Meridian Brothers – Cumbia siglo XXI (2020)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 41:02 minutes | 862 MB | Genre: Latin
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © Bongo Joe
After the very acoustic “¿Dónde estás María?”. I decided to try a new experiment taking as a reference the legendary group “Cumbia siglo XX” which is a group who explores a futuristic vision of coastal cumbia in the 80s, together with other groups such as “Grupo folclórico”, “2000 voltios” and others, mainly under the label Machuca and Felito records. This new 80s cumbia was a combination of funky basses and a further evolution of the rhythms, blending this style with disco and even rock music and superimposing the traditional versus the urban context and the modernity.
Meridian Brothers took this as a departing point and inspiration, making the same experiment but in XXI century, using the modern media of this time; all kinds of drum machines, guitars and synths, algorithmic software etc, and also taking into account the global exposition of modern cumbia in the 2010s. So all kinds of influences and genres are blended around this cumbia axis. Urban beats, synthy grooves, glitches and all kinds of swear words (and its censoship &$*/&##), and all kinds of slang languaje are included in the songs of the album.
All these elements are filtered and passed through the traditional train of thought of Meridian Brothers, which is the figuration of an abstract picture of sound put it within a concrete context or cultural tendency.
Bogota’s Meridian Brothers are a futurist, electro-rock act at the forefront of experimental Latin rhythms and styles. Founder and multi-instrumentalist Eblis Álvarez writes, plays, arranges, and records the band’s albums solo. These explore Latin folk and popular styles including vallenato and currulao, woven through electronica, neo-psych, prog, and cartoon soundtrack music. Cumbia Siglo XXI is titled after a defunct Colombian group who played a sci-fi version of discofied cumbia during the 1980s. The songs here readily reference that as a lift-off point to explore cumbia as a genre. Álvarez melds folkloric and pop Colombian, Argentinian, and Mexican cumbias to vintage rock, neo-electro, spidery funk, and tropical styles. As on previous Meridian Brothers outings such as Salvadora Robot and Suicidas, he illustrates this project with an army of snaky guitars in strange tunings, (mostly cheap) electronics, guerilla production, unusual vocal treatments, and razor-sharp humor. His percussion methods juxtapose the organic with the sampled and looped, all appended by spaced-out pitch manipulations. There isn’t a track here, no matter how strange, that doesn’t groove. Check out the spiky chiptune electronics creating the melody on “Los Golpeadores de la Cumbia,” as it staggers through layers of vintage Mattel drum machines set on “clatter.” “Cumbia del Pichamán” is a cover of Dusty Springfield’s soul classic “Son of a Preacher Man,” filtered through the Barranquilla rhythms of Anibal Velasquez prismatically under and alongside reggae guitars, perverse singing, and Caribbean harmonies. The real killer here is “Puya del Empresario,” where primitive synths zig, zag, and collide (think The Normal’s “T.V.O.D.” meets Devo’s “Red Eye”). The space-age moodiness and edgy drama in “Cumbia de la Fuente” slither forth with staggered sci-fi flick sound effects, brittle, distorted drum machines, and cascading surf guitars. Immediately following that, “Cumbia de la Amistad” cracks across mutant disco soundtrack music with reverbed guitars and spun-up synths that can’t decide whether they’re lead or rhythm instruments. “Cumbia Totalitaria” delivers a straight, chanted cumbia melody, but dubbed with paranoid vocals, and a pulsing tempo that shifts and changes beats seemingly at will. The fun continues with “Cumbia de Soledad,” an intense, skittering reinvention of cumbia as alien dance music beamed through a car radio. It’s militant, hyper, kinetic, and fun. For many years, Álvarez, who grew up on cumbia, resisted the impulse to explore it deeply when making music. It demands rigorous knowledge and discipline to understand its norms, let alone transgress them. Journeying though Colombia’s approach and roping in Argentinian and Mexican derivations liberated Álvarez to go deep and wide. Cumbia Siglo XXI is easily Meridian Brothers’ most satisfying outing to date. While no less insane than its predecessors, its musicality is as abundant as it is adventuresome. Further, it pays tribute to cumbia even as it exaggerates and satirizes it with almost familial warmth and affection. – Thom Jurek
1. Los Golpeadores De La Cumbia (04:09)
2. Cumbia Del Pichamán (03:17)
3. Puya Del Empresario (04:14)
4. Cumbia De La Igualdad (04:02)
5. Cumbia De La Fuente (04:35)
6. Cumbia De La Amistad (03:47)
7. Cumbia Del Relicario (03:41)
8. Cumbia Totalitaria (04:51)
9. Cumbia De La Soledad (04:13)
10. Cumbia De Los Proletarios (04:17)