Saturday, September 29, 2012

LATEJAPRIDE-Las Palabras Y La Tormenta (Bizarro, 2012)

These guys are truly legends in their country's scene. I'm pretty sure they are the only ones from their generation that are still active, with the same band, and still affiliated to hip-hop. Although that's a loose kind of affiliation. They're anything but purists in their approach. They're not old-school, nor are they up to date with the newest trends (although there're elements of both). They do their thing, their own way, and that must throw a lot of potential fans off.
Most other hip-hop albums I get from Latin American artists I can pretty much predict the whole album after listening to the first ten seconds of the first three songs. With Latejapride that doesn't apply.
On this new release they took an unprecedented route focusing on delicately layered synths and quirky electronic sounds, departing away from their more organic sound of their previous albums. I honestly wasn't expecting that from them. And in general terms, I'm way more attracted to golden age sample-based hip-hop and I got disenchanted with commercial hip-hop after synths became so predominant in the last decade. But that's not the case with Latejapride, they incorporated synths in their own terms, adding them to their already uncharacteristic South American hip-hop and the results are pretty dope. There's a mix between nostalgia for the 80's pop and video games (lot of 8 bit lasers) and a search for some futuristic landscape but they still have their feet well grounded in the current reality of urban Montevideo--all their lyrics are very down to earth, free of delirious ego-tripping.
If you became interested in Uruguay's rich scene after listening to the work of Bajofondo's associates Supervielle, Santullo and Campo, particularly the last one, this is a piece that will help you complete that puzzle and capture a better full picture of that tiny country. After all, they all came out from that same hip-hop underground that flourished in the mid '90s.

Listen/Buy HERE

Friday, September 28, 2012

BOMBA ESTEREO-Elegancia Tropical (Polen Records, 2012)

I had just finished a yummy kale juice and I was feeling all blissful and energized and connected to nature and that's when I decided to play this album on my headphones while I walked down the streets on a beautiful sunny afternoon. It suddenly all made sense.
I tried listening to it twice before and I couldn't get into the album's primal driving mood. I don't know, maybe I was expecting something a bit more edgy and gritty and it all sounded too shinny and optimistic to me. Those who had originally pictured Li Saumet as the Latin American answer to M.I.A. (myself included) would be disappointed by this. But how dare we project our expectations on her like that? She never subscribed to those third world jungle guerrillera aesthetics. Li is coming out straight out of a tropical jungle but the jungle of Pandora where giant ferns light up when she walks by.
That's what Elegancia Tropical feels like to me. It depicts a jungle landscape but it's not dark, scary, full of dangerous creepy creatures. It's a fantasy jungle with colorful disco lights and everybody is nice to each other, in a perfect utopian balance, as long as you're connected to the pachamama with your magic tail--or with an infusion of ayahuasca or other organic trip-inducing substances. For old cynical, empirical, Juan Data it's hard to connect to this type of mood on the usual, but a kale shake worked its magic and all of a sudden I was transported to Bomba Estéreo's realm.
I don't know if this is the type of album that I'd play as a center piece on my DJ sets, but I really enjoyed the listening experience, particularly the carefully layered synths that Simón Mejía provides. I'm not saying it's all new age vegan trippy shit, there're certainly a couple of heavy-hitting dance-floor oriented tracks and some sexually charged lyrics, but as a whole it definitely works best on the head-phones (and live, of course). Over all I feel like the album was conceived by people that were simply too happy for successfully making globally appraised music and not agressive enough in caring if you dance to it or not.

To be released November 6th.

Monday, September 24, 2012

FUSIK-On The Fly/Battlefield (Independent, 2012)

If you like break-beat-centric all-instrumental funk you definitely know Breakestra. And if you're anything like me, you probably wondered more than once what would Breakestra be like if they had more of a Latin influence. Well, here's Fusik to answer to that question.
I didn't know about this Miami-based funk band until I recently saw a picture of their 45 on Spam Allstars facebook photo album. Being a huge fan  (and now also confessed stalker) of Spam Allstars I was originally excited thinking it was theirs and I've been wanting to have their music on this format since like forever (they do have a some 12''s that are mandatory on my sets and in their defense, their songs are all way too long to fit on a 7' record).
So, no it wasn't Spam Allstars but this other funk band from Southern Florida who I guess are friends or something and apparently recorded some tracks at Spam's studio, City Of Progress. That was enough to alert my curiosity so I went to their website and bought their 45 and while I was waiting for it to arrive, I got impatient and downloaded their whole digital album, Hot Skillet, as well.
And well, the album, I gotta be honest, it bored me I couldn't even finish it. I was very excited for the first couple of tracks but then it became kinda redundant, same thing again and again, especially since it's all instrumental and very much focused on the b-boy friendly breaks, which is a good thing, but lacks any kind of surprises. Not that I dislike it, that's music I wouldn't mind adding to my DJ sets, but I just don't wanna listen to it for such a long time on my iPod, you know? Break-beat records are meant to be pressed on vinyl and then dropped on your set really fast and then move on to the next thin. I love that instant rush of energy the fast syncopated drums add to the set, but it has to be like that, spontaneous, on and off, not a whole LP. That's why the 7'' made so much more sense and there was absolutely no disappointment from purchasing that one. I still haven't had a chance to play it but I'm really looking forward to doing so soon.

Buy it HERE.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

AKIL AMMAR-Postdata (IndieGente, 2012)

First of all, I have to say that this guy just stole the ideal name for my ultimate rap album that I've been secretly planning since 1999. But oh well, I don't think I'll ever get around to record it and honestly, he raps way better than me and he definitely employed the title for a much better use.
I've heard about this guys and his album through my friend Mustafa Yoda, who is featured as guest MC in one of the tracks here. But I didn't pay much attention to the rest of the album, until recently when I got invited to participate as guest DJ at an NPR show and they asked me to bring some suggestions for exciting new Latin American rap songs. A couple came up to mind right away (Alika, Danay Suarez) but I didn't have enough to put together a whole show so I went to do some research and I ended up downloading Akil Ammar's whole new album.
I basically wanted to include at least one Mexican rapper on my list, even though I don't really listen to much Mexican rap. But I wanted to be fair, because I talk way too much about Chilean, Argentine, Cuban and Spanish rap and not enough about Mexican rap and my many Mexican rapping friends get jealous if I neglect them and don't give them enough props. So, Akil Ammar seemed like the perfect choice, he's an extremely talented lyricist with a lot of interesting stuff to say and no fake ego-tripping, no macho gangsta poses--none of that infantile bullshit. He sounds humble and honest and he's not scared of showing vulnerability, something rare on a male hip-hopper.
He also doesn't sound too Mexican and that might be the reason I connected to his rap right away. His beats are generic golden age beats with no references to Mexican traditional music. His verses are in a very neutral Spanish that can easily cross all borders and be equally understood anywhere in Latin America or Spain. Maybe that's why all of his guests are well known international artists, from the aforementioned Argentines Mustafa Yoda and Alika, to Chile's Javiera Mena, Peru's Pedro Mo and France's Canelason.
On my on-air commentary I said he sounds a lot like Spain's Nach and I didn't mean it as a negative remark. He certainly reminds me a lot of the golden age of Spain's hip-hop (1998-2000) when all those exciting new albums came out all at once and Spanish rap crossed to Latin America leaving an indelible mark amongst aspiring MC's throughout the continent. Akil Ammar sounds very at ease stuck in that era, pretenting nothing beyond 2001 ever happened to international hip-hop and honestly I too sometimes wish I was still in that world, pre-50 Cent, pre-Lil' Wayne, pre-synths replacing dug-out vinyl samples, pre-auto tune; that was a time when I still used to get excited over any new rap album that came out.
That doesn't happen much anymore, so it's really out of the ordinary for me to be this excited about this album here. An album that I was able to listen all, from beginning to end, without skipping a track and I very much enjoyed the experience as a whole, even though I didn't like almost any of the choruses (I purposely chose the title-track to play at the radio show simply because it doesn't have a chorus).

Buy it HERE 

Monday, September 17, 2012

CILANTRO BOOMBOX-Self Titled (independent, 2012)

Here in the US a lot of people equate cilantro to Latin cousine. I don't know man, I didn't even know about cilantro's existence until I moved to California and tried Mexican food for the first time. I'm pretty sure we didn't have that back the southern extreme of the continent.
So maybe it's a Mexican thing. But this guy here with the boombox, he's from Venezuela so I don't know, maybe he discovered cilantro when he relocated to Texas, where the band is based, or maybe Venezuelans eat cilantro too. I have no fucking idea. It doesn't really matter anyway, the band's name and cover art have plenty of this parsley-wannabe herb, but I didn't find any reference to it on the music, which does not taste like Tex-Mex tacos, at all.
In fact, to me it tasted a lot more like arepas (my knowledge of Venezuelan food is limited to that) because the first reference that came to mind when I listened to their first promotional single was Los Amigos Invisibles. I was like yeah, this is the same brand of Latin funky stuff that explicitly targets the ladies at the party with the common horndog I-wanna-fuck you message, but with a lot more emphasis on the hard-hitting breaks, which transpired some level of hip-hop alliance. The only other thing I knew about this record was that it was mixed by Texan über-producer and contender for the busiest-man-in-show-bizz title Adrián Quesada. It was actually that what initially captivated my interest, since I pretty much love everything that guy puts out.
Then I got the CD and I was surprised to find a lot more stuff that didn't quite matched my initial preconceptions based on the single. There were some 80's sounds, plenty of afro-latin arrangements, some bilingual rap with positive message, some interesting spaced-out interludes, and yes more party-oriented bangers with cliched lyrics. My favorite tracks, as usual, are the instrumentals, like the afro-funky "De Carora a South Congress" and the trippy güiro-driven "Ya Ta Bueno." That besides their single "Last Call," which I already liked. Those made it into my DJ playlist at first listen.
Overall a promising debut for a new project bringing some fresh ideas to the table and pointing into the right direction. I definitely wanna see this growing and for that they need your support, so go ahead and buy their CD.

Buy it HERE.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

DJ JUAN DATA-Gloryholes 2 (Free Mixtape)


It's been a while since I last shared a mixtape. Gone are the good ol' days of my Linyerismo phase when I could spend eight hours a day for three weeks to finish a meticulously crafted sound collage of thirty minutes and then, on top of that, spend a couple more days to hand-draw a cover. I really wish I could put out another of those mixtapes, and I started plenty, but none got completed because  eventually I always end up realizing how unrealistic my goal is with my current schedule (back then I was both, single and unemployed). Also because I acquired some new obligations and priorities with the whole Bondi Blaster thing and pretty much running a record label.
Anyway, last year I released the first volume of what I thought it would be a regular series of mixtapes titled Gloryholes, focusing exclusively on my beloved 7'' vinyl records, regardless of genre. it took way too long but it's finally here, the second volume, which I forced myself to record with the excuse that I now have my very own 7'' release.
I'm pretty sure this is the longest mixtape I've shared on this blog and it's also the first one without a cartoon cover and with the Stronghold Sound logo. But still, it's basically the same simple concept from the first volume. I also wanted to focus mainly on current releases, modern stuff pressed on this format, to give a promotional extra push to all those record labels who truly love music, so much so, that they keep on releasing music in this anachronistic format! So you'll hear a bunch of stuff from labels like Electric Cowbell, Bastard Jazz, Names You Can Trust, Soundway, ESL, Kept, etc, many of which I've reviewed on this pages. Keep vinyl alive by supporting these labels and don't forget to order your copy of Bondi Blaster's 7'' HERE!