Tuesday, August 30, 2011

GRUPO 2000-El Destape (Masstropicas, 2011)

Man, I need to try some of that ayahuasca!  I've heard this guy talking about his ayahuasca experience the other day and it was almost as trippy as doing it. Well, probably not even close, but it painted a very tangible picture of what it's like and I want it. If I have to fly down to fucking Peru and take a canoe up the river into the Amazonian jungle for three days to do so, I'll do it. But I much rather do it near home, somewhere where I can plug my record player and listen to this album while I trip my balls off.
Grupo 2000 did some crazy psychedelic chichas back in the mid '70s in Peru, but they never achieved any commercial success and faded into oblivion. In recent years their records became sought-after cult items by chicha collectors in part because they are extremely rare and most of them didn't survive the collapse of the vinyl format in the '90s. This guy from Massachusetts went down to Peru and somehow got ahold of the original master tapes of one of their most legendary recordings and is now reissuing it in LP format for the first time outside of Peru.
I didn't dig Masstropicas previous release that much because it was more focus on the later dominant style of chicha, full of singing with horrible cheesy lyrics (with the exception of a couple of instrumental percussion-heavy tracks that made the record a worth the purchase anyway). This new one however, is mostly all jungle frenzy ayahuasca-inspired musical trips with very minimal vocals, if any. That's the best chicha music has to offer, hypnotic fuzzy guitars and crazy up-beat percussion to take you into a dancing trance.
If you bought the Roots of Chicha comp that Barbés put together and you are still thirsty for more, look no further, this is the next step into the journey towards the amazonian psycho-funk. If you are already a chicha fan, I don't need to convince you, you know you're gonna buy this one. Oh, and keep an eye out for some exciting upcoming Masstropicas releases on 7'' singles!

Support vinyl labels. Buy it here.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

GUN SELECTAH-Como un Perro/Villa Ghetto (FOF Music, 2011)

I'm pretty sure this is the first time a tune by Toy Selectah is pressed in 7'' vinyl, so I had to get my hands on it as soon as I saw it available online.
Gun Selectah is the merger of the aforementioned Mexican über-producer and godfather of ñu-cumbia with the Texan much hyped about dubstep wonderkid Mexicans With Guns. The later has already delivered a 7'' release earlier this year on Sones Throw so he's not really new to the format. And as you all know, I'm a sucker for everything pressed in this format, specially if it has any cumbia element, so this was a no brainer.
What I'm not really into is the whole dubstep thing. I like some of it, I like the wobble-wobble sounds, but I can't really enjoy it for more than one or two songs at the time. And that's the key problem I have with the whole genre, because of its extreme tempo (either too fast or too slow, depending on how you count it) it's hard to mix with anything else other than more dubstep and if you have an eclectic DJ set that covers from the 90 BPM range to 125 BPM as I do, then where the fuck am I gonna blend this 160/80 shit in? I can't. And I'd love to play this two tracks, but honestly I don't see myself doing so unless I play them in 33rpm, but then they are way too gloomy and pretty much undanceable. I don't know, I still haven't tried either way, I just got this the other night and I haven't had a chance to mix it live. Who knows, maybe it ends up becoming a hit in rebajada mode at 117 BPM. Anyway, support the few people that are still putting out music in this format!

Buy it HERE.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

ARMAMENTALES-Fábrica de Memorias (Sudamétrica, 2011)

Mustafá Yoda's Imaquinar was for many the best hip-hop album ever recorded in Argentina. And I'm not just saying this because I was close friends with the guy and came out from the same crew. Most of the critics would agree on this.
Armamentales' Fábrica de Memorias is a sequel of sorts to that 2008 classic, recorded by two of the finest disciples of Mustafá Yoda: Difuzor and PMO, and released under the same label.
Now, I've never met these guys, but listening to their debut album I feel as if did, because as I mentioned, we all came out from that same school of hip-hop militance that in the late nineties reshaped the underground scene of my hometown. So I totally understand where they're coming from, and why they do what they do the way they do. And from that point of view, I love it.
But I also have the outsider's perspective. Because since then, I've confessedly outgrew and left behind my dogmatic approach at hip-hop culture  and all that narrow-minded purist b-boy mentality. I think DJing, and particularly DJing professionally, for mixed crowds, made me appreciate hip-hop in a completely different way. While before I was more focused on the message-centered hip-hop for the head, I nowadays look mainly for the funky catchy beats that can move a crowd and that can be specially enjoyed by people who don't necessarily understand the language those rhymes has been written on, and the stuff that aims to take hip-hop into the next step of the evolution by mixing it with other genres, rather than sticking to the classic boom-bap formula. And that's where this album, as all the other previous releases of Sudamétrica, would fail.
However, saying that they fail is rather unfair, because, by no accounts it was their purpose when recording this to make anybody dance or reach foreign language crowds. These guys have a well established base of loyal followers who dig this type of conscious hip-hop, who are still idealizing the 90's Wu-Tang sound and aesthetics and never got on all the post-50 Cent, post-Kanye new school crap. So they don't need anybody else, they're content preaching to the choir. And maybe if I was still down there, I'd still be going out with them at night to bomb the city with our spray cans and I'd totally have this playing on my headphones.
I still, in fact, have my Wu-Fam play-list on my Ipod and pop it every once in a while, specially when I feel nostalgic and I have a long urban walk at night and while I listen to it I draw imaginary parallels where Mustafá is sort of the RZA of that posse and Armamentales are the Killarmy (by the way, Killarmy where my favorite of all the Wu affiliates). But then I come back to reality, my surrounding reality at least, and I realize that nobody cares about those cats anymore. The days of doing those long-ass cryptic verses with virtually no hooks over gloomy down-tempo stripped down dirty beats are over. The new generation doesn't get it and the old generation is only interested in the stuff that came out back then for nostalgic value, but not willing to keep supporting what those artists are doing nowadays (that's why you have super-talented rappers like GZA doing tours of "only Liquid Swords" songs and bullshit like that, sad). But apparently that doesn't happen back in Argentina, where, thanks to people like Mustafá and his acolytes, that style is more the rule than the exception. That seed that I was partly instrumental in planting back then, is still growing strong.

Album currently available internationally only on bandcamp. Itunes and other digital vendors available soon.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

BIO RITMO-La Verdad (Electric Cowbell, 2011)

Last year I reviewed a 7'' single by Bio Ritmo and I didn't know it back then, but that tune, "Dina's Mambo" soon became one of my favorite warm-up tracks in permanent rotation in my vinyl DJ sets and still remains in that status today. I don't know exactly what is it about it but I love it.
Bio Ritmo is essentially an alternative salsa band from an odd place, Richmond, Virginia. If you know me or read my blog, you know as a DJ I don't like playing salsa in my sets. Not only because of my aversion toward salsa dancers and their lack of understanding/respect for DJ work, but also because I tend to DJ at mixed crowd events and playing a salsa in your set can be a risky show-stopper. You have the crowd dancing to everything else, you play a salsa (usually because some annoying Venezuelan is busting your balls all night begging you to do so) and all of a sudden the dance-floor gets divided between those few who know how to dance salsa and like to show off their moves, and the rest who are intimidated/alienated into becoming simply observers. Soon after that it's your job as a DJ to try to pick up the party and reunite the crowd with something the majority can relate to.
Now regarding the music itself, I have nothing against it per se. I don't like the modern, cheesy, mainstream pop salsa, of course (my DJ-for-hire contract states that money being provided I'll play anything the customer wants... except Marc Anthony). But I have lots of respect for the old school, from the times when salsa was more street and more afro. I have the feeling that the Bio Ritmo guys share this view with me and that's the sound and aesthetics they're trying to recreate here, but with a modern twist. Breaking with all the clichés of the typical salsa bar band that plays covers of classics and standards simply to make those mentioned annoying fuckers dance, Bio Ritmo does their own thing, in their own style and play good, original music that can be easily appreciated by open-minded people who are not necessarily into salsa at all.
Fuck those salsa orthodox fans anyway. Bio Ritmo plays salsa but leans heavily on the funkier side of it, and has no issues blending in some Brazilian samba or dub, and that's the main reason I love them. Oh and there's another reason: their album is getting pressed on 12'' vinyl (and distributed by Fat Beats). Right, bitches! The only current salsa band in the US releasing vinyl! Learn a lesson or  two from these guys all you clowns out there with the silk shirts and shiny shoes doing your choreographed ballroom dance twists and turns and making DJ lives impossible. Bio Ritmo rocks and it's the only salsa band that gets a free pass here in The Hard Data.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

NATION BEAT-Growing Stone (Barbés Records, 2011)

A DJ friend of mine was telling me the other night about this new girlfriend of his and how she's into country music. He mentioned something about that possibly becoming an issue if the relationship keeps developing. So far they're only in the get-to-know-each-other phase so music compatibility hasn't been a big issue yet, but knowing my friend's predilection for the funkier side of Afro-Latin beats, I imagine he has to have some tolerance, right? I don't know if I could stand a country music listener more than a week, even if she gives the best head on earth and looks like Scarlett Johansson. But I guess my friend is a lot more open minded than I am. For me, country music, in all its forms and subgenres, is deep in the forbidden zone, next to christian music and Mexican regional. I'm pretty open about everything else, but those three are strictly off limits.
So I got this album the other day and uploaded it to my ipod to listen on my way to work and all I knew about the group is that they did some innovative fusion of Brazilian music, which I tend to love in pretty much all its forms, with some other American-grown genres listed, none of which rung any bells to me. I play the first track, which in reality was the last one of the album, and ew, it was straight up country hick crap. Instinctively, I lowered the volume of my ipod, fearing some people on the train could listen to what I was listening and assume that I was some redneck racist Christian republican or something like that, because that's what I tend to assume of all people who listen to country crap (stereotypes are a real time saver!).
Anyway, the rest of the album was not really that bad, when she sings in Portuguese over Afro-Brazilian percussion it sounds actually pretty good, but every time the country shit reappeared I was forced to press skip. Call me narrow minded, prejudice, asshole, whatever you want, but I can't stand that shit and if there's a place in this world where the inner-coolness of Brazilian music meets with the utterly uncool country, I wanna be as far as possible from such place.
Now regarding my DJ friend, I guess he and his girlfriend could find some middle-ground here and live happily ever after. Or not.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Roots Of Chicha (Barbés Records, 2011)

Came out a bit late, but it's still valid. The Roots Of Chicha, the compilation that started it all, is finally available on vinyl!
In 2006 New York-based Barbés records released the first volume of this series and that was enough to unleash a world-wide chicha fever that even pre-dates the crossing-over of ñu-cumbia to the Northerh Hemisphere's DJ community.
Only one thing was missing, and I pointed it out last year when the second volume of these series came out: vinyl. CDs are ok, but DJs want vinyl and finding original chicha music in that format in the English-speaking world is very hard, unless you're willing to pay exorbitant amounts in shipping to some speculating asshole on Ebay and  trust the very unreliable post offices of South America.
Barbés totally slept on that one. And they should've never underestimated the power vinyl, specially when your target audience is mainly DJs and diggers/collectors. Spain's Vampi Soul saw the opportunity and jumped in last year, dropping an amazing chicha comp with a mind-blowing packaging and great mastering quality and for a while it seemed that they had won the battle for chicha reissues supremacy. They even won the Best Cover Art in The Hard Data Awards for 2010.
Knowing this, the guys at Barbés Records knew that they definitely needed to step up their game if they wanted to enter the vinyl arena and drop some out-of-this-world unbelievable release. They smashed the little piggy bank and apparently spent all their savings in producing the most awesome double-LP ever!
Roots Of Chicha compiles the best songs of both volumes from these series and it comes in a gorgeous packaging that makes you wanna buy doubles just to frame a copy and hang it on your wall. It's done in some heavy-ass thick cardboard (the bones in my back are gonna hate me for adding this to my record carry-on case), with great quality pictures and it comes with a nice big 20-page full color booklet that makes it an indispensable collector's item. This is double amazing considering than in its time and in its homeland this music never received this kind of v.i.p. treatment. Like most other cumbia from the 60's and 70's, chicha albums never came with extras like that, the production values were considerably low (which from a perspective adds to the kitschness of their design) and the written information was always minimal (that, I assume, is because their main target audience at the time was barely literate). So, yeah, 40 years later, chicha finally gets the treatment it deserves with a top quality album like this.
I still love the art in the Vampi Soul's comp a tiny bit better, just because it's more cartoony. But The Roots Of Chicha in vinyl is set to break all other records and become a contestant for the best Latin music reissue collection ever released in vinyl. Plus, unlike the Vampi Soul's comp, this one has all the must-have classics. So if you're only planning to have just one chicha compilation on your collection, look no further, this is all you need.

Buy it directly from Barbés Records here.