You could say that 2000-2001 saw Latin alternative really come of age, and this compilation gives a fair idea of the range out there. One of the standard-bearers has to be Manu Chao, represented here both by "La Trampa" (actually a duet with Tonino Carotone, but with typical Chao quirky hallmarks) and a song from his old band, the seminal Mano Negra, which was way ahead of the Latin alternative curve. Elsewhere, Sergent Garcia, from France, shows a distinct reggae-Cuban groove, and P18 (founded by another Mano Negra alumnus) takes Cuba into electronica on "Kid Chocolate." The prevalence of reggae is perhaps surprising -- Macaco offer some dub-inflected reggae-jazz on "La Raiz" and Mano Negra's "Peligro" is strongly influenced by Jamaican rhythms (and by the Clash), while Basque man Fermin Muguruza feels the island groove, too, and newcomer Anouk mixes it with some New Orleans ideas for the perky pop of "Hi Hello." Les Negresses Vertes were Latin alternative long before it had a name, and "Hasta Llegar" taps an ethereal flamenco beat. El Gran Silencio have been at the forefront of Latin hip-hop, and "Decadencia" is typical of what they do well. The odd one out, both in terms of style and age, is Eliades Ochoa, whose membership in the Buena Vista Social Club places him a couple of generations beyond the others, and whose acoustic approach simply doesn't gel with everyone else (although it's musically excellent). As a sampler of the variety that constitutes Latin alternative -- both the progenitors and new names -- this is a great place to start.
by Chris Nickson
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