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,