Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2013-09-13

2013-09-13

ZZK Sound Vol. 1--Cumbia Digital (ZZK, 2008) Spawned not so much by as in Buenos Aires's Zizek club, these teched-up variations on the pokier Colombian alternative to salsa divide into two conveniently block-programmed sub-variants. Tracks nine through 14 have their fun with the tidy tweedling of what I classify as early electro, and maybe you could throw track five in there too. The rest, through eight and 15 to 17, are lower, wilder, freakier, epitomized by but hardly limited to Fauna's seven-and-a-half-minute "Canibal," with its feral shouts, squelching bass, and funny sound effects. The tweedling gets annoying. But the rest makes a dandy playlist. B+

ZZK Sound Vol. 3 (ZZK/Waxploitation, 2013) The third compilation from this adventurous if narrowcast Buenos Aires label--which on its first comp five years ago (see below) classified its milieu as "cumbia digital"--has gotten some respect in the U.S. dance world, but zero comprehension near as I can tell, which may not matter much when you're dancing but ought to when you're verbalizing into the infosphere. For instance, the first thing this Anglophone in an office chair wants to know is whether it's dance music at all. The most detailed review I've found references "intoxicating electro-pulsating beats derived mainly from the Buenos Aires club scene" and promises it will render the listener "better aquainted [sic] with the dance and electronic underground of South America." And these electro-pulsations sound how, exactly? Find hints in the label squib: "there's a darker, last hour of the club feel to it, everybody sweaty and grooving to deep bassy cumbia infested tracks." To which promo poetry I add a few prosaic facts. Moderate-to-submoderate tempos that speed up gradually over 15 tracks. Low-end sonics not so much bassy as buzzy. Never ambient or chill-out, there's always a beat, but not floor-fillers either. Cumbia roots submerged. DJs mostly Argentinian but also from Paris, Barcelona, NYC, Mexico, Caracas, maybe Sweden. General ambience tends humorous--and friendly, as befits the cumbia tradition. Animators seeking soundtrack could do worse. A-

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