Like many an acoustic singer/songwriter before him, at some point in his career Jorge Drexler realized he needed to figure out ways to camouflage the guitar-and-voice embryo all of his songs unequivocally come from. Having pushed the envelope as far as he could with the dance-oriented Bailar en la Cueva (2014), Drexler went for an about-face in Salvavidas de Hielo, an album made entirely and exclusively with guitar and voice. And yet, this is a very atypical guitar-and-voice album. Far from sticking to tried-and-true strumming and picking, Drexler uses the instrument as a springboard for playful experimentation, getting sounds out of its every part (strings, wood, frets), creating textures and percussion tracks, and also dabbling in electronic processing. The overall effect is seamless. While careful listening with headphones reveals the creativity deployed all over this recording, it could also be argued that most people would probably never notice its basic palette. Indeed, regardless of its peculiar construction, Salvavidas de Hielo remains a quintessential Jorge Drexler album, the music incorporating eclectic variations of myriad Latin American folk genres while letting the lyrics, delivered in an even, soft-spoken voice, take absolute center stage. Drexler ruminates on topics such as immigration, technology overexposure, life's simple pleasures, love, and the environment, but his customary delicacy remains a double-edged sword. Some people will find it insightful and poetic, others stilted and anemic. No one can deny the sensitivity and beauty of songs such as "Movimiento" and "Salvavidas de Hielo," but at times this music feels smothered by the weight of its own weightlessness. In this respect, guest appearances by Julieta Venegas, Natalia Lafourcade, and Mon Laferte add a much welcome vocal counterbalance and easily become the album's highlights. In short, Salvavidas de Hielo is nothing but pure, unadulterated Drexler. As such, longtime fans of the Uruguayan songwriter will rightly regard it as one of his strongest outings.
AllMusic Review by Mariano Prunes