I’ll be honest, a compilation album of Latin music didn’t really appeal to me, but, then I spotted this line in the press release – “If you are looking for hip shakin’, 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.” How could I resist?
Opening with Latin Grammy nominated Chango Spasiuk, Tierra Colorada is an accordion based instrumental. Slow paced, speeding then slowing again, it’s a lovely piece depicting the search for redemption. I’m hooked. Hopefully, the vocalist on Todo Eso by Sequidores Del Son isn’t 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 ‘minority’ 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 I’d expected from Latin and pretty laid back with an interesting trumpet and/or horn in the background. What I loved was when it speeded up into and almost ska fashion with full brass accompaniment. Very melodious, frenetic percussion and freestyle instrumentation towards the end. It’s a corker of a tune and even has a DJ’s 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 it’s a sad lament as a happy lyric would be such a waste!
The opening split second on Commandante Che Guevara rings true of Peter Gabriels 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. Ska, reggae, Cuban and African. An inspiring trip around, evidently, a misrepresented musical genre. There’s 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 I’ll jump up in bed after remembering. It also had a vague similarity to the bassline of Abba’s Money Money Money. Either way, it’s a live instrumental track performed by Piquete Tipico and it’s rather nice. Possibly an old recording – hints of Mississippi steamboat?
There’s a near yodel and an almost nearer reggae feel to La Distancia. Quite a jolly track, really ‘up and at it’! There’s an incredibly high pitched note towards the end which rivalled Morten Harket on A-ha’s Summer Move On. Well done to Alfredo Gutierrez!
Following more brilliant Latin woe from Grupo El Organo Pinareno there’s 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, it’s sparse yet brilliant.
The album ends with the first female vocal of the album and the rather wonderful Watcha Clan. I’ve 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 Mode’s Dream On, it’s 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.
You can stream the album here