Matias Aguayo - The Visitor

The Visitor, Matias Aguayo
Cómeme, Germany/Chile
Rating: 78
by Monika Fabian

Before adding “El Sucu Tucu” to our mental dictionaries (1. noun, ‘that crazy rhythm that’s really good’; 2. n., onomatopoetic dance music) in late April, the last we’d heard from Matias Aguayo was in 2011. His I Don’t Smoke EP had left my colleague Ruben Torres’ curiosity piqued and wondering when the Berlin-based DJ/producer would put away the passport long enough to record a follow-up to 2009’s stellar, Ay Ay Ay. Well, as it turned out, The Visitor, released in June, became the sum of that itinerant gigging (famously with his impromptu BumBumBox street parties) and features even more collaborations with Cómeme labelmates and other fellow artists.

By releasing what amounts to the synthesis of five years worth of sights and sounds from around the globe, it would appear that Matias Aguayo is more interested in context than concept these days. Each song on The Visitor has the feel of a vignette (and the qualities of a flash street party, too)—bursting with frenzied color and energy, but done as if on-the-fly. Gone is the sophisticated simplicity of “Rollerskate.” (Less, no longer more, has evidently skipped town and discovered the world in all its messy, organic glory.) In its place, we have beating (and breathing) layered beats, tonal textures, and multifarious rhythms from Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Medellin, and elsewhere in Aguayo’s travels and psyche.

Paradoxically, the LP’s best tracks remind of the lone, measured Aguayo of yore, but also the beauty in analog and digital collisions and realtime chaos. The percussive punta-led, laser-accented jam “Llegó El Don” is Aguayo at his finest on this album in this respect. On the following track, the early-aughts-esque pop song “Una Fiesta Diferente,” a beguiling Aguayo sings in Spanglish with Timberlakean flair about heading to a party “that’s not bad, but just not for me.” Lead single “El Sucu Tucu” and “El Camarón” are highlights not only because they’re funky and incredibly infectious, they also demonstrate that Aguayo’s vocal percussion is like no other in dance music (and perhaps only comparable to Juana Molina in contemporary music). Aguayo, like Molina, reshapes words to their most elemental sounds as if sculpting sonic clay, and vice versa, he takes sounds and attaches meaning to them.

And just as “Rollerskate” delivers a gliding sensation, the listener, too, feels in on the ride here—assuming the role of a visitor, dancing through fleeting locale by locale— to mostly sun-soaked destinations (“Aonde,” “Las Cruces”), but also the occasional disorienting and perplexing place, too. Such is this case with “By the Graveyard,” a brooding cut that’s overwhelmed by Aguayo’s vocals. Yet the biggest weakness of all might be that, unlike its evergreen 2009 predecessor, The Visitor struggles to overcome its contemporary nature. At best, the record serves as an exemplary collection of forward-thinking dance music from the late-aughts to 2013. At worst, The Visitor isn’t an album, it’s a history book.