Album review: "Sabor Tropical"
In the early days of D.C.'s "down-tempo" scene, the music was limited by its relianceon samples, synths and drum machines. Empresarios, a local group that gives down-tempo a Latin upbeat, also depends on such devices. Only two of the group's core members play live instruments: vocalist-percussionist Javier Miranda and guitarist-bassist-keyboardist Paul Chaconas. Yet the music on their new album, "Sabor Tropical," sounds full-bodied, thanks to dynamic polyrhythms and lively horns.
The album opens with the laid-back "Smoke for Thought," which is classic down-tempo. Its heavily reverbed rap introduces the band's taste for woozy, off-kilter sonics. This continues even on some brisker tracks, notably "Cumbia," which could almost be an authentic example of that Colombian dance style, if not for its psychedelic organ licks.
Unified by its Latin influences, "Sabor Topical" holds together better than many electro-lounge albums. But the band isn't bound by any particular tradition. "Sohl" blends Latin jazz with dubstep, and the chattering "Happy" suggests that the group learned its Afropop groove from Talking Heads' "Remain in Light." Without a singer as its focus, Empresarios usually puts the rhythms upfront. When they're as buoyant as the beats that drive "Negrita Linda," that's an astute strategy.
--Mark Jenkins, March 2011