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.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Short Reviews Combo

I haven't been able to post here as frequently as I'd like to, mainly because I've been focusing my unpaid writing time to a big upcoming project that's also taking over most of my creative energy. Still, I received some cool new music worth mentioning and it's my duty to give props where props are due and share my suggestions with the few loyal readers who still visit this blog. So there we go, one paragraph reviews starting now:

EMPRESARIOS-El Sonido Mágico Remixed (Fort Knox Records, 2013): I haven't listened to the original Sonido Mágico in a while and these remixes reminded me of how good that album was and that I should play it more often on my sets. As with all compilations of remixes, there's gonna be a hit-and-miss factor, but there's way more than enough hits on this one to make the purchase of the whole album worth it. My very favorite is the remix Fort Knox Five made of "Maria Juana" a song that, surprisingly, in it's original version, was one of my least favorites. The funky remixes Omegaman and All Good Funk Alliance made went also directly into my playlist rotation. On a second listen I got more into the house track, especially the one by Bobby C Sound TV. There's some reggaetón, dub and ñu-cumbia there too, so a bit for everybody. Unfortunately hasn't been pressing any vinyl for a while now, so I'll assume this will only be available digitally. Get it HERE.

VVAA-El Sonido De La Carretera Central (Masstropicas, 2013): I have no idea what the fuck this is but it was a fun ride. As usual, Masstropicas lectures me into darker and deeper territories of the unknown world of Peruvian chichadelia. Now that everybody and their mothers across the world are acquainted with chicha music, for those who got hooked and wanna find out about even more obscure stuff, well, Masstropicas, is your place to go. This is a compilation done around one artist, a virtuoso guitarist who played for several bands throughout the 70's and 80's and did some remarkable stuff. Like with all this kind of music, I'm always leaning towards the instrumental tracks and I tend to skip the ones with vocals, because the lyrics, as a general rule, are absolutely horrible, but if you don't understand Spanish, you might enjoy those too. Buy it, on vinyl only, HERE.

CHICO MANN-Magical Thinking (Soundway Records, 2013): This is funky. It's retro. It's futuristic. It's danceable. It's artsy. It's trippy. It's a very interesting album in so many levels. Plus it has the best cover art of any record released so far this year and just for that, you should grab a copy of this LP. Chico Mann is a genius producer and all his music has some hypnotic qualities to me, but I rarely play it on my DJ sets. This album, however, might change that, I think there're at least four songs there that I'd spin. Haven't tried it yet because I only have it on digital format, but it's on my plans to get it on vinyl as soon as I come across a copy. Get it HERE.

NATALIA CLAVIER-Lumen (Nacional Records, 2013): Adrián Quesada (Brownout, Grupo Fantasma) produced this one and I'll basically buy anything that this guy produces. He had already worked with Natalia on Echocentrics a couple of years ago and most probably the idea of producing a whole album for her came from there. She hasn't had a break yet as a solo singer but she's lent her vocal for other artists such as Thievery Corporation and Federico Aubele (who I'm convinced must be her husband, or boyfriend or something). This is her debut for Nacional Records and that's great news, except for the fact that Nacional, as we all know, doesn't press too much vinyl, and I doubt they'll ever press this one and that's a pity because vinyl should be the mandatory format to play anything produced by Quesada. get it HERE.

LOS ANGELES AZULES-Cómo Te Voy A Olvidar (Sony Music, 2013): Back in the early days of ñu-cumbia Toy Selectah, then with Sonidero Nacional, did a remix of Los Ángeles Azules' one-hit-wonder "Cómo Te Voy A Olvidar" that I remember I played a lot. I'm pretty sure I even included it in my very first ñu-cumbia mixtape, done even before this blog existed. So, at least five or six years had gone by since then, and now Toy Selectah, along with M.I.S.'s Camilo Lara produced this sort of self-tribute/compilation of greatest hits for the Mexican romantic cumbia icons, and of course it's titled after their only internationally famous song (and includes two versions of it, one with Kinky, one with Nortec). The list of names that show up as featured artists in this is long and packed with very familiar faces for anybody that follows current Latin Alternative music and to my surprise not all of them are Mexican. If you ever have to DJ a Mexican wedding or quinceañera party, playing Los Ángeles Azules is a must, so having this versions in your hard-drive might make the experience a bit more tolerable. (Available only in Mexico, so far)