Illya Kuryaki & the Valderramas


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Illya Kuryaki & the Valderramas' mixture of hip-hop, funk, rock, and heavy metal was a trailblazing act in the Latin music scene of the '90s. The duo split amicably in 2001, but Dante Spinetta and Emmanuel Horvilleur remained best friends, and eventually decided to reunite in 2011 for a few gigs, then a tour, and finally in late 2012, their first album of new material in a decade, Chances. A lot has happened in between, of course. Perhaps the single most important factor was that while both Spinetta and Horvilleur could never really get their solo careers off the ground, they also had to witness how the reggaeton fever took over Latin America, mining pretty much the same Espanglish variation of aggressive hip-hop they had pioneered (if not invented) with spectacular commercial results that in 90-percent of the cases, could not hold a candle in artistic terms to IKV's achievements. It surely is not a coincidence that the duo has staged their meticulously crafted comeback with multiple Grammy winner producer Rafa Arcaute, of Calle 13 fame (it should be mentioned that before hitting the big time Arcaute had also worked as a sound engineer with Dante's father, the legendary Luis Alberto Spinetta who died during the recording of this album and is honored here in the epic "Águila Amarilla"). This is not say that Chances is an attempt to jump on the reggaeton bandwagon, but that its sound design certainly aims to appeal to a massive contemporary Latin audience. In truth, Chances pretty much picks up where their last album, 1999's Leche, left off, an album that saw IKV mature into a full-fledged funk band obsessed with '70's African-American music, and in particular the bizarro universe of George Clinton's P-Funk -- even Prince's Michael B. Nelson is hired once more to arrange the horns for leading single "Ula Ula." Indeed, most of the songs here could conceivably have been on Leche or Versus but -- and this is the key issue -- none would have been among either album's highlights. A direct comparison between Chances' "Ula Ula" and "Chica" and Leche's "Coolo" and "Jennifer del Estero" can only conclude that the former are derivative reworkings of the later. If there's anything that made IKV truly original, it was their demented willingness to push the freak factor to stratospheric levels, with results that could be hilarious or outrageous, but that -- for better or for worse -- were utterly memorable. Even a cursory reading of Chances' lyrics dismisses any notion that this is a sanitized version of IKV, yet their remarkable talent for genre contamination and off-the-wall texts no longer smacks of wacko wild or fresh. Chances is an extremely accomplished collection of hard Latin funk that functions more as a recap for IKV than a new beginning. This, from a band whose every new album tended to be a wild leap into a crazy new direction, is a bit of a disappointment. The album was warmly received but one suspects that has more to do with the fact that IKV's insane ebullience has been sorely missed in the much depressed Argentinian rock scene of the last decade. If this album had been released right after Leche, it would have been perceived as an impasse or a step down. More than ten years later, it has actually become a rightful reason to celebrate (as "Celebración," one of the best tracks together with the opener "Helicópteros," states), even if the joy is almost entirely derived from IKV's comeback, rather than from the songs themselves. Hopefully, a triumphal return tour could spur Spinetta and Horvilleur to resume their more adventurous, extravagant ways in the near future.

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