Wednesday, April 25, 2012

LOS TRANSATLANTICOS-First Trip (BBE, 2012)

I'm dead serious here: this is some next level shit. I can't remember the last time I got a CD in the mail of an artist I didn't know anything about, without any expectations at all put it in the CD player and had my head blown off in a matter of seconds.
I was planning to do some home chores and had this playing as background and that task became simply impossible to achieve. I was instantly compelled to sit down in the sofa in front of the sound system and try to absorb and digest this album in the fullest. I even went back and replayed it from the beginning. And I even had to force myself to stay put, because my instinct, after listening only to the first two tracks was to run to my computer and write a laconic review: this is the best thing ever, period.
Los Transatlánticos is a project by a Croatian-by-the-way-of-Berlin producer and his Colombian friend working from both sides of the Atlantic and finding a common ground in Afro-tropical rhythms with a reggae dub feel. The result is, simply put, the future in ñu-cumbia and electropical music. And the bass, oh, that bass, man, it's MASSIVE. I almost never write words in all caps so you know when I do is because I really mean it. This is no fucking joke, the low frequencies on this album are so dope that they made me wanna go back and re-record all my Bondi Blaster album, if only I knew how to do that. Los Transatlánticos is like the best of Bomba Estéreo, Systema Solar and Sidestepper mixed together and mashed up over some transglobal über-deep bass with a surprise middle-eastern twist.
As if that wasn't enough to get you all hyped up, the album comes with two bonus tracks, remixes they did for Colombia's Systema Solar and La 33.
Man, today is my birthday and this is, so far, the only gift I've got and let me tell you, I'm done. I don't need anything else. Thank you BBE for releasing this and for sending me a promo. Only one little request, please, pretty-please, press (at least some singles of) this on vinyl, I desperately need to play it on my sets.

The album will be released in May, 2012, keep and eye on BBE's website for news.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

MATI ZUNDEL-Amazónico Gravitante (ZZK/Waxploitation, 2012)

A few weeks ago I interviewed Mati Zundel for Remezcla.com. Usually, when I do something like that, I don't do an album review on my blog because I don't wanna repeat myself. I mean, everything that I wanted you to know about this new album is pretty much covered in that friendly conversation we had on skype with one of the few ZZK Records' artists that I haven't met in person yet.
One thing that wasn't mentioned on that interview, however, is the fact that the album was going to be released on double vinyl LP format. That I didn't know, otherwise, obviously, I would've pointed it out, being the vinyl fiend that I am.
I didn't know that until last week and as soon as I found out I ran to buy my copy (and I strongly suggests you do the same if you haven't done so yet). I had previously purchased the album digitally so I ended up paying for it twice (also, in between those to events, I got a free promo download from the label). But this didn't bother me at all, because Mati Zundel's debut album is my favorite album of 2012, so far. Now it's part of the elitist list of albums that I bought twice (in two different formats) next to Gotan Project's La Revancha del Tango and M.I.A.'s Arular (there're definitely a few more on that list but I can't come up with their names in this precise moment and I'm not gonna go check).
Anyway, I just wanted to share with you the happiness that I experienced finding out that ZZK was back in full force after a year-long semi-hiatus and thanks to their recent deal with US-based Waxploitation they have gone back to pressing vinyl. That means that my "wishful thinking" of my previous ZZK review is actually going to become a reality and I'll finally be able to play all those tracks on my DJ sets. Yay!

Order your copy HERE.

Monday, April 16, 2012

BATIDA-Batida (Soundway, 2012)

And right here we have a solid contender to enter the top-11 list of the best albums of 2012. Yes I know it's too early for predictions of that kind, but I'm pretty confident about this release. Not only the great music, but the whole creative concept behind it is great and most importantly, the significance of it: just the fact that this is Soundway's first release of a current artist, as opposed to their usual reissues of obscure dug-out gems from the past, that in itself is a great sign, specially considering the high standards of Soundway releases and top-quality pressings of vinyl. This release is simply opening the doors to many more of the kind that will definitely come to fill my crates and be always handy when DJing a vinyl set.
What's Batida? You wonder. Well basically it's some DJ in Portugal taking the kuduro concept to the next level: to its imaginary past roots. Yes, he creates kuduro beats using samples from the analog era of African music, before they started using ringtone sounds, and the results are nothing short of amazing.
I don't really know where I'm gonna mix this in my regular sets, because they rarely go higher than 130BPM, butI think I'll be able to figure something out and make a worthy exception for this. But I simply just bought this to support this promising new phase of Soundway Records and wish them the best of lucks because I know for sure there's plenty more dope shit like this that they can release on those beautiful carefully-packed collectible records they put out. Coming up next, Quantic's newest project, Los Míticos del Ritmo, can't wait.

Order your copy HERE, or find it at your local record store.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

LATIN CONCRETE-Mixed and compiled by Chris Read (BBE, 2012)

Just a few months ago I reviewed a 7'' single by Chris Read, a British hip-hop DJ who, like many others in the Anglo-Saxon music world, got fairly recently introduced to cumbia and decided to make his own experiments with it, sampling it and mixing it with some b-boy-friendly hard-hitting funky break beats.
On this occasion he takes his newly found love for Latin music a step further, compiling a selection of Latin flavored funky tracks and mixing them into a solid hour-long DJ set.
Latin Concrete is a double CD with the mixed set on one disc and the separate full tracks on another one. Now this is not a digger's comp in the sense that he didn't go deep into the surviving record stores of South America trying to find obscure gems from the past and exposing them for the first time to the rest of the world like his fellow countryman Quantic has been doing. Most of these tracks are actually very well known by DJs who've been spinning soulful Latin music for the last decade or so, since all of them had been released within that period by either US or Europe-based labels. I already had many of them in constant rotation on my vinyl DJ sets. Some of them could even be considered sort of common place by now, or at least modern classics (Quantic & Nickodemus' "Mi swing es tropical"). Which leads me to believe that this is not a compilation targeting hardcore diggers or genre-specific DJs (is not even going to be released on vinyl). Instead it's targeting the Northern Hemisphere cats who, like Chris Read himself, have an interest in expanding their sound palette by incorporating Latin beats, while this is not necessarily  their area of expertise.
What I find the most interesting about this comp, besides the fact that I love 90% of the tracks selected (and if you don't have them yet, this is a great chance to get them because they are all must-haves), is the foreigner point of view at selecting and mixing Latin music. Some purist would argue that this is "Latin music for gringos" not for the authentic Latin crowd and there's definitely some truth in there (I'd never play this at a mainstream Latin party full of reggaetoneros and salseros, they wouldn't get it).
Read, not being Latino himself and not having a cultural background that connects him to this music, perceives no sociological prejudice attached to the songs (as in "this song is for rich snobs, that song is for poor uneducated people" "this is cool, this is ghetto") nor does he embeds any nostalgic value in it (as in "this song reminds me of high-school, or that TV show, or my crazy lesbian aunt"). So his criteria is purely based on the dopeness of the beats--he most probably doesn't even understand the lyrics and it doesn't matter either. All that, if you ask me, plays to his advantage here.
Like I mentioned on the review I wrote for his single, I didn't grow up immersed in Latin music either, so I pretty much share a lot of his criteria. Even though I was born and raised in South America and Latin music (cumbia in particular) was always there every time I got on the bus or I went to a quinceañera party,  I was never a fan and that's because like many (most?) other kids my generation I grew up with a distinctive anglophile taste in music. I grew up convinced that Latin music was for hicks and that people with a sophisticated music palate had to always look up to what was cooking in the British isles. So maybe my early musical influences as a teenager are not at all dissimilar to Chris Read's. I spent most of my teenage years and my early twenties absorbed by hip-hop culture and the idea of using hip-hop as a foundation to explore old-school Latin music didn't fully come up to me until I moved to the US at age 25 and I started seeing Latin music from a outsider point of view (and finding joy in exposing its inner kitschness by recontextualizing it).
There's always gonna be some narrow-minded purists and politically motivated assholes who dismiss this sort of compilations saying that the DJ is not Latino and most of the performers aren't even Latinos (Quantic, Beatfanatic, The Juju Orchestra, The GRC) and accuse this of some sort of "cultural appropriation." But how is this different from us, kids in Argentina, back then trying to emulate the Manchester sound en español? It is not. Music is universal and the traffic of influences in the global era goes both ways and I'd even argue that some of the best cumbias in the last decade were recorded by British artists (Ska Cubano, Up, Bustle & Out) and if it wasn't for this new-found love in Latin music by these supposedly culturally imperialistic Anglo-Saxon overlords a lot of really cool Central and South American stuff would have remained almost absolutely inaccessible to the world. So I applaud this release and I hope for many similar more from BBE Music, a label that's a favorite among all  true beat connoisseurs. I just wish next time they dig deeper into more obscure stuff (surprise me!) and press it on vinyl.

To be released 4/30/12, order it HERE

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Future Sounds of Buenos Aires (ZZK/Waxploitation, 2012)

If when reading the playlist for this compilation you felt like you had deja vu, don't panic, it wasn't a glitch in the matrix.
As you may already know if you follow ZZK records, the Argentina-based ñu-cumbia label recently struck a deal with Waxploitation for their current and upcoming international releases and well, apparently Waxploitation decided to start from a clean slate, act like nobody ever heard of ZZK previous releases and introduce them to the world through this compilation that's sort of a Best Of ZZK Records.
But don't be too quick to dismiss this completely. There are actually a handful of new, unreleased tracks that's definitely worth adding to your collection. I'm talking about the Frikstailers' "Guacha" for example (my favorite of the whole collection) or La Yegros' debut for ZZK records with "Viene de mi". There are a few more that I don't remember from the top of my head and they were all very consistent with the high standards of quality that distinguish the label overall and they all became instant additions to my digital DJ set playlist.
The rest, however, as I mentioned before, are repeats and if you follow this blog I will go ahead and assume you probably have them all, or at least most of them. Some of them you may even have them double-repeated! Such is the case of Fauna's "Hongo x Hongo," which was included in that tribute album to Agrupación Mamanis a couple of years ago and then again on Fauna's second album Manshines. Another example is Chancha Via Circuito's "Prima," previously included in ZZK Sound Vol. 2 and later again in Chancha's Rio Arriba.
What this clearly indicates is that this is not meant to be taken as the highly awaited third volume of the ZZK Sound compilation that started it all and it's definitely not targeting the niche of those who have been following the ñu-cumbia scene since its inception (for whom the word "future," in the title, might sound a little off). What this new comp is trying to do is, as I exposed earlier, introduce these amazing artists to a whole new audience and revive the momentum of the ñu-cumbia movement worldwide. And I really hope they succeed in that enterprise.
Or, there's another possibility and this is just speculation, or more accurately wishful thinking: maybe this compilation is to be released as a double-LP vinyl in which case, everything I wrote above is to be totally dismissed because if there's something I desperately need is those tracks on vinyl to be able to play them in my "real" DJ sets, and with the exception of Chancha's "Prima" I don't think any of the rest had ever been pressed in that format. I'll cross my fingers.

Future Sound Of Buenos Aires drops worldwide May 1st.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

DJ DUS-Pussy Marijuana Cumbow (BSTRD Boots, 2011)

I didn't find out about this record's existence until last week when I bought it. I guess it's because of the secretive nature of bootlegs that they don't get good promotion, because I'm more than familiar with DJ Dus and with the label, in fact I'm a fan of both.
Anyway, as you know, I review any new stuff that comes out on 7'' vinyl and falls under the Latin category, particularly when they go into cumbia's territory.
This 45RPM single has on the A side a bootlegged remix of Brazilian Girls reggae tune "Pussy" which totally reminded me of a time when I used to listen to Brazilian Girls quite a lot and then I was like, what ever happened, why did I stopped? Do they still exists? And other questions like that. But the question that became the most prevalent was: Why would somebody do a remix of this particular song... now? And why would it deserve to be pressed on this format? Because, in my narrow world-view, that band and that song had been out of the popularity radar for a while, since like what, five, six year ago? I don't even remember.
What a weird choice for a remix, I thought, and then while re-watching the video on youtube I found out that the song had actually been recently appropriated by a douchebag rapper who made it the chorus of his hit "Pussy Marijuana." Now I've never heard about this David Sebastian dude before, and that's for a reason, I don't follow current radio crap, I mean rap. I stopped doing that when 50 Cents came out in 2001 with his first hit single and I never went back to commercial rap music again--specially not since Kanye West made it acceptable to go around calling yourself a rapper when you have the most wack-ass lazy flow and you make words rhyme with the same exact words, or you just don't bother rhyming at all, like this dude Sebastian did a few times on that Pussy song right before I felt compelled to turn it off halfway through because it drives me so fucking mad to see how wack is the rap teenagers nowadays listen to.
So my assumption is that DJ Dus decided to make a remix of the original Brazilian Girls tune because this idiot with a mic made the song popular again. OK, I still hate the rap version but I still love the original version a lot more, so any reason is a good reason to bring it back.
The B-Side is a lot more obvious of a choice, he simply made a remix of a Colombian classic cumbia by the king himself Andrés Landero. It's a simply remix, just adding a strong back beat and locking the BPM to ensure maximum mixability, even stretching the exit by looping the last bar. It works out great and it will surely become a mandatory visit in all my future DJ sets.

Buy it HERE.