Blow Up

Bomba Estéreo

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Blow Up Review

by Phil Freeman

This Colombian group mixes live instruments with computerized loops, throwing rock and Latin grooves together with environmental sound effects and unexpected sounds like the flauta de millo, a cane flute with a high-pitched, keening sound. Vocalist Li Saumet, whose nasal voice is reminiscent of Calle 13 backing vocalist PG-13, has a punky hip-hop delivery that's somewhere between M.I.A. and Mala Rodríguez. She floats above the cumbia-meets-electronica rhythms generated by multi-instrumentalist Simón Mejía and the percussion of Diego Cadavid and Kike Egurrola, chanting choruses that are equal parts party anthem and political call to action. Early Bomba Esteréo singles like "Corinto" and "Huepaje" (neither included on this album) were more overtly radical; the group seems to have tempered its sloganeering slightly, though a political edge remains in songs like "Raza" and "Música Acción." But the music is what matters most, and it's multifaceted and compelling. Slower tracks like "Agua Salá" bump up against hard-grooving anthems like "Fuego" and "La Niña Rica." Saumet even switches back and forth between Spanish and English -- sometimes mid-phrase -- on "Feelin'." The album's cover art, with its crude lettering and collage of radios and speakers, recalls Clash singles like "Complete Control" and "Radio Clash," and the music is similar in spirit, combining political engagement with irresistible rhythms and hooky choruses. An excellent album for the heat of summer.

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