V/A – Latin Noir â Everything Happens On The Beach (Piranha)
Out 19 February 2013
Paul Scott-Bates gets drawn in to the dark undertones of this album, as well as the mix of the familiar and the not so familiar sounds on it.
Iâll be honest, a compilation album of Latin music didnât really appeal to me, but, then I spotted this line in the press release: âIf you are looking for hip shakinâ, hands-in-the-air party music…this album is not for you. Latin Noir …..pays a gloomy homage to a new generation of the wretched of the earth…. redemption, despair and hope.â How could I resist?
Opening with Latin Grammy nominated Chango Spasiuk, ‘Tierra Colorada’ is an accordion based instrumental. Slow paced, speeding, then slowing again, itâs a lovely piece depicting the search for redemption. Iâm hooked. Hopefully, the vocalist on ‘Todo Eso’ by Sequidores Del Son isnât a 20 year old Adonis, because he sounds like an aging, strained old man with a grating voice making the track very unique and listenable. African and Spanish cultures combine in a track that oozes emotion and pain.
As with many âminorityâ music album compilations nowadays, there are plenty of surprises as I found out when I reviewed The Rough Guide To The Music Of Ethiopia. The third track on Latin Noir is no exception. ‘Rumba Para Los Olu Bata’ was more of what Iâd expected from Latin and pretty laid back with an interesting trumpet and/or horn in the background. What I loved was when it sped up into an almost ska fashion with full brass accompaniment. Very melodious, frenetic percussion and freestyle instrumentation towards the end. Itâs a corker of a tune and even has a DJâs nightmare false ending before kicking off again. Squeaking sax shoe-horned in for good measure. Over seven minutes of wonderfulness.
Following the madness there comes the sublime; A duet with Ana Cristina Pozo and Omar Perez fronting a quite beautiful acoustic guitar. Almost operatic voices soar, and, even though I have no idea what is being said, it sounds gorgeous. I hope itâs a sad lament as a happy lyric would be such a waste!
The opening split second on ‘Commandante Che Guevara’ rings true of Peter Gabriel’s ‘Solsbury Hill’. A live recording full of lament, distress and hurt regales the revolution of promise and t-shirt iconism. There are hints of jazz within these grooves as well as Ska, reggae, Cuban and African. An inspiring trip around, evidently, a misrepresented musical genre. Thereâs a nod towards ‘Cherry Pink And Apple Blossom White’ on ‘Runidera’ where Son Del Mayabeque gives us a truly emotional representation of sadness. Who wants happy-clappy dance when you can have stuff like this?!
I asked twitter to help me remember what piece of classical music ‘Alturas De Simpson’ reminded me of. I even uploaded a pathetic attempt to Soundcloud to try and replicate it. Nobody could help. One night Iâll jump up in bed after remembering. It also had a vague similarity to the bassline of Abbaâs ‘Money Money Money’. Either way, itâs a live instrumental track performed by Piquete Tipico and itâs rather nice. It’s possibly an old recording â hints of Mississippi steamboat?
Thereâs a near yodel and an almost nearer reggae feel to ‘La Distancia’. Quite a jolly track, really âup and at itâ! Thereâs an incredibly high pitched note towards the end which rivalled Morten Harket on A-haâs ‘Summer Move On’. Well done to Alfredo Gutierrez!
Following more brilliant Latin woe from Grupo El Organo Pinareno thereâs probably the highlight of the album. Almost entirely percussion with the odd (odd) wind instrument,’Por Una Tigresa Que Mira Na Estrella’ keeps us chugging along for almost eight minutes. Far from a Latin sound, almost African in origin, itâs sparse yet brilliant.
The album ends with the first female vocal of the album and the rather wonderful Watcha Clan. Iâve liked this lot since reviewing their We Are One single. A modern twist to the album, nice echoes and guitar riff whilst Sista K sings a lament of the Africa/Europe boat refugees. With a skiffle-ish backing very similar to Depeche Modeâs ‘Dream On’, itâs a great track from my current favourite Marseille based collective. A little splash of dub thrown in too towards the end.
Despite my reservations, ‘Latin Noir’ turned out to be quite an eye opener. A great album, well compiled and immensely enjoyable. Piranha Records come up trumps yet again.
And, for your convenience, Pirahna has the entire album streaming on their website. Enjoy!
Words by Paul Scott-Bates. More writing by Paul on Louder Than War can be found here.