In the sea of music that washes over our eyes and ears everyday there are those moments that really stand out. EPs, tracks or albums that cut through the masses and make you smile, think or blow you away with something truly different. These are a couple of releases over the past few months that have done exactly that.
Umoja – Vuelo Nocturno
(18th August, INI Movement)
Umoja are a couple of talented young guys making roots-heavy tropical bass from their bedrooms in Haarlem, the Netherlands. The duo have had a steady release of well-produced, grooving, original tunes and their latest release shows their sound maturing and constantly improving. A blend of dubby cumbia, cut up samples, flutes, shakers, bird song and bass, Vuelo Nocturno is a breath of fresh air that manages to simultaneously celebrate global roots and digital culture.
Despite his limited output, Uproot Andy has made it on to my very exclusive list of reliable producers. Nearly everything (if not everything) the US based producer has released has a real quality about it. His productions have that rare combination of being melodically catchy, well produced, unique and absolutely killer on the dancefloor. This selection, the first release on Que Bajo Records maintains his reputation – 5 sure fire refixes of 5 different musical styles from 5 different countries. And they’re free.
Beat Making Lab is a brilliantly simple and stylishly executed idea bringing electronic music education to communities around the world. Though the lab initially started as a music production course at the University, it has since been transformed into a global project with the two teachers taking their know-how and a travelling studio around the world.
The Lab itself is a crowdfunded “electronic music studio small enough to fit in a backpack” that offers young musicians the tools, skills and opportunity to make their own beats. For each lab the “teachers” (producers Apple Juice Kid and MC Pierce Freelon) spend two weeks in a local organisation teaching young people the skills to professionalise their music and become part of the 21st century global digital music community. Though the producers go back to the US, the equipment stays as an investment in the artists and the community.
From the team responsible for Amsterdam’s rijsttafel of a club night Denver Nights, Denver Nights Volume 1 is a glance into Amsterdam’s continously exciting and diverse electronic music scene and the producers behind it. Celebrating the club night’s two year anniversary, this compilation (available for free download) unites some of the artists that have graced the decks at Denver’s now regular Amsterdam haunt, Canvas. The result, much like the club night itself, is a mix of fresh styles, sounds and tempos – each with an eye for the Denver dancefloor.
Earlier this month one of Mexico’s most notorious and loved musicians Chavela Vargas passed away at the age of 93. Film maker and soul mate Pedro Almodovar described Vargas as “the rough voice of tenderness” and her drawling, sadness soaked ranchera renditions made her one of the country’s most unique voices.
She also became renowned for her fearless breaches of taboo subjects in 40s and 50s Mexico (singing love songs about women, wearing trousers, carrying a loaded pistol and crediting her recovery from polio to shamans) and heavy bouts of drinking, accompanied by fellow ranchera composer and singer José Alfredo Jiménez. Despite not declaring herself a lesbian until the age of 81, her music was adopted by Mexico’s gay and lesbian community and she went on to become one of the country’s most legendary figures and singers. You can find a short but well written obituary on Chavela Vargas from The Guardian.
In celebration of la chamana‘s life and music, a group of artists have recorded and released their own tribute to the singer. The whole album 21 songs (or 40 with the extras) is available for free download here. For those who, like me, are new to Vargas’ extensive work (over 80 albums!) this is a great introduction to one of Latin America’s great singers. Or you could also watch a few Almodovar films…
Lucas Santtana’s Sem Nostalgia, released last year via the great Mais Um Discos imprint, received widespread acclaim for it’s dissection of Brazilian singer/songwriters’ reliance on the bossa nova lineage. Santtana took the lilting melodious guitar/singer combo, now synonymous with Brazilian music, and twisted into something fresh and electric, verging on the experimental. Electronica mixed with acoustic guitars, sweet vocals and found sounds.
Now a host of worldly remixes, including the likes of Deerhoof, AJ Holmes and The Hackney Empire and Glasgow legend JD Twitch (Optimo) have taken Sem Nostaglia’s excursions and splintered them even further. The 13 track album (tracklist after the break) is free to download and sits as a fitting response to Santanna’s musical questions, raised on Sem Nostalgia. Don’t look back!
Tropical Britannia is a free to download EP that unites the king of Brazilian mash-up, London based producer João Brasil, with 5 of the capital’s hottest tropically spiced producers (Isa GT, Bumps, Moroka, Murlo and Rob Pollinate) . The EP, part of the Rio Occupation event, is available for free download.
Tropical Britannia is a multi-cultural mash-up of sounds from around the world. Nods to Juke (Dadinho), Electrico-pop/Colombian tinged tecnobrega (Electrico), tropi-pub-house (Elephant and castle), rainforest madness (Kookaburra) and even the unclassifiable (Sea Monkey). Quality productions and some intriguing twists and turns showcasing the burgeoning tropical scene in the UK capital (also comes with some tasty artwork courtesy of Hardcuore).
New Makina is always welcome and this little collection is no different. Gringas is a mini EP of “Hipster Chicha, Tribal, Cumbia-Step and Beach Cumbia”, tropifiying Lana del Rey, Dillon, Gotye and Jenny Wilson. Four refreshing and really quality cuts of tropitastic pop AND you can download them for free below.
Somehow cumbia is one of those genres that just keeps reinventing itself geographically and historically. Though “digital cumbia”, “nu-cumbia” or whatever you want to call it exploded a few years back and was a little swamped with generic cumbia “versions”, fresh sounds keep emerging. Producers mixing their own influences into the rhythm, nodding to folkloric roots or digitalising completely. These three musical gems released over the past week are testament to exactly that:
All the way from Peru, Dengue Dengue Dengue‘s second mixtape is a psychadelic journey through their digitalised cumbia world. It mixes classic cumbieros with original material and hard-hitting 21st century Cumbia/Cumbiahton. Looking forward to their future releases.
Almost like a Best Of ZZK with a few added bonuses thrown in. This album is the perfect introduction to the vibrant scene which revolves around the Buenos Aires based club/label. It is a diverse mix of electronic folklore mutations, cumbia futurism and sounds you just wont hear anywhere else. Fresh as ever. Get it here.
It has been a while since we last heard from Dutch based producer Sonido del Principe but these four heavy Cumbia cuts released this week are well worth the wait. What’s more, you can download them for FREE via Mediafire.
Kumbia Queers – Daniela
Last but certainly not least, the new video from our favourite all-girl cumbia punks Kumbia Queers. This time it is all about tennis and, as pointed out by Canalh, a tongue-in-cheek nod to Martin Solveig & Dragonette’s massive hit Hello?
Have to say I was really looking forward to this one when it dropped in the inbox. I have been a fan of Orquesta’s limited output since the Dona Sandra EP featuring Zuzuka Poderosa on vocals. The Irish producer has a fresh approach to the term “global bass”, melting wordly rhythms into electronica and pushing it in all sorts of different directions.
Our Final Expedition, released on the 27th of March, will be the first release from Orquesta’s own new imprint Meles Meles (Latin for the European Badger!). Simplified, this is an EP inspired by space. More specifically, abstractions of Latin rhythms taken into out of the earth’s atmosphere. It is soft, glistening and definitely spacey. The EP wont smash any dancefloors but it doesn’t aim too, it is rather the soundtrack to a golden summer or a flight through space. Deconstructed Cumbia; guiros and shakers abound mixed into synths and bleeps, dem-bow rhythms and sub booms sit with inter-galactic atmouspherics and floating vocals. In other words, all good! Watch this space for the release. Note, the cat sounds will not be in the final EP(!)