Slowrider

Mas Alla

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    8
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Recorded in 1999 and released in 2000, Slowrider's debut EP, Mas Alla, is the sort of project that is artistically triumphant but can intimidate marketing people. As a rule, the easiest CDs to market are the ones that fit neatly into one category -- and Mas Alla is extremely difficult to categorize. Rock, soul, rap, jazz, salsa, and ambient are all part of the big picture on this 28-minute EP, which is as unpredictable as it is promising. Arguably, the bilingual Slowrider picks up where risk-taking Mexican-American bands like Santana, El Chicano, and Tierra left off, but Slowrider keeps things current by adding rap and ambient to the mix. Mas Alla, which Slowrider released on its own De Volada label, is a musical roller coaster. While the instrumental "Tio Taco" updates the type of Latin boogaloo/Latin soul-jazz sound that Pucho & His Latin Soul Brothers favored in the '60s, the spacy "Dos Caras" has a club/ambient outlook. Alternative rap, meanwhile, is a big influence on two tracks. "Tezcatlipoca" is best described as hip-hop meets War, and "Don Ramon" successfully combines alternative rap with a Latin funk-rock vibe -- sort of the Jungle Brothers and A Tribe Called Quest by way of Santana. And the amazing thing is that Slowrider manages to make all of this experimentation sound organic and natural rather than forced, contrived, or pretentious. As diverse as Mas Alla is, the disc is quite focused -- Slowrider obviously knows exactly what it is doing on this promising, adventurous debut.

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