The New Latinaires & Beleza Tropical Various Artists
The following compilations are amalgams of widely different music that sometimes works and sometimes doesnít. The New Latinaires is an antiserum of sound; a blend of techno and percussion that is long overdue while Beleza Tropical conquers itself with its range, leaving us with little sense of harmony. Read on:
The New Latinaires
Hereís a CD for followers of techno and Latin jazz. If you want a spacey fusion that is pleasing to both your Latin and electronica ears, this is the pick for you.
The New Latinaires features the hybrid sounds of samba, ambiant techno and Cuban percussions that work surprisingly well together in this instrumental Various Artists. CD starts off with the smooth, pulsating "Atabaque" by Jazzanova , moving on to the more moody samba "Latinaire" by Beatless. East meets West here, as Japanese artist Izuru Utsumi is included in the mix, whose track "Zum Zum" sounds like a whipping featuring percussion. Modajiís "La Cosa Mas Chunga" has a distinct intellectuals-in-a-hip-bar-looking-cool approach. "Welcome to the Party" (both the original and re-mixed versions are featured here) by the Har-You Percussion Group is one of the best tracks on the Various Artists, both toe-tapping and velvety. Only on one track does the Various Artists tread to perilously close to the waters of New Age. The much too mellow for my taste "Tristesea" by Bayaka sounds like an ominous union between John Tesh and Carlos Santana.
This club music reels in fish from many waters to create a fresh Afro-Cuban bossatronica ambiance.
Beleza Tropical 2
5 years ago it was difficult to come by Brazilian or Cuban sounds in the typical record store in the typical town. Having spent my entire high school existence in a Musicland in Vernon Hills, IL, I know that outside some Vicente Fernandez and the Tigres del Norte, the Spanish section was an abysmal abomination. The Jazz section usually had some "girl from Ipanema" hiding in the bins, but that was about it. The only light in the tunnel was David Byrneís Luaka Bop label, and Beleza Tropical 1 remains a treasure. David Byrneís label has consistently put out strange and beautiful sounds from around the globe, especially from Brazil, Cuba, and Peru. The release of Beleza Tropical 2 was anticipated with more than the usual fanfare reserved for a compilation. Sadly, it wasnít quite the follow up I was hoping for. Gilberto Gil is back and starts off with "Madalena", a plea for the poor that manages to maintain some funky electric guitar. Os Paralamas do Sucesso's "Nao Me Estrague o Rio" sounds like its still suffering from the effects of 80ís synthesizers (and suspiciously like a Brazilian version of "Pass the Dutchie"), while Tom Zeís "Curiosidade" rings of Millennial doom with a Brazilian twist. There are some kick ass women singers, like Margareth Menezes whose strong voices competes and ends with a tie with the percussion. Daniela Mercuryís thunderous "Batuque" is high energy while the more poetic Marisa Monte contributes "Balanca Pema" (Translation: "Swing that Fish Tail"). Carlos Careque lends "Acho", an introspective folk song. Sergio Mendes is back, whose "What is This?", a postmodern spoken word samba in English throws you off kilter. "Imagem" by Arnaldo Antunes sounds a dreamy version of the Memory game sung in Portuguese.
The CD in its entirety attests to the new mutations in Brazil, except that itís more like a two-headed fish from the Hudson. All sorts of sounds are blended, from rock, country, rap, ska, and samba, but its overall sound isnít as powerful as the first CD or as exciting. The first one offered the best of the best in Brazilian music. Now that Brazilian music is featured in tons of commercials here in the States (from Searís and Banana Republic to Pentium), maybe my disappointment stems from overexposure. Byrneís releases on Luaka Bop are still innovative and a model for other world music labels, so letís hope for a better one next time.