As a fan of music that pays homage to cultures around the world, I was at first intrigued with the amazing cover art for “El Gran Poder” and then spellbound by the Brazilian rhythms and instruments of Lagartijeando. It’s a wonderful album where your ear tunes into different things each time.
“El Gran Poder” is named after a festival to celebrate family that takes place in Peru and Bolivia. Everything on this album has a vibrant and full feel. The opening beats and tuned percussion from “El Nogal De Las Pampas” is like a stirring of the heart before it then bounds about the speakers for the next 35 minutes. “Camino en Llamas” focuses on punchy shaker beats, Peruvian woodwind and the sense of wistful thinking into the wind. You can feel the weight of the instruments and motifs meshing together in a beautiful way that has depth and an uplifting quality – even though the keyboards underneath may have a sad tone to them. “La Memoria del Viento” focuses on a folk dance of catchy vocals, lush guitars and plenty of ukeleles. “Anfogasta de la Sierra” then gives one of the best examples of influences from an electronica producer mixing in traditional instruments as there’s a down-tempo low fi dance floor hit happening here but the focus is on the emotion of the guitars and the thick wooden bass drums. The Afro beats used throughout the album are superb and rumble in your bones.
“Lunita” is the odd track out as it focuses on marimba vibes and heavier electronica beats. Guest Barrio Lindo co-created the track with Lagartijeando and it feels different to everything else on the album, yet part of the same palette. It’s more tribal and minimalistic. “Tecnoticlan” has a maddening sped up vocal line that’s squashed into a buzzing bee bass line and vocal noises form the basis for a lot of the tracks underlying rhythm and melodic motifs. It’s a really clever track that continues the march towards more percussive and harder danceable music. “Gran Poder” returns from these mildly more darker tracks to a huge explosive celebration complete with vocoder lyrics, big chants and it reaches the peak of the crossover between the traditional and the electronic.
Moving towards something more chilled “Otono” is my other shoutout for a standout track. It’s something that Bibio would create with a simple melody embellished with rich production and beautiful instrumentation. In an album that pushes all the buttons to be rowdy and joyous, this moment of after party glow is beautiful. “Chukisaka Sublow” is much like a reprise as a cathartic and swirling chord mix mean you can find the four-minute track may be repeating the same four chords over and over but you’d never notice. It’s a musical rabbit hole you’ll be happy to get lost in as the vocals are chewed up and twisted into low froglike ribbits and the various guitars sound more like African Kora’s to me. “Sueno de Planta” rounds off the album with an uplifting goodbye.
Lagartijeando has created an astoundingly complex album of traditional music, given some electronica dance undertones and it works to perfection. The electronica side never takes over, it only supports the real stars of the album – the instrumentation itself.
Recommended track: Gran Poder