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Album Review

Following a five-year sabbatical, Aterciopelados staged an acclaimed comeback in 2006 with Oye, a Latin Grammy-winning album on which they returned to the Caribbean folklore-inflected rock of their mid- to late-'90s prime. Río, the follow-up album to Oye, is similarly styled, more reminiscent of La Pipa de la Paz (1997), the album that firmly established Aterciopelados as one of the leading alternative rock bands in Latin America, than subsequent efforts such as Caribe Atómico (1998) or Gozo Poderoso (2001) on which the band more freely experimented with different styles, particularly electronica. While Oye and Río are generally similar in style, they differ in a couple ways. For one, Río is lyrically thematic, often concerned with environmental awareness. It's not a full-fledged concept album, but from one song to the next, vocalist/lyricist Andrea Echeverri rarely strays far from environmental issues — in fact, the sound of rushing water fills the gap between songs, reinforcing the concept of environmental awareness — and when she does touch upon non-environmental issues, she remains politically engaged and socially conscious. Secondly, though Río isn't as stylistically freewheeling as Caribe Atómico or Gozo Poderoso — to their detriment, some believe — never veering too close to what one might even casually describe as electronica, it's more adventurous musically than Oye. Much of the musical adventurousness can be credited to producer/multi-instrumentalist Héctor Buitrago, who crafts different shades of a uniform musical style that mixes together aspects of rock en español and Latin alternative, plus Caribbean rhythms, folk instrumentation, and drum programming. Adding to the adventurousness, one of the album highlights, "28," features a song-closing rap by Gloria "Goya" Martínez of up-and-coming fellow Columbians Choc Quib Town. Given the broad stylistic and thematic differences between Aterciopelados albums, it's difficult to measure one against another, yet Río is undoubtedly one of the band's better efforts. Like La Pipa de la Paz and Oye, the album is engaging from beginning to end. Not only are each of the songs on Río unique; they're all impressive, adding up to a complete full-length album experience filled with highlights.


Formed: 1993 in Bogota, Colombia

Genre: Alternative and Latin Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Calling Aterciopelados one of the most important rock en español innovators since the mid-'90s would be an accurate summation, but it only scratches the surface of this band's longstanding influence. Formed as a quartet around the songwriting duo of former Delia y los Aminoacidos singer/guitarist Andrea Echeverri and bassist/producer Héctor Buitrago in 1993, Aterciopelados (whose name translates loosely to "the velvety ones") was one of the first rock bands to emerge from Colombia. In subsequent...
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Río, Aterciopelados
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