Over the weekend NorteñoBlog met up with the redoubtable Bilbo’s Laptop to see Bomba Estéreo play Chicago’s Concord Music Hall. The Colombian electro-boogie band only wanders within NorteñoBlog’s purlieu insofar as the genre tag “Latin music” says anything coherent, but we’ve enjoyed them here before, and new album Amanecer (Sony) is VALE LA PENA. Carefully honing a tight set from four(!) albums worth of material, the Bombas gave us seven or eight massive jams, most of them new, and little changed from their recorded templates besides some extended intros and party-hearty crescendos at the ends. Where improvisation appeared, it was rhythmic. Bomba Estéreo prizes rhythm over all. Drummer Kike Egurrola played rock-solid beds of beats — dembow, cumbia, others I can’t name — providing a foil for the contrapuntal jabs of guitarist Julián Salazar and bassist Simón Mejía; during songs like “Somos Dos,” they were the grooviest little indie rock band on the planet. Salazar and Mejía spent roughly half their time at their electronic sound banks, keeping the details of their recordings while thickening the sound. “Soy Yo” was already the most ridonkulous song on the new album. Live, with its Colombian flute and sampled voice mixing with deep, body-shaking bass and frontwoman Liliana Saumet’s explosive gestures, it sounded like banger of the year.
Saumet’s job, at which she excels, is to cut through the bass and mobilize the crowd. She sets a good example: her unfussy dancing gave us a nice repertoire of rippling body movements, perfect for a crowded floor of hipsters holding cups of beer. That said, the main mobilizer was Saumet’s voice. Her high whine can come off as strangled on romantic melodies — even “Somos Dos,” which Saumet humbly introduced as “beautiful,” went a little long — but usually it’s a fourth rhythm instrument, punching and goading along with the others. This is true of her raps, of course, but Saumet also builds her melodies for rhythmic impact. Hearing her voice and its syncopations emerge from the electro-throb, the mass of bodies understands its implicit commands: Dance. Love. Clap. And Saumet’s most crucial, Dr. Seussian directive: Shout loud at the top of your voice! SOY YO!
On the drive down I listened again to El Komander’s latest album, Detrás Del Miedo (Twiins). It’s as effortlessly charming as you could hope, but of course that lack of effort is an effect — YOU try lassoing a four-or-five-piece band into the stop-start precision of the title song. Komander’s released about half these songs as singles already, and I’ve been skeptical of his ballads, but even they sound better in the middle of his faster tunes. The guy can write melodies! His singing has improved, too; as Komander grows into his timing, he convinces us that “El Papel Cambio” emerges straight from his mind. Él es él. Plus, any album containing both “Malditas Ganas” and “Fuga Pa’ Maza” would have to work pretty hard to avoid a big VALE LA PENA.