This has to be one of the most anticipated releases this summer (if you can still call it that?) Jet pioneering bass scientist Mala to Cuba, stick him in a room with hugely talented local musicians (who provide him with 60GB of original material), fly him back to London, put him in a studio and wait for the end result. The end result? One of the most interesting and exciting albums of the year.
The whole thing was instigated by Gilles Peterson, forming part of his Havana Cultura project, and facilitated Mala to head out to Cuba and work with pianist Roberto Fonseca and a host of musicians. The producer laid down simple 140bpm tracks over which the musicians would improvise, he then took these recordings back home and crafted the 14 tracks that make up the album. The end product is not however a simple transformation of Cuban music for the sound systems and dancefloors but rather a thoughtful homage to the island, its culture, its rhythms and melodies – as Mala puts it:
“I just had to make music how I feel it and this is how it came out. I can only bring what I do, so I guess the record is really me trying to translate my experience of Cuba.”
Mala in Cuba swings between Mala’s trademark heavy sub-laden tracks, incorporating driving Cuban percussion such as Changuito and The Tunnel (an absolute dancefloor killer), and more reflective pieces. For example, Tribal is more akin to the sound of Murcof’s classical-electronica than DMZ, its haunting piano echoing through dusty, forgotten Cuban ballrooms. Noches Suenos has a more stripped down dub leaning with great overlaid vocals from Danay Suarez meanwhile Como Como lowers down the tempo, incorporating thick bass, trickling snynths, echoing pianos and foggy vocals. The album has so many great tracks on it it is hard to pick out your favourites.
Since his early days as one of the dubstep pioneers at DMZ, Mala has always been a master of low end theory and this pitch perfect control of the sub frequencies is present throughout the album. However, Mala in Cuba pushes in a new direction and in doing so affirms Mala’s place as one of the UK’s most exciting and talented electronic music producers. I will leave you with this from the man himself:
“I felt really at home in Cuba, I really did. The people I met there do music for the same reason I do it—because they love it. They don’t do it because they think they’re going to be successful or famous, they just do it because its something within them that they have to do. That’s the beautiful thing for me about all of this. It’s not about finishing music or being able to sell a record. It’s just really about exploring and discovering new things. For me, that’s really where the joy is in all of this.”
You can download the album digitally now and buy on CD from next week via Brownswood Recordings. Unfortunately, it seems the vinyl has already sold out. Also worth checking out XLR8R’s feature on the producer and the album.