Colombia is known in the United States for many of its exports but, to the typical American listener, music is not one of them. Yet Colombian group Aterciopelados has just exported their new album Gozo Poderoso to the U.S. It is best to compare the Colombian group Aterciopelados, which translates as “The Velvety Ones,” not to any one music which is similar, (which would be fruitless, because this music is unique) but to other artists who seem to be using traditional music culture in the same way as this band.
The artist who immediately leaps to mind is Talvin Singh. Aterciopelados’ use of Colombian instrumentation is similar to Singh’s use of Indian instruments in his drum and bass music. However, Aterciopelados are not drum and bass –– they’re more trip-hop influenced by pop, with a massive Colombian influence. The result is an original blend of traditional instruments and rhythms with drum machines, programming and effects.
A good introduction to the sound of Aterciopelados can be found in Gozo Poderoso’s “Luto.” The song begins with two chords plucked on a traditional sounding nylon-stringed classical guitar before being joined by a mechanical, train-like programmed beat, which lazily counts the 6/8 time and a bass-heavy keyboard. As the heavily reverbed, laconic female vocals (think Stereolab gone south of the equator) come in, they are joined by chorused, sparkling and shimmering notes from an electric guitar.
The combination of electronic and traditional sounds is by no means a new idea. However, Aterciopelados manage to make something new of it, with one step in the hallway of tradition and one lamping in the vestibule of progress. Highlights of the album are the bumping, ultra-slick “Gozo Poderoso,” the mellow heat fatigue of “Transparente,” and “La Misma Tijera,” where surf guitars mix with traditional drums and spiritual sounding call-and-answer patterned vocals.
Rarewerks is the newest compilation from that electronic music label we’ve all come to know and love, Astralwerks. The album is prepared to please everyone with its focus on rock and pop inspirations in the world of electronic music. The compilation features rare material from the label’s best musicians: Fatboy Slim, The Chemical Brothers, The Future Sound of London as well as mellow rockers like Air and the Beta Band.
The opening track, “How Can You Hear Us?” is Fatboy Slim’s funky big-beat dance floor groove that sets the appropriately fun tone that resonates throughout the rest of the album. This vibe is continued with Primal Scream’s “Exterminator,” which here is remixed by Massive Attack, lending the punk anthem a darker industrial edge.
Less funk, more astronaut-fantasy is British duo Groove Armada’s remix of “Feng Shui,” originally written by Q-Burns Abstract Message. The song, while pushing the edge of repetitiveness at times, adds so much interesting percussion that the extended time of the sublime remix is worth the wait.
Pushing the limits of the album’s pop/rock roots are songs like the British producer Brendan Lynch’s trip-hoppy remix of Air’s “Casanova ’70,” Scanty Sandwich’s “This One” (which cheekily samples from The Knacks’ “My Sharona”) and The Beta Band’s amalgamation of drum machines and meditative harmonies in their “To You Alone.” The Beta Band tune is one that especially stands out on Rarewerks as unique in its ability to make you hit the books or the dance floor.
The compilation of course includes big names like The Future Sound of London, though their track “Live In New York” doesn’t compare to the innovative accomplishments of the other songs. The sampling is almost pretentious in its minimalistic attempt to make you feel transported back to a late 1980s movie theater for the opening night of one of the Star Wars movies. Photek’s “DNA” suffers from the same ailment, though their track at least attempts to make up for it by adding eerie but catchy guitar effects into the ambient texture.
All together, Rarewerks presents some hard-to-find electronic music in one great package. It’s great to hear the re-workings of already fabulous songs by fabulous mixers. Rarewerks fails on a couple songs, but even those are redeemed by the compilation’s many gems.
Beyoncé, Kelly and Michelle are back! Destiny’s Child released their third album, Survivor this week. The album, appropriately titled, boasts a more pop-oriented Destiny’s Child, but surviving this album is a bit of a challenge.
Once again, Beyoncé Knowles takes most of the credit for this album, and you can see this when you read the liner notes. All 15 tracks are produced by none other than Knowles. Still, credit must be given to the fact that listeners finally hear the other members of the group. On this album, the trio split the song verses equally so that we can finally hear Michelle and Kelly’s beautiful voices.
The current singles from the album, “Survivor” and “Independent Women” set the theme for the majority of the album’s songs. “Independent Women” is a good dance track that many may recognize from the Charlie’s Angels soundtrack. “Survivor,” though the lyrics might suggest the writing of a middle school student, is also an easy track to shake to.
In this way, most of the songs on the album have the potential to be great, due to funky beats and music. However, just because Knowles’ name is all over the album does not automatically make her a good producer.
The lyrics, verse placement and overall effectiveness of the tracks are less than stellar. Just something about the elementary lyrics: how can anyone take the word “Bootylicious,” the title of track three, seriously? Also, in “Nasty Girl,” Beyoncé has decided to school women on what they wear in and out of the house, talking about how “nasty” and “trashy” women are when they go out. Was it not Destiny’s Child who came on stage wearing a two-piece sequin bikini with knee-high boots at this year’s Grammy Awards? So, who should be schooling who here?
The trend that started with a hard-hitting R&B feel, with “No No No” on their first album, has now diminished to something more reminiscent of an ’NSync dance track. This album is following the hip-pop trend of many other artists. Survivor is laced with overdone vocal runs, bad lyrics, weird key changes and of course, that trademark Destiny’s Child sound. They will definitely still sell albums, because they’re Destiny’s Child. As for the quality of music, if you like to dance, this is a great album, but if you’re after intellectual, thoughtful lyrics, you’ll be very disappointed.
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