Whitest Taino Alive - ¿Dónde Jugarán Los Cueros?

¿Dónde Jugarán Los Cueros?, 
Whitest Taino Alive
Stereotipico, Dominican Republic
Rating: 88
by Carlos Reyes

Trying to locate the zeitgeist becomes a priority to the tastemaker. While it’s true the Internet brought fragmentation to the way we listen to music –and that the zeitgeist can be found scattered at a dozen places at once –there’s still a place for those of us romantic enough to theorize over the notion of the it occupying a physical space. Not to call ourselves oracles of any kind, but we were very attentive to the blossoming of the new wave of Chilean pop before anyone dared to call Chile a pop paradise. In the last year we’ve responded ecstatically to emerging talents from the Caribbean, particularly from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Perhaps we’re cheating when bundling both nations together (a la FIFA 2002 worldcup), but both scenes are sharing a discourse of carnal and digital burgeonings that is beautiful to witness.

Dominican newcomers Whitest Taino Alive join Füete Billēte and Buscabulla as one of the most memorable emerging acts of the last few years. Led by the equally prolific and abrasive producer Cohoba, and branding on the idea of providing the audience with something they call Choperia Fina (rocking beats while wearing leather), WTA afford to sound truly colossal on their debut album. Featuring a grand-sound design and an ambitious composition, ¿Dónde Jugarán Los Cueros? is an album that sounds nothing short from pristine (and puts the latest Calle 13 to an even bigger shame). We wouldn’t expect anything less from Cohoba, whose stellar EP Chroamatism earlier this year has profiled him as the Dominican Republic’s most distinguished music maker since Rita Indiana. For a producer with a fondness for rapture and visceral banging, he is faced with the task of negotiating his beats for the vocal dissertation of WTA (conformed by Cohoba, Blon Jovi & Dominicanye West). The results are valiantly tackled and arresting for the most part.

WTA pop references a wide number of topics that go from Sosa, Heisenberg and Lara, to celebrating Selena’s butt as a cultural monument. While the abrasiveness of the lyrics makes it seem like they’re name-dropping indiscriminately, they’re actually using pop culture as a tool/hook to welcome non-Dominicanos to their idiosyncrasy. Take for example the album’s concept. The title ¿Dónde Jugarán Los Cueros? winks at Molotov’s ¿Dónde Jugarán las Niñas?, which itself mocks on Mana’s ¿Dónde Jugarán los Niños? This chain of smartass referencing would’ve been tiresome by the third time, if it wasn’t for the album cover (showing a thong sliding hasta abajo) validating WTA’s intentions of providing a lubricant to the Dominican way upfront. Which begs the question on how WTA, or Füete Billēte for the matter, would sound if reggaeton had not become the phenomenon that it still is. We might be talking about hip hop music here, but the reggaeton influence can be felt from a far distance. It’s in this way that WTA’s debut feels personally accomplished, but is also a cooperative from the pool of influences that brought it into being.

From the first immersive brashes of intro “Chillin en Jaragua” to the syncopated horns of the gigantic “En Canoa Pal Seibo,” the first half of ¿Dónde Jugarán Los Cueros? privileges the spellbinding over the immediate. Promotional cuts “Burlao” and “Mi Bandera” are two ideal tracks to taste the WTA experience. The former surfs slowly above synth crescendos, while the latter confronts the soundscape in a massive and unapologetic way. The second half of the album lacks fury on the chorus department, but somehow manages to sound even more melodic than the first half. The outstanding “La Resaca” is particularly exciting in how it tailors and manipulates beats to simulate the feeling of feeling hangover –with a narcotized voice of reason serving as a chorus. Lyrically, the album delivers plenty of hilarious one-liners, but frequently struggles to accomplish roundness in the storytelling. The narrative is still wonderfully uncompromised in both, their outburst and restrained lines of attack. And that’s perhaps WTA’s biggest attraction, its ability to position itself as understated text and then become a major threat to the dancefloor by the very next track.

MP3: O Tortuga - "Cool"

“A mi me da igual, nunca voy a ser genial” sighs the latest single from O Tortuga. More unchained on their motto than defeated, the Mexico City act unveils another fast-paced, near furious single aptly titled “Cool.” Last year’s release of the Palma Linda EP brought the band plenty of recognition, including an Indie-O Music Award and significant play on the FM airwaves. At less than two minutes long and without much departure of what they’ve shown in the past, O Tortuga’s new single has the purpose of keeping the momentum going. The geeky and oh-so-cute “Cool” isn’t a novelty song either. This might be the most lukewarm year for Mexican rock in a long time, and O Tortuga’s new single splashes the field with shockingly vivid breeze. Download the track (name your price) through Bandcamp.

Arca - "Thievery"

While no one’s going to deny that Arca’s solo output so far -- the collection of three excellent EP’s which earned him the #2 spot in our 2012 Albums of the Year countdown, plus a mixtape that had its own film played at MOMA last year -- should be enough merit to justify the attention the Venezuelan producer has been enjoying lately, there will be few out there arguing against the fact that it’s his collaborations with Kanye West and FKA Twigs that gave him his biggest moment on the spotlight yet. Or at least, his more accessible. That could all change very soon as excitement seems to be everywhere for Arca’s upcoming debut album (called Xen, and to be released via Mute on November 3). The increase in attention that Arca’s material has been gathering isn't really due to an improvement or transition in his production (the new track could fit in either Barón Libre or &&&&& and actually not even stand out), but rather to the fact that, thanks to Yeezy and Twigs, he’s no longer one of the best kept secrets in off-kilter electronic music. His aesthetic might be even less-inviting than before: the cover art finds new levels for the post-human imagery of Jesse Kanda, and the music is much more focused on mood rather than movement, although the breakbeat might finally earn the producer a spot on a few dancefloors. But if there’s anything that “Thievery” makes clear, it’s just how much Arca’s prints are all over the work of his recent collaborators: the screechy synths could make for a beat for Twigs to sing over, and with the grim piano melody, also carries all the chagrin and fuzziness that made Yeezus such a distinctively produced rap record. For most of these last couple of years, the whole world has been listening to Arca via the footprints he’s left in his collaborators output. But with Xen the whole world is finally going to be listening to what Arca can do on his own. It’s his chance to take the spotlight for himself.

Video: Ama Ia - "Voces"

One of the best news from the last few weeks is the forthcoming debut LP from Ama Ia, who just won the 2014 Autoplacer’s demo competition. Member of Kokoschka for the last six years, Ama Ia started writing songs and, as she believed they didn’t fit in the band’s style, she decided to try her luck and start a parallel solo project. "Voces" is the hit in her demo. It is a song about a break up, or better said, a song about a dying love story written after its end -at that moment when the sequence of events that lead to the break up seems clear. Dreamy atmospheres over a pop basis, with synth melodies and rich textures, result in a devotional and nostalgic ensemble. The video reflects this environment of intimacy and sadness by translating the lyrics in blurry, almost vintage, images literally. Three other songs about feelings in the aftermath of a break up are included in this first demo (listen to it in Ama Ia’s bandcamp) that recalls the extinct girl duo Granit and, in some ways, the music of Aries but in a darker tone.