Talking Heads before being blitzed in its final moments by a crazed, mewling sax solo. "Sears Roebuck M&Ms" and "Plain Speech" ride funky guitar riffs worthy of the Meters, but with a creeping discordance under the surface.
Unlike its predecessor, 2012's Ice Level, which was informed by a period of itinerancy during which Hernandez moved five times in a year, Electric Balloon was conceived in a state of unusual stability for the band. Moving into a house upstate outfitted with a recording studio, the group had more time to work, allowing more opportunities for improvisation. Oddly, though, Electric Balloon contains some of the most distressed music Ava Luna has made. Blame Hernandez for disrupting the sense of comfort: If "Daydream," for example, sounds authentically frazzled, that's because he insisted backing vocalist Felicia Douglass sprint around the house with him five times just before laying down the vocals.
"You sort of have to find a new way to fuck up the things you hold dear," he says.
SEE IT: Ava Luna plays Valentines, 232 SW Ankeny St., with Krill, Modern Marriage and Half Shadow, on Sunday, March 2. 9 pm. Call venue for ticket information. 21+.