Editor’s note: As 2012 comes to a close, we’re beginning to select our own best of lists. Look to future issues of NUVO for more extensive coverage on the year in music.
As the end of the year approaches, critics everywhere begin compiling their annual “best of” lists. As I started that process myself last week, I noticed a remarkable amount of the LPs I earmarked for that designation originated in South America.
Over the last few years there’s been an explosion of artistic creativity across the South American continent. The recent trend of infusing experimental indie and electronic music concepts into regional rhythms and styles seems to have sparked this fertile creative epoch, just as the introduction of rock and funk inspired the vibrant South American music scene of the late '60s and early '70s.
The following list is an attempt to spotlight the fresh and innovative sounds coming out of the South American music scene over the last year.
Ondatrópica —— Ondatrópica (Colombia):
Produced by the U.K.’s Will Quantic and Colombia’s Mario Galeano, Ondatrópica features over 40 of Colombia’s greatest musicians past and present in an incredible document of the nation’s rich musical heritage. Not a single note is wasted over course of the LP’s 19 songs, which explore nearly every significant regional style in Colombian music. Some have labeled Ondatrópica a Colombian take on Cuba’s Buena Vista Social Club, but the approach here is far more experimental as Quantic and Galeano layer rap, afrobeat and dub into the more traditional national textures. Stylistic considerations aside, Ondatrópica is imbued with a joyous creative spirit and fiery passion missing from a lot of contemporary music. An absolute masterwork and one of my favorite LPs of 2012.
Criolo —— Nó Na Orelha (Brazil):
Criolo’s sophomore release Nó Na Orelha may stand as the São Paulo MC’s magnum opus. With its stunning blend of sophisticated musical production and powerful social commentary, Nó Na Orelha has catapulted Criolo out of the São Paulo underground and onto the international music stage. The album has received rave reviews worldwide and earned the respect of Brazilian music legends like Caetano Veloso and Chico Buarque. Jumping musically from reggae to samba to afrobeat, Nó Na Orelha is one of the most imaginative and far-reaching hip-hop albums I’ve encountered, bar none.
Ana Tijoux —— La Bala (Chile):
La Bala, or “The Bullet” is the third solo release from Chilean-French rapper Tijoux and it’s one of the most lush and elegantly produced hip-hop LPs you’ll ever hear. Producer Andrés Celis has draped Tijoux’s jazzy beats in a cloak of violins and cellos. Lyrically there’s lots of political commentary on tap with several references to the recent Chilean student protests. But you don’t need to speak a word of Spanish to appreciate the rich musical experience La Bala offers.
Meridian Brothers —— Desesperanza (Colombia):
If you’ve ever wondered what Krautrock experimentalists Can or Faust would have sounded like had they started a salsa band. then this album is for you. Desesperanza is the work of Colombian musician Eblis Álvarez, who takes delight in blending his countries traditional dancefloor rhythms with spaced-out keyboards, sped-up vocals, out of tune guitars and oddball sound effects. Song titles like “Salsa del Zombie” and “Guaracha U.F.O.” provide a good indication of the deliciously warped grooves Álvarez unleashes on Desesperanza.
Novalima —— Karimba (Peru):
A brilliant blend of traditional Afro-Peruvian music with contemporary DJ culture.
Astro —— Astro (Chile):
Ridiculously catchy new wave synth-pop that rivals any similar creation from the North American or European scenes. Chile’s Astro deserve wider recognition.
Bomba Estéreo —— Elegancia Tropical (Colombia):
Bomba Estéreo continue to explore their explosive mix of rocked-out, electronic cumbia beats.
Las Malas Amistades —— Maleza (Colombia):
A lovely, collection of fragile minimalist compositions from the Bogotá —— based outfit once described as the Spanish language Young Marble Giants.
Mati Zundel —— Amazonico Gravitante (Argenitina):
Perhaps the most fully realized LP to emerge from Argentina’s influential electro-cumbia scene, bolstered by Zundel’s excellent songwriting and his knack for recreating Argentinian folkloric textures.
Bonde do Rolê —— Tropical/Bacanal (Brazil):
Produced by Diplo, Bonde do Rolê’s latest delivers another dose of the group’s art school take on baile funk, the booty-shaking beat of Brazil’s favelas.
Each edition of A Cultural Manifesto features a mix from Kyle Long, spotlighting music from around the globe. This week's selection features songs from South America's new wave.
1. Ana Tijoux - Shock (Nacional Records, 2012)
2. Astro - Colombo (Producciones Mexicanas, 2012)
3. Bonde do Rolê - Kilo (Mad Decent, 2012)
4. Bomba Estéreo - Bailar Conmigo (Polen Records, 2012)
5. Mati Zundel - Taki Onkoi (ZZK, 2012)
6. Novalima - Zarambe (ESL Music, 2012)
7. Ondatrópica - Rap-Maya (Soundway, 2012)
8. Criolo - Mariô (Oloko, 2012)
9. Las Malas Amistades - Luna (Honest Jon's, 2012)
10. Meridian Brothers - Guaracha U.F.O Versión Rebajada (Soundway, 2012)
11. Ondatrópica - I Ron Man (Soundway, 2012)
12. Bonde do Rolê - Dança Especial (Mad Decent, 2012)
13. Bomba Estéreo - El Alma y El Cuerpo (Polen Records, 2012)
14. Criolo - Bogotá (Oloko, 2012)
15. Novalima - Guaybo (ESL Music, 2012)
16. Mati Zundel - Señor Montecostez (ZZK, 2012)
17. Astro - Coco (Producciones Mexicanas, 2012)
18. Ana Tijoux - Volver (Nacional Records, 2012)
19. Las Malas Amistades - El Otro Dia (Honest Jon's, 2012)
20. Meridian Brothers - Homenaje a la Mujer Colombiana (Soundway, 2012)