Alex Cuba

Lo Único Constante

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Alex Cuba is quite a singular case, an artist who developed his entire career in Canada but ostensibly remained a Cuban songwriter (both in his music and language of choice), and someone who has achieved considerable industry and critical recognition but is far from being a household name, even in Latin music circles. The main reason for this is because Cuba does not fit easily into any categories, particularly the trendy ones. Indeed, upon listening to his excellent sixth album, Lo Único Constante, the first thought that comes to mind is how far removed this music is from what rules the Latin charts in 2017 -- which, incidentally, makes it all the more refreshing. Cuba's songs are more easily compared to the music of Rodrigo Amarante or Jorge Drexler but with a distinct Cuban heritage, like a depoliticized, contemporary-sounding version of Pablo Milanés. As the latter often did, for Lo Único Constante Cuba allegedly sought inspiration in filin, a highly influential Cuban style that developed in the 1940s and 1950s and married traditional genres such as the bolero with the harmonic complexity of jazz. Filin, however, turns out to be just a reference point: the album follows no other dictate than Cuba's restless creativity and boundless musicality. Songs blend graceful melodies, intricate guitar and percussion patterns, unusual arrangements, and superb vocals into a whole whose delightful airiness belies its compositional density. Similarly, its harmonious nature betrays no traces of a fragmentary recording process that involved different locations, two producers (Jean Massicotte and Joby Baker), and several international collaborators such as film composer Benoît Charest, percussionist Emilio del Monte, Jr., vocalist Bia, and flamenco guitarist Josemi Carmona (Ketama). It remains to be seen if Lo Único Constante proves to be Cuba's big breakthrough, but it's safe to say that the album is his most accomplished collection yet. Had he chosen to sing in English, he would probably be instantly linked to 21st century maverick troubadours such as Devendra Banhart, only with a more consistent vision and a much more beautiful voice.