Jorge Drexler

Bailar en la Cueva

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Despite the verse in his now legendary composition "Don de Fluir," which states humorously "...os músicos no bailamos" ("musicians do not dance"), the restless and musically ambitious Uruguayan singer, songwriter, and medical doctor Jorge Drexler indulges no such sentiment in either the title or in his compositions on Bailar en la Cueva (Dancing in the Cave). Part of this has to do with the recording location: he chose Colombia for his 14th studio album rather than his traditional Spain. The locale is reflected in many of the rhythms populating these 11 songs, from cumbias to vallenatos to cascaras. Co-produced with Carlos Campón and Sebastián Merlín, this music contains the same attention to detail and polish as every album he's released since 2004's Eco, but the charts feel looser and there's less reliance on fat or synthetic beats, though those can be found on the big groovers such as "Data Data," or the more atmospheric, crunchy, electronically enhanced numbers such as "La Plegaria del Paparazzo" and "El Triángulo de las Bermudas." Elsewhere, the feel is more organic. The title track -- based on Ben Sidran's "Cave Dancing" -- layers vallenato and cumbia with bossa nova, as percolating and driving rhythms meet a breezy sense of melody and lyricism. On the first single, "Universos Paralelos," samba greets cumbia with a soulful Latin jazz horn chart and Rhodes piano. Chilean rapper Ana Tijoux lends a sultry, wispy rap to the backdrop to make this one of the set's most infectious tunes. The droning, trance-like, snaky rhythms on "Bolivia" (written in homage to the country that sheltered his parents from the Nazis during WWII) features Caetano Veloso as a guest. It's provocative, spooky, and incantatory. It somewhat recalls the song "Fora da Ordem," which Drexler performed on a tribute to the Brazilian artist. "La Luna de Rasquí" is a sweet, tender, Uruguayan murga whose interlocking guitars and alternately melodic and pulsing accordion move the genre beyond its carnivale confines. On "Todo Cae," Drexler's acoustic guitar is at the forefront of a beautiful weave of horns and winds arranged and co-produced by Eduardo Cabra of Calle 13. It may begin as a folk song, but it gets transformed into an elegant, classy, spiraling waltz before the end. Closer "Organdí" is Drexler at his dreamy, solo acoustic best, his voice and guitar framed only by minimal, tasteful reverb. That said, wait a few minutes before shutting off the player. After a period of silence a celebratory coda with more instrumentation sends it all off. Now in his 50th year, Drexler shows no sign of slowing down. Though Bailar en la Cueva may be easy to listen to, it is one of his most musically mercurial efforts; one that defies compartmentalization even by his own adventurous standards. Bravo.

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