Friday, February 25, 2011

Digging: More 45 rips for y'all

This time around there's no real gems in this batch. Mostly mediocre crate-filling cumbias and some hilarious ones that could fall in the so-bad-that's-good category. Lot of them are from México, even if they are done by Colombian artists, they are done for the Mexican market. Not that I have a preference for these, but when digging for old records in California, most of what you're bound to find comes from our southern neighbor. I promise for my next batch I'll try to get more of the good stuff, in the meantime, have fun with these.

EDUARDO NUÑEZ-La Cumbia de los Animales (Raff Records, 1977): I have no idea what the fuck is this. I can't tell if it's a song for kids in kindergarten or he's being ironic and there is has some double-entendre hidden meaning, very well hidden. My guess is that the guy who wrote was probably legally mentally handicapped. He comes out singing about the reaction he gets from his farm animals when he sings cumbia to them. And then he starts enumerating animals, with animal noises in the background. Once he's done covering all the species in his ranch, he starts the whole song all over again. That's it. Man, Mexico has to be a fascinating country if they actually allow people to record manure like this. The b-side was a ranchera so I'll spare you all the pain and skip it.    
CHALO CAMPOS-El Porro de Jaime/Ay  Gavilán (Latin International, 1978): This is probably the best song of this batch. I'd love to know the story behind it, but I could not find anything about it online. I'd guess it's an ancestor of Mexican cumbia sonidera. It has no lyrics, which is a blessing, only a guy that comes in requesting a song with an annoying voice and then thanks the band at the end for playing it. And then that massive bass-line! There's plenty of sampling opportunities here. The b-side is another cumbia about animals! In this case about a hawk. Man that's almost a whole sub-genre!

LOS DINAMITEROS DE COLOMBIA-La Probadita/La Africanita (Guitarra Discos, Date Unknown): I think these guys were either a spin-off or a side-project of La Sonora Dinamita, they even shared a singer. And they play the exact same type of pop-radio-friendly songs with catchy choruses and silly lyrics and lots of brass arrangements (I believe in Colombia this style was called chucu-chucu, to differentiate it from the classic accordion-driven cumbias). "La Africanita" is kind of an answer-record-to-/rip-off-of the crossover merengue classic "El Africano" by Wilfrido Vargas which around that time was successfully covered as a cumbia by you know who, La Sonora Dinamita.  The other song doesn't suck as much, even though the lyrics are about sucking things.

LA SONORA DINAMITA-El Corazón/Macumba (Dicesa/Fuentes, 1987): "He who has the biggest one, prove it!" starts saying this song, that I'll be compelled to sample and take it out of context in one of my sonic collages soon. Later she clarifies that she was talking about the heart, not the other vital organ. Such was the intellectual level of Mexico's favorite Colombian pop-cumbia import. They also made a bunch of lame covers, like this one here of "Macumba" a late disco tune popularized by the biggest Mexican kitsch diva of the '80s, Verónica Castro, which at the same time was a lame cover of a French pop song by Jean Pierre Mader, who probably was covering from someone else, who knows, there's too many versions.

GALIEO Y SU BANDA-La Suavecita/La Cortina (Dicesa/Fuentes, 1986): More chucu-chucu from Colombia's Discos Fuentes for export. It seems like during the 80's, once Fuentes' golden age was over and cumbia left the Colombian mainstream, they focused on producing this type of big-band cumbia that was very popular in Mexico and its neighbors (this was pressed in Guatemala), but not too much in South America. The formula is pretty much the same as La Sonora Dinamita, with songs averaging on 100 BPM, lots of percussion and brass arrangements and PG-13 lyrics. This one includes a song penned by the legendary Calixto Ochoa of Los Corraleros Del Majagual and it's not really too bad.  

LOS DINNERS-Suéltala Pa' Que Se Defienda/El Borriquito (Discos Columbia, Date Unknown): Los Dinners must be a Mexican cover band or something, I have no idea. The main track is a good up-beat dance-floor-packing cumbia. The same tune (but with complete different lyrics) was recently sampled and remixed by NYCT's house band GRC and is being released in a 7'' under the title "Colombia". Expect the review soon. The b-side could also be confused with an "animals cumbia" but in reality the donkey here is a metaphor for bad student. It is a wack-ass cover of Peret's classic "El Borriquito" (you MUST watch that video!) a silly Spanish/gypsy rumba about learning the vowels that was quite a hit in it's time and not only among elementary school kids! (It was covered in English by Cuban Peter Fernández, included in last year's Cuban Funk Experience compilation). I wouldn't dare call this a cumbia, but that's how they labeled on the record. It has a clean drum break. 

TONY CAMARGO-El Año Viejo/El Negrito del Batey (RCA, Date  Unknown): "El año viejo" is traditionally played at all New Years Eve parties in countries like Colombia, Venezuela and apparently Mexico too. Honestly, me being from Argentina, I had never heard of this song until last Dec 31st, when I was DJing at a party and the promoter's associate who's Colombian requested it. This is not the original version, but the one that was popularized in Mexico. The B-side is labeled as merengue, but has nothing to do with what we understand by merengue nowadays and it's a very politically incorrect song where the guy pretty much comes out saying "I don't like working because I'm black. All I wanna do is dance merengue with a hot black woman." Both songs are crap but they come on red vinyl, so how could I resist?

LA SONORA DINAMITA-Te Pillé, Pilla/La Bamba (Dicesa/Fuentes, 1987): I hate "La Bamba" not only for being a horrible song with lyrics that make no sense, but also because of what symbolizes in the United States. It's like the one and only song in "Spanish" (if that actually qualifies as Spanish) that's in every karaoke binder in every bar across the Nation, because that's what the average gringo thinks Latin music is. Gross. In 1987 there was a revival of this early rock-n-roll song thanks to the movie of the same name and the Los Lobos version included in its soundtrack and of course, La Sonora Dinamita wasn't gonna let the opportunity to capitalize on the fad pass them by and made their cumbia cover of this too. They were not alone and at least their version was better than the one released by Afrosound that same year.

As usual, the ripping quality might not be the ideal, but the files are in 320bt MP3 format and with great presentation. Being myself  a compulsive downloader of digital garbage, I appreciate it when the people who post take their time to actually make the files look nice, you know, by attaching the cover image to each song, imputing all the available information, etc. I even go the extra mile and give you the BPMs of the song. So, there, you're welcomed. 

DOWNLOAD HERE

And if you're new here, don't forget to check previous posts for more bizarre 45 rips!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

THE ECHOCENTRICS-Sunshadows (Ubiquity Records, 2011)

Lately, I've been so focused on my DJing that I unwillingly neglected a lot of amazing music on the more mellow, downtempo, trippy side, that is not dance-floor oriented. So I decided to change that.
Back in the early 2000's I was DJing a lot more lounges and I was deep into all the new bossa nova and electronic tango that was coming out at the time, along with the instrumental hip-hop that was big back then (Grandcentral, RJD2, etc) but since my playlist became cumbiacentric and I became a nightlife mercenary plying commercial tunes at big clubs, I kinda lost interest on the more delicate sounds of the slower side of the spectrum.
However, since I moved in with my fiancé I've been sort of rediscovering all that music because she enjoys listening to it as background while we do home chores together and stuff. She's a lot more into soul than I am, so every time I run into a record like this one here, I burn it for her to play it on the living-room stereo. Shafiq Hussein's last year's En' A-Free-Ka has been, hand down, the most played CD on that pile and even though I still love it, I've been trying to replace it by subtly introducing new CD's. I even made a soulful mixtape, Gloryholes, with the secret intention of getting one of my mixes on her rotation (and it worked, so I'm planning on another one).
The Echocentrics' Sunshadows will definitely be my next inclusion into this living-room listening girlfriend-approved pile. It's a new side project by Adrián Quesada (the talented Texan musician behind Grupo Fantasma, Brownout and Ocote Soul) and let me tell you, it's as beautiful as it's trippy. Downtempo funky beats, fuzzed out guitars and dubbed out bolero melodies, plus lyrics in Spanish, English and Portuguese provided by Argentine Natalia Clavier (who we know from her singing on her husband Federico Aubele's albums) and Brazilian Tita Lima. That sounds like a pretty good formula to me and I'm pretty sure my fiancé will play the shit out of this. 

Listen/Download the first single here.

PS: Coming from Ubiquity Records, I'm really hoping for some vinyl release of this too!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

SPIA 104/REPORTE ILEGAL-Mexico DF Archivo del País (Independent, 2010)

Every rapper's wet-dream is to have his voice pressed on a vinyl record so a DJ can scratch with it. Especially in the age of bedroom-produced mixtapes and free downloads, this remains as some sort of milestone achievement in the career of an MC, anyone can get record a song and put it on an MP3 online, so releasing vinyl makes it seem like more "official."
In the case of Spanish language MC's, in particular those in Latin America, this is the ultimate pinnacle that has only been reached by the extremely limited few. Vinyl production in Latin America abruptly ceased in the early '90s--all the pressing plants closed. By the time of Latin American hip-hop's coming off age during the second half of that decade, there were no place left to press vinyl. The very few artists who were lucky enough to get vinyl treatment (Tiro De Gracia, Control Machete, Orishas) had them pressed abroad and only with the backing of a major record label. For independent rap artist of Latin America, vinyl has always been way too far out of their reach.
So, Latin American hip-hop DJ's weren't able to spin their own local artists in their sets, and this was arguably one of the factors that slowed down the development of the scene. Many DJ's were forced to leave vinyl behind and embrace CDJ's which became hugely popular once CD burners for personal computers became accessible. But for those loyal to the vinyl the frustration was monumental. They could just spin rap in English, from the US, and if they wanted rap in Spanish the only available was coming from Spain, not Latin America.
That's why a release like this one here is of such a historic relevance for the Mexican rap scene in particular and for the whole Latin American Spanish rap scene in general (I say Spanish, because unlike the rest of the continent, Brazil kept on pressing local rap vinyl way after the extinction of the format in the rest of the continent). Spia 104, a rapper from Mexico City, from the Reporte Ilegal crew, put this together all by himself, without record label help, and he dedicated the album to the whole Mexico rap scene, as a collective achievement, which totally is. On one side the record has a selection of Reporte Ilegal's classic tunes that cover pretty much their long career since 1998. But the real gold is when you flip the album around: a whole side of DJ tools with sound effects and vocals for scratch, in Spanish, provided by many different local MC's. Finally, Latin American turntablists will be able to scratch and do tricks with punchlines in their own language, using real vinyl!
I'm sure this will have a great reception in the Mexican scene and it will be remembered as a historic landmark. This is a very limited edition, of course, so if you happen to see a copy of this around, don't hesitate to pick it up.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

GECKO TURNER-Truly (Lovemonk, 2010)

I had a hard time liking Gecko Turner's latest album, Gone Down South. Unlike his previous two albums, Guapapasea and Chandalismo Ilustrado which were love at  first listen, this one is a lot less accessible, and it has virtually no dance-floor appeal. I still have songs from Guapapasea and and his remixes collection, Manipulado, under the must-play category of my DJ sets, but I doubt any of his recent work will make it there.
That's why I had my serious doubts when purchasing this 7''. But as you all by now should know I have a fetish for this format and I'll support with my hard-earned cash the few still-standing record labels that put Latin (but cool) music out in it.
"Truly" is the first single of Gone Down South and it's a classic '60s soul song, in English, with no Latin or Afro-Latin or Afro-Brazilian influences at all. So I'm missing all my favorite side from Gecko, and I'm honestly not too much into classic soul, but still, it's a pretty decent tune. Now the B-side is a remix by Moonstarr with a tight funky back beat bringing up the dance potential of the track, for a moment it even gets all Brazilianized with a samba loop too, and then closes with a clean break beat. So that one has way more chances of entering my DJ playlist (if I ever record a new Gloryholes mix, it'll definitely be there, that's for sure). However, I would've preferred if other track was chosen for the single release because I'm not a big fan of Spaniards singing in English.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

RAEL DA RIMA-MP3 (Trama, 2011)

Just look at the kick-ass cover art of this album, you know it's gonna be good, right? Sometimes I feel that Brazilians just dwell in another level. Like, they have it all figured out, while we are still looking for shit.
I've said it many times, I love Brazilian music, and Trama puts out some of the best modern Brazilian music out there. And while everybody else in Latin America is trying to come up with a way to sell albums in a market that's 99.9% dominated by piracy, these guys from Trama are releasing full digital albums (not just "mixtapes") in great quality, with amazing artwork that anybody can download for free. Somehow they found a way to cover the costs with advertising. Good for them!
MP3 might refer to the format in which the album is released, but it also an ingenious portuguese abbreviation for Popular Music of the Third World. Rael Da Rima was a well known MC in an underground rap group in São Paulo, Brazil, and he basically decided to step out from the rigid hip-hop restrictions, form a band and do an album where reggae is the main component. Yes, he pulled a Wyclef. There's also some other elements, including Afro-Brazilian music and of course rap, but instrumental roots-reggae is the main dish here. From a DJ point of view, I don't know if I'd be playing this at my Brazilian music sets too much, because it's mostly mellow (there's a decent bonus track remix though) and it's definitely not dance-floor oriented. I would've been happier with at least one up-beat dancehall track. But still, it's a great album to listen to and enjoy and, best of all, it's free (if you can figure out how to subscribe to Trama's website and download it--instructions are in portuguese).

Sunday, February 6, 2011

GLORY HOLES-DJ Juan Data's 7'' Fetish (Free Mix)



I was thinking that I talk way too much about my love for 7'' singles on this blog and yet all my released mixtapes have been digital collages of MP3s. I love the digital format for its infinite possibilities, there's way more music available (and it's a lot easier and cheaper to find) and way more effects, filters and techniques to make transitions more rich and complex. I always tried to take digital mixing to the limits by doing stuff that would be physically impossible to reproduce in the real world, like mashing up bits and pieces from four or more tracks at the same time and shit like that. 
But in the last couple of years, simultaneously with the expansion of my digital experimentation, I've recovered my original love for the vinyl format and for the 45RPM singles in particular. Many of the fruits of my obsessive collecting had been shared with the readers of this blog. In the last few months I've been more and more inclined to take out my racks of records to the gigs and leave the laptop at home and even though my skills with vinyl mixing are extremely limited, I enjoy the sound and the physicality of the format a lot more than the MP3. There's something magical about it that you have to experience yourself, I can't really explain it in words.
So, I felt it was due time to release a mixtape produced entirely with vinyl and to make things a little (or actually a lot) more complicated, I decided it had to be only 7'' vinyl, my personal favorite. 
Now I know many of you are not necessarily vinyl collectors and only listen to music in digital format like pretty much everybody else nowadays, so you probably don't know how difficult is to run into decent music published in this format, let alone Latin (but cool) music. 
I'd say that nowadays maybe less than 1% of all Latin music released to the market internationally is pressed in vinyl (keep in mind there're virtually no running vinyl pressing plants in Latin America) and most of that 1% (many of which are reissues and compilations released in Europe and the US) is pressed in the standard LP format of 12''. 
The 7'' single was still quite common in Latin music up until the late '80s sometimes even early '90s in some places and then it suddenly disappeared completely. In the Anglophonic world the format remained alive beyond the '90s in genres like reggae, punk and indie rock but nothing like that happened with Latin music.
So, if you wanna collect Latin (but cool) music in 7'' format you either have to dig into the old dusty piles of mostly '70s and '80s stuff that managed to survive the vinyl extinction or the few that are released nowadays thanks to the current -but still tiny- phenomenon of reemergence of the format. 
I'm gonna take the opportunity to thank all the record labels that still believe in this beautiful format and are putting out new amazing music, Electric Cowbell, Alala Records, Names You Can Trust, Discos Unicornio, etc. without whom this mixtape would've been impossible to conceive.    
And for all of you who like my intricate post-modern sonic collages better, do not despair, there's more coming soon.

Friday, February 4, 2011

DJ AFRO TALKS CUMBIA AND MORE

I just did a phone interview with DJ Afro, mostly to help promote Los Amigos Invisibles tour, for a local newspaper I write for. But obviously I was a lot more interested in chatting with the Venezuelan guitarist and DJ about his new solo album, Free, and his approach to cumbia. So this is the second half of that interview, translated to English.

- Free is a very different album from your previous Will Work For Fun, which was mostly focused on Latin house remixes.
- That one wasn’t really an album but just a collection of remixes I had been doing for a while for different people. One day I put them all together and showed them to a friend a he told me “you should release it!” And so we did. But it wasn’t conceived as an album. This new one is completely different. We were done with the recording of (Los Amigos Invisibles latest official LP) Commercial, which was done mostly in my own studio and I was on a roll, I didn’t wanna stop recording, I still had my head full of ideas so I kept going. Commercial had this rigid rules that we set out ourselves about doing pop songs, Free is the total opposite. No rules at all. Whatever I wanted to do, I did.
- That’s why there’s such a variety of rhythms and styles.
- Yes, it’s a little schizophrenic in some sense. But at the same time is the stuff that I listen to. The concept behind is was not to have a concept at all, do whatever comes up.
- Of course the track that stood out for me was the cumbia, “Rata.” What’s the story behind it?
- Actually, I fell in love with cumbia when we went to Perú (in 2008) and I discovered chicha. I went crazy for chicha. It killed me. I drove me mad. The guitar, the wah-wah, all that psychedelic thing. And this was at the same time of this cumbia revival and cumbia basically is—I’d argue that cumbia is the only rhythm that’s danced throughout all Latin America. You have cumbia from Mexico to Argentina.
- Funny that you said that because in that song I noticed references to both Mexican and Argentine cumbia, am I right?
- Absolutely.
- And on top of that you had a Venezuelan singer. Quite a statement of cumbia’s internationalism.
- Exactly. That guy, Gianko is a whole character. He’s a comidian/musician known in Venezuela for doing cumbia versions of rock song, like Lenny Kravitz. I met him and I said to him, “we gotta do something together.” It was amazing.
- What do you think about the whole new cumbia phenomenon and its appropriation by DJ culture?
- It was just a matter of time for it to happen. Cumbia is has a very trippy element in its beat and at the same time it’s very sexual because of the tempo. I think that everything that Zizek and what Toy (Selectah) is doing for cumbia is—It was a matter of time for it to explode. Two or three years ago I discovered chicha and I was telling people that cumbia was eventually going to overthrow reggaetón’s supremacy and they laughed. Look at where it is now.
-  So, can we expect to hear some cumbia in Los Amigos Invisibles future repertoire?
-  We’ve done it already! We did a cumbia for a Mexican wrestling video game last year called “Los Luchadores.” It’s a Mexican cumbia classic.
-  No way! You recorded a cover of Conjunto Africa’s “Los Luchadores”?
-  Yeah, that same one. You can actually download it for free from my website
- Oh man! I love that song, I actually used it as an intro for one of my mixtapes. (Linyerismo Episode II)
- Oh, and we just recorded another cumbia for a compilation, it’s a cumbia version of an old Amigos’ song from our first album.
-  One thing I always loved about Los Amigos Invisibles shows was when you guys do live mash-ups and mix riffs of popular songs with your own. I always had the theory that that had to come from a DJ brain, hence it had to be you.
-  And you’re right. It’s a lot of fun doing that. We throw many obvious references that everybody will get, like I don’t know, Boys II Men or (2 Unlimited’s) “Get Ready For This” but what I like the most is to mix in a little more obscure stuff that not everybody will get, but some will.
- You made my day last time you came to town and mixed in the intro of Black Box’s “Everybody Everybody” with one of your songs, I don’t remember which one. Anyway, I know that you have recently picked up DJing again.
- Yes, it’s because of living in New York, it inspires me a lot. I felt the need for it. To be in New York and not do that would be foolish. It also has to do with the fact that after many years playing vinyl I finally made the transition to digital, so going out to play is a lot less painfull. Before, each time I went out to play I had to spend an hour and a half sorting through the records. It was a very amusing process, but still, now I became fond of the laptop.
- But you still have a vinyl fetish?
- Of course! That sound has no comparisson. Vinyl can’t be replaced.
- Well, then you gotta insist that Nacional Records releases more vinyl including both Los Amigos Invisibles and DJ Afro.
- I will, don’t worry.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

FANTASMA-Fantasma City (Fire Ant Records, 2011)

About a year and a half ago I wrote a pseudo-review of Fantasma's album Ciudad Fantasma, demanding for the rest of the album that, at that point, was only available in Argentina. Back then I claimed that if it was released for the international market in digital format I'd be more than happy to purchase a legal copy of it because I simply love these guys.
Well, guess what? After all this time, Fantasma City is finally being officially released outside Argentina in CD/digital download format on the 28th of this month.
So, first of all, I'd like to thank the efforts of the record label who's believing in them and putting this awesome album out. And I'd also like to thank them for quoting me and my blog on their press release!
The thing is, between that review I wrote in July 2009 and today, a long ass time has gone by and during that period most of the tracks included in this album either leaked onto the Internet or were included in other releases. So, even though I'm happy they're getting proper release treatment, I'm disappointed that there's no new songs from one of my very favorite ñu-cumbia artists in this release. Except two, I already had them all! Two of them were given away for free through this blog back then. Four of them were on the Cabeza Netlabel release of last year. One of them was in Sonido Martines compilation for Soot, another was in the first ZZK sound comp.
In other words, if you were, like I am, already a fan of Fantasma (not to be confused with Texas' Grupo Fantasma), you probably have all or most of these tracks already (maybe not in CD quality though). Hopefully then, this new release will somehow reach everybody else, all those potential new fans who still haven't discovered the greatness of this band and that will lead to many more future  Fantasma official releases for the international market.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

DJ AFRO-Free (Nacional Records, 2011)

Remember when I reviewed Los Amigos Invisibles' Commercial and I said that I had a love/hate relationship with them because I loved their funky witty DJ-oriented side but I hated their horny-frat-boy pop-songs?
Well, apparently my prayers were heard by someone and Los Amigos Invisibles' front guitar and main composer, DJ Afro, is releasing a solo album with all the stuff I like about them (which invariably comes from him) and none of the cheesy sing-along post-pubescent party-anthems that make everybody dance and bring all the hot girls to their concerts but somehow annoys me.
A few years ago Afro released a collection of house remixes (Will Work For Fun) that includes many great tracks that are still mandatory on my Latin house sets and will probably remain there for a long time. My only issue with that album was that all the tracks where almost exactly 126 BPM, which I guess is great if you wanna play the whole album back-to-back as a mixtape, but if you wanna mix it in with other stuff, it'd help to have a little more variety of tempos.
That problem is solved in Free, the new release by DJ Afro, coming out in digital format today, but on CD in a couple of months (no announcements about possible vinyl, but it'd be great too). Unlike Will Work For Fun that was mainly remixes and versions and collaboration with other artists, Free is mostly all new original stuff. There's plenty of loungy Latin house, of course, but there's also other genres, including... CUMBIA! Yes, DJ Afro joined the bandwagon of the ñu-cumbia revolution and I applaud it and welcome it.
It's great because, coming from him, I would've expected a more housey approach to cumbia, but instead he went down to cumbia's traditional tempo and mixed up influences and clichés from Mexico's sonidera and Argentina's villera resulting in something refreshingly new in the hands of a Venezuelan.
Los Amigos Invisibles, as far as I know, experimented with pretty much every Latin music genre that was available out there except for cumbia (cumbia was not particularly popular in Venezuela during the past three decades [it was for a little bit before that, but then it faded away] where merengue and salsa romántica ruled the mainstream airwaves at the same time cumbia was spreading out throughout the rest of the continent). So hearing a cumbia from one of Amigos's members really made my day today.