Mar Dulce, Bajofondo

MAR DULCE Bajofondo, Argentina-Uruguay
ViBRA-Surco Universal

My latest review of Nortec reminded me that I really needed to talk about one of the year’s most accomplished albums, one that also creates its own sound: electronic tango band Bajofondo (dropped the Tango Club off their name). Gustavo Santaolalla, Juan Campodonico and company arrive with their second official studio album, after the grandiose self-titled debut album. This time they come with an even bigger clash of sounds that evoke their unique sound, and yes some first-class collaborations from international vocalists.

The album starts with the energetic Grand Guignal, an emotively catchy song that maintains Bajofondo’s ability to experiment Tango and electro music but keeping the elegancy of Tango itself breathing. Continues with the melancholic Cristal, which to me sounds just like a song by the also electrotango Gotan Project. Ya no duele starts the impressive caravan of guests with an almost narrative voice of Santullo. Hoy is the album’s most traditional track, features the raspy vocal chords of Juan Subira. And just when we begin to think the album feels too safe, comes Pa’ bailar, the first single that really gives justice to the whole project. Pa bailar gives the album its direction, the singular four minute proposal of Bajafondo as an investigational band.

Elvis Costello makes a visit with the surprisingly dull Fairly Right, the weakest and less inspired track on the album. Slippery Sidewalks featuring Nelly Furtado is an improvement, but still very stiff and safe. Things get better right away with El Mareo; the one song that wants to be pop, but Gustavo Cerati’s miraculous performance holds its alternative essence. There is plenty of room for innovative; El Anden featuring La Mala Rodriguez is a truly uncompromised song which features bajafondo’s sound + hip hop (something also accomplished in Calle 13’s Tango del pecado). The third and concluding part of the album will please the purists and conservative followers.

One of the most surprising aspects of the album is that even though it has multiple collaborations it never looses its instrumental focus. There are some disappointed fans though, can’t seem to accept Mar Dulce’s vocal curiosity and especially the mainstream artists featured in it. I find the album to be a rather seductive glimpse and a necessary ingredient. Proof of this is perhaps how they managed to improve Pa’ Bailar on a new version not featured in the album, now featuring Julieta Venegas, quickly becoming a hit on internet radio. A recently released EP features six different versions of the first single, with a must-have version by los Maestros.

The album does not lack ambition whatsoever, time will tell us exactly how transcendental Mar Dulce truly is, and it sure feels like a classic. Revolutionary virtuosos from two countries that share the passion of Tango.

Numeric Rating: 91/100

Key tracks: Pa' Bailar, El Mareo (feat. Cerati), Grand Guignol

Artist of the week: Juan Manuel Torreblanca

Artist: Juan Manuel Torreblanca
Genre: Pop
Country: México

There is always a creative guy behind talented musicians waiting for his turn to come. Juan Manuel Torreblanca fits quite well, unfortunately his shining hour has yet to arrive. A favorite of artists like Julieta Venegas, Natalia Lafourcade and Ximena Sariñana, successful artists that came to swap all the plastic artists dominating Mexico’s industry in the 90s. A nation with great male vocalists, but few actual singer-songwriters enjoy healthy careers. Torreblanca has clear signs of commercial success, and the support of fellow talented pop stars to make it big. From the songs in his MySpace we especially highlight Si and Nada Me Saca De La Cama, both songs with Ximena Sariñana collaborating in vocals.

Tijuana Sound Machine, Nortec

TIJUANA SOUND MACHINE Nortec: Bostich + Fussible, México

by: Carlos Reyes

In just a few weeks a recently enacted cement wall will be dividing the U.S. and Mexico. As the political tension arises we can only be thankful that at least art has universal visa. Nacional Records is undeniably the best label for alternative Latin music, and we can only embrace the support they give to their electronic scene acts such as Los Pinker Tones and The Mexican Institute of Sound. The California-based label has just released one of the best productions on their already incredible resume. The return of Nortec Collective, or at least half of them bring us another jewel, Tijuana Sound Machine.

Listening to the Tijuana Sessions albums meant to finally relate to a sound I had heard before, a mixture of atmospheric sound waves that left a scratch on my auditory experience. Growing up in the north of Mexico, I was raised with a somewhat traditional family that mostly enjoyed traditional music. My parents would always go for México’s most rigid music: norteño and banda. My father, an accordion aficionado, would play the corridos and narco corridos of Los Tigres del Norte, Los Tucanes de Tijuana or underground corrido god Chalino Sanchez, the melancholic “listen-while-you-drink” music of Ramon Ayala y sus Bravos del Norte, as well as the joyful tones of Banda Sinaloense. Honestly, I never appreciated any of these genres; they felt so cold and unnecessarily lousy.

Perhaps a sign of teenage rebellion, but every time I heard their music I would find my portable player and listen to some Daft Punk. But the headphones were never powerful enough to prevent those tones from getting into my ears. Traditional music, roots music, is the resonance that will follow you anywhere, no matter how hard one tries to hide from it. And there I was, listening to Daft Punk with norteño and banda backgrounds, eventually noticing that this combination had found an equilibrium that not only fulfilled me but signified who I was, eventually as a Mexican kid adapting to the American culture. As years pass by, I have welcomed, embraced and touched popular Mexican music, although I still prefer the nostalgic Tejano/Grupero/Ranchero subgenres.

Nortec is the sound that finally captures the wildness and warmth of what some people call “the happiest place on earth.” Tijuana Sound Machine is yet another masterwork, this time with only two of Nortec’s four members collaborating. The album reaches a level of maturity already breathing its own earned freedom. This time there is no obligation to present new sounds, which means they have absolute control to experiment with the already established sound. Still, the duo decides not to play it safe and still expand Mexico’s popular music by molding the electronic music in Rosarito with the unprecedented Tamborazo (drum-based genre especially popular during the Mexican revolution). Nortec also targets a new generation of Mexican-Americans in tracks like Brown Bike or America’s Most Wanted. Mama Loves Nortec resembles the classic Mambo Lupita. A collection of songs that celebrate its own sound, a true work of maximalism.

A few months ago I discussed with Paulo (a member of the blog) that regional Mexican music was the hardest to digest if we were to stretch it as a Latin-American sound. Tropical genres such as Merengue or Salsa seem to find representatives throughout all of the Americas, while the grupero movement is so country-driven, therefore preventing it from spreading its wings. Exceptions are the Ranchero music of the Fernandez and Aguilar dynasties. Thing is, I’m very surprised that Nortec has reached such international attention and critical acclaim, perhaps they have found the recipe on how to internationalize Mexico’s folk.

Numeric Rating: 90/100

Hear the entire album on their MySpace.

Key tracks: Tijuana Sound Machine, Norteña Del Sur, Mama Loves Nortec,

Artist of the week: Esperanza Spalding

Artist: Esperanza Spalding
Country: USA
Genre: Latin Jazz

Artist of the week features a beautiful jazz singer from Jersey City, although she may not be a first or second generation Hispanic, she carries the culture in her music thanks to her mother. A virtuoso instrumentalist and a great melody singer who is making phenomenal buzz with her new album Esperanza. The sound of Cuban jazz seasoned with some traditional tones from Spain, a country she probably feels very close as her last production Junjo was a collaborative album with Spaniard instrumentalists. Esperanza marks a mature album confident enough to step of Rhythm & Blues territory, never loosing the elegancy of jazz. The artist sounds very fluent in her songs in Spanish and Portuguese, especially on a Spanish version of Body & Soul. A great artist to discover, and nothing will make us happier than to see her performing along some latin jazz masters such as Chucho Valdez, Paquito D’Rivera or Arturo Sandoval.

No Love, Turbopotamos

NO LOVE Turbopotamos, Peru

by: Carlos Reyes

Music blogs made incredible warm buzz about this Peruvian band, many highlight the band’s similarities with Britain’s Artic Monkeys. Truth is Turbopotamos goes beyond new wave, their music seems to place itself in the hands of rockabilly, it is first-class retro music that is accessible enough to help the band internationalize. Less alternative than their fellow Peruvian band Libido, and overshadowed by pop, the band has struggle to create a support fanbase. Less than 20 thousand hits on myspace for the a country’s most promising band shows how Turbopotamos should be targeting outside countries ASAP.

No Love is a sophomore triumphant album, a truly remarkable step up from their uneven debut album which was mediocre at best. Ska is the cousin of rockabilly, a more vivid sound that hides the strings to alternate different instruments. Turbopotamos really knows how to play with this idea, which prevents it from joining the extensive line of ska bands like Plastiko, Panteón Rococó or Doctor Krapula that fall for the trumpet sound, forgetting that ska’s purpose is diversifying sound.

First single No Me Meto feels like a 60s track from Los Hooligans, a very catchy song and a homage to the twisty sound that captivated the music scene for over two decades. The album includes two tracks in the English language, No love and Overdose. The former is an evocative love song, while the latter could be its continuation, when things go wrong of course. They are two most recognized songs of the band, for some reason listeners just fall for anything in this language. El Tiburon is probably the album’s most energetic track, it is also a gathering of different languages. But the finest of all songs is Kitty, a song that is relatable, funny and very metaphoric.

Music festivals such as the LAMC or Vive Latino looking for fresh voices need to look no further. A self-inspired band that will probably be making buzz in upcoming years. Let’s give these guys some love. Turbopotamos is like a dynamite waiting for a spark to unleash for recognition.

Numeric Rating: 82/100

Artist of the week: Los Super Elegantes

Artist: Los Super Elegantes
Country: Argentina/Mexico
Genre: Pop/Electro

As you might have noticed, our Artist of the Week section is dedicated to those artists that we feel are not appreciated enough. Our choice for this week is a duet from Argentina and Mexico, the electropop group was formed in California and became a critics’ darling with the release of their album Channelizing Paradise. A modern sound emphasized by the myspace phenomenon, hi-fi at its best and a very seductive voice. Let’s highlight the best two songs featured on their myspace player: Dance Demo and a cover of the classic Porque te vas.

La Reina De La Anarcumbia, Amandititita

LA REINA DE LA ANARCUMBIA Amandititita, Mexico

by: Carlos Reyes

Rockdrigo Gonzalez continues to be a popular underground folk artist, he was called “El Profeta del Nopal”, influenced by Bob Dylan and accompanied by artists such as El Haragan and El Tri. The tragic 1985 Mexico city earthquake took his life, he left a family among them a young little girl. Amandititita follows many of the themes imposed by her father, through her music she portraits Mexico city as it is, stories about people presented in the cumbia-pop subgenre, or the anarcumbia as she calls it.

Two years ago the artist appeared in Gerardo Naranjo’s majestic film Drama/Mex, she grabbed some attention as a bully hooker, but her music become a phenomenon once everyone discovered El Metrosexual gathering immediate attention by distributing majors and ending up with Sony/BMG. The first single that works as a satire to both vanity and machismo. Amandititita is pop, it might be wearing a heavy cumbia costume but her music is so accessible because it carries the catchy chorus, humor and even some political undertones.

Not a released single yet, but already a youtube sensation is La Mataviejitas, a dark humoristic song about the serial killer who became the prevalent fear of elderly women. The song starts with an excerpt from Hitchcock’s Psycho, immediately after that classic theme fades away to be replaced by the popular sound of cumbia. The almost captivating song works for its hysterical recount of the tragic events, is almost a bipolar approach and very creepy. “Y porque dime abuelita te buscando la mataviejitas.”

The songs work individually, but there is very little room for variety among them. The album becomes way too repetitive, becoming less enchanting and well not as interesting, songs like La Cumbia del Tex Mex or El Baneario are pointless. In fact, there was an EP circulating the web that featured the good songs, among them probably the best track in the album: Sangoloteo a song that reunites religious leaders in a big party, from Jesus to Budha, to the god of drug dealers: Malverde.

A flawed debut album, but worthy of listening as it is a fresh approach to Latin-American popular music.

Numeric Range: 64/100

Key tracks: El Metrosexual, La Mataviejitas, Mecanico

Canción: "Pantera Mambo", La 33

Genre: Salsa/ Latin Jazz
Artist: Orquesta La 33
Country: Colombia

“Pantera Mambo” it's an interesting fusion of the Pink Panther's main theme with 70's hard Salsa, Mambo and Jazz. It is a creation of Orquesta La 33, or simply La 33, a band that is revolutionizing the current scene of Salsa music, proposing a more urban aesthetic, and capturing the sound of old salsa. “Pantera Mambo” is part of their previous material, but now they have a new one. Soon, we will have in Club Fonograma the review of their new album entitled "Gozalo". Meanwhile, enjoy the amazing feline mambo.

Coachella '08

Since this is my first post at Club Fonograma, I’d present myself very briefly. My name is Jean-Stephane Beriot, my family and I are from France but Chileans at heart as well. I lived in Chile from age 6 to 16 and since then I’ve been dividing myself between New York City and Los Angeles, and I am a musician. Thanks to Carlinhos for inviting me to join el Club Fonograma.

The Mexican Bands @ Coachella ’08

by: Jean-Stephane Beriot

Café Tacvba (yes with a v instead of u) is perhaps the best rock Latin band of all time. Soda Stereo is in my opinion too safe, Mana is a joke, Los Cadillacs are great but not really rockers. That leaves us with two high-caliber bands that are not only the best of Latinoamerica, but two of the best in the world: Aterciopelados & Café Tacvba. The latter has an already legendary sound, great ska influenced songs fused with Mexican regional music creating a resonance that stands out anywhere. Coachella, the most well known music festival in the world, welcomed the quartet with incredible warm. And yeah, people are still calling them the Mexican Beatles, which should stop, but only summarizes how respected they are.

I must say the Mexican band got one of the best receptions, at least it had everyone dancing even if most people had no fucking clue what the lyrics said or who they were. True coachellos already knew them, as this is their third time performing. The energy of those guys was amazing as usual, it just leaves us wanting more. If it was me, I would have cut the entire performance of average Jack Johnson; I mean, people did not go to see him. Only los tacubos can make the dance in Dejate Caer still seem so fresh and hysterical at the same time. My favorite song this time was Las Flores, a song I had ignored for such a long time. A video of the song at coachella is included at the end of this post.

Sino, the latest album is risky, which means that it disappointed many people. For us who think artists must take risks, it is a gratifying experience.

Coachella has been globalizing in the last few years and having three latin acts in this year’s lineup was incredibly satisfying. Mexico’s Porter and AUSTIN TV were also performers and I must say I find them very talented. The festival is not a place to meet new bands, it isn’t a platform for new talents as some people say. Hispanics of course knew los tacubos, but most of them were not even aware two other Mexican bands were playing. This is my first time seeing them Porter perform, I was not able to see Austin TV, which was my most anticipated hour of the entire fest. (It hurts!)

There were people from Mexico just going to see them, and judging their response this time Porter did not wow them. Talking to some of them, they talk about the band having internal problems and that their performance really reflected the tension among its members. But for me, a first timer, I would say I was totally enchanted by their mystical lyrics and yes that hunting voice. I bet they got a whole new line of followers now, since the audience (mostly first timers as well I assume) were very enthusiastic. Anyone looking for quality experimental alternative music need to look no further.

Let’s cross our fingers next year and the next one, Coachella doesn’t need big names, it needs good music and bands like Babasonicos, Los Planetas, Los Amigos Invisibles, Nortec, Zoe or Aterciopelados. Coachella ’08 was an okay edition, but for me having three bands from latinoamerica was a true achievement.

Somos Pacífico, Choc Quib Town

SOMOS PACÍFICO, Choc Quib Town, Colombia
Polen - Zafra

Are we witnessing the birth of another great hip hop Latin band?

During the last decade the scene of hip hop in Spanish has undergone a major revolution, which includes for example, the development and evolution of reggaeton as a dominant genre in the Latin American music industry. In the same way many bands have appeared in different geographic locations that have defined the latin sound of hip hop as Orishas, Los Violadores del Verso, El Sindicato Argentino del Hip Hop, and recently Calle 13.

Now the revolution continues in the black Colombia, the forgotten Colombia with Choc-Quib-Town, a group that mixes the taste of their rhythms with the social complaint, in a rap cadence with Pacific folklore.

When people think about Colombian folklore, they immediately think of Cumbia and Vallenato, but that is just a fraction of the full cake. For example, the Caribbean has La Cumbia, La Tambora, El Fandango, El Bullerengue, El Porro, la Gaita, El Vallenato, La Champeta, and El Mapalé, among others. The Tropical Andes have El Bambuco, La Guabina, El Pasillo, La Guasca, etc. The eastern plains have to El Joropo. While the Pacific Litoral, the blacks area, has El Currulao, El Chandé, La Salsa, and La Chirimía, and from there comes Choc-quib-town.

This indie band, which first appeared in 2006 in the Latin Alternative Music Conference compiled album, is produced by Ivan Benavidez (Carlos Vives) and Richard Blair (Peter Gabriel, Sidestepper, Jorge Villamizar), and already won two Nuestra Tierra Colombian Music Awards on the urban field. Now they are introducing the reissue of their debut album “Somos Pacífico” originally launched in late 2006, but this time with some new songs and sound mastered in London. Undoubtedly, this is the best album from a Colombian artist released the last year (only compared with “Son… para el mundo”, by Jorge Celedón), that contrasts with the weakness of their videos, very low budget and quality of implementation.

It is not the same rap that is done in New York or Paris but made in the black pacific. Thus we come to hear a song as “Pescao Envenenao”, where they launch a warning about politicians and other people in society that are responsible for sowing fear and mislead the people, saying something such as - I do not like what you say, I do not believe it - Through an analogy with fish when they reach a not coastal city, like Bogota, where they are no longer so fresh, so they are not edible. A song with a strong theme with a happy chorus that turned into a veritable feast, played featuring the revelation of Salsa music: Orquesta La 33.

One of the most seductive pieces is "San Antonio," an old traditional song in a Currulao rhythm, this time converted into hip hop. In "Si ", they make an apology to Latin American rap, which called ghetto, and confirm their eclectic sound with phrases like: "Me gusta el Ragga, Reggae and R&B, y eso lo mezclo con la música de aquí”. While, "Alguien como tú", we find a song full of romantic lyrics, with a slow beat and surround.

But we can’t ignore the song that gave the album title "Somos Pacífico", which uses fragments of an old theme of Grupo Niche. A song that calls for greater attention to a region and one race, and carries a cry that is heard from the bottom of Darien’s jungle: “Colombia es más que coca, marihuana y café” (Colombia is more than coca, marijuana and coffee). Choc Quib Town is our artist of the week.

Numeric Rating: 92/100