September brings us a change of season and some music surprises! We chose four albums to dive into and put on repeat. The long-awaited return of Rawayana, the Venezuelan band that sculpts the best groove and has fun again with its fifth album. Nickodemus’ global party, also with a fifth record of incredible confection, celebrates the human spirit. Los Angeles-based Puerto Rican multi-instrumentalist Pachyman renews his nostalgic commitment to dub and vintage sounds. And the Mexican trio Karen y Los Remedios releases their existentialist cumbia debut, in a downtempo and ghostly key. These are the releases we’re dancing the last days of summer away to:
Rawayana – ¿Quién Trae Las Cornetas?
The speakers, in Venezuela, are called cornets. From there comes the music that puts us in the mood, so it’s better to have some good cornetas nearby, in the house of a cool neighbor, or in the car so that the party can travel. The title of Rawayana’s new album is a humorous question that alludes to other more essential questions: “Where does music come from? Why do we do this?” That’s what these four guys asked themselves before embarking on this new recording adventure. After deepening thoughts and questioning realities with their 2021 album Cuando Los Acéfalos Predominan, the band set out to have a good time again, to enjoy what motivated them in the first place: making music.
¿Quién Trae Las Cornetas? is a tribute to the music itself, an album so that they can indulge themselves as a band and feel really proud to know that it’s the album of their lives. Rawayana let loose musically, to embrace a colorful range of very groovy and tropical beats, with reggae and funk as pillars, but also flirting with neo-soul, dancehall, Afrobeat and Afro-Venezuelan roots drum rhythms. They also have a timely list of allies for this trip: from Monsieur Periné to Danny Ocean, from Goyo (“Besos Ricos”) to Cabra (“Miel”), from Elena Rose (“Consciencia”) to Bebo Dumont (“Nada Malo”), from Servando (“La Tormenta”) to Alemán (for a song in ode to Mexican culture). To crown this great moment, they just delivered an electrifying performance in their debut on NPR’s Tiny Desk, kicking off the El Tiny series to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.
Pachyman – Switched-On
Pachyman is the one-man project of Pachy García, a true man-orchestra, one of those multi-instrumentalists who does everything: writing, producing, playing. Originally from Puerto Rico but based in Los Angeles, he specializes in the art of dub, a genre that was born in a recording studio, at the end of the 60s, as an experiment of reggae, to ended up being decisive for electronic music. He began this adventure not long ago, with the 2019 album In Dub, staying loyal to those spatial sounds, through instrumental tracks. The following year he released a second album, At 333 House, and a single not included in it, At the Controls. For his third album, 2021’s The Return of Pachyman, he took inspiration from King Tubby to “x-ray” reggae music, breaking it down to its bare bones.
Last year things changed a little for Pachyman: he finally produced and released a song with vocals – more precisely with a female voice, that of the Brazilian singer Winter. We’re talking about “All Night Long”, a breakout single that today has more than 2 million total streams. A skilled master of echoes and retro synthesizers, Pachy benefits from the warmth of analog sound to create another exercise in nostalgia. Switched-On evokes Puerto Rico’s music scene in the 90s – when local artists were embracing the new wave of Jamaican riddims, then combining it with traditional Boricua sounds. Here we find more titles in Spanish, and we also find Pachy daring to sing, as he does in the advance single “Trago Coqueto” – a poignant ode to his life growing up in the Caribbean island.
Karen y Los Remedios – Silencio
Cumbia gets a little strange with Karen and Los Remedios, a Mexican trio who just released their first full-length album, Silencio, on ZZK Records. Always tropical and bewitching, the rhythm doesn’t lose its flow here, but it gives the feeling of becoming lethargic, causing an even more hypnotic effect. There’s a clear connection with chicha and psychedelic cumbia, but there are also elements of trip-hop and dream pop. Of course, much of this has to do with Ana Karen’s thin, half-whispered voice, placed spectrally in the sonic mantle of Jiony’s electronic tracks and Z.A.M.P.A.’s gothic guitars.
“It’s a melancholy record that makes you dance away the pain, but also offers paths to healing,” says Karen y Los Remedios about Silencio, a record that was conceived after a process of introspection during the pandemic. It all started with a collaboration between Karen and Jiony, a test that led to an initial song, “Plexo Lunar”, also included on this album. Shortly after, she emigrated to Hong Kong, but they continued working together from a distance, already as a trio with the addition of the guitarist. This is an album to dive into the depths on one side, with urgency, and to come out dancing on the other side. There’s a reason the band defines itself as existential cumbia.
Nickodemus – Soul & Science
Tireless traveler in body and mind, DJ and producer of rhythms and sounds from around the planet, Nickodemus spins his new and fifth album to throw a truly global party. Soul & Science is a celebration of the human spirit in all its multifaceted splendor. Eleven songs that amalgamate different musical universes and invite us to free ourselves on the dance floor, to leave our cell phones for a while and surrender to the surprises of life, to recover that magical and moving essence that makes us human, in times where Artificial Intelligence and other technologies continue to reshape our world.
Soul & Science comes and goes, from European stages to Latin American carnivals, from the deserts of the Middle East to the streets of New York, from the roots music of North and West Africa to the tropical rhythms of the Caribbean. The album opens with “La Noche,” combining a deep trip-hop beat with the flamenco singing of Antonio Lizana. And the next one, “Mama Tchipp”, is a pure African funk with the guest vocals of Cameroonian Pat Kalla. The party continues with the infectious beat of “Plastic (A Bigger Name)”, giving way to NYC Queer icons, The Illustrious Blacks, to shake up the dancefloor. Another highlight is “The Shadow Thief”, a strange dream starring the Sudanese retro-pop singer Alsarah, where she draws a curtain of a club in a souk and begins to talk about migration.