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Contento - Lo Bueno Esta Aqui
El Palmas Music
Contento like to label their music "salsapunk" -- smart, witty stuff with a deceptively simple home-made aesthetic. It could be salsa played by AI robots, but conceived by a duo with the playful sparkle of those Swiss master producer-musicians, Yello. Contento are two expatriate Colombians who like to make people happy. Geneva-based Paulo Olarte is a member of Acid Coco, El Dragón Criollo, and La Jungla, as well as recording under his own name. Former native of Medellín and current resident of Barcelona, Sebastian Hoyos, aka Sano, is a DJ and producer who has released his own brand of minimalist Latin house for the Cómeme label in Berlin. Between 2016 and 2019, they met on and off in Barcelona and Geneva to lay down some of their ideas. The eight best numbers became Lo Bueno Está Aquí, their debut album. The result is something that you might describe as "retro-smart": it does indeed remind you of older sounds like Nuyorican boogaloo from the '60s and cumbia from the golden age of Discos Fuentes, yet it's also modern and refreshingly different. The two musicians create a sonic palette from bass, piano, organ, guitar, a range of keyboards, assorted percussion instruments, and the vintage drum machines that, along with a liberal use of distortion, contribute to the album's signature sound. "Dale Melón" opens the album and establishes a template for much of what follows. Starting with the beat, beat, beat of the drum machine, bass, guitar, keyboards, and percussion are all drip-fed into the mix and supplemented by a simple, insistent vocal refrain and the raw alto sax of the Venezuelan saxophonist they met in the Barcelona studio where the recording was finished off. The alto sax helps to color the delicious "Paso Palante", which kicks off the second side with ringing guitar and keyboards to create a feel somewhere between Colombia's Pacific coast and Central Africa. The slightly demented vocal refrain is repeated ad nauseam and the overall effect recalls the off-kilter sound of the Democratic Republic of Congo's Staff Benda Bilili. Much of the album, in fact, is slightly skewed and disarming, as if the spirit of Thelonious Monk presided over its recording. "Loco Por Tu Amor", for example, could be taken from a soundtrack to a cheap Latin horror film, simultaneously unsettling and thrilling. The glorious "De Todas Maneras" could be a rough-cut for Ray Barretto's suave and slinky "Cocinado". "Pelo Negro" is an insistent trademark mix of cumbia and boogaloo, with tongue-in-cheek vocals that are positively expansive.