Thursday, November 8, 2012

Bomba Estéreo: Elegancia Tropical

I have been trying in vain to review this album for the last two days, not because I don't have anything to say about it (the usual culprit), but because my one-year-old won't stop screaming for long enough for me to sit down and do it.  Well, obviously that's an exaggeration, as if he had ACTUALLY been crying for the last 48 hours straight I would have taken him to the doctor already, but he's in one of those terrible phases where his brain is working better than his body and mouth, and he is constantly frustrated that I can't figure out what he wants me to do.  Case in point: the last hour, during which he cried almost non-stop until I figured out that he didn't want to eat the bag of baby food, but instead play with it by screwing the cap on and off.  And now he's sitting in my lap, wearing a blanket like a tiny prince.  Not that any of this has anything to do with Bomba Estéreo.

So, in case you haven't heard of them, Bomba Estéreo (translation: Stereo Bomb) was formed in Bogotá, Columbia in 2005 by bassist and bandleader Simón Mejía after recruiting "fierce singer Liliana Saumet to join the group" (per The Windish Agency's site).  They describe the music they play as "Electro tropical" (thanks, Wikipedia), and an L.A. Times piece I found about emerging Latina rappers compares them to "Richard Blair's Sidestepper, founder of the electro-cumbia school of thought" (who I totally love).  And, if that isn't enough information for your brain to process, that same article also addresses Saumet's sometimes racy lyrics, which she explains by saying  "I grew up in the Atlantic coast of Colombia, where language is meant to be sensuous".  Putting it all together, we can conclude that Bomba Estéreo lays down electronic beats mixed with traditional Latin rhythms, all topped by sensual Spanish raps.  Which is EXACTLY the same conclusion you would come to by listening to the album, except in a slightly different order.

This record opens with "Bosque", a track whose prolonged intro settles the listener into a balmy, open-aired lounge at twilight, before an ambient electronic world beat kicks in to join Saumet's lazy Spanish-language vocals.  This is not necessarily indicative of the sound of the rest of the album (it's one of the few tracks where she sings instead of raps), but it is a definite mood-setter: more Astrud Gilberto than CSS, it gets you moving in your seat without getting you out of it.  Next comes "Bailar Conmigo", which shares the same spacey, atmospheric, dance-lite beat as first track, but Saumet's vocals go hip hop, a direction which isn't necessarily "pretty", but is engaging nonetheless.  Third track "El Alma y el Cuerpo" sort of splits the difference between the first two, and that's the place the album settles, although the beats get dirtier and the air gets smokier as the evening passes, especially when we reach EDM-touched "Pure Love".  The climax of the album occurs on "Mozo", a pull-the-curtains-so-the-neighbors-won't-see number that features a male voice in addition to Saumet's and some super-funky, climactic drumming.  After that, the record relaxes a bit, ending with insistent after-party track "Pa' Respirar".  All in all, the album tells a more cohesive story than most I've listened to since starting this blog, winding up and down with an effortlessly sexy club vibe that still comes across as smart.

Oh, and they also make good videos:


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