Balún - "La Nueva Ciudad"

Balún is a band from Puerto Rico with an acute sense of creating ethereal moments of the sad kind. Could the tropigoth tagline apply? As sunset approaches on the Summer of Love 2016 (a cosmic event that last took place during the tumultuous social uprisings of 1967) the Brooklyn-based via Borinken four-piece return by making ripples across waters with a trademark sound they call dreambow. Incorporeal dream-pop, techno, shoegaze, folkloric sounds of South America, & dembow (one of reggaetón’s rhythmic daughters) are the amalgamation of the band’s idiosyncratic soundscape. A formula that after almost 7 years since Balún’s first contribution to Club Fonograma has stood the test of time.

With Afro Caribbean sounds like tipple, bomba barrel drum, dembow & a hazy, humid sense of a transcendent melancholy at work, “La Nueva Ciudad” joins the cannon of unorthodox, reggaetón-based classics of late. The sonic transmutations of established greats like J Balvin, Arca, Gepe, Javiera Mena & newcomers like MULA, Coral Casino, & Tomasa del Real have been expanding our understanding of the infinitely mesmerizing possibilities of the genre. Even Ibiza Pareo expressed interest in flirting with reggaetón during their Ruido Fest showcase in Chicago this summer. Clearly, our collective sonic future still belongs to the iconic, Afro-Caribbean sound. 

Balún’s return feels accomplished, academic and ancestral. The chorus of “La Nueva Ciudad” invokes collective rapture (the spiritual power of reggaetón at work here) while Angélica Negron's vocals communicate intimacy & distance, discussing the circular nature of time, planets, & the need to create a city without mirrors. The prolific percussionist/producer Lawson White (Shakira, Wilco, Jamie xx) has been working behind the scenes with Balún, whose current lineup boasts PhD ethnomusicologist and Puerto Rican folk music expert Noraliz Ruiz (playing cuatro and on “La Nueva Ciudad”), Raul Reymundi, along with veteran players Angélica Negron & José Olivares. It would seem as though Balún have become curators of globopop. “La Nueva Ciudad” is the lead single from the forthcoming Prisma Tropical LP which is due in 2017. Listen to it below and its b-side, “Esta En Tus Manos,” a cover of the pioneer of indietronica reggaetón herself, Javiera Mena.

MULA - "Nunca Paran"

Dominican trio MULA arrived last year with one of the most fascinating pop projects we had heard in awhile. The self-titled album was a free spirited exercise in genre fusion. Caribbean rhythms intertwined with heavier electronics and political lyrics blended perfectly on the dance floor. 2016 still finds creators Anabel and Cristabel (from Las Acevedo) along with Rachel Rojas making magic under MULA. Two preceding singles, “No hay manera” and “Retumba,” have highlighted their ongoing search to discover a more defined sound leading up to their new material. With third single “Nunca Paran,” they’ve hit the jackpot.

“Nunca Paran” has been billed as utopian, a celebration of perfect moments. Even with the best intentions that kind of party music will overindulge in too many ideas while forcing joy down our ears. But here those elements come together and play out as natural as watching a sunset. What begins submerged in heavy, chopped and screwed soundbites breaks through and turns weightless. There’s merengue that sneaks up and entices, there’s Marta Sánchez’s "Desesperada" vibes that want more than a simple 90’s flashback. On the chorus the low-key vocals cling to a light reggaetón, celebrating both the past and the future. A future that clearly belongs to MULA.

Füete Billete - “Trå” / “Una Changa (feat. Yung Beef)"

Last year saw Füete Billete take a victory lap with “Buena Vida,” then later boisterously declare “Somos Hp” as they raged to trap. The two cuts were welcome treats, but the Puerto Rican crew was also due for a clear-cut banger worthy of Música de Capsulón’s legacy. The latest single from the rap trio’s upcoming album Papelón City might just be an answer to our prayers, if not that, then at least a much needed supplement to our summer playlists.

“Trå,” which was released as a music video a few weeks ago, is a hyper dance track with rap verses stacked between strobe lights, filthy beats, and West Coast touches. Pepper Kilo and BB Johnson’s flow is so effortless that the refrain “muévelo” overtakes the imperative and transforms itself into a pure celebration. B-side "Una Changa," backed by PXXR GVNG’s Yung Beef, continues to idolize the night show with softened production not unlike Rae Sremmurd’s neon-soaked banger “Look Alive.” “‘Una Changa’ es una canción del verdadero poder que tienen las strippers en el club,” Kilo told i-D where the song originally premiered. Strip clubs have long been credited for their power to turn singles into actual hits. Here Füete Billete are ready to submit to all the seductive powers at work (“Ella es la que manda aquí”), which help set up Papelón City as an ambitious project we can’t wait to hear in full.

Felipe Neiva - "Conte Comigo"

For years Carioca netlabel Transfusão Noise Records has been the name behind Brazil’s most unique noise-revivalist, punk, and lo-fi albums. The catalogue is still going strong, pushing forward by rejecting a boutique mindset that relies too heavily on nostalgia. On the contrary, there is always something challenging or idiosyncratic to discover.

Through Escritório, an extension of Transfusão, we are learning about more and more fresh Brazilian acts to follow. Escritório’s ongoing Cassete Club series is releasing exclusive songs recorded on tape and streaming them through Soundcloud. This third offering comes from Felipe Neiva, an artist that caught our attention thanks to his song’s somber, wounded spirit laced in affecting guitars. The track initially offers pure indie rock which then timehops back into a 60s freak out, a move that works because it places the vocal’s garbled pleas in the proper context.

Produced by Lê Almeida, "Conte Comigo" will be included in an EP from Felipe Neiva due later this year.

Marineros - "Torbellino"

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"Torbellino" dropped quietly just days before Club Fonograma's unforgettable encounter with Marineros in Chicago. Our full interview with the Chilean duo is forthcoming, but be prepared for a conversation regarding the limitations of Latinx identity, ancestral trauma, & darkness.

"Torbellino" is a gray number, with a transcendental bluish hue- cer & Soledad always have the blues. Produced by Christian Heyne and Soledad, it combines typical Marineros signifiers: hip-hop kicks and snares, love confessions & their signature melancholic skygaze. There is no guitar distortion here, but the sound of splintering metal gives to dream-pop at the 0:45s mark. cer's vocal melodies find a wider range, contemplating the eternal, starry skies, & romantic euphoria with an unusual sense of positivity & hope. "Torbellino" (which is also the name of their current international tour) will soon get a visual treatment and a new Marineros LP in 2017 seems likely. "In times such as these, there is no way to go but darker" cer told me in Wicker Park. Take my breath away.