Monday, August 18, 2008

Abstract Index Playlist - August 13/08

Billy Bryans and I have discussed the sound of contemporary Latin music more than once. By "sound" I mean "mixing sensibilities", which IMO, is one of the biggest impediments to timba and modern day salsa registering on the radar of rock fans. I wouldn't say "crossing over" exactly, since salsa - a crossover music to start with - has reached to innumerable non-Latin audiences around the world.

For all the rhythmic vitality in the many strains of salsa, the production sensibility is so often rooted in a middle of the road, unimaginative presentation of sounds. The midrange is often clogged with drumkit, congas and the uppermost range of the now standard baby bass. Also, salsa fares poorly in the volume wars. Instrumental elements which need space get squashed. This phenomenon is made worse when this music comes to you as an MP3 at 128Kps. 8 bit dullness is a dominant trend in pop, but these sounds tend to be created and mixed in very deliberate ways, often with million dollar sounds punching through the digital beigeness to get to that ol' boom bap. Contemporary salsa sonics are dull, by and large.

Jon Fausty, the Tom Dowd of salsa, engineered the new Bio Ritmo release 'Bionico'. Fausty, possibly the only legendary engineer in salsa, gives the mix room to breathe without losing any impact. Moreover, keyboardist Marlysse Simmons comes up with unusual sounds for this context. These are given different spaces within the stereo spectrum, unlike so many keyboard sounds in salsa which are nothing more than heaping portions of vanilla goo on top of an otherwise propulsive arrangement. Their approach to electronics extends to fusing drum machine accents to the rhythms, subtly boosting the groove's intelligibility without sounding synthetic. You can always hear the sweat and finesse in Bio Ritmo's funky, jazzy, spacey salsa.

There are a lot of different looks to this disc, from their humourous and successful boogaloo-ization of the them from the Six Million Dollar Man, to an Afro-funk coda to Bobby Valentin's "Seguiras Criticando". Best of all, there always a sense of experimentation within the grooves, which for me is one of the highest states of musical perfection.

Bio Ritmo play Toronto in late October, and they SMOKE live. I don't expect they'll draw much of an indie rock crowd, but they ought to get some respect for shaking up the sonic conventions of contemporary Latin sounds while still staying very much in the tradition.

never can say goodbye - isaac hayes (enterprise)
hoje e dia de el rey - milton nascimento (emi)
papo furado - antonio adolfo & brazuca (far out)
1000 rads - david axelrod (polydor)
blue jazz rock - mickey baker (shanachie)
ruins of america pt 1 - andy haas (resonant)
morto che parla - actis furioso (leo)
muchacho - bio ritmo (locutor)
friends and countrymen - earl rodney (em)
calypsoul - clarence curvin & his mod sounds (strut)
indian mood - mel m'rabet & victor nesrallah (no label)
fahasbokoum hatha - hdhairy abou aziz (honest jons)
lower flower - fred frith/anne bourne/john oswald (spoon)
emv.4 - adnan marquez-borbon (circumvention)
baby - reggae disco rockers feat. horace andy (guidance)
children - henry & louis meet willie williams (bsi)
i miss you - george nooks (tad's)
dreamland - u roy feat. psalms (tabou 1)
behind iron bars - joe gibbs & the professionals (lightning)
the lady in my life/billie jean - shinehead (african love)
the style - dubital (tanty)

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