Various Artists - ARENA02 Music Album Reviews

Various Artists - ARENA02 Music Album Reviews
The 40-song label compilation from Argentina’s AGVA Records is a prismatic and circuitous immersion into the sounds and aesthetics circulating across Latin America.

It would be too easy to approach ARENA002, the latest release from Argentina’s AGVA Records, as a primer on Latin American club music. Since 2015, the Buenos Aires netlabel has helped nurture a community of experimental producers and created a home for porteño club kids through their recurring party series and radio show. Their first compilation, a 12-track album released in 2016, introduced the world to some of their early dance floor machinations. But ARENA002 eclipses the ambition of its predecessor with 40 songs from producers, beatmakers, and vocalists from the landscape of Latin American club music, as well as a handful of international collaborators.

Rather than attempting to capture or “represent” all of the region’s talent in one release, ARENA002 is a prismatic and circuitous immersion into the sounds and aesthetics circulating across Latin America, resisting simple categorization. The compilation functions more like a celebration of the networks of exchange and affirmation that AGVA has built, embracing an unbounded sense of possibility and drawing on the collective memory of folkloric and popular sounds to remind us Latin American music is not bound to a single experience, aesthetic, or trajectory.

Parzubanil and Kotrina’s “Liquid” is a prime example of this desire to disrupt fixed narratives. The track is a percussive collage: it blends aquatic droplets, ribbit-like synth stabs, and baile funk moans, layering them over drum loops, horns, and jungle breaks. The result is a hauntological continuum: Parzubanil submerges echoes of Latin American percussive traditions underwater, decaying and transforming them for the dance floor.

Ozomatecuhtli’s “Teotihuacanos” announces itself as ancestral homage and is perhaps the most direct example of folkloric tribute on the compilation. Its title, a reference to the inhabitants of the Mesoamerican metropolis of the pre-Columbian era, almost immediately evokes a sense of communion: rain sticks and pan flutes slither in the distance, and tendrils of Mexican tribal folk percussion bloom into a spectral house bassline. It’s more than a portal into the past—it’s a reminder that Indigenous musical traditions are still woven into the present. 

More than anything, the producers on ARENA002 relish the joy of the dance floor. “Cuchillo y Sal,” a standout track from Peruvian producer Orieta Chrem, is propelled by culinary ephemera; samples of sharpened knives, running sink water, and salt and pepper grinders mutate into dembow riddims, gabber-style kicks, and sinister grunts and roars. Elsewhere, SAPPHIR22’s “Brujonaso” opens with a brash dance floor command: “Rompete ha’ta bajo, que e’tamos llegando” (“Break it down low, we’re coming”). A gun cocks, a maniacal voice cackles, and SAPPHIR22 unleashes a torrent of drum loops and sirens into a rave reggaeton vortex, as pitched-down echoes of Hector El Father’s classic “Noche de Travesura” float over the production. Imagine the blood rave scene from Blade, but with more perreo.

ARENA002 succeeds as a massive club pack, rather than as a traditional compilation meant to be enjoyed from start to finish. The release focuses primarily on producers from South America rather than the Caribbean or Central America, so consider it a partial introduction to some of the region’s sounds. Some tracks, like YOTO’s “Zaramostra,” revel so deeply in experimentation that they renounce any sense of compositional structure; it’s the kind of material that demands to be experienced live, rather than through headphones.

Still, ARENA002 is an impressive offering. It asks us to embrace a radical, open relation to South America’s folkloric, popular, and left-field sounds—to take club music from the region seriously, to challenge the limitations that European and U.S. perspectives have imposed on experimental music from Latin America. ARENA002 raises a middle finger to convention and expectation, and instead embraces the promise and freedom of abstraction.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

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Various Artists - ARENA02 Music Album Reviews Various Artists - ARENA02 Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Thursday, April 15, 2021 Rating: 5


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