That joke isn't funny any more

The comedian-turned-singer Juana Molina's music reveals the melancholy side of her nature
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Juana Molina must have torn out her comedy heart. In the past decade, she was a television star at home in Buenos Aires, playing a multitude of contrasting characters in sketches that mocked Argentine city life. Now, Molina is up to her third solo album, with nary a trace of humour to be found in her wistfully melancholic music.

Juana Molina must have torn out her comedy heart. In the past decade, she was a television star at home in Buenos Aires, playing a multitude of contrasting characters in sketches that mocked Argentine city life. Now, Molina is up to her third solo album, with nary a trace of humour to be found in her wistfully melancholic music.

Molina is just about to make her UK live debut. Her approach is to balance perfectly an acoustic singer-songwriter delivery and an insidious electronic content: droning and burbling tones with a raw, organic texture. There are no laptops. Molina sings dreamily and strums thoughtful acoustic guitar, partnered by Alejandro Franov, who recreates her synthesiser parts, adding his own electric-guitar surges.

Molina grew up with music. "I started to play in Argentina," she recalls. "I played classical music in France. I went to the conservatoire, and I was very lazy and wasn't good enough to keep going."

Molina's family fled to Paris in 1976, after Argentina's military coup. "When I came back," she continues, "I wanted to be able to take guitar lessons and live on my own, so that's why I started to work on TV, because I could be there for a few hours and earn money enough for everything I needed."

The Juana and Her Sisters show was a hit. "What I did was impersonate ways of talking and behaving, especially from Buenos Aires." Presumably, the humour wouldn't translate for a UK audience. "I think that's impossible, even in other Spanish-language countries. That's why I don't like speaking in English, because I lose these little things I live with."

Molina plays regularly in Buenos Aires, but she's had to cultivate a completely new audience. "I wasn't able to play in front of anyone," she remembers, referring to her musical rebirth. "It was after the TV show. It was really hard to start playing songs instead of acting, because of the audience reaction. I was green. I didn't know how to do that. It was a contradiction, because I had a huge name, but musically I had no experience. I had a lot of songs, a lot of recordings, but I never played live before. It was shocking, having me, who was a star in Argentina, with the attitude of a beginner. It was very hard for me, for the audience, to be able to do it the right way."

Molina released her debut album, Rara, in 1996, through MCA Argentina. Then she lived in Los Angeles for a while, where she recorded most of its sequel, Segundo.

Molina eventually returned to Argentina, and started working on Tres Cosas ("Three Things"). It is just about to be released in the UK, although it came out in Argentina two years ago.

Beavering away in her studio, Molina is a virtual one-woman band. "Everything's done at home," she says. "The good thing about it is that I can do it any time. If I get suddenly inspired, I can run into the computer and record. It's always the music."

'Tres Cosas' is out now on Domino. Juana Molina plays the Cluny, Newcastle, tonight and tours to 28 October

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