Occupied by his daytime gig as a city council member of his native San Antonio, Texas, Diego Bernal sought out friend and fellow producer Ernest Gonzales for creative assistance on a potential follow-up to 2010's Besides. Gonzales declined but eventually gave in. The two worked side by side on what bloomed into Atonement, the nine-track, 27-minute score to an "unmade Mexican Western." It's certainly the most moody, most score-like work that either producer has made. The beats, not as central a component as they are on Bernal's For Corners and Gonzales' Natural Traits, are mostly mechanical and slung low -- as on the foreboding rattle of "Sin Esperanza" and the slightly spooky ebullience of "Thirteen Gold Coins." "The Wicked One aka El Mavado" is as lean and menacing as any of Gonzales' Mexicans with Guns productions, while "El Santo Patrón/The Benefactor" wouldn't be out of place on a Mo' Wax Headz compilation, what with its dust-caked breakbeat and distant orchestral sweep. What the set lacks in energy is made up through evocative suspense. The duo saves the best for last with the album's theme, where a heavily reverbed piano line is flanked by an assortment of chillingly warped accents. Available through the Exponential label's Bandcamp page, Atonement is a pay-what-you-want digital album. All of the proceeds go to SAMPL, a non-profit music program for San Antonio youths.
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