Thursday, March 12, 2009
Alain Daniel - Vestigios review
Alaín kept us waiting and waiting for this album, his first full-length disc since 2006's Avisale mi gente. I won't add insult to injury and keep you waiting longer: I've only had it a day, but I'm going to say that it's worth your time and money.
Vestigios is a spunky album of timba brava with a side order of funk, a suffix of "ton" and the obligatory ballad and cha-cha-cha. Plus: Vania! All with Alaín's trademark, hyperactive, pega'o sound.
Anyone who has seen him in Havana and dug his show should be happy with it. Those who haven't; this a good taster.
One thing I love about Alaín's sound is how he uses the coros as a groove - the way funk uses the bass or the synth. Other timberos do it occasionally - or more accurately, used to - Paulito, for instance, on Con la conciencia tranquila. In this scenario, the coros aren't used merely post-cuerpo to back-up the guias; they are an intrinsic part of the groove - really they are another layer of percussion. And they pretty much feature this way in every song here. This is a very big part of the Alaín sound, and it adds to the temblequerrificness of the songs.
The coristas also have that nasal thing going on that you hear on the older timba records of Issac and Manolin, but which goes back to ancient son and changúi.
Two songs that have been around for at least a couple of years are here - Se pegan and Le encanta la calle. Both have been re-recorded and sound better than ever. The latter is all dark minor groove: it'll have timberos grinning with delight and slot-dancers fleeing the floor.
Another one that has had a presence via Mucho Swing is La Miky - it's an unusual song in that it's a very slow salsa; almost hypnotic.
Marginal is one of my favourite songs from his set last year - it was the show opener, probably due to the lyrics which talk about "un poquito de to'". It starts as a slow blues/funk, complete with smokey horns and meandering organ before stepping up to salsa at the three-minute mark.
Esto si sabe es Cuba and Un amigo en Madrid are the two songs that Alaín was working on when I dropped in on him in the studio last year (in the post you will see that I had the two confused). The first is a fast cha-cha-cha that has some fairly obnoxious washy synths on it, but is otherwise pretty good, despite the lyrics that namecheck every Cuban cliche in the book - this plus the fact that it's a cha-cha-cha lead to me believe that it's been tailored for an overseas audience. I'm not sure what to make of the fact that it's the album opener.
One song I'd never heard before which I really love is Un loco enamora'o. It has the classic timba-wuss cuerpo - the kind that just about makes you want to push skip - but wait, there's an intriguing chord change and a nicely phrased guia - then suddenly it's 2:46 and the palette changes from sweet to spicy and the bass is growling and the bloques are hammering and your hips know just what to do, and it doesn't matter that it didn't kick in till 2:46 cause it's 6:25 minutes long and there are four glorious temblequetastic minutes left.
Aaaahhh. Where was I?
Ah yes. The duet with Vania. Bendita locura first appeared on the four-track EP of the same name (released 2007) as a ballad. This version starts a little mushily, but quickly reveals itself to have been salsified. Note: salsified, not timbafied. It's nice to hear these former Bamboleo colleagues together - still nicer to hear Vania doing salsa, cause she doesn't do a whole lot of it these days, being a more a diva of the traditional now, I think. But this isn't one of the album's standout tracks. (This is the only track from the EP to appear here, so if you want El de siempre, El Zorreo and El Bum Bum - songs that range from good to great - you'll have to buy it separately.)
Que le pasa a esa mujer, is a speedy timba number, again with some delicious chord changes.
There is still more lively stuff here (as well as a ballad, which I'll leave people who give a shit about such things to comment on). And it's all been nicely recorded, to boot.
Some people in Havana refer to Alaín disparagingly as "el hijo del Medico", saying he sounds like Manolín, and you can hear shades of El Medico, it's true - he still even sometimes does No lo comentes in his live set.
But I say, it's been a while since Manolín did an album of timba this good (or an album of anything this good), so, bring it on, Alaín.
Update: It occurred to me that this review is probably a little light on for actual details on the Alaín sound for those who have never heard him, so here goes.
Quite a few of the songs feature a rap (including one with the ubiquitous Alexander from Gente d'Zona), which should immediately give you an idea of where Alaín is coming from (or where he is going). The "salsa" parts of his songs have a slight tropical fusion feel - they are still salsa, but there is just a hint of other parts of the Caribbean in their rhythms. Almost all of the songs build to heady, and very hard timba climax, replete with stuttering bloques, urgent coros and lots of tension and release moments. I played Un loco enamora'o last night. It wasn't a busy night, but it got the punters that were there onto the dance floor.
Posted by Yemaya at 6:20 PM