Uruguayan singer Jorge Drexler, seen above in concert last year, has delivered a dark, reflective and powerful
Uruguayan singer Jorge Drexler, seen above in concert last year, has delivered a dark, reflective and powerful "12 Segundos de Oscuridad." Dave Bromberg, left, takes a break from violin building to release his first album since 1990. The Magic Numbers, below, have a weightier album than their debut effort. (By Silvia Izquierdo -- Associated Press)
Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Jorge Drexler

The last time most Americans laid eyes on Uruguayan composer Jorge Drexler, he had a vaguely sheepish look about him, sitting next to his then wife, the singer Ana Laan, at the 2004 Academy Awards after Antonio Banderas and Carlos Santana had just butchered his lovely, improbably Oscar-nominated song, "Al Otro Lado del Rio," from "The Motorcycle Diaries." There wasn't exactly a cloud of warmth enveloping Laan and Drexler, but all thoughts about that evaporated when he got up to accept the statuette and saved his composition by forgoing speeches and singing it a cappella for the millions watching. It was a classic Drexler moment: elegant, understated, actually pretty.

After that -- after his last album, the rich and imaginative "Eco," was quickly reissued to include Oscar's choice -- it might have made sense for Drexler to exploit the moment and release a happy commercial follow-up.

Instead, he has delivered "12 Segundos de Oscuridad," which, even in this meditative artist's catalogue, can only be described as . . . well, reflective. It is far darker, more revelatory, more vulnerable, than anything Drexler has produced before. It's both lament and confession.

Chronicling the finale of his 10-year marriage to Laan, there is plenty of pain and anxiety over the beginnings of something new. There is musical restraint throughout.The album requires repeated listenings to make an impression, but it's ultimately quite devastating. (There are two covers, Titas's quietly incendiary "Disneylandia" and Radiohead's "High & Dry," the only song in English; both interrupt the overall arc of love lost and commenced.) Highlights include "La Infidelidad en la Era Informática," about a betrayal discovered in cyberspace, with Drexler's voice a whisper over the electronic hiccuping and stepping, and the wisely hopeful "Sanar," a song worth listening to after a heartbreak.

Drexler will perform at Lisner Auditorium on March 10.

-- Achy Obejas

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