Ezmeralda - En Átomos Volando Music Album Reviews

Ezmeralda - En Átomos Volando Music Album Reviews
Using corroded samples and languid tempos, Bogotá artist Nicolás Vallejo casts an eerie and sorrowful light on Colombia’s hidden traumas.

Before DJ Screw, there was Gabriel Duéñez. Born in Zacatecas in 1947, he moved to Monterrey as a boy and fell under the sway of the Colombian music that was then becoming popular in the northeastern Mexican city. In the 1960s, Duéñez became famous as a sonidero, or soundsystem DJ, spinning cumbia and vallenato at dances and block parties across the hilly working-class district of Independencia. It was at one of these parties that fate placed its hand upon his turntables: After hours of music in the sweltering heat—subwoofers throbbing, signal bleeding red, motors grinding ceaselessly beneath whirring platters—something went awry, some busted fuse or melted circuit, and the music began to play back at an abnormally slow speed. The guitars and vocal harmonies turned thick and syrupy; the loping beat crumpled into a narcoleptic shuffle. But, as these things so often go—cf. Belgium’s sensual popcorn, D.C.’s woozy moombahton, and of course DJ Screw’s opiated screw music—the “wrong” speed sounded even more entrancing than the correct one. Inspired by the error, Duéñez began recording cassettes of slowed-down cumbia songs, and the style known as cumbia rebajada was born.

It was Colombia that initially exported cumbia to Mexico, and an echo of this Mexican variant returns to Colombian soil in the music of Ezmeralda, aka Nicolás Vallejo, formerly of the “gothic cumbia” outfit La MiniTK de Miedo. On his solo debut album, last year’s Patrimonio Inmaterial de la Nada, the Bogotá musician translated his previous group’s sepulchral inclinations into a foggier and more atmospheric sound, in which accordion, flute, and marimba cast a melancholy glow from deep inside misty thickets of shakers and reverb. En Átomos Volando springs from the same source, but this time the tempos are even slower, the vibes wispier, the samples further corroded. “Rebajada” means reduced, lowered, diluted; here, the sounds of the Afro-Indigenous musical tradition seem to physically dissolve into thick, tropical air.

Where Ezmeralda’s previous album explored the “immaterial legacy of nothingness,” En Átomos Volando is more ethereal yet. The accordions and electric organs of his debut still bore obvious traces of the records he was sampling from, but here there’s scant evidence of his source materials, save for the boomy, high-low pattern of tambora and tambor alegre. Cumbia’s distinctive, foot-dragging pulse remains audible, but strange things happen to it at this languid tempo. Those intricate syncopations drift apart like blocks of sea ice, opening vast distances between drum beats; wreathed in echo, hissing shakers dissipate like raindrops on pavement.

Ezmeralda’s murky, moody sound bears some resemblance to Burial’s forlorn poetics of worn-out vinyl, and also to Dominican producer Kelman Duran’s miasmic reggaetón. But his closest compatriot might be the late Philip Jeck, whose plodding loops of battered thrift-store wax have a similarly mesmerizing effect. “When you slow a record down that much,” said Jeck, who used his turntables’ 16-RPM setting to truly psychedelic ends, “other things start appearing out of the sound.” In an email about his own work, Vallejo noticed something similar: “When you slow down the cumbia, the ghosts start to emerge.”

The ghostly qualities of Ezmeralda’s work aren’t just metaphorical; his music is shot through with a powerful sense of mourning. The opening track, “Niños Flotando en el Cielo,” begins with a sample taken from a 1990 documentary about gamines, the boys who live on the streets of Colombia’s cities—shining shoes, sniffing glue, and surviving however they can. “Glue was really sweet,” says a boy who, in the documentary, looks like he can’t be much more than seven or eight years old. “I felt like I was flying like Superman.” In the background, the unsteady call of an ice-cream truck warbles in the distance as the boy rhapsodizes about watching the stars in the sky above him at night; the looping melody and downy reverb combine to form a vaporous concoction of childlike wonder and crushing melancholy.

The EP’s other four tracks are similarly bittersweet. In “Nochear,” airy synth pads imbue cumbia’s languorous pulse with a weightless feel; “Flores en el Río” is meant to evoke petals drifting on the surface of a slow-moving river. A tangle of hand drums, agonized groans, and soupy drones, “Duelo (Cumbia del Fantasma)” marks the record’s darkest moment; its enervated rhythm evokes a nightmare where you cannot scream or run. The closing “Summer of Sacol” seems at first to lighten the mood, with softly pulsing synths casting a gentle ambient shimmer over unsteady percussion. But “Sacol,” it turns out, is yet another reference to the inhalants that plague Colombia’s impoverished youth. While initial doses may provoke agreeable hallucinations, long-time users of the drug may walk unsteadily and suffer from lethargy and convulsions. The same dichotomy plays out in the music itself: The gentle synths evoke the feeling of flying, while the rhythm mimics twitching, stumbling limbs. The deeper you sink into Ezmeralda’s music, the more such dualities become apparent, with bright tropical colors giving way to fathomless shadows.

One reason that Colombian cumbia initially caught on in Mexico is because it appealed to the country’s internal migrants. Colombian records, with their songs of “peasant longing, with that way of expressing those distances, that desire to feel the land… became the choice of the dispossessed, of the newcomers, of those who were not from here,” the cumbia DJ and producer Toy Selectah told Mexico Daily Post in 2021. That is to say, even at its sunniest, cumbia always harbored a sense of tension in its heart. In Ezmeralda’s En Átomos Volando, a music of displacement returns to its place of origin and, made strange once again, casts an eerie and sorrowful light on Colombia’s own hidden traumas.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Ezmeralda - En Átomos Volando Music Album Reviews Ezmeralda - En Átomos Volando Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on April 15, 2022 Rating: 5


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