ZZK Records, Argentina
by Pierre Lestruhaut
If you happened to undergo your teen years as an indie rock fan (with most of your friends being roughly into the same kind of music) in Latin America somewhere around 2005, then you probably were the kind of kid staying as far away as possible from all the dem bow and cumbia rhythms that could be emanating from any speakers. Yet six years after suffering at every possible reggaetón- and cumbia-infused party, indie rock fans like me now see ourselves facing weird looks for having Calle 13 on our iPods or blasting the latest hot banger of cumbia digital from our own speakers. And, of course, trying to justify why something like the ZZK crew makes this type of music sound more fresh, hip, and cool than any other popular act did back in 2005 isn’t particularly easy considering that not everyone shares a conception of coolness that includes DJ /rupture quotes, Pitchfork reviews, and artsy album covers.
But what’s also atypical about some of the producers and DJs from the ZZK crew, like Chancha Vía Circuito and El Remolón, is that they don’t precisely rework cumbia for dancing or partying purposes, but instead they do so in a much more downtempo fashion, making way for music that feels atmospheric and meditative. The latest release to come from the ZZK catalog though, Fauna’s Manshines, is here to remind us that ZZK records hasn’t completely forgotten their initial purpose of taking us to the dance floor. Before the passing of Federico Rodriguez (aka Catar_sys), the album was already in its post-production phase, and a few months later they were hitting us with the first single “Para Mí,” a dance floor banger of ragga-style vocals, dancehall inspired rhythms, and a crazy psychotropic video to go with it.
In tracks like opener “E” or “Hongo x Hongo,” we see the duo coming back to the ragga cumbia style they helped pioneer in their debut, La Manita de Fauna, dropping bass and synth lines that would fit more among the more populist cumbia villera style than with the ZZK catalog, while the rest of the album rarely slows down the tempo and sustains itself on a variety of rhythms like kuduro and dubstep that the duo allegedly picked up while touring heavily around the globe. It’s precisely that sense of variety that makes Manshines a tireless front-to-back listening experience, the kind of record that could keep any party going no matter how many skeptical rock fans might be in attendance.