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Album review: Bomba Estereo’s ‘Elegancia Tropical’

By — Bill Friskics-Warren,

Bomba Estereo Elegancia Tropical

Named after the booming sound systems that rock the underground dance scene in its native Bogota, Colombia, Bomba Estereo blends cumbia, champeta and other indigenous musics with contemporary electronica and breakbeats to bracing and often beguiling effect. New album “Elegancia Tropical” is steeped in dancehall and drum ’n’ bass, signaling an even more cultivated turn in the group’s sound but never at the expense of the roiling Afro Caribbean grooves that galvanized previous releases.

Hooked by a spongy bottom and funky Antillean guitar, “El Alma y el Cuerpo” (Spanish for “Body and Soul”) is an undulating vehicle for the sensuous vocals of the band’s lead singer, Liliana Saumet. Li, as she’s referred to in the album’s notes, also raps on a handful of tracks. Backed by groaning synths and accelerated beats, her staccato flow on the anthemic and bilingual likes of “Caribbean Power” and “Pure Love” presents her as something of Colombia’s answer to M.I.A. or Santigold.

Tracks such as “Pajaros” (“Birds”) and “Lo Que Tengo Que Decir” (“What I Have to Say”) are more ambient and folkloric in spirit, featuring incantatory vocals, South American wind instruments and synthesized soundscapes redolent of jungles and rain forests. “Bosque” (the Spanish word for “Forest” or “Wood”) likewise blends urban and organic atmospherics. But maybe nowhere does Bomba Estereo fuse nature and technology as sublimely as in “Pa’ Respirar,” where a mix of fluttering synths, percussive guitar and Samuet’s sotto voce delivery evoke nothing so much as the breath of life.

— Bill Friskics-Warren

Recommended Tracks

“Pure Love,” “El Alma y el Cuerpo,” “Pa’ Respirar”

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