Sunday, June 23, 2013

NICO COTA-Escucha El Ritmo (Pop Art, 2013)

I have a couple of problems with the funk from my hometown. On one hand, it's too white. And when I say white, I don't mean it (exclusively) in an ethnic way, in the sense white is understood in the US, but in a sense of upper-middle class, bourgeoise comfort and all that. Not only because of the socioeconomic background of the majority of its visible players, but also because of its target audience. They tend to lean onto a type of funk that's too clean and elegant and lacks any sort of edge, which in turn falls dangerously close to easy listening. My second problem with Argentine funk is that a lot of it, if not most, is just a gimmicky imitation of classic African-American 70's funk with virtually no local flavor added. In other words, if you're looking for Latin funk, you'll have a lot more luck finding it in US-based Latin funk bands (from Mandrill to Brownout) because most Argentines, as it's popularly known, are genetically impaired to let loose and appreciate any Latin flavor in their music.
That being said, Nico Cota's second album is a really solid achievement for Argentina's burgeoning funk scene. Virtually unknown outside of my old country, DJ and multi-instrumentalist Nico Cota was directly involved with Argentina's funk royalty, also known as the Spinetta Clan, since the beginnings of his career. He had played with both, Spinetta senior (also known as Luís Alberto, legendary pioneer of Spanish language rock, every music snob's favorite) and junior (Dante, also known as one half of Illya Kuryaki & The Valderramas). In fact, the one time I got to see Cota spinning, back in the day, it was at the most posh and exclusive of all nightclubs I've ever been to in Buenos Aires, where many members of the Spinetta clan where hanging out with top models and celebrities (I left that party convinced that Cota was one of the best DJ's in my hometown and with the preconception listed above, about Argentine funk being an elitist phenomenon). So, evidently, the Spinetta influence is present in Escucha El Ritmo, in fact, Illya Kuryaki show up to suport Nico as guests on one track in this guests-packed and interlude-packed, 25-track long album. Even though Nico approaches funk from a similar angle than Dante, he doesn't have Dante's undeniable charisma or sex-appeal, nor does he have his sometimes annoying non-sequitur sense of humor when writing lyrics. What he does have is a deep understanding of beat construction and delicate sonic architecture. It's easy to figure out why it took him so long, since his Jamiroquai-esque debut in 2003 to deliver a follow up.
Amongst the many guests, there's also Rubén Rada's daughter, Julieta, with whom he had worked in the past already, as her producer. Now if your looking for something really funky and definitely not-white, with explicit Latin connections in the Southernmost part of South America, Afro-Uruguayan candombe legend Rubén Rada '70s recordings should be your digging quest's square one. Unfortunately, very little of his legacy is shown in Nico Cota's white-boy funk. Fortunately it's not as clean-cut and gimmiky as most of his contemporaries and competitors.
Other guests include dancehall toaster Miss Bolivia (who you may know for contributing with many in the ñu-cumbia scene) and R&B singer/actress/Playboy model Emme (yet another daughter of a famous musician, in her case, composer Lito Vitale).
Regardless of its help perpetuating of the notion of Buenos Aires funk scene being an reality show of rich heirs to celebrities, this album, along with last year's Illya Kuryaki's are some of the best examples of current Argentine funk you'll find. I just wish it was grittier and had more dance-floor igniting moments. A vinyl pressing wouldn't hurt either.

Buy it here.

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